Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pilot Thoughts: The Crazy Ones and The Michael J. Fox Show

Premiere week ends tonight with what some critics are calling Dramageddon headlined curiously enough by the series finale of Breaking Bad. Before I wrap my head around tonight though, just some brief thoughts on a couple of pilots from the past week.

Here's the thing about The Crazy Ones. Even if its pilot was the worst thing ever (it's not), I would have loved it for the prominent Kelly Clarkson storyline alone, not to mention the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy!) and Josh Wolk (Benson!) on my TV screen. The show takes place at a Chicago advertising agency where Robin Williams plays executive Simon Roberts. His character is quirky, a little nuts, and has a penchant to do voices so Williams isn't really stretching himself here. Gellar plays his more serious-minded daughter and their different personalities and ways of doing business is part of the DNA of the pilot (and presumably the show). Both do okay work, but are outshone in the first episode by the easy refreshing charm of Wolk and the unassumingly funny Clarkson. These latter two were enough for me to really enjoy the pilot, but I'm very curious how the show holds up in the coming weeks when I'm watching it without my Kelly Clarkson-tinted glasses. Furthermore, how long will it be until Williams' schtick gets old? B

The Michael J. Fox Show is better than its bland title implies. It features the return of Michael J. Fox in a regular TV role since he was diagnosed with Parkinson's (he's appeared in guest roles in the meantime including great work on The Good Wife). Inspired by Fox's real-life experience, the show revolves around his character Mike Henry, a popular local news anchor who had to give up his career when he's diagnosed with Parkinson's, and how his family and friends deal with him going back to work. Fox and his ability to mine comedy from his illness is the show's strength. The supporting characters, however, with the exception of Breaking Bad's Betsy Brandt, needs a bit more work, but all of the elements are there for a worthy show. The opening credits are laughably horrible though. B/B+

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pilot Thoughts: Back in the Game

Haven't heard much about Back in the Game, but I decided to check out the pilot based on my slightly positive reaction to its trailer a few months back and the show is pleasant enough. The problem for me is that there seems to be a bunch of "pleasant enough" shows popping up this season and as much as I want to watch everything, I just can't so it'll be interesting to see how many of these new shows I'm still watching in a few weeks.

With that said, I will give this show a shot mostly because Lenora Crichlow, who was amazing on Being Human, plays the supporting friend character and is a riot in all of her scenes. Plus her character's obviously gay son is one of the reasons why the early trailer gave me positive vibes so I'm hoping this family gets a sufficient amount of air time. As for the rest of the show, it's pretty much Bad News Bears for TV. Recently divorced and single mom Terry Gannon (Maggie Lawson) is forced to live with her father Terry "The Cannon" Gannon, Sr. (James Caan). Her son tries out for the Little League, mostly to impress a girl, but probably also to follow in the footsteps of his mom and grandfather. He doesn't make it and in the quest to find a new adventure, Terry decides to coach a separate team consisting of her son and all of the other rejected kids. Saying this show has plenty of heart is kind of obvious since it's about a bunch of misfit kids playing America's favorite past-time. Seems like the focus of the show will be in the contentious father-daughter relationship, which could be good, but the show will do better once it develops the ensemble more, especially the rest of the kids. While they do that, I'll just be hear laughing at everything Chrichlow says. B-

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pilot Thoughts: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Trophy Wife

To say I was highly anticipating Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be seriousy understating it as evidenced by a post I wrote a few months back. My anticipation just grew after the pilot was screened at Comic Con over the summer and I've been counting down the days ever since. Finally, I saw the pilot last night and well... it was fine.

As the TV spin-off of the third highest grossing film ever, there was a lot riding on the first episode and while I think it was mostly successful in introducing us to its world and its characters, it was less successful in making me care about them. Most of this could be attributed to some of the cast, namely Brett Dalton and Chloe Bennett, not being quite ready to shoulder a big show like this and unfortunately in the pilot their characters served as the audience surrogates to the inner workings of SHIELD. Even Agent Coulson himself, played by the wonderful Clark Gregg, seemed a bit more overwhelmed headlining a show versus acting as a small supporting character in a movie. A part of me wishes that the episode had less to do about SHIELD and more about getting to know the people their seeking, in this case, Mike Petersen played by Whedon alum J. August Richards. It would've been great to have seen more of his struggles about the post-Avengers world everyone now find themselves inhabiting.

