Monday, September 24, 2012

The Master Should be Worshipped as Quality Film Making at its Best

The Master (4 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams

I may have found a new spiritual film God in Paul Thomas Anderson.  All jokes aside, the concepts of self-worth and faith are at the center of The Master.  This film will get a lot of attention because of the comparisons to Scientology, and its found L. Ron Hubbard, and there are numerous similarities.  This film is more than just a comparison to the modern day cult with followers like Tom Cruise, and Kirstie Alley. This film is about the journey of a lost soul and his master.

The film centers on the tragic and disturbed Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a navy vet from World War II who is looking to find his own place in society.  Quell attempts to find solace in making his "hooch," with numerous jobs, and in the hope that "his girl" will wait for him.  As Freddie stumbles onto this boat party one night he finds himself getting lost in the world Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) the master of the group called the Cause.  Dodd and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) travel around with their family to the homes of their followers helping folks find the connection to things like the cure or Lukemia through the science of exploring their past lives.

Sounds like a cult right?  There are numerous connections between the progression of Scientology by Hubbard, especially the way his work was an outgrowth a book he wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.  Yet there is something brilliant about the way Anderson constructs this film to not be a bio-pic of Hubbard, or an expose on this real life cult.  Although some of the practices are apparently similar.  Anderson uses his incredible screenplay and direction to make this a film about so much more.

One of the brilliant aspects of this film is the way Anderson focuses on Phoenix's Quell and the disillusionment he faces in a post World War II society.  Most people always painted the 50s as this golden era of family values, the husbands/men came home from the war they got their plot of land in Levitttown, settled with their "girl" and led a happy life.  Anderson uses the concept of this lost soul and the newly developed "religion" which takes advantage of those people had no place when they came back from the War.  The one flaw is that film has a bit of a slow start, and while it does not take off right away, the film sets an intense pace once the three leads take the stage.

Anderson and his casting team created one hell of a trio.  Phoenix who plays this shell of a disturbed man makes you lose yourself in his character; he is effortless, which is almost frightening.  Freddie is someone who has always been repelled from the establishment yet he joined the Navy; he has gone from place to place, and abandoned all institutions, but he is drawn into the world of the Cause, but as Lancaster and Peggy both question, is this man beyond help.  Phoenix needs no help, he all but disappears within this role, and gives one of the best performances of his career; he is a true chameleon.

I could go on and one about the performances in this film, namely because they add such great depth to the script.  While Phoenix disappears, Hoffman as usual is another frighteningly believe able actor.  Is Dodd a villain, no because Hoffman never takes him to that place.  Even as Lancaster Dodd steals from his members of the Cause, goes to jail, you still believe in almost as though you are a member of the cult.  This proves just how talented Hoffman's acting skills are, and if there were a ever a year where there could be a tie in the Best Actor race at the Oscars I would it to be for these two men.

The ambition of the performances from these two men, and the supporting work of Amy Adams proves to be on of the films strongest aspects, but the film is also a technical marvel.  Anderson shot this film with the larger 70 mm technique, and hats off to the beautiful cinematography done by Mihai Malaimari Jr.  The visuals of the camera are so gorgeous you can find yourself getting lost in the visual imagery.  The visual marvel combined with outstanding score from Johnny Greenwood makes this film one of the best films of the year.

I was hypnotized by this film as though I was sitting on the couch hoping Lancaster Dodd would help me connect my past lives in order to make sense of it all. Paul Thomas Anderson has created a film that explores the concept of of religion/spirituality/faith/cults without being heavy handed; he never shoves his message on the audiences, and in a post Summer haze it's nice to go to the movies and be shown a film that does not intend to brain wash me, or did it?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homeland, Modern Family Clean Up at the Emmy Awards

Overall this year's Emmy Awards were a mixed bag.  While some will gripe about Jimmy Kimmel, I think the host did a much better job than I thought he would do.  I am not one of his biggest fans, but he has grown on me over the years.  I went into this show thinking he would be adequate, but he had me laughing a lot, and his while his opening video was weak, his monologue was solid.  This is one of the moments when award shows have to learn over production can hamper the thematic undertone of the night.  

