Thursday, July 24, 2014

HOW "TOP CHEF" BECAME TOP DOG IN REALITY-COMPETITION! A closer look at a show that transformed the perception of it's art, and won over the toughest reality snobs.



Since Hulu finally started streaming it, I finally got around to catching up on all the seasons of "Top Chef" I missed and even after I did, I ran back to the beginning and have basically been watching it on a loop ever since. It hasn't been too readily available legally for me elsewhere, so I haven't discussed the show as much, but I should. That's one of those few reality shows where once in a while somebody will tell me they hate reality television, but then I'll dig a little deeper and sure enough, like I suspect, and they'll admit to watching "Top Chef", and season two exception, it does seem to fall on the socially and culturally-accepted end of the reality genre, more than most reality-competition shows. I talked a little bit about, how even before "Survivor" debuted "Iron Chef" changed the landscape of cooking shows, from a strictly informative and educational shows to a more widely-accepted place on the television landscape, (That blogpost is below, btw:)

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/06/cooking-shows-evolution-and-artistry-in.html

and "Top Chef", has, arguably an even bigger cultural impact in bringing competitive cooking into Primetime. It's not only one of the very best reality shows on TV, it's one of only two shows, that have done the impossible and beat "The Amazing Race" for the Best Reality-Competition Series. (It won for the Vegas season, season 6 btw, just to plug my home a bit; and last year, "The Voice" finally also accomplished that feat.)

It's kinda interesting both to look at "Top Chef" from the beginning of the series, and then to take a look at it's place in the TV landscape, 'cause it really kinda fell into it's place to begin with and then it really started flourishing into it's own legacy, and even yet, even then, it sorta unfortunately fell into it's own background despite that. It started, really as a minor show; basically Bravo had a huge, surprise hit with "Project Runway", which I consider the best Reality-Competition show of all time, and have discussed in length here multiple times, and that said, you kinda have to remember where Bravo was at this point, 'cause it was with "Project Runway", and one or two other things, like "Celebrity Poker Showdown", if any of you remember that, where Bravo was in transition from this, artistic, high-end channel, and that's not to say it's particularly low-end now, but the only real remnant, left of that era is "Inside the Actor's Studio." They would air films more often, and showcase them, as well as musical and theatrical performances, it was a very classy, and formal, arts and entertainment channel, that both celebrated and really also dived into the liberal arts. It would air the Indy Spirit Awards and stuff like that, but after they were bought by NBC-Universal, it was Andy Cohen, who was put in charge as Head of Development at Bravo shortly after Bravo bought Trio, who started to slowly peel away from that image, but strangely he were doing it, in a way still celebrated the arts. Kathy Griffin's presence, for instance, not just a good persona to represent the network, an artist. An actress, a comic, and one who's open enough to really let them explore the aspects of "celebrity" from that perspective that we don't think about for instance, the other side of being an artist, essentially. "Project Runway" is exhibit A for this; it basically demystified all the glam that goes into the glamour of the fashion industry, in main ways that people don't even fully realize anymore, 'cause of how big it's impact actually is. (Models, alone; I used to know the names of the big supermodels growing up, and until they were lined in that same slip on that runway, they were canvas from there on in, no matter how much Tyra Banks's show tries to change that; that was gone from day one, scarily enough.)

Now, because of the scheduling of Fashion Week in New York that "...Runway" is based around, they really could only do that series, once a year, and they needed more programming for this transition, and the recent awareness, in pop culture, of treating the culinary arts and artists, as superstar celebrities, was already in full steam, so "Top Chef", was this minor, secondary experiment, that was really originated, just a companion piece essentially to "Project Runway", something to kill a few weeks and marathon once in a while to change-it-up, until "...Runway" comes back. And that's really the essence of "Top Chef", is that it's "Project Runway", redesigned for the culinary arts. That took a little thinking, and you can tell, in the first season especially, how they were, struggling just to figure out what the series was to a certain point. First couple episodes are shot terribly and on very insufficient cameras too. They didn't stock the kitchen as properly as they could've; it's clearly on an unreasonably low budget (Cooking shows can be expensive, and competitive ones especially so; high quality ingredients are expensive), an experiment, the cast of the first season is a bit more random and inexperienced. Some people who had never worked in a kitchen, a culinary student, a health food specialist, a sommelier, as well. The competition's purpose, and the show's purpose, hadn't really been decided yet, and that's something they ultimately found out as they made the show, what ultimately the ideal for "Top Chef" was going to be. That's something I think people who sorta dismiss about reality shows, miss out on, especially when you start from the beginning you get to see the ways a reality show develops. And you get to see it firsthand, and especially later, when you go back, when it's really well-edited, you can really see this great story arc of the show itself, as well as the participants and even the judges. I mentioned this the other day, going through the series, for some reason, in season 9, suddenly at the judge's table of the series, they had a swishpan cut between the contestants. They never had that before, but now they have it? It's effective, it's different, the show evolved. It took them a whole season to realize that the chefs should be standing at judges table, and not sitting down, which is what they were most of the time. It's those slight changes, one season a chef wins by sous-vide'ing most of his dishes, then suddenly chefs start losing whenever they sous-vide food; you can track the times and the trends with the series; it's a timeline of America and how a show continually evolves and grows and changes as it goes from this; minor show where they barely get a kitchen and cameras together to where the show is now, fully-formed and perfected enough to be entertaining for the masses, and still highlight and focus mainly on the art, in this food.

That's the one advantage that "Top Chef" has over "Project Runway," it's more relatable. Not everybody, even understands the basics of sewing, much less, fashion design. The shows teaches and helps us understand it better, I know far more than I knew before the show, but still, it's a bit more specialized and foreign. Now, not everybody cooks with liquid nitrogen on a regular basis or something like that, but most everybody cooks, and certainly everybody eats; food is universal. We understand what goes into food, how to make it taste good, how certain ingredients taste, and how they're supposed to taste when good and when bad. That's why cooking shows of all kinds remain so popular, 'cause everybody can relate to them to varying degrees, whether it's knowing how to microwave popcorn and little else, to having dined at a 3-Star Michelin restaurant, we have those experiences filed up in our minds, so when the chefs on the show cook, especially something that's familiar to us, we can relate more to the chefs and the products of they product more than we can on "...Runway".

However, it's got two main reasons why it'll never be better than "Project Runway". One that's obvious, and one that really sorta snuck up on people. The obvious one, the same problem with every cooking show, we can't taste the food? And in this case, that means, we can't judge. That's the big advantage with "Project Runway", that, while, the experts' opinions are clearly more knowledgeable and expert, but while both shows are smart enough not to let the audience have an actual vote in the results, with "Project Runway", we can actually talk, discuss and disagree even about their decisions, and have our own opinions; on "Top Chef", we are forever at the mercy of the judge's conclusions and opinions and that sucks, especially if the food looks really good, or we're told it's good. (I'd much rather be a judge on "Top Chef" if given a pick of any reality show, just to have that experience.) The other weakness with the show we found out, after the infamous "Project Runway" lawsuit that inevitably led to the show moving to Lifetime (The most underrated business moment in recent television history btw; and it's important and after-effects do not get discussed enough) and that put Bravo a network that really was considered at that point, an up-and-coming network, of quality reality programming; and the centerpiece of they built that around, just got ripped from them completely, and they prematurely had to start fresh. It also presumably left "Top Chef" in the position to take over "Project Runway"'s spot as the network's flagship program. Well, they tried that, and it's still a great show, and it did win the Emmy after "Project Runway" left, which is the one thing that show has never done, and even though, they're from the same production company and the people involved are similar, that's sorta created a rivalry, but no matter how you sliced it or cut it, a plate of food, just doesn't stand up compared to a gorgeous well-made, expensive outfit. You can see them next to each other all you want, on TV, you're gonna notice the outfit first, especially if it's on a beautiful model. As similar as from the same family tree that these shows seem, you can't simply replace one with the other, and Bravo realized that, and suddenly despite the awards and critical acclaim and progressive direction, you turn that channel on now and 9/10 times, it's a rerun of "The Real Housewives of..." somewhere. (I honestly don't know the versions of the show or how many there are; somebody can help me on that if you want. Or not; I don't really care actually) A few of the other ones they do I've seen and are okay, in this cinema verite "Unscripted Reality" approach like "Flipping Out", but generally, those shows are a little too big of a stretch outside of the direction the network re-branding and transition was originally heading, and because of that, Bravo has never fully recovered. "Top Chef" has remained a major piece of the channel and is still one of the best reality shows, and it's even spawned three spin-off series, "Top Chef Masters", "Top Chef: Just Desserts" and now "Top Chef: Duels", but it's just not the kind of show you can put in and build a network around unfortunately. (I don't what it says about our country that you can do that ratings-wise and content-wise with "The Real Housewives", but..., there you go.) It was created as the companion series, and frankly it's at it's strongest in that position.

