Michael Keaton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bill "Blaze" Blazejowski in Night Shift.
Night Shift was Michael Keaton's first substantial role in a film. His role technically is a bit of a well worn one that being the comedic side kick who is foil to the main character. Keaton plays Bill who is the new attendant on the night shift just as Chuck becomes the supervisor of it. As I wrote in my review of Keaton's great performance in Birdman that Michael Keaton is an actor I usually like anyways even though the films he's in are not always great. Well Night Shift is in that vein, although I'd say its certainly better than many films in Keaton's filmography. Keaton has a challenge with Bill Blazejowski though in that it is very easy to see how the character could have been extremely grating with a different actor in the role, thankfully for the film though it is indeed Michael Keaton in the part. Michael Keaton has such a wonderfully off beat screen presence that is perfect for a part like this as Bill is suppose to be obviously quite an off-beat sorta guy, particularly in his way of doing his job which is to dress informally, listen to music constantly and run a limousine service using the morgue vehicles.
Keaton is great from the start because Keaton whole manner onscreen makes the various quirks about Bill seem particularly naturally rather than a checklist of wacky sidekick characteristics which he very well might have been. Keaton actually manages to be far more endearing than obnoxious in portraying Bill's method of constantly talking at Chuck without really waiting for any sort of response from him. Keaton brings his unique style of energy though that really makes this work in his favor while still realizing why he might annoy Chuck. Keaton though early on has a moment where there is a possibility for a bit more depth for Bill when Chuck chews him out telling him basically to stop talking and leave him alone. Keaton's reaction is great and surprisingly moving as he shows just how hurt Bill is by the rejection. Keaton portrays an honest sensitivity in Bill as his only response is that to tell Chuck that he thought they were friends. Keaton in this brief scene is really quite good in suggesting that Bill's personality in part is that he is kind trying to win someone over at any point.
Now to be sure most of his performance is about being funny as the film shows Bill constantly scheming and eventually convinces Chuck to basically use the morgue as an office for prostitution as the two of them will act as pimps. One thing that Keaton does so well is bring such a pleasant earnestness in this scheming. There is no malice in Keaton depiction of Bill's technically somewhat unsavory scheme as Keaton has a whole excessively optimistic naivety towards the enterprise. Of course much of his performance is kinda boiled down to the one liners, which is fine since Keaton executes them with such comic precision. Even when he's barely part of the scene Keaton steals it, such as when he reacts to Chuck having slept with one of the prostitutes, Keaton's surprised look is absolutely hilarious. Keaton does not miss an opportunity and I found myself laughing pretty much whenever Keaton bothered to open his mouth. Keaton though when is given a bit more focus is equally funny such as his brilliantly, almost deadpan, speech as Bill rather ineptly lines out the whole prostitution project for the prostitutes.
Keaton is constantly amusing here with such an ease of his performance as Keaton keeps that relaxed style of performance which works so well. He manages to make Bill a particularly likable screwball actually and not at all the annoying or forced presence these types of characters can often be. Keaton even has a particularly dramatic moment where Bill talks about the mistreatment of his father, not unlike a moment in Birdman actually, a coincidence, I don't know maybe, anyway Keaton once again is surprisingly moving shifting to the more dramatic tone with such ease while giving some poignant depth to the character that does not seem out of character. Keaton takes that and makes feel wholly natural to the rest of Bill and manages to even convey the idea of how that might actually cause Bill's behavior. This is quite a strong comic performance by Michael Keaton. Every joke big or small Keaton tries to get whatever he can out of it, and often he gets quite a lot. He is able to enliven every scene he is in, and really this is just delightful work from start to finish.