The main problem with the show was the poor production, ranging from sound problems to the uneven way nominees were announced.  None of the comedy nominees were given clips, while other actors in the drama categories either had a still show them in action on their show or a clip.  Towards the end the last it felt like the presenters were rushing through the list of nominees, a little tip cut the award that honors a person who as Gervais joked may be working on the show at the moment.  The person who won the directing award did not pace his show well either, allowing people to have long speeches in the beginning then cutting off the major winners in the end.  I have said it before and I will say it again the way the break down the show into "genres" makes the show uneven, my friend who DVR'd the show got bored and fast forwarded through most of the end.  That should not be the case in an effective program.

On to the good, the boring, and the ugly of the winners:

The Good

-Homeland winning Drama Series, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and Writing, the show was truly one of the best on the air last year, and I am glad the Emmy Awards did not rubber stamp Mad Men for a record fifth win, or honor the weaker season of Downton.  I was shocked when Lewis won, and at that moment I knew the show won Best Drama.

-Julia Louis Dreyfus is great, and moving beyond the fan boys she was the best in that category.

-Louis C.K. getting double the recognition for his true strength writing was great, but just proved that this man will no win an acting award, and is proof that most voters still do not take stand up comics seriously as actors. (not a good thing there)

-Game Change was a solid well made film and deserved its accolades, although I would have liked a little love for Sherlock.

Aaron Paul winning his second trophy for Breaking Bad; he is one of four people to win twice in Supporting Actor Drama category.

Julie Bowen winning Emmy number two was well deserved, and she was the most talented in her category.

The Boring

Modern Family in Outstanding Comedy Series While the show is solid, the third season was the weakest by far!  Who will dethrone this show next year?

While Eric Stonestreet gave my favorite speech of the night, there are so many great supporting actors on television, some of whom were not even nominated, this reminds me of the Brad Garrett repeat wins.

Boardwalk Empire winning directing over the likes of Breaking Bad, and Homeland is baffling.

Maggie Smith winning for Downton, folks know she no longer shows up to these things, and while she is solid this should have gone to Christina Hendricks.

The Bad

Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger beating out the men they were up against made little to no sense to me.

Modern Family winning in the directing category was absurd, and every other nominee was much better.

The Ugly 

Jon Cryer winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, even he knew he should not have won, and was baffled when his name was called.  I would have honestly rather had Jim Parsons win a third trophy. One of the worst wins in Emmy history.


Emmy Week 2012: Emmy Predictions, What Will/Should Win

Outstanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad
Boardwalk Empire 
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Mad Men

Mad Men has won this award four years running, and if they won tonight they would make history in two ways, the would be the series with the most wins, and the series to do this without any acting winners (unless someone breaks that curse tonight).  Everyone loves Breaking Bad, but is this show too dark to recognized? Possibly.  The real threat to Mad Men's thrown is Downton Abbey, there is the pedigree there that gives this show a great shot.  Tough pick, things are up in the air, but I going out on a ledge and picking Downton Abbey.

Prediction: Downton Abbey
Spoiler(s): Mad Men or Breaking Bad
Should Win: Homeland

Outstanding Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Modern Family
30 Rock 

This race is a no brainer, Modern Family is the surest bet on Emmy night, look for this threepeat to be one of the only predictable things tonight.

Prediction: Modern Family
Should Win: Girls

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series 
Hugh Bonneville-Downton Abbey
Steve Buscemi-Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston-Breaking Bad 
Michael C. Hall-Dexter
John Hamm-Mad Men
Damien Lewis-Homeland

At first glance this looks like cake walk for Bryan Cranston to pick up a record fourth win in this category.  Last year's winner Kyle Chandler was a surprise, do not count that out, which would favor Lewis, Hamm or even Buscemi who shockingly lost last year.  The problem with this category is that voters love Cranston here, and they check off their ballots.  This category like Lead Actor in a Comedy series love repeats, and I think history will repeat itself.

Prediction: Bryan Cranston
Spoiler: Steve Buscemi
Should Win: Damien Lewis

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin-30 Rock
Don Cheedle-House of Lies 
Jon Cryer-Two and a Half Men
Larry David-Curb Your Enthusiasm
Louis C.K.-Louie
Jim Parsons-The Big Bang Theory 

Are either of the two surliest men C.K. or David going to win?  My guess is that of these two is that Louis C.K. has the bigger chance.  My heart says C.K. wins, but my gut says Parsons wins again, or that Cryer could come out of nowhere again (Kathy Bates did win in the Guest Actress category.)

