Monday, February 10, 2014

A Potentially Crackpot Theory

Dubious "heroes" theme for this year's Academy Awards (Seriously, it's the Oscars. The "theme" is movies. Don't get me started on honoring just The Wizard of Oz instead of 1939 in the aggregate.) + Disney's ownership of both ABC and the Star Wars properties + Episode VII inching ever-closer to formal casting announcements = Hamill, Fisher and Ford presenting at the Oscars

Friday, October 18, 2013

Idle Thoughts*

This is, I suppose, a lingering question from the increasingly notorious October third - does the cultishness of Mean Girls fandom obscure Tina Fey's role as author and creator? What is the function of authorship in communities where quotations of the text become a shibboleth of fandom (another example would be Arrested Development)?

*Sometimes I think I should try to come up with jazzier names for my different categories of posts. There is something so bland to me about all the titles that seem to end with "thoughts." 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Idle Thoughts

Someone somewhere on the internet must have done a mashup of the "I'm here because I was in the comic book" scene from Josie and the Pussycats with miscellaneous characters from The Walking Dead, right?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Idle Fall Movie Thoughts

I feel like you could write a whole thesis just about the roles these three actors have played in the last ten years. I also feel like I've been anticipating this movie since it was announced and that I'm going to go crazy before I get to see it in the theater.

The prospect of Steve McQueen in the Oscar race is just joyous to anticipate. He doesn't suffer fools, and basically stops just short of saying, "That was a stupid question you just asked," to interviewers who aren't on top of their game. My favorite example from the 2011 awards season, where he calls out the whole room:

Mood Music LXXII

The post count over the last eighteen months or so is a terrible bummer to me. I'm issuing a challenge to myself to start valuing my opinion more and to return to posting at least semi-frequently.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Lead Actress in a Drama

Claire Danes - "Carrie Mathison", Homeland
Julianna Margulies - "Alicia Florrick", The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany - "Sarah/Beth/etc.", Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss - "Peggy Olson", Mad Men
Keri Russell - "Elizabeth Jennings", The Americans
Kerry Washington - "Olivia Pope", Scandal

Claire Danes' season on Homeland is about both little moments - that smile erupting in flickers across her face after Carrie's market chase, her reaction to Brody's suicide video - and the broad emotional arc. If the first season showed Carrie at both her hyper-efficient best and her unmedicated worst, the second rested in the shaky middle, with Danes showing Carrie's fragility, uneasiness, and the cracks created by betrayal and electroshock therapy. The journey of Alicia Florrick is one of subtle shifts made visible by Margulies. The woman who once appeared as a naif in the world of corporate law has transformed into someone savvier at working the system, but Margulies showed the constant note of disappointment in everyone around her simmering under Alicia's titular facade. Critics have been praising Maslany over and over in the past few months, but her achievement across only ten episodes of television was so astounding that it doesn't even feel hyperbolic. It's not just the multitude of distinct, specific characters she played, but the nuance involved in something like marking the difference between Sarah pretending to be Alison and Alison pretending to be Sarah. Thinking back on Elisabeth Moss' performance in this season of Mad Men, I keep landing on Peggy's initial rejection of Don's offer to leave in "Shut the Door, Have a Seat." That suspicion that her relationship with Don would become an anchor, that apprehension of his making her a target for his own disappointment with himself. Even more than the series of events that lead to her deciding to leave SCDP in the first place, this season showed those fears made manifest. Moss shows Peggy's enduring disappointment warring with the professionalism she has fought so hard to acquire and maintain. In a television landscape that seems unsure of how to define the female opposite number to the male antihero, the stern pragmatism of Elizabeth Jennings immediately felt bracingly different. Russell's performance shows the different parts of Elizabeth she has locked away to be able to function within her double life - she knows and shows the difference between Elizabeth the spy and Elizabeth the reserved woman determined to scorn sentimentality and romanticism even in her daily lfie. The expansion from the brief seven episodes of Scandal's first season really showcased the depth and shading in Washington's performance. The "good at her job, shaky in her personal life" figure is somewhat of a cliche, but Washington excels at both the professional hyper-competence and caring that draws people to Olivia, as well as the emotional spiraling of her relationship with the President.

