Saturday, July 30, 2016
The movie Julia opens the film with a solitary woman on a boat as a voice narrates, talking about wanting to remember things. It's a curious start to a movie whose title character isn't the main character at all, but instead is the object of strong fascination, or memory, to the actual main character Lillian played by Jane Fonda. Vanessa Redgrave plays Julia, Lillian's best friend since childhood. With the film mostly relegated to Lillian's point of view, we only ever really see Julia through Lillian's remembrances and daydreams thus never really becoming a character in her own right and instead becoming a sort of mythic figure.
The moments recollected when they were young shows how much Lillian idolized her older friend while the ordeals Lillian imagined Julia to have suffered through later in life displays a heroic and brave figure. All of it could be true of course, but the writer Lillian would of course want to think best of her beloved friend. So to follow her lead, my best shot pick is that "perfect time of life" for Julia...
There are women who reach a perfect time of life...
when the face will never again be as good...
the body never as graceful or powerful.
Not only is it an objectively fierce shot of Redgrave, but it's probably the image that Lillian herself keeps of her friend in her mind even after years have passed and she's sitting on a boat and wanting to remember "what was there for me once." It's a bittersweet sentiment, but also quite affecting in the end.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Zootopia is probably still my favorite film of 2016. And how could it not with its resonant timely message, fleshed-out leads with excellent chemistry, and staggering amount of world building.
There are so many great things about this film, but it's its world building I'd like to focus on because I sincerely believe one of the reasons this movie succeeds is the attention to detail the filmmakers had not just on the story and the characters, but the actual city of Zootopia itself. With 12 unique eco-systems and countless of species of mammals of all shapes and sizes living and working together within its city limits, the city of Zootopia would've been a real challenge for anyone to envision let alone actually show on screen. And the filmmakers did it in a matter of minutes (less than three in fact) in my favorite sequence of the movie set to the film's key song "Try Everything" by Gazelle (aka Shakira).
Judy's train ride into Zootopia, from her humble Bunnyburrow, was a genius way for the film to introduce this truly amazing metropolis not only to the main character, but to us. Judy essentially acts as the audience surrogate with her wide-eyed wonderment at the glittering city from a distance and then at all of the diverse and beautiful regions--Sahara Square, Tundratown, Rainforest District--and animals as she gets closer. And when she gets off the train, there's even more to see--hamsters using tubes to get around, hippos drying themselves after coming out of the water, giraffes getting drinks via air-tube system.
So I wish I can just cite the entire sequence as all of my favorite shots, but I know I had to pick just one. I ended up choosing a shot that captures a great moment.
It's when Judy passes through Rainforest District and it starts to rain and she looks up, clearly beaming at where she is at that very moment, soaking up the entire experience. That's pretty much how I felt watching the film and now all I want to do is watch it all over again. Plus I just love her super expressive face and the interplay of all the blue and greens with the rain in the background as the "camera" sweeps up. Just masterful animation work all around.
Bonus: My roommate picked her favorite shot as well! And it's giving me a lot of weird feelings regarding inter-species relationships!
Monday, July 18, 2016
-Perhaps my absolute favorite nominations were those for The Americans which finally broke through in its fourth year with Best Drama Series and Best Actor/Actress nominations. I'm especially happy for both Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell who have done amazing work and finally getting their deserved recognition.
-People vs. OJ Simpson getting 22 nominations including no-brainer nods to Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, and Courtney B. Vance. It's a show that should've been a hot mess, but it was just so damn well done.
-Should've been more, but I'm ecstatic for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's four nominations, including one for their Main Title Theme Music as well as...
-"Settle for Me" getting nominated for Original Music and Lyrics. The category also had Galavant's one and only nomination with their "A New Season" number.
-Mr. Robot breaking through including nominations for Best Drama Series and Best Actor. A weird show that could've easily gone unnoticed by the TV Academy.