The show itself does feel cinematic at times, whatever that means, but by doing so also amplifies the moments when it feels like TV. The set design in the opening scene for example and subsequent scenes in that same set felt cheap and almost an afterthought especially compared to some of the on-location shots they were able to get. But I think at this point I'm bit overly nit-picky, because even with all its flaws, I know it will get better. Whedon has proven himself way too many times already for me to really worry at this early stage. I just wished I was more blown away by it. One thing I realized though, as much as I like How I Met Your Mother, I'm now counting down the days that is over so Cobie Smulders can be in this show full time. B-

I wasn't going to watch Trophy Wife, but a few positive notices from critics swayed me into checking it out and there's certainly more to the show than what its title suggests (reminds me of Cougar Town in that way). Malin Akerman plays Kate, the titular wife to Bradley Whitford's Pete, his third wife to be exact. He has been married twice previously and has three kids resulting from those prior marriages. His relationship with his ex-wives are friendly enough that he still keeps in constant contact with them. It's in this weird modern family unit that previously single and carefree Kate finds herself in. Akerman, full of innate charm and a knack of physical comedy, is my favorite part of the episode, but the whole ensemble shows a lot of promise. B-

Looking Forward To...

Don Jon
Release: September 27, 2013
Distributor: Relativity
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Tony Danza, Glenn Headly, and Julianne Moore

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HIMYM Final Season Premiere and Pilot Thoughts on Mom

Even as I acknowledge that the show is not as good as it was, I still find myself being a big apologist when it comes to How I Met Your Mother. I can't really help it, because when it was good it was great and I just adore the cast. With that said, I was equal parts apprehensive and excited right before watching the final season premiere of the show. At this point, they don't really have to prove anything to anyone since it's their final season, but I'm hopeful that they are able to recapture some of the magic it has lost just for being in the air for so long. The premiere gave me more reason to be optimistic.

First and foremost, the best part of the premiere is Cristin Milioti as the titular mother, whose face was shown to all of us in last year's finale. Her scenes with Alyson Hannigan, and more importantly, Josh Radnor were utterly delightful and after eight years of hype, she more than lived up to all of it. She really only had one scene with Radnor as a sort of flashforward, but the time-travel gimmick and immense heart showcased in the scene are How I Met Your Mother at its best and truly affective for any long-time fans. Getting the two of them together in a scene this early also bodes well for the rest of the season in that we won't have to wait until the series finale to see them interact and learn more about Milioti's character.

The premiere also showed some promise with how they're going to handle the whole season taking place in the 56 hours encompassing Robin and Barney's wedding weekend. Granted, we might get sick of Farhamptom after eight or more episode, but for now I'm looking forward to seeing what they do. I'm still not sure how I feel about Barney/Robin after they've essentially messed that whole relationship up the past few seasons, but the two actors sell it the best they can. I even like Marshall hanging out with Sherri Shepherd, but again let's see how long that actually happens. Basically in summary: so far so good and also Milioti is amazing.

I had slightly low expectations for Mom despite my love for the talented Allison Janney and Anna Faris, but I think that helped since I walked away after the pilot wanting to see what happens next. The episode wasn't perfect, but it was still able to succinctly introduce us to a whole host of characters without feeling to cramped as well as make us understand how each related to one another. The show is about Faris, a young working recently sober single mom, and her relationship with a mother, played by Janney, who is also trying to fix her life and mend fences with her daughter. The two work well in trading barbs with each other so that bodes well. Plus the show doesn't seem to rely on potty humor (yet) which is quite refreshing froma CBS Chuck Lorre show. B-

In other news, the second episode of Sleepy Hollow was fine. Didn't really blow me away, but all of the stuff I really liked about the pilot were all still there. Nice to see John Cho sticking around for at least a few more episodes. The way the bad witch was dispatched felt a bit rushed, but the show also seems to be following the standalone episodes featuring a monster that genre shows often do.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The 2013 Emmys: The Winners

So... that was a weird Emmy ceremony, wasn't it? I mean we all know how fantastic Neil Patrick Harris is as awards host, but he never really got it going after a lackluster opening that relied more on other people (especially consummate awards show saviors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) to make entertaining. Yes, he did a fun song-and-dance number in the middle of the ceremony about singing and dancing in the middle of the ceremony and the skit he had with his How I Met Your Mother cast was pretty good, but this was one of his lesser hosting turns I think.

Harris certainly wasn't helped by the (unintentional?) depressing theme of the night: dead people. They were everywhere. The idea behind the separate In Memoriam tributes for a few choice people was ill-conceived from the start, but the execution (them being spread out throughout the show and featuring no clips) left much to be desired and really brought a solemn mood to the ceremony. Though I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how affective Edie Falco's tribute was for the late James Gandolfini. We even had a 1963 tribute that began with Dr. King's death and ended with Carrie Underwood murdering a Beatles song. And if that weren't enough, we had someone's spouse accepting an award on behalf of her late husband and Claire Danes dedicating her award to a writer on her show who had also died. Oh and there was also the most random Liberace tribute in the middle of the show even though the man died more than two decades ago.

