Dear Oscar voters: Don't let the buzz die down on 'Rocketman'

  • Taron Egerton deserves to blast off into Oscar history for his portrayal of Elton John in "Rocketman."

    Taron Egerton deserves to blast off into Oscar history for his portrayal of Elton John in "Rocketman." Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

 
 
Posted11/22/2019 6:00 AM

It's almost movie awards season, which means it's almost time for a very famous person to be honored for playing another very famous person.

This season's surest bet arrives in theaters this weekend: Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers in "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." Hanks has been down this road before in 2013, playing Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And every Oscar viewer has been down this road dozens of times, even earlier this year. Three of the four Oscar acting winners played real people -- Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek in "Bohemian Rhapsody"), Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali in "Green Book") and Britain's Queen Anne (Olivia Colman in "The Favourite").

Academy voters have been at this for years. In 2005, they gave Oscars to Jamie Foxx and Cate Blanchett for delivering pitch-perfect imitations of Ray Charles and Katharine Hepburn.

Were those performances better than those given by actors who didn't have hours of film and video footage to study, who didn't have a lifetime of familiarity to draw upon? An actor can probably best answer that question. A writer can only offer his opinion that this year has given us one of the all-time great performances of this ilk, one that goes beyond mimicry.

Elton John (Taron Egerton) raises Cain and spits in your eye in "Rocketman."
Elton John (Taron Egerton) raises Cain and spits in your eye in "Rocketman." - Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
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Taron Egerton deserves Oscar buzz for his devilish portrait of Elton John in "Rocketman" (available now on DVD/Blu-ray, digital rental/purchase), a thunderous musical that transcends its biopic tropes with flights of fancy befitting the colorful pop icon. Egerton, best known for the "Kingsman" spy spoofs, doesn't look or sound like Elton John. But by the time "I'm Still Standing" sent us waltzing out of the theater, he had fully become Elton John.

"Rocketman" asks Egerton to do nearly everything an actor can do in its 121 minutes. His virtuosity is matched by the filmmaking, as director Dexter Fletcher -- who also took the reins of "Bohemian Rhapsody" after Bryan Singer's exit -- shirks authenticity for movie magic. When John performs at the famous Troubadour club in L.A., he and the audience literally take flight as "Crocodile Rock" reaches its wordless, anthemic chorus. The title song begins with a depressed John flinging himself into a pool and ends with him blasting off from Dodger Stadium in rocket boots.

It's a euphoric, grandiose film. Egerton's commitment to illuminating every facet of the adversarial, drug-addled genius with daddy issues keeps it grounded. If "Rocketman" had been released to theaters this weekend and not on May 31, Egerton would be your Oscar front-runner.

It sure would be nice if Paramount put it on Hulu or Amazon Prime in the next few weeks so even more people could see him.

• Follow Sean on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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