-Nominations for Rami Malek, Aziz Ansari, Tracee Ellils Ross, Viola Davis, Andre Braugher, Taraji P. Henson, Audra McDonald, Tituss Burgess, Anthony Anderson, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina King, Niecy Nash! Diversity!
-Maura Tierney for The Affair! Which is also the show's first and only Emmy nomination ever. It's an inspired choice as my tweet attests:
Random nomination that's not so random because she's actually SUPER GREAT in her show: Maura Tierney in The Affair. #Emmys— Ryan (@sortathatguy) July 14, 2016
-Other nominees that were right on: Constance Zimmer, Tatiana Maslany (now a 2-time Emmy nominee!), Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Maisie Willians, and all the Fargo love (Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Bokeem Woodbine, and Jean Smart.
-RuPaul finally getting nominated for Best Reality TV Host for RuPaul's Drag Race. I don't watch the show myself, but I know plenty of people who do and I'm very for him and them!
-Very happy the TV Academy saw and apparently liked The Night Manager and gave all of its main stars nominations (Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie), but I'm especially happy for Olivia Colman's nod.
-Best Writing in a Drama Series is one HELL of a category. There is honestly no wrong choice in my opinion.
-American Ninja Warrior gets its first Emmy nomination! My favorite summer reality fare finally broke through for Best Reality-Competition Program.
-"Parents" episode of Master of None getting Directing/Writing nod. If you haven't seen this episode, it's a must-watch especially if you're a 1st generation with immigrant parents. It hit close to home.
-Live musicals are a it! Grease: Live and The Wiz Live! did well with nominations. It helps that they were both GOOD as well so yes more please!
-Best Directing for "Battle of the Bastards" for Game of Thrones should really be the one to beat. Just masterful.
-It's not super surprising that the Emmys yet again forgot the CW exists, but with other award bodies (and critics) the past couple of years banging the gong for Jane the Virgin and this year's super fresh Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I really thought they'd finally recognize them in major categories. At least Crazy managed to get a handful of technical nominations (see above), but acting noms for Rachel Bloom and Donna Lynne Champlin should've been no-brainers.
-Other TV shows the TV Academy should really watch more for next year's consideration because wow seriously: The Leftovers, Sense8, You're the Worst, Broad City, Underground, Fresh Off the Boat, UnReal, Superstore, Jessica Jones, Peaky Blinders, and so much more.
-Speaking of Sense8, aka my favorite show of last season, I knew it wasn't likely to get anything so I guess I should just be happy with its 1 nomination for Main Title Theme. But holy shit, it have so much more!
-I know the transition from Comedy to Drama hasn't been particularly graceful and its 3rd season was far from its best, but Orange is the New Black managing to only get 1 nomination for this still great television show is sad.
-With that said, Girls really had quite a comeback season this past year and the once lauded series similarly got no love this year.
-Aya Cash, Constance Wu, and the ladies of Broad City certainly should be nominated. Couldn't one of them have bumped Amy Schumer this year?
-Modern fucking Family... again? I can literally name 7 other shows that deserve its spot (and a lot more actually). At least it looks like the show's vice grip on the Emmys is loosening slightly.
-Benedict fucking Cumberbatch... again? And technically I would also add Idris Elba here as much as I love that man to pieces. For both though, it's a bit too much of a same thing and I just *hate* repeat nominees in Limited Series/Movie categories. And as much as I love the show, Cuba Gooding Jr. was the weak link in his cast. All I'm saying is... OSCAR ISAAC was right there, TV Academy!
-Even with some performances I like nominated, the Guest Acting categories are a mishmash of WHAT? I feel there really should be an overhaul somehow. Some choice names that they should've seriously considered: Lisa Kudrow, Cynthia Nixon, Corey Stoll, Octavia Spencer, Christopher Abbot, Natasha Lyonne, BD Wong, and Tom Hardy. Most of these are even household names!