Prediction: Jim Parsons
Spoiler-Louis C.K
Should Win-Louis C.K.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Kathy Bates-Harry's Law
Glenn Close-Damages
Claire Danes-Homeland
Michelle Dockery-Downton Abbey
Julianna Marguilles-The Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss-Mad Men

Claire Danes like Modern Family is the next best thing to a lock; she is beloved by voters, a former winners, and the show is a favorite.  The only spoiler is Kathy Bates who picked up her first win in the Guest Actress category.

Prediction/Should Win-Claire Danes
Spoiler-Kathy Bates

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Zoey Deschanel-The New Girl
Lena Dunham-Girls
Edie Falco-Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey-30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus-Veep
Melissa McCarthy-Mike and Molly
Amy Poehler-Parks and Recreation

One of the toughest categories to predict, and I feel and though I should just throw a dart at a board, my gut says Dreyfus will win her second in this category, and her show is a nominee in the Outstanding Comedy Series.  I am going to stick with my gut, rather than over think this category.

Prediction/Should Win-Julia Louis Dreyfus
Spoiler: Anyone!!

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama-Giancarlo Esposito-Breaking Bad
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy-Ty Burrell-Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama-Joanne Frogatt-Downton Abbey
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy-Julie Bowen-Modern Family

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Seres-Downton Abbey-Episode 7
Outstanding Writing in a comedy Series-Girls-Pilot
Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series-Homeland-Pilot
Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series-Louie-Duckling

Movie/Mini Series-Hattfields & McCoys
Lead Actor in a Movie/Mini-Series-Kevin Costner-Hattfields & McCoys
Lead Actress in a Mini-Series/Movie-Julianne Moore-Game Change
Supporting Actor in a Movie/Mini-Series-Ed Harris-Game Change
Supporting Actress in a Movie/Mini-Series-Jessica Lange-American Horror Story

Outstanding Reality Series-The Amazing Race
Outstanding Reality Host-Betty White
Outstanding Variety Series-The Daily Show

Friday, September 21, 2012

Emmy Week 2012: Who Should Have Been Nominated

This year there were of course a bunch of shows/actors/writers/directors who should have been nominated, but they were not.  Ironically most of the people or shows on this list received nominations in other categories, but missed out in the key categories posted below.

Drama Categories

Outstanding Drama Series : The Good Wife (CBS) No network television show made it into this category this year for the first time in this categories history.  The Good Wife was nominated for the shows first two seasons, but missed out on a nomination this year.  The show proved that it can play with the big dogs, and has accomplished a lot, and should have been a nominee.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Kelsey Grammer-Boss-The biggest shock the day the nominations were announced was that this 12 time nominee did not get a nomination when he proved his dramatic chops on the Starz drama.  Grammer made people forget about Frasier Crane proving that this guy should have made this list.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Kate Sagal-Sons of Anarchy-Another comedic icon who shed her laughs for this dark role, Sagal has been ignored by this voting body time and time again for some reason.  Gemma is one bad ass, and Sagal's performance is one of the strongest female acting on television today.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Mandy Patinkin-Homeland-Saul is the quiet one of the bunch.  Unlike Carrie and Brody he does not have the flash in his story, but Patinking proves that he is the quiet rock.  Patinkin is one incredible actor, and people seem to forget him in this show for some reason, but his performance is incredible.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Lena Headey-Game of Thrones-This Lady Macbeth type character was a little one note in season one, but Headey provided a lot more depth in season two.  Her interactions with Dinklage always used to have me saying "Wow he's great."  This year she stepped up her game, and proved her talent.

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series: Breaking Bad-Box Cutter-Vince Gilligan-The season four premiere kicks off where the intensity from season 3 ended, and Vince Gilligan starts strong as he knows how to do.  This show was snubbed in the writing category (although the show's direction is stronger), but should be given credit for the almost often well crafted self contained world.

Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series: Game of Thrones-Blackwater-Neil Marshall-The epitome of what could defined as one of the best directed television episodes ever!  This larger than life battle was brilliantly crafted, and built up the tension perfectly.  My winner of the year would be this episode.

