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Ethan Hawke hits all the right notes in “Born to Be Blue”

2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals
If you’re anything like me, you’re a pretty big fan of Ethan Hawke. Over the years, Hawke has been among the most consistent and interesting actors in Hollywood. He floats in and out of the studio system at ease, keeping a presence both in blockbusters occasionally as well as often in independent fare. It’s hard not to really admire the career of Hawke so far, and this Friday we have another outing of his to enjoy him in. This one is the musical biopic Born to Be Blue, which at one juncture was thought to be his ticket to another Academy Award nomination. This may or may not ultimately appeal to Oscar, but it’s one more reminder of just how great Hawke is, so now’s a great moment to appreciate him some more!

The film is a biopic of sorts, focusing on the comeback that jazz musician Chet Baker (Hawke) made in the 1960’s. A legend on the jazz scene, Baker came back to music in the late 60’s, which is where this movie lays its focus. Robert Budreau writes and directs, while the cast, in addition to Hawke, includes Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green, Dan Lett, Kevin Hanchard, and more. Clearly, the star here is Hawke, who is just as good as ever. Hawke has still never won an Oscar, so while this might not be what does it for him, he certainly could be in the Academy’s conversations if it takes off in any way.

Here’s some of what I wrote about Hawke last year: “Not to hammer the point home, but Hawke pretty much can do anything. If you look just at what the Academy has noticed, he’s got a pair of Best Supporting Actor nominations to his credit, alongside a pair of nods in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. He’s been cited by Oscar more than once in each field, and while none of those noms have turned into wins, they always show something different. Before Midnight is different than Before Sunset, which is different than Boyhood, which is nothing like Training Day. Those are jus the times he’s been in contention for awards…that’s just the tip of the iceberg, if we’re really looking at Hawke.

Besides acting, Hawke has made before narrative and documentary films behind the camera, in addition to writing. He’s diverse in a way that really slips below the radar. It’s hard to guess that the director of The Hottest State and Seymour: An Introduction is the star of Good Kill, if you didn’t already know ahead of time. That’s just one small example in a career that’s full of them. Hawke consistently makes interesting choices year in and year out, always challenging himself as well as his audience. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the New York Film Festival two years ago, and it was well deserved. I was a guest at his celebratory dinner at NYFF and was thrilled to help honor the man who pretty much can do anything.”

Overall, what we have coming to us this week in Born to Be Blue is another top notch Hawke performance to admire. It’s thrilling to me that he’s as consistent as he is, while always doing this work in different sorts of films. That’s rare in the industry, so it’s something to really appreciate. I have a hunch that one day we’ll see Hawke finally win an Oscar, since the Academy clearly feels similarly about him. That moment will come eventually, and when it does, it’ll be as deserving a win as any. Until then though, he’ll remain overdue and someone to always be rooting for…

Be sure to check out Hawke in Born to Be Blue, in theaters starting this weekend!

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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