-In the battle between Lady Gaga, Adele, and Beyonce, the latter two came out on top. Lemonade and Adele's live concert get four nominations each while Gaga surprisingly didn't get one for her turn in American Horror Story.
-Documentary films that were eligible for Oscars (He Named Me Malala, The Hunting Ground, What Happened Miss Simone, Cartel Land, etc.) also being eligible for Emmys is a bit shady if you ask me.
-Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are co-nominated for hosting Saturday Night Live. Their joint nomination is history-making I think, but all I can think about is...
Just realizing, will Amy Poehler FINALLY win her first Emmy this year? She's co-nom'd w/Tina Fey in Guest Actress Comedy for co-hosting SNL.— Ryan (@sortathatguy) July 14, 2016
-Game of Thrones leading with 23 nominations. I don't know why this isn't up there in The Good, because I quite love the show and this past season is a step-up from its Emmy-winning season last year. Perhaps I just want to keep the show honest. And similarly...
-Veep leading comedies with 17 nominations, up from their previous best of just 9 nominations last year. Look, I also love the show to death, but did the quality of the show increase THAT much (in a year with a new showrunner even)? Let's give some more love to other shows, shall we?
-Hannibal getting its first nomination of its entire run this year for Visual Effects in a Supporting Role. I guess that's something!
-People are pooh-pooing the Downton Abbey nominations, especially its Best Drama Series nod, but I thought its final season was one of its best so I'm good.
-Was it because of the slap heard around the world? The Good Wife bows out with just 4 nods in its final season.
-Let's end of a gay note... congrats to the nominations for Gay of Thrones (not a typo!) and Gaycation with Ellen Page. I don't watch either one, but the world always needs a little more gay.
And that's it! I'll do a more detailed commentary later for the main categories with my predictions as well. To see a complete list of this year's Emmy nominations, click here.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Drama. Drama. Drama. And yet I tend to like shows and performances that are a bit more genre-flexible. Shall we take a look down the rabbit hole? Like the comedy categories, I'm picking 10 per category because I DAMN WELL CAN:
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
Marvel's Jessica Jones
Orange is the New Black
This list alone has a fantasy epic from HBO, a biting look of reality TV from Lifetime, a trio of brilliantly awesome genre shows from Netflix, a radical breakout from USA Network and a brave slavery tale from WGN. And I was forced to leave out the very solid final seasons of Downton Abbey, Hannibal and The Good Wife as well as the enjoyable freshman seasons of Limitless, Into the Badlands, and Supergirl. It's so good to have so many choices, isn't it?
BEST LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
Aldis Hodge, Underground
Damian Lewis, Billions
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Jake McDorman, Limitless
Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal
Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Justin Theroux, The Leftovers
Daniel Wu, Into the Badlands
BEST LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
Shiri Appleby, UnREAL
Laura Carmichael, Downton Abbey
Carrie Coon, The Leftovers
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Krysten Ritter, Jessica Jones
Keri Russell, The Americans
Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Underground
Robin Wright, House of Cards
My drama picks for Lead Acting seem to be slightly more Emmy-friendly than my comedy picks. I can definitely see Malek, Odenkirk, Davis, and Margulies all make it in. But there's also a lot of names here that I wish they would take seriously like the powerhouse duos of Rhys/Russell, Theroux-Coon, Hodge/Smollett-Bell.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
James D'Arcy, Agent Carter
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Joshua Jackson, The Affair
Alano Miller, Underground
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, The Good Wife
Conrad Ricamora, How to Get Away with Murder
Miguel Angel Silvestre, Sense8
Jussie Smollett, Empire
David Tennant, Jessica Jones
Martin Wallstrom, Mr. Robot
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
Jamie Clayton, Sense8
Ann Dowd, The Leftovers
Calista Flockhart, Supergirl
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Taryn Manning, Orange is the New Black
Lana Parilla, Once Upon a Time
Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul
Maggie Siff, Billions
Liv Tyler, The Leftovers
Alison Wright, The Americans
Constance Zimmer, UnREAL
I've allowed myself 11 picks for both of these categories, because my "short" list came out to 69 for both categories. Narrowing it down to just 10 was pretty impossible actually. I pretty much wanted to cite the entire cast of Sense8 and Orange is the New Black. Ask me to come up with 30 more names per category and I can easily give them to you. Chance to see most of these names called out tomorrow? A few perhaps, but mostly the forecast is weak.
