Under the Circuit: Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender
Born: April 2nd, 1977
Place: Heidelberg, Germany
Major Awards and Citations: BAFTA Awards (2009): Nominated for the Rising Star Award
British Independent Film Awards (2008): Won Best Actor for ‘Hunger’
British Independent Film Awards (2009): Nominated for Best Supporting Actor for ‘Fish Tank’
British Independent Film Awards (2011): Won Best Actor for ‘Shame’
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (2011): Won Best Actor for ‘A Dangerous Method’/‘Jane Eyre’/‘Shame’/’X-Men: First Class’
National Board of Review (2011): Won Spotlight Award for ‘A Dangerous Method’/‘Jane Eyre’/‘Shame’/’X-Men: First Class’
Venice Film Festival (2011): Won Best Actor for ‘Shame’

Oscar Snubs: ‘Hunger’ (2008), ‘Fish Tank’ (2009), and ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009)

Never before in the history of the Under the Circuit series have we profiled an actor likely on his way to a nomination like Michael Fassbender is.  Consider it an experiment or perhaps just a For Your Consideration type piece.  It also ties in nicely with our new Circuit Consideration series, so consider this a combo type job.  Anyway, dealing with Fassbender in any way is a unique experience.  He brings the same level of commitment and intensity to playing a sex addict as he does a comic book character.  He just gives it his all and the end result is that every single thing you see him in leaves an impression on you.  I really do feel like he may be one of the 5 most talented actors working today.  It’s time he got his due, and hopefully it happens this year for ‘Shame’ (or else add that to his emerging list of snubs, even though I see it happening for him right now), but either way, let’s get started here and go Under the Circuit with Michael Fassbender!

I first caught wind of Fassbender on HBO’s miniseries ‘Band of Brothers’ with a recurring part, but he hit the big screen for the first time in 2006 with a supporting role in ‘300’.  The film is a love it or hate it affair (I veer more towards the hate than the love, but it has a bit of dumb fun to it), but even then you noticed his acting.  it’s amazing that everything about to come has happened in half a decade, but he’s a fast riser.  From these manly roles he took a few smaller parts, but a collaboration with Steve McQueen was about to get him recognized as one of the best actors in the business, regardless of experience.  Michael Fassbender was about to become a guy that you saw an award worthy future for.

‘Hunger’ (2008) is a tour de force performance by Michael Fassbender.  Playing IRA activist Bobby Sands in the experimental McQueen film, Fassbender owns the screen.  I’ll confess to not loving the flick due to the pacing, but the acting does draw you in.  A small campaign was mounted to get him recognized with a Best Actor nomination, but the Academy chose to snub him.  The next year, he gave another standout performance, this time in a supporting role for the English drama ‘Fish Tank’ (2009).  His character provides the third act twist that brings the movie to a different level.  Again, he ended up snubbed for an Oscar nod, this time for Best Supporting Actor.  In fact, he gave two snubbed performances in 2009.  The other happened to be a little better known of a flick though…

‘Inglourious Basterds’ introduced most of the world to Fassbender.  His scene stealing role as a film critic turned soldier was a joy to watch.  At this point, Fassbender was proving that there was no role that he couldn’t do.  Quentin Tarantino had recognized his talent, and audiences were starting to as well.  This led to 2010 being a year in which he tried to appear in bigger films, though it would be another year until he found success with that route.

2010 had ‘Centurion’ and ‘Jonah Hex’, two rather unfortunate flicks (as good as Basterds was, that’s how bad Hex was) that he wasn’t too memorable in, but he was the best part of each.  Granted, that’s hardly high praise, but it just shows that regardless of the product, Michael Fassbender delivers.  This bit of failure last year hardly deterred him though.  He moved forward and this year he’s had perhaps the most omnipresent year of any actor (perhaps aside from Ryan Gosling).  Fassbender was about to have his moment in the sun.

Not that I need to tell all of you about this year’s slate for him, but Fassbender turned in a quartet of exceptional performances.  2011 showed that he could be a part of a franchise film (‘X-Men: First Class) as well as a costume drama (both ‘A Dangerous Method’ and ‘Jane Eyre’).  He also reunited with filmmaker Steve McQueen for the best performance I saw this year in ‘Shame’.  His role as a sex addict in New York is one of the best acting jobs of the last few years, besides just being the class of this year.  There’s a power to his work that still stuns me.  I said it all in my review (found here if anyone didn’t read it and is curious), but it never hurts to say it again.  Now, can he actually get nominated for it, or is this shaping up to be another snub?

I’m more confident than ever that Fassbender will get his first Oscar nod for ‘Shame’ this year.  He’s just received a Golden Globe nomination, and he’s done very well on the precursor circuit.  The Academy is looking very likely to recognize him.  Hopefully it won’t be his 4th snub in 6 years, but we shall see.  What started as a whim prediction a few months ago by me is now looking like the dark horse to potentially win the damn thing.  I could be wrong, but with so many potential choices for the Academy and no true frontrunner (a description for almost every category this year, as I’ve said on many occasions), voters could easily decide that Fassbender is the one they want to support for the Oscar.  Of course, they first have to nominate him.

It’s hard to describe what makes Fassbender so good.  You just know it when you see it.  He’s got a quiet confidence and a dedication that’s rare these days.  He’s impressed me in such a profound way, I’m kind of at a loss in terms of what to say…a definite good thing.  He’s also a chameleon and chooses his projects wisely for the most part.  When you hear he’s attached himself to a role, you can almost always take comfort in knowing the film is going to be a good one.  You can’t say that about too many actors.  Just look at what’s next on his slate of flicks and you’ll see that he’s been plotting his career in a way that’s just right for him.

Going forward, Michael Fassbender has a supporting turn in Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Haywire’, Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’, and another teaming with Steve McQueen for ‘Twelve Years a Slave’.  These are three films to keep an eye on, and one can only assume that more and more great roles are coming his way.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the next decade brought at least 2 or 3 Oscar nods, and maybe a win.  He’s just that talented an actor.  I can’t wait to see where his career goes.  He’s looking like one of the future greats!

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