That said, "Top Chef" did inevitably become the biggest television program in the industry, and I'm talking the culinary industry. The record of "Top Chef", compared to most reality programs in finding respected future stars in the industry it promotes, is unbelievable, perhaps outshining even "American Idol" at it's peak. They mentioned it at the beginning of one the season the numbers of celebrated restaurants and cookbooks and awards that have been won over the years from contestants on "Top Chef", and frankly those were just the winners. Plenty of accolades were abound for those who didn't win, and even some who didn't come close have found shocking amounts of success. The show itself, on top of an Emmy, won a James Beard Award. The show stayed true to it's goal, of finding the next great chef, and luckily for the show, the timing of such a venture couldn't have been better, and the show has garnered an unprecedented level of respect, partly because of the reputations of the winners, but also the reputations of the people who they get to participate on the show in some way, usually as a judge. Not only that, the show's created dozens of imitators, Gordon Ramsey's and Food Network's shows probably being the most noteworthy of those, but again, this show was produced to be hold up compared to a show of the highest quality, so it's quality is sincerely higher than it's imitators, and it remains so. That didn't quite, seem like the case for awhile, especially after the fiasco  that season two was, which- going back to look at that season now, (and especially if you actually really know the intricate details of exactly what happened during certain memorable parts of that season) you're half-amazed the show survived at all, and didn't fall into the same trappings as a "Real Housewives..." show does. Really, if you started watching the show in like season 7 or  8 or something, and then went back to catch up on season two; you'd think it was another show altogether. That's part of the point though, of how to really look at reality television, not only watching a show evolve, but how it chooses to evolve, and one of the critical ways it chose to evolve was to simply get over the troubles and tribulations of that season and inevitable switch the main focus as much as possible to the food. The show did that, and season by season, year by year, the show attracted higher and higher quality of chefs. From 1st-year culinary students being in the first season to Michelin star chefs winning, (and some losing) in subsequent ones. It just doesn't raise the profiles of the chefs involved, it more importantly raises the profile of the food, and it helped take, what, once upon a time, was thought of as a fad, "The Celebrity Chef", an almost oxymoron statement to most at one point in time, into a statement that's actually a real statement of artistic appreciation.

In many ways "Top Chef", really has pioneered the industry it promotes and now firmly represents, and has progressed it in pop culture and public knowledge and awareness of the art and industry, even during the worst of economic times when people weren't going to restaurants as often, the show seemed to find a way to transcend that. It's really, in many ways, good and bad, and you can talk to somebody knows more about the culinary industry than I do, but it's turned chef into a position of honor. It's strange how that's turned around, in my lifetime frankly, and how "Top Chef" is really, arguably the biggest reason for that permanent renaissance. And more importantly than that, all that really does is confirm how good a show "Top Chef" is. It's a reality show that, is universally liked, relatable, entertaining, artistic, and done in a way that, found a way to get these incredibly talented people to showcase their skills, and managed to tell an unusually well-crafted story that transfixed audience even at the moments of the very least amount of drama.. I nitpicked the details here and there, but they're details that separate an A+ from an A, and that's the important part to remember. It's that degree of specificity in those same details that separate a 3-star Michelin from a 2-star Michelin chef, and the crazy thing about that statement is that 1-star, Michelin is an impossible and rare feat that only a few of the best in the industry are remotely capable of achieving. And I learned that from watching "Top Chef".


Monday, July 21, 2014

DEXTER: THE KILLER AND THE HERO, REMEMBERING THE MONSTER AND HIS FINAL CONTRADICTION: A look at "Dexter"'s spot in the television landscape.



"You can't be a killer and a hero; it doesn't work that way!"
   ---Paul Bennett aka, Brian Moser, "Dexter" Episode 12: "Born Free"

This might surprise some people, but it made perfect sense to me, the ending of "Dexter". Batman, went off to hide from the rest of the world, and sacrificed those he loved most, often times, for the greater whole and the greater good of Gotham City. What? Dexter's Batman? I know I'm not the first person who's come to that conclusion, even it's creators, have admitted that; they talked about it on "America in Primetime" on PBS a while back. Vigilante superhero, who protects his city by eliminating the most despicable of the criminal element in the dark of night. Secret identity, dark passenger? Now, as some people have made note of lately, I'm really not an expert in comic book but I study the folklore at times, and Batman was always the best and most interesting one, 'cause he was the most conflicted. The one, that didn't technically have superpowers, but through his own personal code and determination, not to mention, the best-kept and most advanced equipment would protect their beloved city. knifebag, utility belt, Batmobile, boat. They both have childhood female friend they're willing to do anything to protect include sacrifice themselves and them.

I finally got around to finishing "Dexter" and as with all great and special shows that end, I like to take a closer look at the show, through a more overall perspective of the television landscape, and yes, if you want to get "technical", "Dexter" didn't technically stay as strong a show as it was at it's peak. Because, it peaked. I've discussed this concept before, where, especially with these serialized shows, that the constant building up and building up, leads to moments that, are so strong and so good, that no matter what the show does after it'll never hold up or match that single moment and the show inevitably has to fall and decline in order to rise back up, if it can at all.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-opposite-of-jumping-shark-or-moment.html

"Dexter"'s opposite-of-jumping-the-shark-moment, (Seriously, we need a name for this phenomenon.) Came at the end of season four, when the latest bad guy that Dexter's going after, John Lithgow's Trinity Killer, turns out to have, killed Dexter's wife, Rita, and left him alone with his newborn son, symbolically born in blood, just like Dexter, the serial killer was when he witness the gruesome bloody death of his mother when he was young. I talk about Dexter the killer, because that's part of the constant struggle, his fake persona, a lowly blood-splatter analyst for Miami Metro, which he struggles daily to try and, act normal and innocuous around the very people who should be out to catch him. And the rest of the world too. But, you see, that's where the show, began. I think that's why some people are more frustrated by the end than me, 'cause the whole series was about this sociopath unfeeling monster, inevitably finding his humanity. At first, he acquired girlfriends, wife, kids, possessions, all in an effort to look more human, partially 'cause he was taught to do so from his adopted father Harry, but also because of this ingrown obsession he had which was born out of both, a combination of nurturing and nature. Or at least, that's what Dexter's believed, but over time, through both revelations, self and otherwise, and experience, that belief of his becomes more and more questioned, and slowly but surely, he goes from faking human emotions, to actually having them, or at least he comes to believe he does, which, frankly what's the difference? (Shrugs) Seriously, you tell me? How could you tell, and that's part of the point, how can, somebody tell if someone's a serial killer but they blend in and in all other ways seem normal, tell the difference. It's hard for Dexter, it's gotta be impossible for us, and that's why we buy that a police department that's constantly on the lookout for murderers, is unable to see the serial killer in the lab next door. Does Dexter ever actually fall in love with Rita, or does he not actually fall in love until Hannah McKay comes along? Or is it Debra? The insinuation of the incestual bond that was always possible between Dexter and his adoptive sister Debra, who also worked at the police station, was always infatuated with Dexter, and this was reflected in her struggles getting into a relationship, and her father's seeming fascination with him, as he taught Dexter secretly the Code of Harry that he lived and survived by. That's why she became a cop, to be more like her father, and get attention from him that he gave Dexter, and short of her father, inevitably, his fascination, Dexter, became her own? Is she capable of actual love either?

I ask a lot of questions and discuss this character, much more psychologically than most, and in essence, that's really the big key to this character. I thought about it once, and trying to determine the most psychologically interesting characters, and by that I mean, not just the ones who are interesting to psychiatrists and shrinks, but ones that are so complex that in order to truly get ahold them that you have to discuss them in that manner. Looking at their actions as a part of their behavior, and a psychoanalytical look is the best and most interesting way to watch them and analyze them. The top two I came up with were Dexter Morgan and J.R. Ewing from "Dallas",  and frankly Dexter's more complicated. That's probably the thing that I most got out of "Dexter", that the whole series, was this long strange trip through his mind as well as his actions. That's what so compelling about him, and why the show remained so fascinating. Dexter, making a friend, Dexter having a relationship, Dexter having a kid,....