BEST GUEST ACTOR, DRAMA
Sebastian Arcelus, House of Cards
Richard Armitage, Hannibal
Dominic Cooper, Agent Carter
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Tom Hardy, Peaky Blinders
Christopher McDonald, The Good Wife
Ron Rifkin, Limitless
Paul Sparks, House of Cards
BD Wong, Mr. Robot
Zach Woods, The Good Wife
BEST GUEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
Ellen Burstyn, House of Cards
Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black
Annet Mahendru, The Americans
Cynthia Nixon, The Affair
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife
Bridget Regan, Agent Carter
Sarah Steele, The Good Wife
Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away with Murder
Mare Winningham, The Affair
I'm a little disappointed that more people from Sense8 didn't submit themselves for consideration in this category especially Freema Agyeman, Alfonso Herrera and Eréndira Ibarra, but maybe they couldn't since they were in a lot of episodes? Anyways, this list didn't feel as random to put together compared to the comedy one. Almost all are in shows I really like and in roles that are recurring rather than one-off. I'd be shock if the TV Academy picks any of these, but maybe they'll surprise me. One can always hope, right?
So surprise me tomorrow, TV Academy. Though it's more likely they'll stick to the status quo or surprise me in ways I will probably hate. And the beat goes on.
Comedies don't get their fair shake especially during this Peak TV era and yet I would probably say comedies are where the real quality stuff is happening at the moment. There's just so much out there, in so many networks, highlighting so many great performances. Here are my comedy picks (10 per category because why not?), in alphabetical order:
Fresh Off the Boat
Jane the Virgin
Master of None
You're the Worst
If you're not watching any of these shows, you're definitely missing out. I especially recommend the ABC family comedies and the CW offerings. There were more I could've included like a revived Girls, the joyful Galavant, the biting Silicon Valley, the crazy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and the solid freshmen series Superstore and The Real O'Neals, and so much more, etc.
BEST LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Jay R. Ferguson, The Real O'Neals
Chris Geere, You're the Worst
Derek Jacobi, Vicious
Jake Johnson, New Girl
Ian McKellen, Vicious
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Timothy Omundson, Galavant
Randall Park, Fresh Off the Boat
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
BEST LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY
Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Aya Cash, You're the Worst
Ilana Glazer, Broad City
Abbi Jacobson, Broad City
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Gina Rogriguez, Jane the Virgin
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Constance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat
Even with 20 names, I'm already sad that perhaps other than perennial favorite JLD, none of these names are super likely to make the shortlist. But I do have hopes for Ansari and Bloom in buzzy freshmen series. If I had to pick just one for a guaranteed nomination, I would give it to Aya Cash who was next level great this past season.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Jaime Camil, Jane the Virgin
Brett Dier, Jane the Virgin
Paul W. Downs, Broad City
Noah Galvin, The Real O'Neals
Pete Gardner, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Tony Hale, Veep
Mark McKinney, Superstore
Cameron Monaghan, Shameless
Andrew Rannells, Girls
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
Donna Lynne Champlin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Kether Donohue, You're the Worst
Yael Groblas, Jane the Virgin
Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Zosia Mamet, Girls
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Amy Poehler, WHAS: First Day of Camp
Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live
If you ask me to give you 10-20 more names for both of these categories, it would be so damn easy. There's just so many great actors and performances. I do think a few of these have a good chance based on history (Braugher, Hale, Chlumsky, Krakowski, Poehler). But I'm rooting HARD for a few people like Camil, Champlin, and Groblas... all no-brainers if voters actually watched TV.