Comedy Categories 

Outstanding Comedy Series: Community-The Emmy Awards always seem to forget the Greendale 7.  This is going to be regarded as one of the funniest series of all time to not get a nomination in this category, but like the Greendale 7 this show is rebellious, and not ever getting a nomination will keep its hip factor alive.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Adam Scott-Parks and Recreation-Ben Wyatt's dorky/nerdy side could give Sheldon Cooper and the gang from Big Bang for their money.  Scott's loveable dork/love interest for Leslie Knope was the highlight of season four; he ran Leslie's campaign, cried dressed up like Batman, and so much more.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Laura Dern-Enlightened-I have said this before and I will say it again, I loathe this show, and just think there is something about it that makes me cringe.  With that said Dern does a fantastic job of making a show I hate bearable enough.; she is a great actress, and this is one terrific role.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Nick Offerman-Parks and Recreation-Who leaves Ron Swanson off the ballot?  Ron Swanson would actually leave his own name off so maybe the voters got thrown by his persona.  Offerman has created one of the funniest, most distinct characters in television history, I do not know what the Emmy voters do not get.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Casey Wilson-Happy Endings-Watch out for this show next year!  Last season the show hit full steam and was one of the best shows on television, namely because of its great ensemble including the lovelorn Penny Hartz.  Wilson is one funny lady, and this character is no Phoebe she is her own crazy persona.

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series: Veep-Chung-Sean Gray & Armando Iannucci & Will Smith-The writing on this show was spot on, I am shocked voters did missed it in this category, especially the funniest episode of season, "Chung."  This episode follows the Veep herself as she may be replaced by a Senator named Chung with whom she makes a racially driven comment about on television, I cried with laughter.

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series:Community-Remedial Chaos Theory-Jeff Melman-The show got its first major nomination in the writing category this year for this episode, but how can you forget Melman's direction?  The direction in this episode was the glue to the framework.  This was one of the shows strongest episodes ever, and Melman deserves just as much credit.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Extremely Predictable and Incredibly Pandering, tries to Capture an Emotional Sanctuary for 9/11 but Fails

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (1 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader)
Written by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, Munich, Ali)
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Max Von Sydow

After months and months of debate of whether I would force myself to sit down and watch this film.  At the end there were lots of tears because the protagonists journey is sad, and you know that ahead of time because the film centers on a terrible tragedy September 11, 2001.  After I wiped away the tears I realized it was time my inner critic to step in to help curb my emotional reaction.

The film does not center on 9/11 but rather uses the event as the backdrop to tragedy in one families life.  Oskar (Thomas Horn) is a ten year old boy who solves puzzles with his father Thomas (Tom Hanks).  Thomas uses these puzzles in order to help his son who may or may not have Aspergers, which prevents his son from being able to cope with things the way other young boys do.  On September 11, Thomas happened to have a meeting in the World Trade Center, and unfortunately he does not make it out of the building.  After this happens Oskar finds a key in his father's closet that sends him on this journey to solve one of the many riddle and puzzles he thinks his father left him.

While reading some other critics reviews I was struck by a statement from Roger Ebert, and I would like to quote him as to not do his words injustice; he stated "No movie has ever been able to provide a catharsis for the Holocaust, and I suspect none will ever be able to provide one for 9/11. Such subjects overwhelm art. The artist's usual tactic is to center on individuals whose lives are a rebuke to the tragedy. They sidestep the actual event and focus on a parallel event that ends happily, giving us a sentimental reason to find consolation. That is small comfort to the dead" (Ebert, 2011). I honestly could not have said this better.

While I have not read the book the films direction/screenplay try to soothe audiences into feeling that this one young boys journey to find solace can help provide comfort for countless people who have felt loss throughout their lives.  Horn's Oskar represents an off the beat hero whose journey is plagued with pain and suffering only to come out on the end with support from his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock).  

Daldry has a knack for taking material like this and elevating it to be better than it should be, but his direction seems to abuse the point of the journey rather than letting unfold in a more simple less complex way.  Daldry's tale of the Holocaust almost removed the emotional heft of the story, while this film panders to audiences to make his point.  

Roth's screenplay is also one of the main culprits in making this film emotionally predictable  Roth beats the emotional journey over the head time and time again.  The audience never gets the opportunity to heal the gaping wound he opens time and time again.  The story never seems plausible and you lose the sense of reality as this young boy goes across the Burroughs of New York City to find different people with the name Black (the name on the envelope with the key in it).  From a tambourine that helps him cope to a man who does not speak (Von Sydow), like with past screenplays Roth does not tone down the implausible journey he maximizes it, and takes out the human elements of the story.  