That's a classical format, get a character and put him in a bunch of different uncomfortable situations and with interesting characters and see how he reacts, let him do what he does. Usually that's a detective of some kind, serial killer works too. The way they did that, over a whole season, and each season being a new adventure, there's positives to that, but also some of it's influence it's had, I found troubling. The reason the show was like that is because the show, was true to the novels by Jeff Lindsay, and "Dexter" was one of the first shows, to really be true to the format of the books they were based on, and they did with each season being a different novel. Now, "Game of Thrones" and "True Blood" have come around, and other shows based on books were around long beforehand, but that's why the seasons are so distinctive, 'cause each one essentially represented a different book in the series, and "Dexter", was one of the big shows that really started that trend. Frankly, I appreciate that they did that well, but part of me, also thinks that that's led to this more focused attention to seasons on a TV show, and that's troubling. I think the best shows, to some extent, not only should you not be able to tell what season a random episode is apart of (Or at the least, with the very best shows, it shouldn't even matter), but also, this serialized structure, it gives people the impression that shows are divided so directly by season. In some aspects they are, but each episode, especially by the end, seems intertwined with each other nowadays, there's never a break. Too many shows, have this "24"-soap opera, format, where every scene in every episode is connected to a bigger wider story, and frankly, the best TV shows, that's a running theme, that's not the core of the episodes. It's unfortunate that "Dexter" was such a great show, that it helped lead to other shows doing this structure as well, 'cause that's what worrisome, how are people gonna truly remember "Dexter" ten, twenty years down the road? I mentioned "Dallas" earlier and that was still so popular that it got a renewal years later, but that might be an exception to this rule, but it still wasn't exactly a show that thrived in reruns, unless you count internationally. I mentioned before how I predict that nobody will watch "Breaking Bad" ten years from now, and shows like that and "Dexter" might have the unfortunate same fate. Great shows, great characters, a whole new perspective on the art form of television drama, but is it, is it gonna remembered? In this format, which is not conducive to reruns? I don't know.

Especially after that controversial finale. To me, it made sense, and no, it probably isn't the perfect ideal ending that perhaps we wanted, or perhaps, the best one, but I thought it was the right one, because the character was complete. Like Batman, he sacrificed himself and those he loved. His entire life as we know it, had change. No more boat, no more sun and murder Miami, no more voice over. No more Harry. No more carefully planned murderous breakfast. No more blood, no more splatter. The eccentric vigilante with an identity crisis, the Tom Ripley-esque sociopath who wanted nothing more than the humanity of everyone else, is now hidden from the world, masked in a beard, away from the civilized world, where there aren't criminals to eradicate and lives he destroyed to endure, no creepy string music and that dark passenger is dead,  never to return... for now....? Yeah, it's a bit ambivalent, isn't it? Did he really become the changed caring father who protects all he loves from him, or is it that dark passenger, shut off, for the time being? I'd like to think he did, but we don't know for sure, and that ambivalent note, probably the correct one. Here's a character constantly at conflict with himself, why would there suddenly be a comfortable answer now? Is the old Dexter dead, or is he just, at rest, waiting for that moment to return, still with the desire and urge to kill, that's just remaining dormant for the time being?

Is Brian right, can you not be the killer and the hero, or did Dexter prove him wrong?  Could this show end that hypothesis with any answer other than "yes and no" and still be as good as it was?

Friday, July 18, 2014

MOVIE REVIEWS #91: "FROZEN", "AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY", "THE BOOK THIEF", "JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS", "THE COUNSELOR", "DISCONNECT", "CARRIE (Peirce)", "DEVIL'S KNOT" "THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE", and MORE!

I deeply apologize for the lateness of this latest blog, and hopefully in the future I won’t be so overdue. This was unexpected and due to reasons beyond my control and couldn't be helped. I understand that, this has been happening at more regular intervals than I would prefer, and I hope you all understand that I do not wish this to happen, but unfortunately, it has been,- rough, and I can’t promise that blogs won’t be delayed in the future, but every effort will attempt to be in order to prevent that from happening again.

Well, frustration aside, we have realized that despite some of our erratic and inconsistent postings, that it hasn’t kept you, the readers from seeking out and finding us, and if you’ve followed our FB or Twitter accounts, (And if you aren’t shame on you!) some of you will know that last week, just two days before our fourth anniversary, we hit a major milestone. We got our 100,000th HIT! Yes, officially you readers, have come to our page, 100,000 times! We’re deeply honored and grateful. This has been an amazing journey and we’re just excited more than anything by this development. It is not easy to get this many hits, in the old days, we were amazed when it took us six months to get to 1,000, and now we’re getting that a week. A slow week in fact. That’s both inspiring and humbling to know, that this simple blog has garnered so much support and readership. We’re a long way from stopping at this moment, and we will continue to provide intellectual, thoughtful and observant analysis and criticisms of the film, television and the entertainment world.

And that continues, right now. Here’s the latest edition of our RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS! 


FROZEN (2013) Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee


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Not thinking or paying too much attention to the critical acclaim, reviews and awards beforehand, I didn't expect much going into "Frozen," but then it started with one of the strangest openings of a Disney movie I can remember. A montage of workers, singing a downtrodden working song, even downtrodden for the same company the once did "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, We're Off to Work We Go", and it certainly doesn't feel like a start for their film, but it did feel familiar. All the songs had this air of familiarity, and not because a few of them were on the radio. To give a film like "Frozen" 5 STARS, and then to do what I'm about to do and say that the film isn't perfect, is to fully understand the difficulty in what their trying to do with this film. Most of the musicals that Disney has made, were influenced from classic movie musicals. From Busby Berkeley to Gene Kelly, that was always the core, but lately, first with "Beauty and the Beast" and most famously "The Lion King", they were adapting those movies to Broadway, for theatrical productions, and they must've learned the story structure and conventions of the Broadway musical by now, but more importantly, instead of taking the films and transferring them to the stage, they've taken the stage and transferred it to the film. That's why the beginning and many of the numbers look and feel like "Les Miserables". Suddenly, I wasn't keeping an animated film on in the corner of my eye, I was fascinated by this new piece of inspiration, one of many new sources of inspiration in Disney's "Frozen". The story too, is  a bit of a departure from Disney, as it's about two sisters, Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) an older sister who's curse with some kind of magical power that overtakes her and causes everyone and everything around her to freeze up, and her younger, non-magic sister Anna (Kristen Bell), who looks up to her sister, but suddenly her sister shuns herself from the world, and her sister for years. Neither of them come out to the outside world until Elsa's coronation, and Anna meets Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) who's the first person she's really been around much at all in years, and when she decides to marry him, Elsa forbids it, and the squabble leads to an eternal winter in the land of Ardenelle, and Elsa to self-exile herself in an mountain ice palace, where Anna, and eventually, and iceman, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and a snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad) must head out to find her. The musical numbers, have never been used this way before, like stage numbers, almost a combination of Broadway, opera and there's even some ballet in the story elements. Sometimes, it's weaker, and they draw back on the old fairy tale influences and constructs we're used to from Disney Princess films, (And sometimes, they take the darker approach to fairy tales, not completely, like the kind that, perhaps they didn't put in their last Hans Christian Anderson adaptation, "The Little Mermaid", but closer to the dark than before) and even then, there's theatrical influences. Having seen their "Shrek" musical on DVD recently, I couldn't help but notice similarities between how Donkey and Olaf's role in the story are strikingly similar, and how Olaf's song is more of an aberration that would normally be cut from a filmed version of a musical, but left in for the stage. None of this works without the right music btw, and the husband Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, (the former, became the youngest EGOT winner of all-time with the Best Song Oscar they won for "Let It Go") outdo themselves here. This soundtrack of "Frozen" ranks among the greatest Disney's produced. There's places to nitpick, obviously, but you gotta understand that Disney never tried this before, and the level of difficult was sky high for them. And that's probably what really impressed me about "Frozen", is that, if they're gonna start being inspired from theater for their musicals from now on, then that means, they're only gonna get better from here on out. That's makes how good this first effort is, even more impressive. (Note: Some will notice that I didn't post the trailer, but the scene of Menzel's Princess Elsa, singing the Oscar-winning "Let It Go"; I'm sure some of you are sick of it, but frankly, I looked at the trailer and frankly, this sequence is a better representation of the film.) 



AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013) Director: John Wells


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I think, there's still, a way to adapt Tracy Letts's Pulitizer Prize winning play to the screen, better than this version from John Wells, his second feature film, but that said, I'm also fairly convinced that the best place for Letts's work is on the stage. That's a little strange, 'cause I thought the opening up of his play "Killer Joe" benefited from opening up a bit on film, the best moments in "August..." take place when the movie is at it's most intimate. Usually, that's the dining room table, and it's also when most of the fireworks and plates and food start flying. Taking place in the titled northern Oklahoma county, it's 108 degrees as the Weston family begins gathering from their scattered areas across the country, after their father Beverly (Sam Shepherd) is suddenly missing, and later found dead, having killed himself. Like an actress, Violet (Oscar-nominee Meryl Streep) wears her big brown wig at the table, and is in full overbearing truth mode at that point. When she doesn't wear that wig, she suddenly easier to handle, more sober, (She's a relapsed drug addict with dozens of pill bottles, hidden around the house) but also more also reflective and ill, literally. The acid-tongued beast has mouth cancer, which caused her addiction to start up again. Her daughter Barbara (Oscar-nominee Julia Roberts) is in the middle of a divorce from her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor), and their fourteen-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin) is caught in a frustrated middle and out on her own maybe more than she should be. Her sister Karen (Juliette Lewis) is back from, god-knows-where with another wrong man, Steve (Durmot Mulroney) this time, engaged to him, and still talking herself into and out of numerous bad decisions. Ivy, (Julianne Nicholson, and boy am I glad to see her in a good role for once) stayed at home, is the most homely of the sisters, and is constantly berated by both her mother and her aunt Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) for her lack of attention to her appearance, and her inability to leave the house, or find a man. Mattie Fae's often berates his son, Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) often to the point of frustrating her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper) although he doesn't mind making fun of his grand niece for being a vegetarian. Also, before he died, Beverly hired Johnna (Misty Upham), to cook and clean the house, which Violet was annoyed at for being for being an Indian (Osage County was once given to the Cherokee Nation years earlier, shortly after they were transported there following the Trail of Tears). Overall, there's some really strong acting in the film. Roberts and Streep got Oscar nominations for their roles, although curiously, from the Tonys, the Lead and Supporting Roles were switched a bit, Roberts got nominated for Supporting for her role, but it was a lead on Broadway and Streep role was a feature role on stage, became the lead here, and it really, sorta struggle a bit, 'cause the discombobulation was there actually. Roberts, really was strong, a lot of the acting was really great, actually all around, but it did kinda feel like they didn't really have enough to sort switch the perspective on the roles, completely. That said, I think a lot of that, was the original script itself, 'cause at a certain point, the film kinda became a screenplay by numbers, and you know, this character's gonna do this, and this blowup's gonna happen here, for this reason, and especially what happens between Breslin and Mulroney's characters, almost felt tacked on from other similar films and plays. This troubled family getting together formula, it's sometimes a little too common in stage plays, and it often works there better than it does here, and it is a good point of view on it, but yeah, the pacing could've been stronger so that we wouldn't completely notice the formula. Still though, Wells, not the most innovative director but he's trying and I think the nitpicking is that, the material is so rich that you want the film to be a little bit better than it actually was, but that said, there's more than enough good to recommend the film, and in some cases there's great.



THE BOOK THIEF (2013) Director: Brian Percival

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A rare theatrical film from the director of some of the best in British television over the last decade or so, Brian Percival’s “The Book Thief”, -… Yeah, that’s pretty much it. It’s one of those annoying films that, while there’s nothing wrong with it, it just sorta begs you to like it too much. No, it’s not even that, it’s just so formulaic, for a WWII film,- well, except for the fact that Death is the narrator. Yes, Death, (Roger Allam) is an all-knowing, haunting the film and inserting his own perspective on the events, because-, I don’t know, the Holocaust wasn't depressing enough I guess. Well, I know why, they did it, ‘cause structurally within “The Book Thief”, and I don’t want to give anything away but, structurally, the film ends with a dues ex machima; it’s germane to the story, but it’s impossible for the audience to accept it, without some form of a foreboding warning, so I do understand it, but still…. The story follows Leisel (Sophie Nelisse) a young girl whose parents are supposedly taken away for being Communists, and she gets sent to live Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson); it was supposed to be her and her brother, but he died on the voyage to get there. She also has two friends, one, Rudy (Nico Liersh) who she somewhat reluctantly befriends as kids that age who are attracted to each other but aren’t sure where to go from there do, (And the age, is a bit questionable, the young actors never seem to get older despite going starting at a prepubescent 12 or 13 and the movie follows them for five years, as Godfrey Cheshire’s review on Rogerebert.com points out; [Honestly, the movie so dragged and bored me along, and seem so uninterested in tackling the realities of coming-of-age in a war zone, that I didn’t even notice or care.) and Max (Ben Schnetzer) a Jew who the family, despite pretty a little too poor to really take care of their adopted daughter, begins hiding. Hans was invited numerous times to join the party, not for political reasons oddly enough, but for their well-being. (A lot of people did join the Nazis because they provided work, as I remember Michael Moriarty’s character in the great miniseries, “Holocaust” did.) That’s one piece of film that’s a better and more interesting depiction of the time, the other is “Lore”, the recent Cate Shortland film, which actually was about German teenagers struggling to survive in World War II Germany, and that included the pains of going through puberty at the time. The title, comes as Leisel, who is illiterate in the beginning, becomes fascinated with learning to read, and begins “stealing” books from a few helpful souls interested in helping her out on Heaven Street. Yes, they live on Heaven Street. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that this is considered a young adult novel, and that’s fine, even to do one about Holocaust I can think of a few good ones, but this one was screenplay by the numbers. If you guess write now, what profession Liesel will have when she grows up, not having seen the movie, but just based on what I’ve told you, I’ll bet 90% of you will get it right. And that would’ve been fine, if there was a bigger purpose to this film. It’s not a true story; it’s not a new story, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge of things we’re already familiar with shoved together. And you know, why the hell is Death, so fascinated with this one girl, and why is she so interesting to him? Out of all the souls he seems to love describing how he inevitably takes, this girl? Somebody shoulda watch “Wings of Desire” before writing this book or making this film. It might entertain at the moment, and it might compelling, John Williams got an Oscar nomination for the score, presumably ‘cause he’s John Williams, understandable, but I have a hard time believing anybody’s gonna come out of this film and remember it so viscerally. It’s tasteless and boring, like unsalted mash potatoes, it’s just boring and bland, the two things that a Holocaust movie of any kind, good or bad, shouldn’t be.  


JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS (2014) Directors: Stephen Chow and Derek Kwok



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With eight writers, two directors, some bizarre and over-the-top set pieces that almost seem like elaborate Rube Goldberg contraptions in terms of how they're built and used, I guess at some level, I could've found a way to appreciate "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons" apparently based on the Wu Cheng-En novel that's considered one of the four best in Chinese literature, but honestly, it was a kaleidoscopic mess to me. The opening sequence, which is about where the movie first started to lose me, takes place on, some kind elaborate riverside boardwalk that looks like an abandoned set from a Peter Pan movie that Chinese people moved into and called home, and then, a giant man-eating squid-like tiger fish, I guess, and it's up to Xuan Zang (Zhang Wen) a demon hunter to ultimately to rid the demon out of the giant fish, which involves breaking into song and consulting his "300 Nursery Rhymes" handbook, which, I guess is kinda like Hong Kong Phooey's "Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu", in this movie. (And, wow did I never think I've have to dig out that reference from my mind, but there it is.) Soon after, a rival demon hunter Miss Duan (Qi Shu) see through his rival's more questionable and liberal-hippy-like skills, and manages to capture demons with her Catwoman-like movement as well as her infinite flying ring. She's more naturally flamboyant but still is only a demon hunter for the bounty. But there's a quirky chemistry between them as both of them continue to run into each other on their quests.The movie seems to mostly get stranger and stranger from there as it toys with all the conventions of cinema, satirizing foley, sound, special effects, while simultaneously incorporating them. It's part video game, part "Three Stooges", through the same prism as "Tai Chi Zero", and- I don't know what. Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes"-style re-inventiveness as well I guess. I haven't even begun to fully explain or even try to the rest of the movie. Maybe if I had read the original novel I'd have had some help, but honestly, I'll bet that even that's a bit of stretch. Part of what I enjoy about the film, is that it's essentially a smorgasbord of storytelling styles, an it's unpredictability is a strength, but ultimately the film just continually remains non-stop strange, and frankly, it becomes disturbing and disorienting after a while. There's never a break, there's never an explanation, the movie just feels like one long giant martial arts cartoon, and there's nothing wrong with that, but perhaps only 30 or 60 minutes of that would've been enough. That said, I guess I kinda have to sorta recommend it, 'cause there isn't too much that's quite like it, nowadays. It's nice to see an unabashed determination to go headstrong towards zaniness.