The awards themselves were fairly unpredictable in a night that saw quite a lot of first-time winners and upsets in key categories. Modern Family took home the Comedy Series award again (as well as Directing), but for the first time since they've been eligible, they were shut out from the acting awards with first-time winners Tony Hale and Merritt Wever taking the Supporting categories. Wever was the night's first winner and memorably left the stage without really making an acceptance speech while Hale came back on stage to hilariously assist his co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus during her acceptance speech for Actress. Jim Parsons took home Actor while the Emmys gave some love to 30 Rock in the form of a Writing award for Tina Fey.

There were plenty of drama in the Drama categories with all six of its acting awards going to six different shows. Danes was the only repeat winner for Actress while Jeff Daniels, Anna Gunn, and Bobby Cannavale all upset (though Gunn's win actually made me happy while Daniels' just caused me to shake my head). Last year's powerhouse Homeland picked up a second prize tonight for its Writing while Netflix picks up its first ever Primetime Emmy win for David Fincher's Direction for House of Cards. The night ended on a high note with Breaking Bad winning Best Drama Series and from the looks of it, it should be seen as the favorite for next year as well.

The top winner of the night is Behind the Candelabra picking up kudos for Actor, Directing, and Miniseries. Oddly enough I predicted all of the acting winners in Miniseries putting my tally at 10 of 19 which is a personal best. If we're counting alternates, I'm at 12 of 19. Other award highlights include The Colbert Report finally winning over The Daily Show and the surreal/visually fun Choreography performances, which I really hope they do every year.

Here is a complete list of winners from tonight...

SERIES: Breaking Bad (AMC)
ACTOR: Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom (HBO)
ACTRESS: Claire Danes, Homeland (SHO)
SUPP. ACTOR: Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
SUPP. ACTRESS: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad (AMC)
DIRECTING: David Fincher, House of Cards (Netflix)
WRITING: Henry Bromell, Homeland (SHO)
GUEST ACTOR: Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal (ABC)
GUEST ACTRESS: Carrie Preston, The Good Wife (CBS)

SERIES: Modern Family (ABC)
ACTOR: Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory (CBS)
ACTRESS: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep (HBO)
SUPP. ACTOR: Tony Hale, Veep (HBO)
SUPP. ACTRESS: Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie (SHO)
DIRECTING: Gail Mancuso, Modern Family (ABC)
WRITING: Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock (NBC)
GUEST ACTOR: Bob Newhart, Big Bang Theory (CBS)
GUEST ACTRESS: Melissa Leo, Louie (FX)

MINISERIES OR MOVIE: Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
ACTOR: Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
ACTRESS: Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter (HBO)
SUPP. ACTOR: James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
SUPP. ACTRESS: Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals (USA)
DIRECTING: Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
WRITING: Abi Morgan, The Hour (BBC America)

SERIES: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
SPECIAL: Louis C.K.: Oh My God (HBO)
DIRECTING: Saturday Night Live (NBC)
WRITING: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)

PROGRAM: Undercover Boss (CBS)
HOST: Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway (Lifetime)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pilot Thoughts: Sleepy Hollow and Brooklyn Nine-Nine

The official Fall Season Premiere week doesn't officially begin until tomorrow, but there have already been a few shows to make their debut, more notably from FOX. Here are my thoughts on two of those shows.

With more and more options on TV, many new shows try to hook viewers in with more and more outrageous concepts. It's certainly a risk that could be highly rewarded (Lost), but more often than not results are less than promised with shows like Revolution, Flashforward, and Ringer coming to mind. And yet there does seem to be those few shows recently that successfully sell and deliver their crazy premise and twisty plots with their pilots (Revenge, Awake, Last Resort). I say all of this, because I think FOX's Sleepy Hollow might be in the latter group.

Certainly the show has the cracked out premise down. A British soldier by the name of Ichabod Crane, who defects and fights for George Washington during the Revolutionary War by most notably beheading a fearsome red coat soldier riding a horse, is brought back to life in modern times where he works with a deputy by the name of Abbie Mills to investigate all the weird and supernatural things in her town including the return of Crane's now headless horseman. And I didn't even mention witches, demons, a passing reference to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. It's certainly a brand new take of Washington Irving's famous short story. But yet I found it all working somehow. The show's pilot walks the fine line of embracing its weirdness while also providing a refreshing sense of gleeful sincerity in its tone (or as much sincerity is possible for a show like this). Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, playing Crane and Mills respectively, already have great chemistry with one another giving us yet another great female-male partnership on TV. I'm also fully intrigued by the burgeoning mythology and promise of a larger world full of things that go bump in the night, giving the show lots to work from. In that way the show feels like a hybrid of Fringe and Supernatural, which is big plus on my book. But really, I'm going to watch more episodes, because the pilot was just plain fun. B+