While the story and the direction lead viewers down the rabbit hole, the actors attempt to bring some realism to this story.  Hanks and Bullock are supporting players, to fresh on the scene Thomas Horn.  This was Horn's first acting gig ever, and while he is often obnoxious; he does a solid enough job in his first role as an actor.  I found the role a bit grating, but I blame that more on the fact that screenwriter, and director used the characters Asperger's Disease as a crutch rather than letting the character evolve and develop.  Bullock shines in her last scene, but is not often on screen, her last moments talking about Thomas are simply heart wrenching and some of rare genuine moments within the film.  Von Sydow who was Oscar nominated for this film does the most solid acting in this film, but he does not even speak; he conveys all of his emotions through his face and action proving that the dialogue within this film was that bad.

The problems with this film is that it feels contrived and implausible.  Watching a young boy cope with his father's death using this tragedy as a backdrop, feels wrong, and like the film attempts to put a band aid over bullet hole.  The auteurs want audiences to be able to feel solace, but all this film provides is a more manufactured product, when the product should not have been made at all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Emmy Week 2012: Here's to the Ladies who Laugh, Comedy Lead Actress

The Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award is highly competitive this year with seven nominees.  Throughout the years this category has been one of the most entertaining to watch namely because there have been so many talented women competing.  From Lucille Ball to the Golden Girls (minus Sophia) all the way up to Tina Fey's modern day woman in Liz Lemon.

One problem with the winners in this category, up until the 2000s, was that the same women kept winning this trophy.  Candice Bergen has five wins for portraying the iconic television character Murphy Brown in the self titled television series Murphy Brown.  After Bergen's long winning streak in the late 80s into the early 90s another actress took up that crown, Helen Hunt.  Hunt won four Emmy Awards playing Jaime Buchman in the NBC comedy Mad About You.

Mary Tyler Moore has also won five Emmy Awards in this category, but her wins are split between two shows.  Moore won three times for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and won twice for The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Moore winning five trophies is a testament to her true comedic/acting abilities; she created two different legendary characters, and I applaud all of these wins.

While I do not begrudge Bergen or Hunt of their numerous accolades I must say that there were several funny women throughout this time who deserved a little recognition like: Patricia Richardson from Home Improvement, Cybill Shepherd for Cybil, Ellen DeGeneres for Ellen, and Calista Flockheart for Ally McBeal to name a handful.

After Mad About You went off the air it looked like this category was going to crown another repeat winner in Patricia Heaton; she won two back to back Emmy Awards for Everybody Loves Raymond in 2000 and 2001.  However the opposite was the case, this category has not crowned a repeat winner in over ten years,  a pattern that has never existed within this category.

This year that non repetitive pattern could be broken.  The seven nominees in this category are:

Zooey Deschanel-The New Girl
Lena Dunham-Girls
Edie Falco-Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey-30 Rock
Julia Louis Dreyfus-Veep
Melissa McCarthy-Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler-Parks and Recreation

Of the women nominated four of these women have won in this category before, Falco, Fey, Louis-Dreyfuss, and McCarthy.  Of these four women Dreyfus has the best shot of winning; she is competing for a brand new show, which is also a nominee in the Outstanding Comedy Series category.  At the moment my prediction is Dreyfus, but you can't rule out any of the three women who have never won before.

Dunham is a four time nominee this, for producing, acting, writing, and directing.  Will she be snubbed in all four categories, my guess is she takes home the writing category, or goes home empty handed.

Deschanel had an Emmy misfire, and the judges who watched all the Emmy tapes in this category were sent the wrong tapes so they get to see her twice, this gives her a leg up, and she truly is funny.

Poehler has 5 nominations under her belt, two for Saturday Night Live, and three for Parks and Recreation, her campaign story was an uphill battle, and voters may finally want to reward her truly hilarious Leslie Knope.

Looking at each of the four prominent possibilities, and the other three nominees proves that you can't count any of these funny ladies out.  All of these seven women provide non stop laughs, and great acting through their shows.  Even Falco and Dunham who have dramedies have some laugh out loud moments that seal the deal for me.