THE COUNSELOR (2013) Director: Ridley Scott



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At some point during "The Counselor," Cameron Diaz takes off her panties and then jumps on top of a Ferrari, spreads her legs Moceanu-wide on the windshield, in full view of Javier Bardem, and begins grinding and fucking the car. At this point, you can insert your own Tawny Kitaen joke here or admit that that was probably the best idea the movie had. (Although I would've preferred "bent over" and "ping-pong table", but-. Uh, did I type that out loud?) That's actually quite unfortunate though, considering another idea the movie had was going down on Penelope Cruz, so they obviously could've been more creative. (Ping-pong table) But- that's- well, you tell me? What else was there to "The Counselor"? It's Cormac McCarthy version of a Bret Easton Ellis story. Instead of the excesses of the rich alone, we're dealing with the excesses of the people who the rich people pay for their drugs and women, and don't just live in excess, they ooze in it, like people who've been in a bathtub full of champagne a little too long. I've sat through it two or three times now, trying to really get a grasp of it, but as I strongly suspected the first time through, despite some good intense scenes that are filled with potential "The Counselor" really doesn't have much to grasp onto. The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is a, well counselor, and apparently a successful one. He has an extravagant house and his best friend is a well-known international drug dealer Renier (Javier Bardem), who dresses a bit like Hunter Thompson's lawyer friend, and has motorcycles in the house and pet cheetahs- I don't know where he keeps the pet cheetahs but he has them, as well as a crazed girlfriend Malkina (Diaz) who can manipulate anybody including and especially herself to do, seemingly whatever she wills. Counselor's fiance, Laura (Penelope Cruz) I guess, by comparison is relatively reserved, by she is still devoted to Counselor, who's suddenly decided, for whatever reason to go into the drug trade himself. A go-between for the big druglords (Who are they, where do they live and what are their lives like?) Westray (Brad Pitt) seems to act almost like a private investigator than a drug dealer for much of the film, and that's a bit of an interesting twist, but otherwise the film is slow-moving, too complicated, and worst for a movie like this, it's generally boring. Richard Roeper's right, there's a lot of movie in this movie, but it doesn't really seem to go anywhere. The excess and exuberance is up, but the film is all style, no substance, and frankly the style- Ridley Scott may have been the worst possible director for this material. I know it's Cormac McCarthy, and once upon a time, he was supposed to direct "Blood Meridian", but he cannot help to slow a movie down, and simply delay the story and plot, and focus in on a aberration or a sequence for metaphoric value, or simply to stare at it, for way too long. Could you imagine if Oliver Stone directed this, just how much sharper it would be? It looks like he should be directing it anyway, the cinematography is actually quite remarkable and special. This is McCarthy's pretending to be somebody else, this is Ridley Scott, trying to be somebody else, and all you really is an incredibly good-looking mess of a movie. At least Cameron Diaz knew that with scenery this crazy that the right thing to do was to chew it. Chew, lick, bite, probably a few things illegal in Mississippi, to it.... That's what the movie gives me to talk about folks, so that's what I'm gonna focus on. If there was really much else I'd talk about it.



DISCONNECT (2013) Director: Henry-Alex Rubin

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The first time I watched Krzyzstof Kieslowski’s “Red”, it was in a class in film school, and I had found myself marveled and transfixed at the big screen, I looked around and everybody was texting or searching the internet on their phones. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand the irony anymore, but that scene, of watching everybody stare at their phones was the metaphor for “Disconnect” the first feature from Henry Alex Rubin, who’s last feature was the acclaimed documentary “Murderball”. “Disconnect” has multiple narratives each about the ways/perils of technology, and trying to connect with others in the modern world, although it takes about as bleak a view as it possibly could. One story involves the Boyd family, where Rich and Lydia’s (Jason Bateman and Hope Davis) son Ben, (Jonah Bobo) who’s a shy outcast that’s unaware that the girl who friended him on FB, is actually a cruel joke played on him by Jason and Frye (Colin Ford and Aviad Bernstein). This inevitably leads to the humiliated Ben, hanging himself, and in a coma in a hospital. Another thread involves Kyle (Max Theriot) a webcam model, who poses as an 18-year-old (Although it’s insinuated that he’s older) and Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough) a reporter who’s trying to convince him to go public about the ways he’s exploited. The place he works it, is practically a factory which attracts runaways to work as webcam models, complete with a building where they all seem to, at least work, if not live. Another thread involves a couple Derek and Cindy (Alexander Skarsgard and Paula Patton) who wake up to find that someone’s hacked into their account, and stolen all their money. The main suspect they eventually find through a private eye, Mike (Frank Grillo) is Stephen Schumacher (Mychael Nyqvist) someone who Cindy had been talking to on a lonely hearts website, but an investigation into getting their money back, takes way too long, and is too slow for Mike. It goes without saying that these stories connect with each other, and they don’t connect, as with the title. If I were to name a comparable film, perhaps “Babel”, is the most appropriate but frankly that’s the major I’m having with “Disconnect”, not only does it not really give us anything new, but the three stories, seems a little too randomly put together. There’s decent movies that can be made into good films here, and in some cases like David Schwimmer’s “Trust” they already have, to some extent. I’m not sure that the disconnections between the stories, and the clever use of the title make up for the facts that they’re not complete stories, they’re more like intriguing anecdotes that haven’t fully been developed yet. Since they’re not particularly new anecdotes, everything’s pretty much predictable, and reminiscent of things we’ve seen in better films already. I’ve seen a lot of people praising “Disconnect” lately, since it made its way to DVD, and it’s interestingly made, although I think the naturalist look and lighting get in the way of telling the story a bit as everything looks so muted and dreary, but I have a people recommending it so highly might have just been occasionally looking up from their phones and seeing something interesting onscreen when they were watching it. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie by any means, but it doesn’t feel whole, and as I watched it from the corner of my eye while working on my latest script on my computer, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe one of these stories, told really well for ninety-minutes would’ve made for a better and more interesting movie.


CARRIE (2013) Director: Kimberly Peirce

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Something I hadn’t really noticed or thought much about in terms of the first “Carrie”, which unfortunately for the Kimberly Peirce remake is one of my all-time personal favorites, is that one of the reasons it was really effective was that it really one of the first we really saw “Mean Girls”. I don’t mean a female villain, I mean like the Lindsay Lohan movie, ‘cause those original shots of the girls in the ladies locker room, just making fun of and absolutely humiliating a confused, bloody and naked Sissy Spacek, in a group mob mentality, that frankly, now that I think about, I don’t remember seeing that in another film before. The viciousness of high school girls; we’d seen, occasionally a bad girl once or twice around, but not a group, not a pack; that was exclusively, at best, a mixed gender thing in films, and usually it was male-dominated. That was one of the things that really was startling about the original “Carrie”, that it was these teenage girls that were more evil, selfish and despicable than even the rather lughead guys were.  Now, it’s not surprising at all that that scene, not only lacks the believable nudity of the original (Had to, Sissy Spacek was freakishly able to play a teenager believably well into her twenties and Moretz was only 15 for the role), but that, one girl takes a cellphone video of the incident and posts it on a fake Facebook page. It was so strange and rare, the behavior of the women in that film at the time, most of the cast, including Piper Laurie thought they were making a comedy and now with this remake, strangely since we’re now so familiar with the original, it almost feels like they took it so serious that it almost turned into a comedy. The casting of Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore, about as good a casting as I would've come up with, even Judy Greer as the gym teacher Miss Desjardins is perfect (Although they should’ve kept the original line from the movie where she admitted if she was a student, she would've acted the same way as the girls), however, while I do think they did some interesting things with the update, they stuck so close to the original in terms of the story, and even much of the dialogue, I had a very hard time, even watching this film, and this could be just be me, but I was barely able to even look unless they did something distinctly different from the original. I mean, this is the film I watched at my anti-prom party. (Yes, welcome to my high school folks, I held an anti-prom party. Me and a couple friends watching “Carrie” on prom night, and it was a class of about 200, and the prom maybe had double-digit attendance, our anti-prom did almost as good. [Hell, we recently had an anti-reunion, on the night of our High School Reunion, to protest against that one, but that one wasn’t my idea, but I did participate. {I was responsible for inventing the “Protest Yearbook” however, but that’s a different story}]) I’m a little surprised ‘cause I expect much more from Peirce, who directed the amazing “Boys Don’t Cry”, and she so rarely makes a movie, this is only her second since then after “Stop-Loss”, but that said, the movie’s most famous sequences are where we get most of those stylistic touches and changes from the original, and I think that might be, what was most expected from the audience, but a more interesting approach would’ve been more deviation from in the buildup, and more differing and interesting approaches there would’ve better served the film. Deconstructive storytelling lesson number 1, it’s not the end of the journey, it’s the twists and turns along the way that make a story compelling, and that’s really, what it’s coming down to for me. I like this versions, and many aspects of it, Portia Doubleday and Gabriella Wilde are quite good in their iconic roles, and there’s a few interesting plotpoints involving their characters that were well-thought out, but this was a missed opportunity overall. Part of me’s on the fence, it might be interesting in an auteur theory setting, to compare it to the first one, but even still, I can’t quite recommend it, despite some of its strengths; did it improve upon the original in any noticeable way, did this version change from the story enough, did it do it interesting enough, did this version add enough of a new perspective to the original…. Too many of those questions, I have to answer “no,” to.  


