You may have already heard the buzz about the James Mangold-directed movie Ford v Ferrari. But before you write it off as a dad flick, allow me (not a dad) to explain just how good Christian Bale is in the film. He’s so incredible, in fact, that I was pretty positive he’d earn an Oscar nomination in this year’s competitive race. He’s Christian Bale, after all. But guess what—the Academy missed yet another opportunity. (It was a huge Oscar snubs year, for the record.)
As I sat in a theater watching Ford v Ferrari, which is definitely not my normal sort of movie, I had a major realization: Bale is the best actor in the game. Period. Sure, Matt Damon is great in the film, too, but Bale, 45, is increasingly in a league of his own. Like The Dark Knight and Vice before it, Ford v Ferrari showcases how Bale transforms himself for each role. It’s not just that he loses weight or cuts his hair to prepare for a role, he seems to change his very essence. His mannerisms are no longer his own, his cadence and gait completely shift and it’s easy to forget he’s Christian Bale. Come to think of it, he’s kind of like Meryl Streep in that way.
For Ford v Ferrari, Bale employs his natural English accent and somehow looks even taller than his 6-foot frame. His limbs hang lankily and he juts his chin out to aptly portray British race car driver, Ken Miles, a notorious hothead but an integral part of the team who designed the Ford GT 40. For those unfamiliar (like me prior to watching the film), it was a huge deal.
Thanks to Bale’s portrayal of Miles, Mangold’s direction and the script, Ford v Ferrari shines as much more than a car movie. It’s about growth, competition, friendship and the drive to become so good at something that you’re willing to risk everything. So, it makes sense that the film is up for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. Frankly, I could see Mangold’s film nabbing the film editing and sound mixing awards. It’s up against The Irishman, Jojo Rabit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Parasite for Best Picture, so really anything could happen.
But what really grinds my gears (that’s a car joke) is the fact that Bale isn’t even in the running for Best Actor. Instead, Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) are up for the award. Don’t get me wrong. They’re all fantastic at their craft, but—say it with me—They’re. Not. Christian. Bale.
Unlike the Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association took note of just how much Bale popped on the screen. When the organization announced the 2020 Golden Globes nominations, Bale’s name was among those in contention for the Best Actor award. Ultimately, Phoenix took home the statue, but at least he was recognized.
If anyone can make me care about race cars, cry, laugh and dig my nails into my seat during a 2-and-a-half-hour movie, they definitely deserve an award.
The (literal) bottom line: Get it together, Academy.