These seven women uphold the great comedic styles of the women who came before, and also show that  television is evolutionary.  While Tina Fey is a modern day Mary Tyler Moore in her show, she also created, writes for, and is a producer on the show.  Dunham is no Carrie Bradshaw, and she wants to make that clear.  Girls is told from the perspective of modern day girls who came from privilege, and are trying to survive in society.  Deschanel brings quirk to a whole new level that made first famous by Dharma's Jenna Elfman.

Each of these women pay homage to those who came before them, like Moore, Hunt, Arthur, White, Stapleton, Rashad, and especially Ball.  At the end of the day the winner is the audiences who get the opportunity to find these funny women on their television screens on a nightly basis.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Emmy Week 2012: The Mini-Series/Movie

Throughout the years the Mini-Series and Movie categories have had their peaks a valleys at the Emmy Awards.  Over the years all of the actors who were a part of either a mini-series or movie competed against one another in the acting categories at this award show.  From 1973 until May 2010 the Mini-Series and Movie category were separate awards.  From June 2010 through the present day with fewer Mini-Series and Movies being made, the nominees have been merged into one category.

Throughout the years there have been numerous landmark mini-series and made for television movies that have had an impact on television audiences.  On the mini-series side we have had Upstairs, Downstairs (1976), Roots (1977), Prime Suspect (numerous years), From the Earth to the Moon (1998), Band of Brothers (2001), Angels in America (2003), John Addams (2007), and this years Outstanding Drama Contender Downton Abbey (2011).  In the made for television movie category there was And the Band Played On (1994), Miss Ever's Boys (1997), Wit (2001), Recount (2008), and Grey Gardens (2009).

Looking at this list there a wide variety of films/mini-series that have had an impact on audiences, but throughout the most recent years as HBO and PBS dominate these categories the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences have noticed a diminishing number of made for television movies and mini-series, namely because of their waning popularity.

Last year's winner Downton Abbey beat out the most nominated program, and heavy favorite Mildred Pierce. After Downton's win the show started to get more notice from American audiences creating great word of mouth making this show a pop culture phenomena.  Downton Abbey is part of an uptick that happens every so often in this category.  Other mini-series like Band of Brothers and Roots have propelled cultural interest from television audiences proving there is value in this aspect of television, and that there has been a change in the way this category looks, and the type of shows that qualify for this award, even though they seem to constantly bend the rules.

This year the nominees for Outstanding Mini-Series/Made for Television Movie are:

American Horror Story
Game Change
Hatfields & McCoys
Hemingway and Gellhorn
Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Belgravia

Shows like American Horror Story, Luther, and Sherlock Holmes break the mold of this category.  The typical mini-series has fewer episodes is finite and does not tell a continuing story, Luther and Sherlock both break this pattern.  Prime Suspect was the original BBC drama shown on PBS to break the mold with this style.  American Horror Story fits the loose definition but Ryan Murphy is the similar pattern to create another season, namely because of the shows popularity.  These three are superlative works, and they each do this category a fine service, proving that this category can evolve the way television has evolved.

The more interesting thing about this category is that most prognosticators are not predicting one of these rebels to stir up trouble and win the Emmy, although many American Horror Story as a second or third pick.  Many award show gurus are playing it safe and predicting the political drama Game Change, about the failed campaign of John McCain, and running mate Sarah Palin.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that the even more traditional Hattfields and McCoys is going to win.  The Emmy Awards typically have a few rebels and help change up the nominees, but the winners usually stay pretty consistent.  Older voters are not going to go more leather bound ghost in American Horror Story, the prize for that is Lange's win.  Game Change will be honored with acting wins for Moore, and Harris, while I think Costner will surprise in the lead actor category.  I think Hatfields surprises everyone.

Beyond my predictions above this proves two things, one through nominations, and one through winners.  Like within most award shows people are willing to give the outsider a shot with a nomination, from Community getting a writing nomination to obscure acting nominations like Joanne Frogatt in the drama category.  Academy voters picked the the best mini-series/movie nominees.  My prediction is that voters will not prove evolutionary with their winner.