DEVIL'S KNOT (2013) Director: Atom Egoyan


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This is the fifth film that I know of based around the infamous West Memphis Three murders, and going in, I wondered if we needed another one, and now I'm convinced that we can use three or four more. I'm not surprised the first filmmaker to tackle it, not in a documentary is Atom Egoyan, the great Canadian director who's films are often about it. For those who don't know, in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993, three eight-year-old boys were killed, stripped naked and hogtied with their shoelaces, which is how they were found underwater in a ditch in Robin Hood Hills, where the kids were supposedly last seen. To those who know all three "Paradise Lost" films, or "West of Memphis" know that this is just the beginning of the story, and that the details of the cases against the three defendants, Damien Echols (James Hamrick), Jessie Misskelley, Jr., (Kristopher Higgins) and Jason Baldwin (Seth Meriwether) three teenage boys accused of the crimes because of their supposed fascination with the heavy metal music and satanism. There's so many details of the crime, case and trial, the charlatan expert testimony, the public obsessions with the case, including the original documentaries of the case, a coerced confession that had numerous inaccuracies, a railroading power-hungry judge, later on DNA evidence that was ignored, numerous other suspects who weren't investigated as well as witness testimonies that-, seriously, there's a reason why this has spread across multiple movies. At one point the Dixie Chicks of all people became an important of the story, but that's the technical stuff that Egoyan's never really been interested in. His best films like "Exotica", and "The Sweet Hereafter", aren't just about the incident that connects the characters and neighborhood to his films, but about the ways they react to it and to each other. His films are structured emotionally and not linearly most of the of time, often through flashbacks, although some times he'll bounce around without them. He focuses mostly on two characters, one is Pam Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon) who's son was one of the victims, and her husband Terry (Alessandro Nivolo) has started acting somewhat strangely since the deaths, and Ron Lax (Colin Firth) a pro-bono investigator who working for the boys' defense, and also, the more he dives into the investigation and the anomalies of the trial, the more the case becomes a case he took because he doesn't like the death penalty, to the realization that a disturbingly crime was going to be overshadowed by an even more disturbing and tragic injustice.



THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (2012) Directors: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon


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Looking over Roger Ebert's review of "The Central Park Five", he seems to have had a very vivid recall of the case where five young teenage black men supposedly confesses and were inevitably convicted of attacking and raping a central park jogger, who survived the attack, but couldn't remember what had happened to her, and spent years recovering from her injuries. The word, "Wilding" I never heard about until this movie; it was the term used to supposedly explain random destructive behavior from teens, as they were out,- well, I don't know what the word is now, but I would call it cruisin' during the nights, and mostly just looking around for something to do without getting into too much trouble, well, for most people anyway, but during the beginnings of the racial tensions occurring both in New York, and all throughout the country back in the late eighties and early nineties, the event was front page news and the case divided the races. Problem was, similar to the West Memphis 3, the police had railroaded and coerced the youths into confessions, all on camera, guiding them to their guilty verdicts, and a ruthless D.A. pushed their cases through the news and media. Problem was, they weren't even there when the girl was attacked. It turned out, the East Side Rapist, Matias Reyes, confessed, while in prison for another crime, to the assault, and sure enough, DNA evidence proved his confession valid. Many of the kids were as young as 15, and most of them had spent as many as ten years behind bars. Taking a look at the case, through file footage, interviews with people all through the chain from Mayor Koch, to most of the victims themselves, "The Central Park Five" details this great atrocity of the American justice system. Director Ken Burns, of course, more well-known nowadays for his great PBS multi-part documentaries, but he brings his talents to this film, but it seems that his daughter Sarah and her husband David McMahon seem like the prominent hand behind this powerful and informative documentary, one that, frankly, feels like such a strange timepiece, into an era that, I'm almost amazed that I actually lived through 'cause of how foreign it seems now. Back in this Al Sharpton on Morton Downey time period, and just how tense and how manipulative the public and the press seemed to be, and how they we're (and in many ways) still are, so forcefully looking for a narrative to publicize.


FELICIA'S JOURNEY (1999) Director: Atom Egoyen


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The second Atom Egoyen film I've reviewing this week, I'm not sure how that coincidence happened exactly, but I ain't complaining, "Felicia's Journey", on one level, seems to be about, or seems to start as one anyway, a serial killer, Joe Hilditch (Bob Hoskins) and his unsuspecting next victim, Felicia (Elaine Cassidy). It then, evolves, slowly, into a story about the way the two characters empathize with each other, and from there, it inevitably because a tale how that empathy for and with each other, conflicts with their inner nature, and how each of these sudden awareness of themselves and each other injects into their life and becomes apart of their life and their actions and behaviors. Joe's am executive chef at some sort of cafeteria, and while the kitchen and the worker seem unimpressive, he's quite a powerful presence there. At home, he watches obsessively tapes episodes of a cooking show that he seems capable of replicating, literally everything that's being cooked, including with a stockpile of kitchen equipment, still in package. He cooks and serves these meals, for himself, and apparently the woman on the television, Gala (Arsinee Khanjian), who has an eerie presence Joe. Felicia is a young naive Irish girl, who's come on her own to this English town, to find Johnny (Peter MacDonald) who she was seeing and got pregnant by him as he left to go work at a lawnmower factory that she can't find. Joe sees her on the side of the road and offers a friendly hand, but we see through the videos he filmed of the other women, how he gained their trust and ultimately he takes their lives after they bare their soul to him. This time however, when Joe learns of Felicia's pregnancy, something comes over him, and instead of murder, he legitimately tries to help her. First to find Johnny, then, to try and convince her into an abortion. He seems conflicted in both ways, one because he can't kill her because she's pregnant, but he's has to convince himself and her that an abortion is the right thing. As always with Egoyen, his films are never told completely chronologically and much of this film is flashbacks and we see how Felicia was sworn off from both her family and Johnny's but for very different reasons involving her pregnancy, and then, we glimpse at how Joe turned into a rather conflicted monster through his mother's overbearing, smothering love that might not have exactly been honest, but it didn't seem to matter since the artificiality is just as prevalent an influence to Joe. Like almost all of Egoyen's best films, the more you dive into them, there's more and more layers to each of them. I think it struggles a bit near the end, but also in terms of a more overriding connection between the characters; unlike his very best films however, the connections between the characters, aren't completely there and they don't have that, feeling of a more overall sense where, everyone and everything is effected in the ways that his other films of this nature, tend to do. That said, there's more character development than in some of his previous films, and that's something new and he does that very well here. It was based on a William Trevor novel, and it feels like, it's unusually more rich and textured than most movie characters like these. In the wrong hands, this would played, cliche and trivial, and instead it's haunting and beautiful. The serial killer and the adolescent teen, just never told this way.




BLACKMAIL (1929) Director: Alfred Hitchcock

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While they’re usually good films, there aren’t too many reasons outside of intellectual curiosity and study to dive into Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest films. This one, “Blackmail”, one of his very first sound features, keeps it very simple, and that’s its biggest strength. Alice White (Anny Ondra) is approach by a couple different people, including a police detective, Frank (John Longden) but before she agrees to his advances, show goes on a date with The Artist (Cyril Ritchard). He tries to rape her, but she manages to kill him instead. (The scene is surprisingly graphic for the time, until you realize when it was made, pre-Hays Code) From there on, the Detective is on the case, and he quickly figures her for the killer, but isn’t sure where to go, but just then, somebody else, Tracy (Donald Calthrop) had caught on to her plans and his cover-up, and insists on blackmail to stay quiet. Yeah, folks, it’s that simple. It had to be at that time, the technology wasn’t even around for more complex stories, especially with sound. For the first ten minutes or so, it’s actually a silent movie, even with word titles when someone speaks, but the intimacy of the necessarily close microphone, adds to the intensity of the situation, and it gives us a very real feeling of characters being in over their head in a dangerous situation. It’s still a good film on it’s own, it’s more enjoyable when you spot some ideas and concepts that he used to greater effect in his better later films, but as I always say, a lesser Hitchcock, is still a Hitchcock, and “Blackmaill” is a very good, lesser Hitchcock.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

2014 PRIMETIME EMMYS NOMINATIONS ANALYSIS! All the MAJOR CATEGORIES, and LOTS of CATEGORIES that SHOULD BE! (and a few other ones as well!)



Whew! Hey, there's a lot more Emmy categories than there are Oscars, and if you really want to study and look at through the Emmys, you gotta see the whole board, folks, and nobody, provides as comprehensive and in-depth an analysis of every major, many should-be-major and some minor, but notable categories, that might go under the radar on "Entertainment Tonight" but are frankly just as interesting and relevant to the pop culture of today than some of the major ones. This is your one-stop place for all your Emmy Nominations Analysis, what got in, what got out, why, and maybe, see if we can start reading, just a few of the tea leaves, maybe a few predictions and guarantees, but we're going category-by-category folks, and we're starting off with Comedy Series nominations, then well into Dramas, then the Miniseries/Movies, then Variety, then Reality, just like the actual awards, and then, my favorite, the notable awards that you should be paying attention, but you frankly, even the best award coverage sites don't dive into the way we do. So, let's take a closer look at the 2014 Emmys Nominations Analysis!