Speaking of fun shows, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a keeper. While its pilot wasn't laugh-out loud funny, it made up for it by having interesting characters that already seem fully realized, a tough feat to achieve early especially with sitcoms. The show itself doesn't have as challenging a premise as Sleepy Hollow as it mostly revolves around the hi-jinks a group of detectives at a specific precinct get themselves into. Andy Samberg plays a cocky, freewheeling detective that butts up against the new and serious captain played by Andre Braugher, which I still think is the best casting ever this pilot season. The other supporting characters get their token scenes in the pilot to show us just enough to know what they're like and I'm looking forward to seeing more from them. But really, how could anyone not like a show where Braugher is shown in slow-motion saying "manscaping?" I already want more! B/B+

Emmy Nominations and Predictions

Seems like it takes me later and later every year to chime in with my thoughts on Emmy nominations, but oh well! I'm actually oddly excited for this year's ceremony, mostly because of Neil Patrick Harris back as host, but with a couple months removed I've pretty much found my zen in the eventual nominees. Every year there are plenty of snubs that irritate, but I actually think this year there's less outright bad nominations. That's real progress! So my thoughts and predictions...

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men

The drama series category has been such an embarrassment of riches the past few years and this year it's no exception. I can't even be too disappointed that The Good Wife was left out again and that only House of Cards made it in for new shows (I was rooting for The Americans and Orphan Black) which is also a milestone for Netflix. The conventional wisdom is of course last year's winner Homeland to repeat, but competition is tough. Mad Men has won four times prior, Breaking Bad is reaching a cultural zenith, Downton Abbey is still a water-cooler show, and Game of Thrones has never been better. I'm thinking Breaking Bad will finally break through here.

Prediction: Breaking Bad
Alternate: Mad Men
Should Win: Breaking Bad
Should've Been Nominated: The Good Wife, The Americans, Orphan Black

Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

I really feel for Jon Hamm. He really should've won by now, but voters seem to always be in love with someone else every year. This year it becomes even more difficult with two new entries coming from the "movie actor slumming it on TV" mold with Oscar winner Spacey being the slight favorite. And there's of course recent winners Lewis and Cranston to contend with, the latter of which is still getting career best reviews for the final season of his show. I'll be rooting for Hamm, but I would be shock if this was the year they finally (and rightly) honor him.

Prediction: Kevin Spacey
Alternate: Bryan Cranston
Should Win: Jon Hamm
Should've Been Nominated: Matthew Rhys, Jonny Lee Miller, Hugh Dancy


Connie Britton, Nashville
Claire Danes, Homeland
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

This category is an actressexual's dream. Even with the awful Julianna Margulies snub, it's hard to really complain about this line-up, which also goes to show just how competitive this category really is. Last year's champ Danes is probably the slight favorite, but I can honestly see any of them winning it for various reasons. I can't even say who I'm rooting for, because any of their wins would be a happy and well-deserved one. Maybe Moss, because like Hamm, it's crazy she hasn't won an award for that role, but then again she might win in the Miniseries category this year. I don't know! Anyone have a seven-sided die?

Prediction: Claire Danes
Alternate: Elisabeth Moss
Should Win: Elisabeth Moss
Should've Been Nominated: Tatiana Maslany, Julianna Margulies, Emmy Rossum, Keri Russell

Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad
Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad

I'm a bit shocked to see Corey Stoll didn't get to partake in all the love the Emmys has bestowed upon House of Cards especially since he's totally the show's scene stealer, but it's a stacked category regardless. If the Emmys still love Homeland, I think Patinkin is the slight favorite especially if Paul and Banks split votes. Then again, Paul won last year with a more formidable competition from his own show so who knows? And I like Downton Abbey, but Carter's nomination should have probably gone to the aforementioned Stoll or maybe Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal.

Prediction: Mandy Patinkin
Alternate: Aaron Paul
Should Win: Mandy Patinkin
Should've Been Nominated: Corey Stoll, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Mads Mikkelsen

Morena Baccarin, Homeland
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Can we just take a moment that both of Captain Mal's ladies from Firefly are Emmy nominated in the same category? Now I'd like to think Baccarin and Hendricks are fighting for the win, but did they really do enough this season to warrant the win? Hendricks especially had better seasons which she inexplicably walked home empty-handed. I'm very happy to see Clarke get her first nomination, especially since she should've already been nominated for the show's first season. And as much as I love Smith, let's just hope her stranglehold on this category loosens up a little.