I am proud ATAS nominated these six shows, and this is proff they do pay attention to the outsiders, and the variety of programming on television.  I can't say I will convinced this voting has changed, much like with a Presidential election, until the results are revealed this Sunday night.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Audiences Cheer for the Silver Linings Playbook at theToronto International Film Festival

The Hollywood Reporter announced that the dramedy, The Silver Linings Playbook, won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Playbook, which was directed by David O. Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees) stars Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano a former teacher who comes back home to live with his parents after a stint in a mental institution.  While at home Pat meets Tiffany played by Jennifer Lawrence who has problems of her own, the two start to go on their own relationship adventures, but their mental status interrupts a true "happy ending."  Robert DeNiro also stars as Pat's dad.  News from TIFF is that the film played uproarious joyful applause from audiences, reminiscent of past winner Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

Over the past years the audience prizes have gone to the following films:

Where Do We Go Now? (2011)
The King’s Speech (2010)
Precious (2009)
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Eastern Promises (2007)
Bella (2006)
Tsotsi (2005)
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Zatôichi (2003)
Whale Rider (2002)
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)
Wo hu cang long (2000)
American Beauty (1999)

Last year's winner did nothing at the Academy Awards, but throughout the years this prize, along with the festival has helped build a buzz helping films garner more attention than they may have received in the past.  Of the audience prize winners Eastern Promises, Hotel Rwanda, Whale Rider, and Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain all became major players in the acting, and technical categories at the Academy Awards.  Eastern Promises got Viggo Mortensen his first acting nomination, Hotel Rwanda recieved nominations for Don Cheedle, and Sophie Okenedo, Whale Ride helped Keisha Castle Hughes pull off a shocking Best Actress nomination and Amelie was 6 time nominee with nominations in the technical categories and foreign language category.

On the other hand TIFF helped The King's Speech march on The Social Network, and win 4 Oscars including Picture, Director, and Lead Actor. Slumdog Millionaire took home 8 Oscars including Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.  American Beauty won 5 Oscars including Picture, Director, Lead Actor, and Original Screenplay.  Precious was the other film on this list that scored wins, two wins, one for Mo'Nique in the Supporting Actress category, and the Best Adapted 

Where does this leave Playbook in the hunt for Oscar?  Well of the first two festivals of the year, Venice and TIFF, both films that won at each were from The Weinstein Company.  The Master, which won at Venice, will be a much bigger hit with the critics, while Playbook will make a bigger showing at the Globes etc.  Could this be another David vs. Goliath like 2010s Speech vs. Network (both Weinstein films).  There is potential.  Russell's Fighter was well respected netting two major Oscars, this bodes well for him this year.  Paul Thomas Anderson's last film There will be Blood, was one of the most nominated films and grabbed two Oscars as well, for Lead Actor and Cinematography.  So who wins in this battle.  My guess is Argo, the Ben Affleck picture, but only time will tell, and the Oscar race is off to an interesting start.

Emmy Week 2012: Game of Thrones Comes out on top at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards

Last year Boardwalk Empire walked away winning the most awards ever at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards with seven wins.  This year last years most snubbed series at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards Game of Thrones came out on top this year with six wins.  Of the other Outstanding Drama Series nominees Boardwalk Empire won three, Homeland won two, Downton Abbey won two, Breaking Bad and Mad Men went home empty handed.  Going home empty handed at this part of the award show is not a bad sign.  Boardwalk Empire only won the Outstanding Direction award last year, and lost the Drama series award to Mad Men, and come on who would not have voted for Martin Scorsese. The Emmy Awards always like to surprise.

The Emmys did surprise in three of the four Guest Acting categories, specifically in the both drama categories.  Martha Plimpton won for one of my favorite guest starring roles on The Good Wife; she had a small part this season, and that was why she was not one of the favorites.  Although I should have seen this coming people do not often repeat wins in this category, this was her first Emmy win.  Jeremy Davies from Justified upset favorites like Mark Margolis from Breaking Bad, and Michael J. Fox from The Good Wife, this was also Davies first Emmy.  After 9 nominations and 0 wins at the Emmy Awards Kathy Bates finally triumphed playing ghost Charlie, a role I am not shocked Emmy voters ate up.  Jimmy Fallon was the easiest to predict, his return hosting gig to SNL, was one of the best episodes of the year.

Of the Outstanding Comedy Series nominees Girls took home one win, Curb Your Enthusiasm took home one win, and Modern Family took home one win, 30 Rock, Veep, and The Big Bang Theory went home empty handed.