COMEDY SERIES
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
The Big Bang Theory-CBS
Louie-FX Networks
Modern Family-ABC
Orange is the New Black-Netflix
Silicon Valley-HBO
Veep-HBO

Well, I'm mouth-on-the-floor, baffled that "Girls" didn't get nominated, and that's fucked up! It just is, it should've been nominated, it was amazing, it's the best show arguably on TV, and this season absutely blew the others out of the water. "Modern Family", if they win, they tie "Frasier" not only with five wins, but five in a row, and "Frasier"'s the only show, comedy or drama, to win five Best Series at all. Let's see though, "Modern Family" is down a bit with only ten nominations, and "Orange is the New Black" has 12 this year, them and "Veep" jumping up huge from 5 to 9 nominees this year, are clearly the three most likely, although I don't like "Louie" should be discarded completely, and frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if "The Big Bang Theory" finally pulled it out, but I think they're a longshot. "Silicon Valley", bit of a surprise nominee here, I didn't care for that show as much; it started off well, it's got the writing and directing nominations, that's critical, but no acting nominations is very unusual and I don't really think it has that much of a chance to win. I stopped watching it after four or five episodes myself, I don't know. People are trying to compare it to something like "Entourage" or "The Big Bang Theory" but I really don't see it; you never know but I get the feeling they're the also-ran this year.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Louis C.K.-"Louie"-FX Networks
Don Cheadle-"House of Lies"-Showtime
Ricky Gervais-"Derek"-Netflix
Matt LeBlanc-"Episodes"-Showtime
William H. Macy-"Shameless"-Showtime
Jim Parsons-"The Big Bang Theory"-CBS

Ricky Gervais's name showing up, of course, afterwards after he's ruined everybody's ballots, you're thinking, "Of course, Ricky Gervais!" Emmy favorite, you always like him anyway, he's won this category before, and Netflix is up again this year, but nobody particularly thought "Derek" would get in. No other huge surprises, Cheadle, LeBlanc, C.K. and Parsons, the same from last year, William H. Macy's nomination however is very intriguing. I remember last year, when Joan Cusack got a Guest Actress nomination for "Shameless", (Which she did this year as well btw) thinking "Shameless" is a drama, 'cause I always thought, just based on the premise that it was a comedy. I haven't seen it, but the original British show, was a comedy, it seemed like in a similar category as a show like "Weeds" was to me, but it kept submitting itself in Drama, and this sorta started year ago with "Gilmore Girls", submitting itself in Comedy, for reason beyond understanding, and then eventually moving to Drama, not that it was ever gonna get in for that either, although I always liked that show, it was never at the top of the TV landscape in either show, but the precedent was set; there's been a lot of discussion, regarding, "Orange in the New Black", switching genres from award show to award show, and "True Detective" and "American Horror Story", being similar but in different categories, but Macy, because he hasn't been nominated, a bit of an unknown wild card here, but the Emmys do like Macy; he's won and been nominated in Guest Spots and Movie/Miniseries, many times before, can't count him out here. Parsons 3x winner, still the heavy favorite, Louis C.K., I don't think can be counted out, now that Gervais is in, he can't counted out; a bit more of a mysterious category than it's been than normal.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Lena Dunham-"Girls"-HBO
Edie Falco-"Nurse Jackie"-Showtime
Julia Louis-Dreyfus-"Veep"-HBO
Melissa McCarthy-"Mike & Molly"-CBS
Amy Poehler-"Parks and Recreation"-NBC
Taylor Schilling-"Orange is the New Black"-Netflix

Melissa McCarthy, a bit of a surprise, came back into the category after last year not getting in, although Tina Fey and Laura Dern's show are not off the air, so not overly shocking. I think everybody had the other five nominees, pretty much solidly in, just some debate and concern over who the sixth would get in, and frankly if I being blunt, I really don't think there was a great clear-cut, 6th choice out there, so she's as good as anybody. In a creative, I kinda hoped Alex Borstein for "Getting On," but Laurie Metcalf put her name in for Lead, (And I don't think Borstein put her name in anywhere, which was weird.) but even then, it's the other five's race, and even then, as much as- Alright, I'll just say, I can't stand "Veep". I'm given it tries, I recognize that it's good, but it is so ruthlessly cynical, that I'm amazed that people watch it. I'm not amazed that Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins every year for it, and will probably win this year, no matter how much Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham really should win it instead, but-, and speaking of Poehler, why do they love "Veep" so much, but "Parks and Recreation" gets pushed aside except for Amy Poehler? The whole point of "Parks and Recreation", and why I love the show so much, was that, the series Leslie Knope character, was so headstrong, determined and hopeful despite the corrupt, lackadaisical, unflinching, government system that tried to stop her every time, that conflict, was the core of the humor, the strength of the conflict, and the heart of the show, and it still is, despite that WTF ending of the season this year. There is none of that in "Veep", there's a character you care about, or want to see succeed, and nobody that's even remotely likable. I almost went into Poli-Sci, before I switched to film, I get it, it's disheartening for any kind of idealist, especially these days, but people do go into politics, as hard as it is to believe, trying to do good, some get corrupted beyond belief, others fight on 'til their fighting alone, most of the time, there's a heavy give-and-take with your values and beliefs, both sides, because you'll have to pair the lesser of devils sometimes to get something good for a few and screw over others, but those characters don't exist in this world, and it's just annoying and frustrating to even watch because of that. I really don't understand it's appeal, or why it keeps getting nominated frankly. It's backwards, it's like "The Larry Sanders Show" but these people's actions actually mean something, so it's disheartening, and I'm sure Julia will do something funny when she wins again, and something if it wins best series, other than that, and it is good. For what it is, it's very good, but for what it is, I don't get why people watch it. Actually I get watching it, I don't get people liking it so much though. That's even weirder to me.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Fred Armisen-"Portlandia"-IFC
Andre Braugher-"Brooklyn Nine-Nine"-FOX
Ty Burrell-"Modern Family"
Adam Driver-"Girls"-HBO
Jesse Tyler Ferguson-"Modern Family"-ABC
Tony Hale-"Veep"-HBO

I can't remember the last a band leader got nominated for acting, but Fred Armisen pulled it off here, and he was one of a couple new names in this category and certainly the most surprising stories on the nomination morning was how "Portlandia" really over-performed overall, getting seemingly everything, except for finally getting into Variety Program, which the six from last year held court pretty much. One huge under-performer however was the Golden Globe winner "Brooklyn Nine-Nine", Andy Samburg, thought to be a favorite in Lead Actor, didn't get in, Chelsea Peretti, thought by many as someone who could sneak into Supporting Actress, she didn't get in, but, Andre Braugher, has long been immune to that in regards to Emmy nominations (He once got a Lead Drama Actor nomination for a show that was cancelled, if any of you even remember "Gideon's Crossing"), he's won multiple times, he was nominated for both seasons of "Men of a Certain Age", when I think I was the only one who watched it. He's gotta be somebody to heavily consider, here, and he's great on the show btw. The "Modern Family" train is finally wading down however in these supporting categories. Eric Stonestreet, curiously missed this year for the second time in a row, especially since this was the big wedding year. Ty Burrell won the SAG strangely enough earlier this year, against Lead Actors too, so he's still a favorite, Ferguson hasn't won yet, and shame on the Academy for once again ignoring Ed O'Neill, which just sucks as far as I'm concerned. Tony Hale, might have won partially last year for "Arrested Development" but he's back, and Adam Driver, really was amazing on "Girls" this year, expanding a role greatly, from what really wasn't necessarily on the page at the time, this is a wide open race. Armisen took the "SNL" slot, and he plays multiple characters and roles on his show, there's good legitimate for each of these nominees to win; this'll be an interesting one.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Mayim Bialik-"The Big Bang Theory"-CBS
Julie Bowen-"Modern Family"-ABC
Anna Chlumsky-"Veep"-HBO
Allison Janney-"Mom"-CBS
Kate McKinnon-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Kate Mulgrew-"Orange is the New Black"-Netflix

Sofia Vergara, the conspicuously absent "Modern Family" name here, but 2-time winner, Julie Bowen, still here. Also absent, one of my favorites, last year's winner Merritt Weaver, from "Nurse Jackie" conspicuously absent. Kate McKinnon's taken the now-arbitrary "SNL" spot here, but despite the show itself, not really getting much attention, most everybody's predicting Allison Janney, a 4-time Emmy winner for "The West Wing", and generally regarded as one of the very best actresses working today, is the favorite for "Mom", with Kate Mulgrew for "Orange is the New Black", looked upon as the strong upset possibility. Although Mayim Bialik got a SAG nomination against lead actress roles earlier this year, and she's got the same TV history pedigree as Janney and Mulgrew, and she's never one, and she's playing against Parsons, who's won three Emmys now, and I still claim has the most difficult acting job around, and hers is just as tricky in my mind. I think it's a three-person race, between Bialik, Janney and Mulgrew, but if Julie Bowen or Anna Chlumsky, pull off the win, it'll be a surefire predictor for Best Comedy.

