Just Give the Golden Globe (and the Oscar) to Christian Bale Already
He deserved it when he was 13 years old, playing a young J.G. Ballard in Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, which Art Attack saw when we were 15. It made me blubber in tears then, and it still gets me when young Jamie (Bale) confesses to the British doctor, "I can't remember what my parents look like," after he ecstatically watches American P-51 Mustangs--"Cadillac of the Sky!"--bomb the airstrip of the WWII Japanese internment camp where he's been imprisoned.
The 1987 film is one of my favorites of all time (and certainly underrated for Spielberg).
Although I distinctly remember John Malkovich being nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the charming rogue Basie (all internet searches dispute this--perhaps it's just what should've been), no nomination was given to Bale for Best Actor, even though it wasn't unprecedented for a young actor to be nominated--Tatum O'Neal won the 1973 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Paper Moon. Bale wouldn't have had a chance against the other nominees, which included Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, William Hurt and Michael Douglas (the winner, for Wall Street), but it doesn't excuse the fact that he hasn't been nominated for a major award until now.
This Sunday's Golden Globe Awards marks Bale's first GG nomination (for The Fighter). He has yet to be nominated for an Oscar.
We present some examples of why Bale is glaringly the most underrated actor of his generation.
American Psycho (2000)
What, you don't like Huey Lewis?
Bale's performance in American Psycho was inspired by Tom Cruise--according to the film's director Mary Harron, specifically Cruise's "very intense friendliness, with nothing behind the eyes." Bale captured the underappreciated humor of Bret Easton Ellis' book. The actor's portrayal of Patrick Bateman was '80s excess and narcissism personified.
The Machinist (2004)
The critically touted but little-seen film features Bale as a man with chronic insomnia, and the actor lost 62 lbs. to play the role, weighing in at 120 lbs. total. Bale gained the weight back in a matter of months to prepare for Batman Begins. Such physical stunts would be just that, stunts, if the performances didn't live up. And Bale's performance in The Machinist is mesmerizing. He followed it up by delivering the best Bruce Wayne in Batman franchise history. Call him "the Machine."
Rescue Dawn (2006)
At moments, Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn feels a little like Empire of the Sun set during Vietnam, with Bale again as a prisoner of war. And again, he commits totally to the director's vision and gets about as dirty as one can in a Thailand jungle. Bale should have received widespread nominations for his performance, which the San Diego Film Critics Society recognized with an award for Bale's "Body of Work."