Prediction: Anna Gunn
Alternate: Maggie Smith
Should Win: Christina Hendricks
Should've Been Nominated: Jennifer Carpenter, Lena Heady, Natalie Dormer

30 Rock
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family

I actually watch all of these shows and like them to various degrees, but I just cannot take this category seriously without Parks and Recreation. I also expected the Emmys to nominate Arrested Development, but I guess only one Netflix show was allowed to be included on the big stage. Glad to see the final season of 30 Rock here and just perhaps this Emmy favorite will end up sweeping, but that would mean it would have to unseat Modern Family from its permanent Emmy perch it's found itself in. But I just feel like this year it might actually happen. Or not, whatever.

Prediction: 30 Rock
Alternate: Modern Family
Should Win: Veep
Should've Been Nominated: Parks and Recreation, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Apparently while every other category gets 6 (and even 7) nominees, this category only has 5, which is insane since I really thought this was the year Adam Scott was going to finally break through. The buzz was also win Jake Johnson to possibly show up here, but weirdly his show seemed to have already outstayed its welcome even in its great sophomore season. Not too surprising to see Bateman here, but again I thought his show would've made more of an impact this year. Last year's winner Cryer was thankfully snubbed, so the Emmys will probably go with the old-standbys of Parsons or Baldwin.

Prediction: Alec Baldwin
Alternate: Jim Parsons
Should Win: Louis C.K.
Should've Been Nominated: Adam Scott, Jake Johnson, Elijah Wood

Laura Dern, Enlighted
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Here's the thing, every single actress here probably deserves to win. Certainly Dunham's nomination this year feels more realized than last year's seemingly knee-jerk "new kid" slot and former multi-Emmy winners Falco, Fey, and Louis-Dreyfus should never, ever be underestimated, but I'm seriously SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY rooting for Poehler here. I admit that quality-wise Louis-Dreyfus beats her just a teeny bit, but Poehler for the win. Always.

Prediction: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Alternate: Tina Fey
Should Win: Amy Poehler
Should've Been Nominated: Dakota Johnson, Zooey Deschanel, Marthan Plimpton

Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Adam Driver, Girls
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Tony Hale, Veep
Ed O'Neill, Modern Family

This category the past few years has been the most disappointing for me. We really don't need to nominate every single member of the Modern Family cast every year. Though them leaving out last year's winner Stonestreet feel so arbitrary and somehow confirms how lazy voters are. I'm thrilled to see Driver and Hale sneak in though and I hope one of them wins just to give this category a much-needed twist. As for the actors who SHOULD have been nominated, the list is way too long but NICK OFFERMAN AND JIM RASH. That is all. No, wait, I want to say... fuck the Emmys for consistently ignoring these two hilarious men.

Prediction: Ed O'Neill
Alternate: Ty Burrell
Should Win: Adam Driver
Should've Been Nominated: Jim Rash, Nick Offerman, Lamorne Morris, and so much more

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Jane Krakowsi, 30 Rock
Jane Lynch, Glee
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie

After missing out on nominations last year, both Krakowski and Lynch are back and for the former, it's the last chance for her to be awarded for the glorious Jenna Maroney. I'm doubtful it'll happen, but weirder things have happened. Like Drama Actress, we have seven nominations which is nice, but also feels a bit like "everybody gets an award!" As much as the Emmys love Modern Family, Vergara or Bowen should be seem as front-runners, but I keep thinking they'd like to award Bialik somehow. I'd be totally fine with that, but I'm on Jenna's side.

Prediction: Mayim Bialik
Alternate: Sofia Vergara
Should Win: Jane Krakowski
Should've Been Nominated: Aubrey Plaza, Kate McKinnon, Jenna Fischer

Best Miniseries or Movie: Behind the Candelabra
Best Actor, Miniseries: Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Best Actress, Miniseries: Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter
Best Supporting Actor, Miniseries: James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum
Best Supporting Actress, Miniseries: Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals

The key to predicting the Miniseries categories is to pick the biggest names, but when most of the names are big, it's almost a crap shoot, but I would be shocked to see Behind the Candelabra not win in its categories since almost swept the Creative Arts Emmy Awards last week. Speaking of, the Guest Acting categories were also given out last week and I went 1 of 4 in my predictions, which tells you to take any of my predictions above with a grain of salt. Can't wait to tune in tonight!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Birthday Boy: James Marsden

James Marsden celebrates his 40th birthday today. That picture above was taken last month. Yeah, fuck.

You can currently see him on the big screen in Lee Daniels' The Butler as a very handsome JFK or you can re-watch the final season of 30 Rock where he was the handsome husband of Liz Lemon. Or you can pop in an X-Men DVD where he plays the handsome mutant Cyclops or the dozen of movies he's starred in as the handsome ex-boyfriend. Basically he plays handsome well. I mean he even played a Disney prince! So happy birthday you beautiful man.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creative Arts Emmy Winners

Over the weekend, the first Emmy awards were given out at the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony including those for guest performances, which is as good a place to start.

My predictions were pretty off, but I did get one right with TV legend Bob Newhart winning his first Emmy Award after being nominated and losing 6 times prior in his five-decade long career. for his role as Professor Proton in Big Bang Theory garnering that show's first acting win other than Jim Parsons. The other categories were slightly more surprising with first-time Emmy nominees winning over more popular, veteran names such as Jane Fonda, Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, and Elaine Stritch. Probably the least surprise among the shockers is the win for Oscar winner Melissa Leo (Louie), because they do love their Hollywood movie stars (is that what Leo is now?). I'm tickled pink to see Lisa Kudrow BFF and fellow Vassar College alum Dan Bucatinsky (Scandal) win as well and even more happy to see Carrie Preston continue the fab streak of a kick-ass actress from The Good Wife winning an Emmy every year. Seriously, Preston's win is the single highlight of the Emmy Awards so far for me this year.

People do use these early awards to predict what will happen during the Primetime Emmys and if that's the case, then it's going to be very difficult for anything to beat Behind the Candelabra in the TV Movie/Mini-Series categories. It picked up 8 wins out of the 9 it was gunning for and really should be seen as the favorite. Its wins gave HBO its usual early lead with 20 awards which also includes 4 wins for Boardwalk Empire. The 66th Annual Tony Awards also picked up 4 wins including one for Special Class Program and Music/Lyrics for Neil Patrick Harris' performance of "If I Had Time." I would have to think that those two will repeat again next year. Emmy network CBS was second place overall with 15 wins while NBC took third with 8.

Among its wins, Behind the Candelabra picked up awards for Casting and Editing. 30 Rock and House of Cards won for their casting as well giving 30 Rock its first Emmy win since 2009 and Netflix its first Emmy ever. Netflix picked up its second Emmy when House of Cards also won for its Cinematography. Breaking Bad, the final season of The Office, and How I Met Your Mother picked up the other series Editing awards. Finally, just a couple of other noteworthy results with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn jointly winning Best Reality Host for the first time and Bear McCreary (composer of Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, and new series Agents of SHIELD) picking up his first Emmy win for his Main Title Theme Music work for Da Vinci's Demons.

Bring on the big night!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Predicting Guest Acting at Creative Arts Emmy Awards

The Emmy Awards are next week, but since there are approximately over 100 awards to be given out, most of the awards will actually be handed out tonight at the Creative Arts Emmys including the four Guest Acting categories. So before that takes place, a few of my thoughts and predictions of the nominees:

Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal
Rupert Friend, Homeland
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Harry Hamlin, Mad Men
Nathan Lane, The Good Wife
Robert Morse, Mad Men

It's no surprise for Mad Men and The Good Wife to take up the majority of nominations, but it's also a good sign for Scandal and Homeland since the two actors cited from those two shows are newcomers showing solid love among the industry. Looking at the nominees, this should be Fox's category to lose, but I said the exact same thing last year and he lost. Lane is probably his closest competition (and Lane is also nominated in Comedy). And all respect to Morse, but I'd have easily traded him for Eddie Izzard's turn in Hannibal.

Prediction: Michael J. Fox
Alternate: Nathan Lane
Should Win: Michael J. Fox
Should've Been Nominated: Eddie Izzard, Dallas Roberts

Linda Cardellini, Mad Men
Joan Cusack, Shameless
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones

Last year, Martha Plimpton won this category and I'm rooting so hard for fellow Good Wife guest star Preston to repeat. But man this nomination was a long time coming, wasn't it? This is a pretty solid list though and I don't think there's an actual frontrunner. Perhaps Fonda since she's a beloved movie star. But I can honestly see any of these women win. Why not give it to recent Emmy winner Martindale especially with the show's sole acting nomination? A couple of Alison (Brie and Wright) should've been nominated for their memorable roles on Mad Men and The Americans respectively.

Prediction: Jane Fonda
Alternate: Margo Martindale
Should Win: Carrie Preston
Should've Been Nominated: Alison Brie, Alison Wright

Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie
Will Forte, 30 Rock
Nathan Lane, Modern Family
Bob Newhart, Big Bang Theory
Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live

It would be very difficult to see a way legendary Newhart wouldn't win his first Emmy Award (out of seven nominations!) especially for a show that Emmy seems to love. His biggest competition are the two Saturday Night Live hosts that Emmys definitely love (C.K. has NINE nominations this year alone and Timberlake has won FOUR). The rest should just be lucky to be nominated, but I wished Patton Oswalt and Andrew Rannells were nominated from Parks and Rec and Girls respectively.