Honorable Mentions: Khandi Alexander, Treme; Connie Britton, Nashville; Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey; Lucy Liu, Elementary; Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy; Jessica Raine, Call the Midwife; Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy; Robin Wright, House of Cards

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Glenn Close, Damages; Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel; Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit; Mary McDonnell, Major Crimes; Anna Paquin, True Blood; Emmy Rossum, Shameless; Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer; Emily Van Camp, Revenge

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Lead Actor in a Drama

Bryan Cranston - "Walter White", Breaking Bad
Hugh Dancy - "Will Graham", Hannibal
Jon Hamm - "Don Draper", Mad Men
Peter Krause - "Adam Braverman", Parenthood
Damian Lewis - "Nicholas Brody", Homeland
Clarke Peters - "Albert Lambreaux", Treme
Matthew Rhys - "Phillip Jennings", The Americans

In each successive season of Breaking Bad, Walt's adversaries feel less like villains and more like markers on an irreversible path away from his humanity. Sometimes I find the show hard to watch because Cranston lays the grasping core of Walt's boundless ambition so bare. He makes the journey into nihilism feel unnervingly fearless. Dancy's work is intensely physical, but restrained - he looks like he feels Will's hauntedness in his bones, like it's eating away at him from the inside out. In past seasons, I've been impressed with the way Jon Hamm marks differences between Dick Whitman and Don Draper. Here, the circumstances of life conspired to create situations where he couldn't stop Dick from showing through Don's cracks, and Hamm made that dissembling a disconcerting facet of this season. The maximum is supposed to be six, but I couldn't choose between Krause and Peters so I just put both. They're characters on different sides of a cancer diagnosis, and both have some king-of-my-castle, control freak tendencies. Adam tries to hold it together and be supportive as a spouse in a situation without a playbook, and Albert copes with an illness that threatens to derail his hard-won authority while he refuses to relinquish the stubborn energy that makes it feel like he will outlive everyone. Lewis holds different Brodies all together in one man, not only shrouding his intent but showing how at sea he is in trying to figure out which has primacy. Rhys presents a bit of a contradiction, as a spy whose heart constantly threatens to appear ever-stronger on his sleeve, then overwhelm his mission. 

Honorable Mentions: Andre Braugher, Last Resort; Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire; Jonny Lee Miller, Elementary; Timothy Olyphant, Justified; Wendell Pierce, Treme; Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Kevin Bacon, The Following; Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey; Michael Chiklis, Vegas; Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom; Michael Emerson, Person of Interest; Nathan Fillion, Castle; Kelsey Grammer, Boss; Michael C. Hall, Dexter; Jeremy Irons, The Borgias; Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead; William H. Macy, Shameless; Eric McCormack, Perception; Jeremy Piven, Mr. Selfridge; Dennis Quaid, Vegas; Tom Selleck, Blue Bloods; Aden Young, Rectify

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Lead Actress in a Comedy

Laura Dern - "Amy Jellicoe", Enlightened
Zooey Deschanel - "Jessica Day", New Girl
Lena Dunham - "Hannah Horvath", Girls
Tina Fey - "Liz Lemon", 30 Rock
Sutton Foster - "Michelle ", Bunheads
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - "Selina Meyer", Veep
Amy Poehler - "Leslie Knope", Parks and Recreation

I hope to add to this later, but find comedy leads really difficult to write about for whatever reason. A cursory glance at last year's slate indicates a persistent issue there. I could not manage to narrow from seven to six.

Honorable Mentions: Courteney Cox, Cougar Town; Portia DeRossi, Arrested Development; Dakota Johnson, Ben and Kate; Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project; Jane Levy, Suburgatory; Martha MacIsaac, 1600 Penn; Ashley Rickards, Awkward.; Krysten Ritter, Don't Trust the B* in Apt. 23; AnnaSophia Robb, The Carrie Diaries

Extra points to Robb for gamely taking on a role that might have had even more baggage attached than Mads Mikkelson in Hannibal.

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Jenna Elfman, 1600 Penn; Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie; Patricia Heaton, The Middle; Melissa McCarthy, Mike and Molly; Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds; Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope

For a second, I forgot what Melissa McCarthy's show was called and I almost typed The Heat. I'm not sure the distinction makes a substantive difference to the television academy voters, anyway.

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Lead Actor in a Comedy

Alec Baldwin - "Jack Donaghy", 30 Rock
Jason Bateman - "Michael Bluth", Arrested Development
Louis CK - "Louie", Louie
Jake Johnson - "Nick Miller", New Girl
Joel McHale - "Jeff Winger", Community
Adam Scott - "Ben Wyatt", Parks and Recreation

Honorable Mentions: Justin Bartha, The New Normal; Rob Lowe, Parks and Recreation; Josh Radnor, How I Met Your Mother; Andrew Rannells, The New Normal; Jeremy Sisto, Suburgatory

Honestly, I wonder sometimes if Rob Lowe might have been nominated for an Emmy if not for this bizarre insistence on being considered in the Lead category.

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Don Cheadle, House of Lies; Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men; Garret Dillahunt, Raising Hope; David Duchovny, Californication; Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory; Ashton Kutcher, Two and a Half Men; Matt LeBlanc, Episodes; Marc Maron, Maron; Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory; Matthew Perry, Go On; Charlie Sheen, Anger Management

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Adam Driver - "Adam Sackler," Girls
Alex Karpovsky - "Ray Ploshansky", Girls
Timothy Simons - "Jonah Ryan", Veep
Damon Wayans, Jr. - "Brad Williams", Happy Endings
Mike White - "Tyler", Enlightened
Rainn Wilson - "Dwight Schrute", The Office

Driver and Karpovsky were both standouts last year, and built on those established character traits with surprising emotional depth - Adam in coming to terms with the wreckage Hannah left behind her and Ray in feeling his heart leap forward and struggling to force the rest of him to follow. Simons took a lot of verbal abuse in the second season of Veep, ostensibly about Jonah but pointedly remarking on physical attributes. He is great at both the obsequiousness of a mid-level bureaucrat, but also at playing someone who wants to give as good as he gets but can't quite keep up. As much as Happy Endings was ever governed by story arcs, Wayans really shone in the stories following Brad's loss of his job, especially in the episode where he becomes Jane's "trophy wife." In an ideal world, Mike White would get just as much recognition as network-mate Lena Dunham for everything he put into Enlightened. While Tyler's dreams may not be as expansive as Amy's, White's performance shows us that they're still there. The failure of the backdoor pilot may have been the best thing to happen to The Office, as Rainn Wilson became the MVP of the show's final episodes. Without letting up on the characteristics that made Dwight such a standout character, the show rooted a happy ending in Dwight finally getting the branch manager position and marrying Angela. 

Honorable Mentions: Will Arnett, Arrested Development; Max Greenfield, New Girl; Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live; Tony Hale, Veep; Taran Killam, Saturday Night Live; Zachary Knighton, Happy Endings; John Krasinski, The Office: Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock; Chris Messina, The Mindy Project; Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock; Lamorne Morris, New Girl; Oscar Nunez, The Office; Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation; Adam Pally, Happy Endings; Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation; Jim Rash, Community; Reid Scott, Veep; Jason Sudeikis, Saturday Night Live; Matt Walsh, Veep; Luke Wilson, Enlightened

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Fred Armisen, Saturday Night Live; Ty Burrell, Modern Family; Charlie Day, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Peter Facinelli, Nurse Jackie; Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family; Brad Garrett, How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life; Nolan Gould, Modern Family; Simon Helberg, The Big Bang Theory; Ed Helms, The Office; Justin Kirk, Weeds; Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live; Kunal Nayyar, The Big Bang Theory; Ed O'Neill, Modern Family; Rico Rodriguez, Modern Family; Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family; Jeffrey Tambor, Arrested Development

I didn't watch Modern Family this season, so I don't have a specific opinion about it one way or the other. But it certainly wouldn't shock me if they just went all in, added the kids and filled the entire category with cast members from that show.

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Supporting Actor in a Drama

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - "Jamie Lannister", Game of Thrones
Noah Emmerich - "Stan Beeman", The Americans
Jack Huston - "Richard Harrow", Boardwalk Empire
Vincent Kartheiser - "Pete Campbell", Mad Men
Mads Mikkelson - "Hannibal Lecter", Hannibal
Corey Stoll - "Peter Russo", House of Cards

Anyone who's read A Storm of Swords suspected a standout year was coming for Jamie Lannister, but Coster-Waldau made one of those glorious adaptive leaps and delivered tenfold, seeming capable of accessing emotional spaces even Martin didn't know about. Emmerich's performance made The Americans a vitally three-part show instead of a duet. Stan was one of the most fascinatingly gray characters of this year in television - not an idealist but neither fully hardened by his experiences, dedicated to his job but undermined by his heart. Emmerich found a place right in the middle all its own. I feel like I gush about Huston and Kartheiser every year - they're my favorites in two stacked ensembles. What hasn't already been said? Huston, with his now-trademark low affect, drew the audience in to Richard's relationship with Julia and his quest to keep Tommy's parents alive in his memory, but never without the undercurrent of doom suggesting it could all fall apart as so many things have for him. Kartheiser spent the season at a low boil - Pete's impotent rage, barely contained behind a mask of civility, felt like it could suddenly blow up and take the whole agency, if not the entire Time-Life building, with it. Mikkelson proved another adaptive standout - it's not just that he formulated something entirely separate from the legacy of Anthony Hopkins, but the pairing of faux amiability and creeping chilliness that convinces you that no one would take too close a look at Dr. Lecter until it was already too late. In a show that could frequently feel too cold, too glossy, and too calculated, Corey Stoll's performance felt like a real, beating heart. Russo's earnestness alongside his inability to keep from defeating himself placed a real note of tragedy amid the endless strategizing of House of Cards.

