Most Underrated Performance of the Year: Michael Caine
Written by Ty Coughenour
This year has been riddled with numerous incredible performances ranging from Daniel Day Lewis’s transformation into Abraham Lincoln to Quvenzhane Wallis’s performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Those are just two performances that are guaranteed to be nominated for Academy Awards this year but one name that has mostly been absent from Academy Award buzz is Michael Caine. Yeah that’s right, Michael Caine for his role in The Dark Knight Rises. Michael Caine gives his most emotional performance in The Dark Knight Rises to end his tenure as Bruce Wayne’s trusting mentor and father figure Alfred. Michael Caine is my pick for Most Underrated Performance of the Year.
Can you make an argument against this? Michael Caine is one of the greatest actors living today and he has forever ingrained the character of Alfred to a new generation that won’t be soon forgotten. He has played the close family friend and butler to Bruce Wayne (Batman) for three films and has gone through an amazing arc that began as Bruce Wayne’s stoic silent partner in crime in Batman Begins, to a teacher in morality when Batman was at a loss for what he had to do to defeat the joker to a loving father figure who can’t stand to see his own son go down a path of self-destruction.
It’s always tough for the academy to recognize the achievements in acting for comic book films, but Heath Ledger was able to accomplish this with his win for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 for The Dark Knight. That marked the only time an actor has won an Academy Award for playing a comic book character but not the only time someone has been nominated. Al Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Dick Tracy in 1990; Paul Newman and William Hurt also scored Academy Awards nominations for performances based on graphic novels in Road to Perdition and A History of Violence. That being said, the Batman trilogy still has been neglected in terms of Academy Award contention ever since Christopher Nolan wasn’t nominated for Best Director for the Dark Knight in 2009 when Stephen Daldry was for The Reader. The Reader…need I say more? The Dark Knight also failed to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in a year where Slumdog Millionaire won the award. Has anyone ever re-watched Slumdog Millionaire? I think not. This isn’t excuse for Michael Caine to be nominated, I’m just asking people to watch The Dark Knight Rises again and pay attention to what Michael Caine really did in that film.
I’m not saying that Michael Caine should be nominated for an Academy Award solely because the Batman trilogy is so utterly amazing, I’m saying that everyone should go back and re-watch The Dark Knight Rises and watch two scenes: The scene in which Michael Caine (Alfred) tells Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman) that he can no longer stand by as Bruce Wayne delves deeper into darkness and the scene where Caine pleads at Bruce Wayne’s grave telling him that he has “failed him.” If you can honestly watch those two scenes and tell me that Michael Caine doesn’t deserve an Oscar nomination for his role as Alfred in The Dark Knight Rises, I would love to hear from you.
I’m sure The Dark Knight Rises will be nominated for an abundance of technical awards like sound editing, special effects and so forth this year, but I feel Michael Caine deserves a nomination for what he has done for possibly the best trilogy ever made. The nominees are almost completely set for Best Supporting Actor this year and they include Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln, Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook, Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained and Phillip Seymour Hoffman for The Master. I don’t expect Michael Caine to win this award, but now that the trilogy is over and the fact that Michael Caine gave his best performance as Batman’s butler and mentor in The Dark Knight Rises, I feel that it’s time to give Caine his due for creating an everlasting portrayal of Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred.