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Ricky Gervais: Golden Balls

Thank God for Ricky Gervais, even if Ricky is an athiest.

Gervais, as he did last year, relentlessly skewered any pretense of dignity that some think the event has. Although it has been elevated to major award status, the fact remains that it’s just one more opportunity for Hollywood to pat itself on the back and ensure global domination of its main export, the American film. So widespread is its reputation for bribery, favoritism and hero-worship that even Robert DeNiro took several shots at the HFPA when receiving its highest honor.

I had to laugh when reading reports this morning chastising Gervais for being irreverent and mean-spirited, and I was astounded to see that some didn’t even find him funny. Are you kidding me? Aside from a couple of good podium moments (David Fincher, Jane Lynch) and two good introductory bits (Robert Downey Jr. and the always-gold Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin combination) the show was an insufferable snore-fest. When he was off-screen for close to an hour, the show dragged. There were no huge upsets in the film categories (Paul Giamatti and Melissa Leo being the closest thing to surprises) and as usual the attendees were more interested in socializing between announcements than paying attention to the proceedings. If they’re not focused, why should I be?

Ah, but when Gervais was at the podium, they had to focus, because he’s fearless; you never know what he’s going to say and when. Are people really upset that he inferred that Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. have had personal issues? Was poking fun at some of the turkeys in a film resume really that insulting to a famous actor? And the joke about the omission of Jim Carrey’s performance in I Love You Philip Morris was brilliant; a one-two punch that savaged the voting board for its inconsistent temerity regarding homosexuality and launched a dig at pushy Scientology salesmen Tom Cruise and John Travolta

Also not nominated: I Love You, Philip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. Sort of the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists then…My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.”

Most of the celebrities seemed to get it; Downey countered with a great quote (“Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?“) and even long-suffering Office doppelgänger Steve Carell dutifully played the fall guy for what must be the hundredth time. Only the HFPA President seemed truly miffed – or maybe his comic delivery just sucks – but I think he has bigger problems than a temporary insult most people will forget faster than they forgot his name. Perhaps those who didn’t laugh prove the old adage that “the truth hurts“, because the Sex In The City actresses are long in the tooth, Cher is not a hot commodity in 2011, and Tim Allen, nice guy that he is, doesn’t have a resume like that of Tom Hanks.

But there were some painful moments, too. I love Robert DeNiro, and few actors have had the kind of career he has assembled (even discounting most of the past decade). But anyone who has seen him on Saturday Night Live knows that he is abysmal when reading cue cards, especially when it is comic lines obviously written by someone else. It started awkwardly enough, dove into some racist territory and ended with a fairly creepy reference to Megan Fox. Within the speech there were some pretty great barbs deflating the HFPA, but it was as painful to watch as…well…Little Fockers, for one.

The biggest surprises of the evening were on the TV side of the fence; 30 Rock going home empty-handed, Modern Family losing to Glee (when their sophomore seasons have been such polar opposites, quality wise) and the lovely but absent Laura Linney grabbing the honor for The Big C. I was thrilled that Chris Colfer won for Glee; they handed him the ball this year and he really ran with it. Ditto Katey Sagal – not only finally getting noticed for her amazing work on Sons of Anarchy, but getting to take home the award.

The Observer from Fringe alongside Edgar Winter

So how did I do? Seven out of ten, but missing on three biggies. I guess the best movie can’t direct itself, but I think Nolan’s film was a superior effort. Loved seeing humble Colin Firth win, although if he stuttered during his speech that would have been much funnier. And I’m thankful that Natalie Portman won but was surprised by Paul Giamatti’s win, although he’s always good for a great speech, even when they censor the first ten seconds of it. The censors were uneven with their cut-offs and their music cues, but what the hell, I’ll be back next year to watch.

If the HFPA has even one-tenth the balls that Gervais does, so will Ricky.

The list of nominees and winners is here.

Here’s a link to a great page that lists the major category winners for the Critic Associations and provides a schedule for (and links to) all of the award ceremonies. Next up are the BAFTA nominations on Tuesday, with the Academy Award nominations the week after.

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Golden Globe and BCFA Nominations

Who knew The Tourist was a comedy?

That’s right, it isn’t – it’s a thriller. But that didn’t stop the Hollywood Foreign Press Association from nominating their man-crush, Johnny Depp, as Best Actor in a Comedy for his role in the film.

(Maybe the movie is so bad it was laughable?)

At least they got some things right, like finally nominating Katey Sagal for her career-best performance in Sons Of Anarchy (although the show itself and the rest of the cast got blanked) and remembering to include Mark Wahlberg as a nominee for The Fighter. The Broadcast Film Critics didn’t, even when nominating the film, screenplay and the rest of the principal cast (individually and as Best Ensemble!) and despite many of the categories being expanded to six nominees. Really? Were there that many ties?

The 16th annual Broadcast Film Critics awards, announced yesterday, will be presented on January 14th. Two of the toughest categories will be Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner and Christain Bale likely battling it out) and Best Documentary, where excellent entries range from the overdue and  heartfelt Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work to the somber subjects of Restrepo and The Tillman Story.

The 68th annual Golden Globe awards, announced this morning, will be presented on January 16th. Glad to see that Laura Linney got some props for The Big C as well as Kevin Spacey for his work in Casino Jack. But way, way too many oversights and mistakes for my tastes.

The Screen Actors Guild nominees will be announced Thursday.

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Prodigal Sons Return

Come along for the ride

I”m sad to see summer end, and with it a few very enjoyable shows, none more than the off-the-charts comedy Louie. But the sounding of September’s bells also brings the return of the “regular season” shows, those that arc in the familiar Fall time frame. Near the top of my list is the biker drama Sons of Anarchy, which I previously wrote about as the perfect hybrid of a Shakespeare play and a Western.

Last season’s plot featured the dynamic performances of Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins playing against the main cast (strong in its own right with a mix of seasoned veterans and intriguing lesser known actors); frankly it will be hard to top. Creator Kurt Sutter hints that there will be some time spent in Belfast as the Sons pursue the fleeing IRA gun runner, which hopefully means more appearances by his boss, played by the wonderful Titus Welliver. Tonight’s opening salvo also indicated we might get to see more of Jeff Kober (China Beach) whose career has shown he can play twisted as well as anyone.

Even the small subtle parts of this show are top-notch. What other show could sell a version of a Herman’s Hermits hit (“No Milk Today”) as the score for a dramatic montage? But like the best shows (Homicide, The Shield) the use of music has always been a strong suit for SOA; hearing Richard Thompson during the closing scene was icing on the cake.

During tonight’s episode I had a fleeting thought that this was going to be a season where damaged, weepy Jax became a neutered man (hinted at even in the scene where he hesitates when the Sons are headed to the boat launch; Clay asks “Are you with us?”). That chance was crushed like a skull at the end of the show in a shocking and violent scene.

Revenge is a powerful dramatic motivator, as is desperation. When a man feels he has nothing left to lose, who is he? Does he become his purest essence, good or bad? Or does he become merely a vessel for his dominant emotion?

Sutter has just dealt the cards, and once again I’m all in.

Sons of Anarchy official website

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Emmy Nominations – Not Bad!

Shiny objects distract me.

 

The 62nd Annual Emmy Awards take place at the end of August but the announcements were made this week. Normally that’s great timing for television networks because their seasons are done and they need to attract attention to themselves and away from the summer blockbuster movies. 

But things have changed – basic cable has flexed its muscles in recent years, and proven powerhouses like The Closer, Mad Men and Rescue Me have just started their seasons. More shows have followed suit, and frankly White Collar and Louie are as entertaining as anything the networks have launched during the traditional season. And now that DVRs and TiVo are commonplace, there’s no longer a concern about weak numbers from failing to lure viewers inside on a nice summer night. 

Perhaps for that reason the networks seemed to be willing to take some chances last year – the Jay Leno 10pm debacle aside – and the voters seem to have responded. Like the Oscars, voters have tended to lean towards veteran shows, some nominations seemingly for a prior oversight or a body of work rather than the eligible time period. But this year freshman hits Modern Family and Glee dominated the nominations, although the multiple acting nominees might split the votes and give the advantage to the other actors. 

Omissions aplenty, like Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) and even Ed O’Neill on Modern Family. And my hopes of Better Off Ted getting its post-mortem due were crushed. But I was happy to see unexpected nods for unheralded and solid work, especially Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age) and both Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights. And the final season of Lost did not go unnoticed, although it’s a shame that Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn can’t both win a statue. 

Looking at all the categories I was astounded at the level of detail. Awards for best single camera editing on a reality series? Best hair styling in a drama? Best commercial? But I’m glad to see categories like Best Casting, a reward hopefully for a solid ensemble show where everybody just looks right  (even if there are several glaring omissions). 

Here’s some of the major nominees and a link to the official Emmy website listing all the categories. I’ll make my predictions closer to the date. 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper
Larry David as Himself
Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Bryan Cranston as Walter White
Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard
Jon Hamm as Don Draper 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Lea Michele as Rachel Berry
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Toni Collette as Tara Gregson 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick
Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson
January Jones as Betty Draper 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman
Martin Short as Leonard Winstone
Terry O’Quinn as John Locke
Michael Emerson as Ben Linus
John Slattery as Roger Sterling
Andre Braugher as Owen 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
Kristen Wiig as Various Characters
Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney
Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen
Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson 

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Glee • FOX
Modern Family • ABC
Nurse Jackie • Showtime
The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC 

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad • AMC
Dexter • Showtime
The Good Wife • CBS
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC
True Blood • HBO 

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TV Critics Award Nominees

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, another awards show drops a list of nominees. The Television Critic’s Association Awards are a little different than other TV back-slapping fests in that lead and supporting actors are combined in one field. Also, there is a category for program of the year (even though there are awards for both comedy and drama). Odd stuff, this.

Here are the nominees in five of the major categories. Some obvious and worthy nominees, but also some surprising omissions and oversights. Of course, with only five slots covering not only lead and supporting roles but also both genders, many people deserving of recognition didn’t make the cut.

Hard to predict what the television writers will go with (they tend to be more likely to vote quality over buzz than the Golden Globes or Emmys) but I’ll take a shot. I’ll note who I think will win in red and who I would vote for with an asterisk (*)…there’s really only one category where it’s split.

Of course, I’m only working with the nominees that were announced, not adding my own. For example, I can think of several shows that deserved a nod over Parenthood.  

The winners will be announced July 31st.

Individual achievement in drama:
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad,” AMC) *
John Lithgow (“Dexter,” Showtime)
Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” CBS)
Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad,” AMC)
Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy,” FX)

Individual achievement in comedy:
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family,” ABC)
Jane Lynch (“Glee,” Fox)
Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation,” NBC)*
Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory,” CBS)
Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family,” ABC)

Outstanding achievement in drama:
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)*
“Lost” (ABC)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“Sons of Anarchy” (FX)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)

Outstanding achievement in comedy:
“Glee” (Fox)
“Modern Family” (ABC) *
“Parks and Recreation” (NBC)
“Party Down” (Starz)
“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

Outstanding new program:
“Glee” (Fox)
“Justified” (FX)
“Modern Family” (ABC)*
“Parenthood” (NBC)
“The Good Wife” (CBS)

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All My Sons

They'll be back

I’ve had a bit of time to digest the final episode of Sons of Anarchy season two. While my initial impressions were positive, I’m even a bit more enthusiastic after looking back upon the story arc that unfolded this year. Sure, there were a couple of blips; like many episodic dramas they rely upon a fair amount of coincidence and synchronicity for events to fall into place. And occasionally there are the “yeah, right” moments…like the final chase scene (or watching someone actually overpower Henry Rollins!).  

But consider that Kurt Sutter walked out of one of the best shows of all time (The Shield) and immediately created another world that already has two excellent seasons of SOA in the books. From the very first episode of The Shield it was made clear that these were bad cops, yet by fleshing them out into three-dimensional characters, damned if you weren’t rooting for them to pull it all off and walk away. Sons of Anarchy has already started to tap into that zone. Sure, there’s been some murder and mayhem, but not to the innocent (at least by the Sons). This is frontier justice, twentieth century – SOA style.  

Many plot points were established early; seeds planted that have not yet begun to flower. We know there is some mystery in John Teller‘s death, in what Jax was told versus what they will let him find out, in how the original vision of the club has been altered (Piney obviously has a line drawn in the sand and, while loyal to the club, is clearly only willing to go so far.) Many have called the plot arc Shakespearian in design, and indeed what we have seen so far looks like a mash-up of Macbeth and Hamlet…um…and a Western.  

S*M*A*S*H

Perhaps a subtle difference is the appearance of the cast. These are not pretty boys and hot, fit women; the types that somehow seem to fill an entire ensemble cast on most cop, law and medical dramas. These actors look hard – some even weatherbeaten – and it’s refreshing to see life’s scars figuratively and literally be part of their appearance. Indeed, the show is about family, and whether it was the pain of the dysfunction at the group dinner (think Thanksgiving gone horribly awry) or “going to the mattresses” before the final confrontation, all petty differences and minor disagreements are pushed aside for the common goal. On another level – especially with the territorial nature of the conflicts – it’s almost a patriotic move as much as a familial one.  

But above all, it’s the performance of the cast, taking a slice of life that could easily be caricatured and breathing nuance and depth into these characters. Katey Sagal, in particular, has been outstanding this season. Surviving a brutal attack at the outset, her Gemma has gone from pain to fear to abandonment to a reawakening and new strength. Her journey has been cathartic, especially her quiet scene with the priest whereby she looks within and realizes what her purpose and calling should be…and then how she twists that moment to take it way past the line. Much of this was done alone on camera, with little more than the realization coming over her face as only we, the audience, watched unfold. It was one of the best performances on television in 2009, by anyone.  

Queen Bee

Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins were flat-out amazing this year. Arkin underplayed what could have been a flashy, showy role and in doing so made his character far more sinister. And Rollins, whose image should sit next to the word “intense” in every dictionary, played a twisted soul who was both frightening and vulnerable. His character entered the story as the epitome of despicable, but Rollins was amazingly able to elicit sympathy and respect by the last episode. And a good show always gives its supporting characters great moments. Many got a turn to shine – Kim Coates, Ryan Hurst and Tommy Flanagan were among those who stepped up to the plate.  Special kudos to Dayton Callie as life-beaten police Chief Unser, who finds his center and his purpose.  

  

You know the show is special when moments after the final season episode you want the new season to start immediately. SOA nailed that with some resolution, cliffhanger elements (I won’t spoil anything for those still catching up), new roads laid bare and a character who may or may not have died in a fire. (On that last item, some have suggested it was a slip in the plot…I think there’s a reason we don’t know yet). I am itching for season three.  

Tune back in when I recap the ten best shows of 2009.  

Sons of Anarchy

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Golden Globes Noms: Rusty

Ricky Gervais, save us!

The nominations for the 67th Golden Globes were announced this morning, and as usual it’s a mixed bag of deserving nods, payback to schmoozing favorites and a handful of glaring omissions. For now a quick look at the nominations for television: 

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. BIG LOVE (HBO)
b. DEXTER (SHOWTIME)
c. HOUSE (FOX)
d. MAD MEN (AMC)
e. TRUE BLOOD (HBO)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. GLENN CLOSE, DAMAGES
b. JANUARY JONES, MAD MEN
c. JULIANNA MARGULIES, THE GOOD WIFE
d. ANNA PAQUIN, TRUE BLOOD
e. KYRA SEDGWICK, THE CLOSER

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
a. SIMON BAKER, THE MENTALIST
b. MICHAEL C. HALL, DEXTER
c. JON HAMM, MAD MEN
d. HUGH LAURIE, HOUSE
e. BILL PAXTON, BIG LOVE

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. 30 ROCK (NBC)
b. ENTOURAGE (HBO)
c. GLEE (FOX)
d. MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
e. THE OFFICE (NBC)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. TONI COLLETTE, UNITED STATES OF TARA
b. COURTENEY COX, COUGAR TOWN
c. EDIE FALCO, NURSE JACKIE
d. TINA FEY, 30 ROCK
e. LEA MICHELE, GLEE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a. ALEC BALDWIN, 30 ROCK
b. STEVE CARELL, THE OFFICE
c. DAVID DUCHOVNY, CALIFORNICATION
d. THOMAS JANE, HUNG
e. MATTHEW MORRISON, GLEE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. JANE ADAMS, HUNG
b. ROSE BYRNE, DAMAGES
c. JANE LYNCH, GLEE
d. JANET McTEER, INTO THE STORM
e. CHLOË SEVIGNY, BIG LOVE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
a. MICHAEL EMERSON, LOST
b. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
c. WILLIAM HURT, DAMAGES
d. JOHN LITHGOW, DEXTER
e. JEREMY PIVEN, ENTOURAGE

I have to remind myself that these nominations and awards, however prestigious, are the work of ninety reporters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it’s not an industry-wide tally. Some of these people don’t even review the work itself – they exist solely to hobnob with stars and create puff pieces for magazines and gossip columns. By comparison, the Online Film Critics Society has over one hundred forty reviewers

The awards hold merit despite the fact that most people realize it is a popularity contest; some favorites would almost have to commit a crime to not get a nomination. Remember that this is the same organization that accepted lavish gifts and bribes in return for naming Pia Zadora Best Actress. 

Whatever

As far as drama goes…I’m always glad to see Michael Emerson getting some love for Lost, but I thought the show made a major rebound this past season and deserved a nod. And how about FX’s Sons of Anarchy – not to mention Katey Sagal‘s bold performance? Breaking Bad (not to mention its two male leads)? Tired of the Hugh Laurie and House nominations, people – great guy but he’s sleepwalking in that character after so many years. 

Looking at the comedy nominations, I’m floored that freshman shows Glee and Modern Family both got nods, but equally stunned that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – the funniest show on television this past season – got blanked. Entourage is a joke; I think it gets nominated because of its subject matter. Far funnier shows include Better off Ted, Parks and Recreation and even Community

Lots of shows seemingly fall in the middle – there’s plenty of humor on Castle, Rescue Me and The Closer although I suppose all would be considered under the drama category…if anyone bothered to nominate them, that is.  Ditto a wealth of performers on those ensembles that aren’t getting the publicity or the nominations while Jeremy Piven gets rubber-stamped in yet again (albeit in a very tough category).

Oh well. At least I don’t have to puke in my mouth a little anymore, now that they’ve finally put Boston Legal in its grave. And each category, despite the omissions, does have someone I can truly root for. But it’s far too much hoopla for such a small return…and the over hype is just getting started. 

My five word summary: Thank God for Ricky Gervais

 

Full nominations here.

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