Upsets also happened in the Outstanding Animated Program where The Penguins of Madagascar beat The Simpsons and Futurama, and So You Think You Can Dance lost the choreography award to Smash.

Here is a full list of the winners:

Casting in a Drama Series | Homeland (Showtime) 
Casting For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special | Game Change (HBO) 
Casting For A Comedy Series | Girls (HBO) 

Guest Actress In A Comedy Series | Kathy Bates, Two and a Half Men 
Guest Actor In A Comedy Series | Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live 
Guest Actor In A Drama Series | Jeremy Davies, Justified 
Guest Actress In A Drama Series | Martha Plimpton, The Good Wife 

Directing For A Variety Series | Saturday Night Live (NBC) 
Writing For A Variety Series | The Daily Show (Comedy Central) 
Outstanding Variety Special | The Kennedy Center Honors (CBS) 

Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Miniseries, Movie Or A Special | The Walking Dead (AMC) 
Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) | Game of Thrones (HBO) 
Makeup For A Miniseries Or A Movie (Non-Prosthetic) | Hatfields & McCoys (History) 
Makeup For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special (Non-Prosthetic) | Dancing With the Stars (ABC) 

Costumes For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special | Masterpiece: Great Expectations (PBS) 
Hairstyling For A Miniseries Or A Movie | American Horror Story (FX) 
Hairstyling For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special | Saturday Night Live (NBC) 
Choreography | Smash (NBC) 

Reality Program | Undercover Boss (CBS) 
Music Direction | The Kennedy Center Honors (CBS) 
Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score) | Downton Abbey (PBS) 
Music Composition For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special (Original Dramatic Score) | Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO) 
Original Music And Lyrics | The 65th Annual Tony Awards (CBS) 

Art Direction For A Multi-Camera Series | 2 Broke Girls (CBS) 
Art Direction For A Single-Camera Series | A tie: Boardwalk Empire (HBO) and Game of Thrones (HBO) 
Art Direction For Variety or Nonfiction Programming | A tie: The 54th Annual Grammy Awards (CBS) and The 65th Annual Tony Awards (CBS) 

Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series | Homeland (Showtime) 
Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Comedy Series | Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) 
Multi-Camera Picture Editing For A Comedy Series | How I Met Your Mother (CBS) 
Picture Editing For Reality Programming | Deadliest Catch (Discovery) 

Animated Program | The Penguins of Madagascar (Nickelodeon) 
Short-format Animated Program | Regular Show (Cartoon Network)  
Voice-over Performance | Maurice LaMarche, Futurama (Comedy Central) 

Special Visual Effects | Game of Thrones (HBO) 
Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role | Boardwalk Empire (HBO) 
Stunt Coordination | Southland (TNT) 

Main Title Design | Masterpiece: Great Expectations (PBS) 
Original Main Title Theme Music | Masterpiece: Page Eight (PBS) 

Sound Editing For Nonfiction Programming (Single Or Multi-Camera) | Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies (A&E) 
Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour) | Game of Thrones (HBO) 
Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (Half-Hour) | Modern Family (ABC) 
Sound Mixing For A Miniseries Or A Movie | Hatfield & McCoys (History) 
Sound Mixing For A Variety Or Music Series Or Special | The 84th Annual Academy Awards (ABC) 
Sound Editing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special | Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO) 
Sound Mixing For Nonfiction Programming | Frozen Planet (BBC/Discovery) 
Sound Editing For A Series | Game of Thrones (HBO) 

Cinematography For A Multi-Camera Series | Two and a Half Men (CBS) 
Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series | Boardwalk Empire (HBO) 
Cinematography For A Miniseries Or Movie | Masterpiece: Great Expectations (PBS) 
Cinematography For Reality Programming |  Deadliest Catch (Discovery)  
Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming | Frozen Planet (BBC/Discovery) 

Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Series | Saturday Night Live (NBC) 
Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety, Music, Or Comedy Series | So You Think You Can Dance (Fox) Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety, Music, Or Comedy Special | The 54th Annual Grammy Awards (CBS) 

Outstanding Nonfiction Series | Frozen Planet (BBC/Discovery) 
Outstanding Special Class Program |  The 65th Annual Tony Awards (CBS) 
Outstanding Special Class Program Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program | Childrens Hospital (Cartoon Network)