BEST GUEST ACTOR, COMEDY
Christopher Abbot, Girls
Shoukath Ansari, Master of None
Noel Fisher, Shameless
Ryan Gosling, Saturday Night Live
Dennis Haysbert, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Justin Kirk, You're the Worst
Jason Mantzoukas, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Martin Mull, Veep
Peter Scolari, Girls
Corey Stoll, Girls
BEST GUEST ACTRESS, COMEDY
Sasha Alexander, Shameless
Anna Camp, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Claire Danes, Master of None
Tovah Feldshuh, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Tina Fey/Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Megan Fox, New Girl
Kathryn Hahn, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Lisa Kudrow, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Octavia Spencer, Drunk History
Guest categories are great since they're SUCH a hodgepodge of random actors and performances. And like where else could a first-time actor like Shoukath Ansari be placed next to someone like Gosling? Or how about Megan Fox (she was good!) next to Spencer (who played Harriet Tubman in a show with drunk people). Of course this is assuming/wishing the TV Academy actually think outside the box, which they so rarely do.
Coming up! Drama categories!
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
It was an absolute joy to watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a wonderfully entertaining musical featuring two screen legends. The fact that it clocked in at just 90 minutes makes it that special kind of movie that just leaves you wanting for more.
Speaking of wanting more, that's exactly what the two main leads are looking for. Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe play best friends who seemingly have little in common other than being breathtakingly beautiful and knowing exactly what they want. Monroe's Lorelei wants a rich man who can provide her with shiny baubles. Russell's Dorothy wants a fit guy who would be able to keep up with her.
Both are thus given splashy musical numbers that highlight this with Monroe's "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" the more popular and iconic of the two. Russell's "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?" though is my preference and not just because of plenty of eye candy. My penchant for tennis and puns got the best of me as well.
Truthfully I could've pick any shot from this whole number, but the above shot is my pick because she looks damn fierce holding those old-timey tennis rackets with those nearly naked men all around her. It's pretty much my own dream scenario to be honest. Plus there's the slight pun of this scene with the song's title since in tennis "love" means zero and well since most of these guys were clearly gay, that makes sense.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
This week the movie was chosen by his readers and somehow the late 1980s hit Working Girl was chosen. And it was a hit, good for 11th highest grossing film of its year, adjusting for more than $130 million in today's currency. It was also nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Picture/Director and for three of its actresses. I'm merely pointing all of this out because how rare it is nowadays for a female-led film to make that much money and to garner awards. The hair and clothes aren't the only thing dated then I suppose.
The film, for those who haven't seen it, is about a secretary (Melanie Griffith), thinking her boss has stolen one of her ideas, who pretends to have her boss' job while her boss is waylaid with injury. The story beats are familiar, but I still found it overall quite entertaining bolstered by its leading lady who seems to work just as hard as her character Tess. Sigourney Weaver is a hoot as her devil-may-care boss and Harrison Ford is welcome eye candy especially amidst the garish style of the 80s.
My honorable mention pick for best shot includes all three of the main characters in a shot from towards the end of the film. It's at this point where the Big Reveal happens and I just love this shot of all of them prepping for the worse. Nichols does love to frame background people with foreground people doesn't he (think the iconic shot of The Graduate)?
And speaking of that famous scene in The Graduate, a similarly shot scene in this film became my pick for best shot. It's towards the beginning of the film with Tess working with her new boss for a few weeks now and realizing that the best way to move up in the world is to copy other successful people.
Just look at how identical their clothes are, white top and black skirt. Tess is clearly trying her best to imitate her boss here, a prelude to the main plot of the movie. Her legs in the foreground isn't for seduction like in The Graduate, but she's certainly seduced by the idea of her seemingly perfect boss and mentor. Weaver even compels her to "Watch me" and "Learn from me" soon after this increasing Tess' need to please her boss by becoming more like her. It's a fascinating interplay between the two characters nicely setting up the rest of the film.