Honorable Mentions: Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad; Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire; Jim Carter, Downton Abbey; Josh Charles, The Good Wife; Kim Coates, Sons of Anarchy; Charlie Cox, Boardwalk Empire; Alan Cumming, The Good Wife; Matt Czuchry, The Good Wife; Guillermo Diaz, Scandal; Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; Jay R. Ferguson, Mad Men; Jordan Gavaris, Orphan Black; Walton Goggins, Justified; Tony Goldwyn, Scandal; Stephen Graham, Boardwalk Empire; Rick Hoffman, Suits; Rob James-Collier, Downton Abbey; Michael Kelly, House of Cards; Dean Norris, Breaking Bad; Mandy Patinkin, Homeland; Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad; Jeff Perry, Scandal; Kevin Rahm, Mad Men; Nick Searcy, Justified; John Slattery, Mad Men; Eamonn Walker, Chicago Fire

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Michael Cudlitz, Southland; Larry Hagman, Dallas; Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel; Gabriel Mann, Revenge; David Morrissey, The Walking Dead; Ryan Philippe, Damages; Norman Reedus, The Walking Dead; Michael Rooker, The Walking Dead

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Jenna Fischer - "Pam Beesley Halpert", The Office
Angela Kinsey - "Angela Lipton", The Office
Zosia Mamet - "Shoshanna Shapiro", Girls
Kate McKinnon - "Misc. Characters", Saturday Night Live
Alia Shawkat - "Maeby Funke", Arrested Development
Casey Wilson - "Penny Hartz", Happy Endings

Honorable Mentions: Vanessa Bayer, Saturday Night Live; Sufe Bradshaw, Veep; Carly Chaikin, Suburgatory; Anna Chlumsky, Veep; Eliza Coupe, Happy Endings; Elisha Cuthbert, Happy Endings; Ana Gasteyer, Suburgatory; Allie Grant, Suburgatory; Rashida Jones, Parks and Recreation; Ellie Kemper, The Office; Jemima Kirke, Girls; Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock; Christa Miller, Cougar Town; Busy Philipps, Cougar Town; Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation; Retta, Parks and Recreation; Hannah Simone, New Girl; Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live; Jessica Walter, Arrested Development; Allison Williams, Girls; Bebe Wood, The New Normal

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Ellen Barkin, The New Normal; Kristen Bell, House of Lies; Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory; Julie Bowen, Modern Family; Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia; Kaley Cuoco, The Big Bang Theory; Sarah Hyland, Modern Family; Cloris Leachman, Raising Hope; Jane Lynch, Glee; Melissa Rauch, The Big Bang Theory; Maya Rudolph, Up All Night; Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer; Eden Sher, The Middle; Anna Deavere Smith, Nurse Jackie; Lily Tomlin, Malibu Country; Sofia Vergara, Modern Family; Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie; Betty White, Hot in Cleveland; Julie White, Go On; Ariel Winter, Modern Family

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Supporting Actress in a Drama

Troian Bellisario - "Spencer Hastings", Pretty Little Liars
Jessica Capshaw - "Arizona Robbins", Grey's Anatomy
Anna Gunn - "Skyler White", Breaking Bad
Annet Mahandru - "Nina ", The Americans
Monica Potter - "Kristina Braverman", Parenthood
Bellamy Young - "Mellie Grant", Scandal