Prediction: Bob Newhart
Alternate: Justin Timberlake
Should Win: Justin Timberlake
Should've Been Nominated: Patton Oswalt, Andrew Rannells

Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
Melissa Leo, Louis C.K.
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Molly Shannon, Enlightened
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live

Even when I was making my own ballot for this category, I was left mostly uninspired so I don't have much to say about the nominees here. I wouldn't even know who is the frontrunner here. Maybe Oscar winner Leo or 3-time Emmy winner Stritch? Everyone still loves McCarthy and/or Wiig right? Your guess is as good (or better) as mine.

Prediction: Kristen Wiig
Alternate: Elaine Stritch
Should Win: Kristen Wiig
Should've Been Nominated: Kate Hudson, Octavia Spencer

So there are my guest acting predictions. And below are three more categories that will be decided tonight that I'm randomly going to say a few words on, just because.

Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars
Anthony Bourdain, The Taste
Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
Heidi Klum & Tim Gunn, Project Runway
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
Betty White, Betty White's Off Their Rockers

I don't understand how Phil Keoghan was left off this list, but I'm rooting for Cat Deeley or Heidi Klum/Tim Gunn. I still don't get how Bergeron won last year.

"Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again," Nashville
"More Or Less The Kind Of Thing You May Or May Not Possibly See On Broadway," The Neighbors
"Hang The Moon," Smash
"I Hear Your Voice In A Dream," Smash
"Rural Juror," 30 Rock
"If I Had Time," 66th Annual Tony Awards

Other than the song from The Neighbors, I've heard and like all of the other songs so I'll be fine if any of them wins. I'm rooting for "Rural Juror" (for the hilarity) and "I Hear Your Voice In A Dream" (only song I've listened to more than 5x). I would root for Neil Patrick's Tony Awards song from last year, but I'd rather he win NEXT year for his epic opening song from the Tony Awards this year.

American Horror Story: Asylum
Da Vinci's Demons
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
The Newsroom

Rooting for Elementary just because I just love their Rube-Goldberg-esque main title, but I also like the dark and pretty one for The Vikings. Haven't seen any of the others!

There's way more awards than these to be given out tonight, but I can't cover them all! Though after tonight, it should tells us which shows the Emmy voters are loving. Though last year the results where mixed with Homeland and Game Change translating their early wins with dominating on the big night while Girls and Game of Thrones didn't.

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's Not Porn, It's HBO

"It's Not TV, It's HBO." Cool slogan, no? But I love this twist, because it's also pretty damn accurate:

It's also why I've never been able to watch an HBO show with my parents.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I see your face, you're haunting me...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

Today marks the season finale of the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series and after a run of older films I had never seen before and ended up really liking, the final film is the newer, much more divisive Spring Breakers. Harmony Korine's bold neon-colored film got lots of attention from its premiere exactly one year ago at the Venice International Film Festival to the days leading up to its nationwide release earlier this year so I really was looking forward to seeing the film for myself. I saw it just a couple months back and it was clear that apart from Franco's performance and the arresting visual aesthetics of the film, it just wasn't for me. So in picking my favorite shots, I went with visual moments that for one reason or another got stuck in my head, especially since I didn't want to re-watch the film.

These first two shots feature the girls together, in their candy-colored swimsuits, as they are brought to jail as a consequence for their careless and carefree spring break activities. Just love shots with all of the girls together and in both of these, the focus on their bright costumes, either due to a spotlight or a deep blue background, was memorable. Afterwards, the film takes on a far darker and more hedonistic edge when the girls meet Alien, gutsily played by Franco who features in the next two shots:

 My Best Shot

That gun-in-the-mouth scene is a very close runner-up since in a film that calls attention to itself with every scene, this is the scene that really makes the viewer take notice. My favorite shot though is the surreal sequence where Alien plays and sings Britney Spears' "Everytime" as the girls wear pink ski masks, hold guns, and dance. I mean even if I never see the film again, I would probably watch this particular moment again just because.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Top Ten Performers of 2013 (So Far)

Every end of August, I try to take stock of the films I have seen so far in the year by picking my top 10 favorite performances. Unfortunately I haven't been able to see a few films that I really wanted to see such as Frances Ha, Short Term 12, Upstream Color, The Kings of Summer, The Spectacular Now, etc.. So if I don't list any year-best performances from those films, don't be shocked! Though in making this list I realized that I've apparently seen 43 theatrical releases from 2013, which is the most number of movies I've seen at this point in the year. As you would expect, narrowing down to my "10" wasn't easy so like in year's past, there may be a couple of cheats.

1. Julie Delpy as Céline Wallace and Ethan Hawke as Jesse Wallace (Before Midnight) - Already starting with my first cheat, but really it just makes sense to combine the dual powerhouse performances from these two actors who have been playing these characters together for nearly two decades. Individually they are fantastic of course, but the film is at its best when it's just the two of them interacting with one another. Simultaneously funny and poignant, their performances will be something that'll stay with me for quite some time.

