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Spotlight on the Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at one of Hollywood’s most interesting stars. It’s certified A-lister Jake Gyllenhaal, the rare actor who’s only becoming more famous as he pursues more and more interesting fare. In fact, for a true blue A-list actor, he’s only rarely gone the blockbuster route. More often, he chooses unique work that requires him to really go above and beyond. Already an Academy Award nominee, he’s someone who’s due for not just another nomination, but a win as well. I have no doubt that Oscar will come calling soon, perhaps even next year, but when that time comes, he’ll be incredibly deserving of that honor. As such, it’s a pleasure to fete him this week in my Spotlight on the Stars series.

Gyllenhaal got his start on screens with a small role in City Slickers, followed by a part in October Sky. A few years later though, he first made an impression on people in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. He was also in the comedy Bubble Boy and the romantic dramedy Lovely & Amazing, but Donnie Darko was his true introduction to the film community. He was a young actor and someone to watch. He had the looks and he had the acting chops, so it was only a matter of seeing where his career would go from that point on.

He then really caught people’s attention with The Good Girl, an indie dramedy that showcased his skills in a new way (a theme for his career). That performance got him his first blockbuster, the disaster epic The Day After Tomorrow. It was Gyllenhaal’s first big budget production and brought him close to the A-list, as in the years to come he’d audition for both the roles of Batman and Spider-Man. Throughout though, he kept his attention on decidedly smaller fare, which shortly would bring him awards and various prestige citations.

Yes, Brokeback Mountain brought him the most critical acclaim of his career up to that point, along with an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. It’s a showy performance, but a really great one. He was slightly overshadowed by Heath Ledger’s work, but Gyllenhaal is clearly one of the reasons why that movie nearly won the Oscar for Best Picture. He came up short in Best Supporting Actor, but that takes nothing away from what he did in the film. He was aces, plain and simple.

Gyllenhaal has since had a variety of roles, including Brothers, Jarhead, Love & Other Drugs, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Proof, Rendition, Source Code, and Zodiac. Aside from that one blockbuster attempt with Prince of Persia, he stuck to interesting mid level films from high quality directors (including David Fincher, Duncan Jones, Sam Mendes, and Ed Zwick). Through it all, he was continuing to hone his craft and become the force of nature that we see today.

The last few years have seen him take it up another level with the police drama End of Watch (perhaps my favorite thing that he’s ever done), the dark crime drama/mystery Prisoners (where he was robbed of a second Best Supporting Actor nomination) lat year, and earlier this year’s psychological thriller Enemy. There are three amazing performances there (especially End of Watch and Prisoners), showing just how good he is. Gyllenhaal keeps upping his game, and it’s fantastic to witness.

This week, he shows a turns in one of his best performances to date in Nightcrawler. I’ll be writing more about the film tomorrow, particularly in terms of its chances at any awards during the rest of this season, but Gyllenhaal is without question the best part of the tense thriller. Some might even argue that it’s the best work he’s ever done. I’m torn between a few of his recent performances, but there’s no question that his acting is on an incredibly high level right now. You really can’t deny that he’s one of the best in the business at the moment.

Overall, Gyllenhaal is an A-list actor who’s only challenging himself more and more as the years progress. Next year he’s got a trio of awards bait type performances to potentially win him his first Oscar. There’s the drama Demolition, the adventure Everest, and the boxing picture Southpaw. All three could be Oscar players, so expect to hear plenty more from Gyllenhaal in 2015. He’s a big star who’s only going to become a bigger one as the years progress. He’s incredibly committed to turning in good work and it shows on the screen. Here’s to many more years of him gracing us with his talents.

Stay tuned for another look at an A-lister next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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