Honorable Mentions: Morena Baccarin, Homeland; Christine Baranski, The Good Wife; Laura Carmichael, Downton Abbey; Joelle Carter, Justified; Erika Christenson, Parenthood; Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones; Kristen Connolly, House of Cards; Caroline Dhavernas, Hannibal; Kim Dickens, Treme; Natalie Dormer, Game of Thrones; Michelle Fairley, Game of Thrones; Miranda Hart, Call the Midwife; Lena Headey, Game of Thrones; Christina Hendricks, Mad Men; January Jones, Mad Men; Melissa Leo, Treme; Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire; Kate Mara, House of Cards; Susan Misner, The AMericans; Gretchen Mol, Boardwalk Empire; Olivia Munn, The Newsroom; Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy; Hayden Panettiere, Nashville; Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife; Jessica Pare, Mad Men; Morgan Saylor, Homeland; Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men; Maggie Siff, Sons of Anarchy; Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey; Mae Whitman, Parenthood; Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Rose Byrne, Damages; Jennifer Carpenter, Dexter; Linda Gray, Dallas; Laurie Holden, The Walking Dead; Anjelica Huston, Smash; Regina King, Southland; Mary McDonnell, The Closer; Debra Messing, Smash; Annie Parisse, The Following; Alison Pill, The Newsroom; Abigail Spencer, Rectify; Madeline Stowe, Revenge; Lauren Velez, Dexter

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch - "Christopher Tietjens", Parade's End
Matt Damon - "Scott Thorson", Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas - "Liberace", Behind the Candelabra
Dominic West - "Hector Madden", The Hour
Ben Whishaw - "Freddie Lyon", The Hour

While Sherlock has been a standout in the past few years, this seems to be the year where Benedict Cumberbatch is determined to get as many shades as he's capable of captured for posterity. I'm not familiar with Ford Madox Ford's novels, but Cumberbatch made Tietjens real as a man clinging to notions of civility and propriety in a world seemingly determined to cast them aside, and the character feels both noble and frustratingly weak-willed at turns. The performances of Damon and Douglas form one of those tandem leads where it seems unfair that only one can win. While Damon is playing a character much younger than him, he makes Scott's innocence believable, his hunger for love, both paternal and romantic, palpable, and his eventual hardening into a lonely adulthood tragic. Douglas never shies away from Liberace's capacity for vanity, or the fundamental callousness that lies at the heart of his pursuit of ever-younger paramours. But neither is his performance cynical - he certainly believes in the rapturous potential of love, if not the intractability of soul mates. West plays Hector as a man painfully aware of his weaknesses, especially as he lets down his wife and coworkers in as public a fashion as possible, but always striving to live up to the full potential he knows is there too. His desire to do good always wars with the mercenary attitude he's supposed to affect as a man in his position. Even so, it's Whishaw's performance as Freddie that makes me so disappointed that The Hour won't be returning. The Hour took what The Newsroom expresses through endless speeches on the value of journalistic inquiry and just showed it, embodied in Freddie's determination to follow the season's story even unto his doom.

Honorable Mentions: Toby Jones, The Girl; Rufus Sewell, Restless

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Kenneth Branagh, Wallander: An Event in Autumn; Diego Morgado, The Bible; Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Dream Emmy Ballot 2013: Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Romola Garai - "Bel Rowley", The Hour
Rebecca Hall - "Sylvia Tietjens", Parade's End
Jessica Lange - "Sister Jude Martin", American Horror Story: Asylum
Elisabeth Moss - "Robin ", Top of the Lake
Sigourney Weaver - "Elaine Barrish", Political Animals

I love the way The Hour depicts its profession, showing Bel as the determined producer mediating between wary executives and reporters begging to be let off the leash. Garai demonstrates the balance of a woman's professional life in the nebulous period between World War II and the rise of the second wave in showing the value Bel places in doing a good job even as she struggles to keep her heart in check. Hall as Sylvia is mesmerizingly vain, a woman determined to challenge and laugh at the world, but constantly thwarted when she tries to bring others along with her on what some part of her fears might be the road to hell. Lange's performance brought an unexpected depth to the emotional and redemptive arc across the season of American Horror Story, bridging from the flinty sternness of Sister Jude to the deep-seated pain of Judy Martin. It's difficult not to compare Elisabeth Moss' two major performances this year, but each makes the other stand out in contrast because they're so different and together indicate a startling range. The interiority of Moss as Robin makes other "cop who takes it personally" roles feel awfully histrionic. And as acting in single scenes within the year goes, Robin telling the story of her rape is a heartrending high mark. Weaver resists imitating Hillary Clinton in a role obviously inspired by her, and instead finds an authoritative voice of her own without which Political Animals would not have worked.

Honorable Mentions: Hayley Atwell, Restless; Queen Latifah, Steel Magnolias; Sienna Miller, The Girl

I wouldn't be surprised to see: Angela Bassett, Betty & Coretta; Brenda Blethyn, Mary & Martha; Mary J. Blige, Betty & Coretta; Jewel, Ring of Fire; Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter; Lindsay Lohan, Liz & Dick; Helen Mirren, Phil Spector; Hilary Swank, Mary & Martha