2. Amy Acker as Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) - Yes, I'm a Whedon fanboy, but I've also been a fan of Acker since her days on Angel and she just absolutely shines as the MVP in this small charming Whedon adaptation of Shakespeare's play. The cast is full of Whedon alums like Fran Kranz and Nathan Fillion who, like Acker, still seemed perfectly cast in their roles. Acker's performance just stuck with me more as she was able to show great depth at comedy, both physical and through the Bard's words, as well as the perfect balance of strength and vulnerability the role calls for. Someone make her a huge star already!

3. Cate Blanchett as Jasmine (Blue Jasmine) - Even prior to seeing the film, I had already heard from many people how great she was in Woody Allen's latest. I believed them since Blanchett is just that sort of actress, but I still was wary that it was all over-hype. Thankfully it wasn't because as the sharply acerbic Jasmine she really does put forth a performance for the ages. The ensemble deserves some praise as well, but it's Blanchett that dominate every scene she's in. That final shot in the film still haunts me.

4. Ryan Gosling as Luke (The Place Beyond the Pines) - My favorite part of this triptychcally structured film was the first part and not just because it was the more interesting story, but because it also featured Gosling at his quiet brooding best. People may be tired of this particular schtick from the actor, but there really is something to be said about being able to convey as much through silence. His performance also provided the much-needed emotional through-line for the film that made most of the third act, at least the part that had to do with Dane DeHaan's character, work for me.

5. Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant (Fruitvale Station) - The way the audience perceives Oscar as a real character is monumentally important to the success of the film and Jordan is able to achieve this even as his film comes close to sanctifying his character a bit. Mostly I'm just thrilled that more people are getting to see how talented he is, especially since he showed great promise on Friday Night Lights.

6. Onata Aprile as Maisie (What Maisie Knew) - I'm not really qualified to judge child actors, so I really just go by gut feelings, but I think Aprile has given one of the best performances for me so far this year. The film itself is such a delicate portrait of a girl being pulled in so many directions and while the adults and a few details of the plot could sometimes be all over the place, the wonderful constant is Aprile's ability to generate just the right amount of chemistry with everyone in the cast. Without that, the film would've fallen apart. I'd be hardpress though not to mention the other child actors like Tye Sheridan (Mud) and Liam James (The Way, Way Back) who impressed me this year.

7. The cast of Now You See Me - One of the more pleasant surprises for me this summer was this film and while some of that had to do with their refreshing take on the heist genre, most of it was definitely due to the chemistry of the ensemble containing a mix of few A-listers and those not-so-much. I think the one weak link, and this is more a fault of the script rather than the actor, was Mélanie Laurent whose character seemed almost like an afterthought. But a definite yes on Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Common, and Michael Kelly for a job well done.

8. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) - Before I talk about how great I thought DiCaprio was, can I just say something really superficial i.e. how good he looked? I feel like it's been forever since DiCaprio has played someone so glamorous and attractive and by doing so here helped me to see DiCaprio with new eyes. Yes, as Gatsby he is still playing a tortured man, but he infuses the character with just the right amount of charm and quirks that worked well with the film's boisterous visual and aural elements.

9. David Oyelowo as Louis Gaines (Lee Daniels' The Butler) - First things first, the ensemble of this film was quite solid even the parade of celebrities doing their best imitations of presidents and first ladies, but to me the film shines when it focuses on the dynamics of the Gaines family. To me, that's where Forest Whitaker did his best work and Oprah Winfrey shined as the matriarch (almost made my list; such a hoot to watch). But for me, it's Oyelowo and his journey from doted eldest son to disappointing dark sheep to respected adult that left a lasting impression with me and wished more of the film was devoted to him.

10. Melissa McCarthy as Diana (Identity Thief) and as Mullins (The Heat) - While neither film is exactly Oscar material (though I'd argue The Heat deserves a few Golden Globe nominations), McCarthy's hilarious performance in both shows why she deserves all of the accolades she has and is currently getting. The first film is rather crude and one-dimensional in its humor, but McCarthy's character arc still managed to touch me. The second film does a much better job in utilizing McCarthy's skills especially in a fantastic tag-team effort with another gifted actress/comedienne Sandra Bullock. Really I just love how easily McCarthy is able to make you laugh in one scene and cry in the next.

Honorable Mentions: Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim, Gael García Bernal in No, Matthew McConaughey in Mud, Melonie Diaz in Fruitvale Station, Nicole Kidman in Stoker, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in The World's End, Sandra Bullock in The Heat, James Franco in Spring Breakers, and the cast of The Way Way Back.