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Episodes-Iain B. MacDonald-'Episode 309'-Showtime
Glee-Paris Barclay-'100'-FOX
Louie-Louis C.K.-'Elevator, Part 6'-FX Networks
Modern Family-Gail Mancuso-'Vegas'-ABC
Orange is the New Black-Jodie Foster-'The Lesbian Request Denied'-Netflix
Silicon Valley-Mike Judge-'Minimum Viable Product-HBO

When checking directing categories, first thing to check if there's anybody around with well-known film/TV names that are nominated. There's a couple there this year, but that said, especially recently, (aka "Modern Family"'s won this, three years straight!) the category is a very good predictor of Best Comedy Series, but Gail Mancuso won this category last year, and unless your name's James Burrows, I doubt anyone's won this category multiple times much less in a row, (Todd Holland's the last person to win this award twice, back in the nineties, and he did it twice over three years) plus there's gotta be some "Modern Family" fatigue, and this would be a good place for them to falter, but still win elsewhere. And, one more Louis C.K. nomination as well, I haven't counted this year, eh, 1,2,3,4, does that include Comedy Series? No, five, five nominations this year, is that the right count? He keeps reeling those in doesn't he?

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
Episodes: 'Episode 305-David Crane and Jeremy Klarik-Showtime
Louie:'So Did the Fat Lady'-Louie C.K.-FX Networks
Orange is the New Black:'I Wasn't Ready (Pilot)'-Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan-Netflix
Silicon Valley:'Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency'-Alex Berg-HBO
Veep: 'Special Relationship'-Story: Armando Ianucci; Story/Teleplay: Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche

Only "The Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family" didn't also get a Series nomination, and strangely "Episodes" was been nominated before here, but still can't seem to break through to too many other categories other than Lead Actor for Matt LeBlanc. Louie C.K.'s won the category before, and he's been nominated the last few years. Eh, it's one of those categories where it's a predictor, especially if "Veep" wins after never getting nominated before, but I tend to lean towards "Orange..." not only because it's a favorite too for Comedy Series, but also because Jenji Kohan never won for "Weeds" all those years, so I think they really are the frontrunners here.

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Steve Buscemi-"Portlandia"-IFC
Louis C.K.-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Jimmy Fallon-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Gary Cole-"Veep"-HBO
Nathan Lane-"Modern Family"-ABC
Bob Newhart-"The Big Bang Theory"-CBS

Last year, the Academy actually listened to me, and gave Bob Newhart his first career Emmy, for his work on "The Big Bang Theory", and now this year, his character made recurring appearances and sure enough he finally won last year. He's up again, as well as Jimmy Fallon, who won for his "SNL" guest spot a couple years back. Buscemi btw, hasn't won an Emmy yet, and for some reason his work on "Boardwalk Empire" has been heavily overlooked in recent years. Gary Cole is the other interesting name; he's a great character actor who seems to have at some point been in everything, so it's good to him nominated for something, and "Veep" is particularly interesting considering he played a Vice President himself on "The West Wing" a few years back. If I were to guess, I'd say it's between Cole, Fallon and C.K., it's hard to beat "SNL" people twice in a row, although, if they want to give another five or six Emmys to Bob Newhart, it might not be the worst thing in the world.

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Uzo Aduba-"Orange is the New Black"-Netflix
Laverne Cox-"Orange is the New Black"-Netflix
Joan Cusack-"Shameless"-Showtime
Tina Fey-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Natasha Lyonne-"Orange is the New Black"-Netflix
Melissa McCarthy-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC

Three "Orange is the New Black", two "SNL", and one "Shameless". Very interesting. Joan Cusack's nomination is particularly interesting, again because of the "Shameless" switch from drama to comedy, this means Cusack's the first person to be nominated for the same role on the same show, in both a comedy series and a drama series. That's not technically as groundbreaking as Laverne Cox's nomination, making her the first transgendered performer to be nominated, but it's still amazing. I have to believe Cusack's a threat to win since she was beloved enough to be in on Drama, and now that "Shameless" has switched to Drama, it's reasonable to presume that she might be a favorite here, but with "SNL"'s track record, and the three "OITNB" nominees, possibly bumping each other up depending on the episodes they submit, I think this one's really up in the air. Fey's won in the category for "SNL", McCarthy's been a nominee, is this a sign of "Orange..." taking the Emmy from "Modern Family" this year, I don't know. A lot going on.


DRAMA SERIES
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Breaking Bad-AMC
Downton Abbey-PBS
Game of Thrones-HBO
House of Cards-Netflix
Mad Men-AMC
True Detective-HBO

For the next few weeks, everybody's going to be trying to figure out the scenario where "Breaking Bad" doesn't win. "True Detective" got more nominations for instance, so did "Game of Thrones", but that's a genre show, and it's hard for them to win in the best of circumstances. "House of Cards" is gonna get the big push in the public for the next weeks, honestly, "Breaking Bad"'s gonna win. I mean, I wouldn't bet on it, but it's gonna win.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Bryan Cranston-"Breaking Bad"-AMC
Jeff Daniels-"The Newsroom"-HBO
Jon Hamm-"Mad Men"-AMC
Woody Harrelson-"True Detective"-HBO
Matthew McConaughey-"True Detective"-HBO
Kevin Spacey-"House of Cards"-Netflix

Well, I'm glad to see, just like last year, the best show on TV, "The Newsroom", got recognized here at least. (It's still a crime that it's not up for more.) But anyway, actually I think they pretty good with this category. I'm the one who really didn't like "True Detective" the way others did, but the performances were certainly strong, and both deserve nominations. It's constantly a tough category, and when you consider so many of the others who didn't make it, it becomes even stronger. Jon Hamm, the big one who hasn't won yet, on there. McConaughey won the Oscar this year, and that would be a very rare double if he got both in the same year; I think only Helen Hunt has pulled that off, at least as for Lead Acting in a movie and series. Cranston's last year, of course, Spacey, 2-time Oscar winner, and "House of Cards" is definitely a bigger player and threat to win this year. Last year, was about, finally crowning "Breaking Bad", very few dramas win in their last seasons, not since "The Sopranos", and then you have to go back to the '70s I think, but if it can happen anywhere, this is the show and this is the spot.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Lizzy Caplan-"Masters of Sex"-Showtime
Claire Danes-"Homeland"-Showtime
Michelle Dockery-"Downton Abbey"-PBS
Julianna Margulies-"The Good Wife"-CBS
Kerry Washington-"Scandal"-ABC
Robin Wright-"House of Cards"-Netflix

I guess Michelle Dockery, still showing up here is a bit of surprise, in fact, I'll be honest, I had trouble watching this fourth season of "Downton Abbey", at least at the beginning; I'll give it another shot, but I'm a little surprised it hung in there, and I think it over-performed from expectations anyway. "Homeland" as expected, got ignored pretty much, and it even fell out of Best Drama Series, but I think ruling out Claire Danes, is in general a bad idea. Margulies back in after out for a year, also, a lot of people, thought "The Good Wife" had a shot at doing something very weird, and go from not being nominated when eligible one year, to being eligible the next, that hasn't happened since "Lost" did it a while back. Lizzy Caplan's new, and Connie Britton out for "Nashville", which was already king of a strange nomination to begin with, and there were seven last year if people remember, the 2% rule, and Vera Farmiga and Elisabeth Moss, are very curious and suspicious snubs here though. Robin Wright, seems to be the favorite, although I doubt wants to piss off Diahann Carroll more than once, so just for that I'd say Kerry Washington's gotta be a second choice. Claire Danes, two in a row, but "Homeland" is way down this year, but that's still a complicated character, and Caplan's new, and the things that are making even harder to predict, on top of the Emmys being impossible anyway, Dockery and Margulies's characters, both had a lot to go through this season. Dockery, her husband's death on the series so she's in mourning, Margulies, the storyline with the Josh Charles character who's since departed the show, there's a bit more unpredictability than I think people really are sure about. Robin Wright, I think is the clear favorite by the odds; she won the Globe, but this is a tougher pack of nominees than it looks.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jim Carter-"Downton Abbey"-PBS
Josh Charles-"The Good Wife"-CBS
Peter Dinklage-"Game of Thrones"-PBS
Mandy Patinkin-"Homeland"-Showtime
Aaron Paul-"Breaking Bad"-AMC
Jon Voight-"Ray Donovan"-Showtime

Josh Charles, in his last season on "The Good Wife" returns to the group of nominees, and I'm glad he is. I've been of his since "Sports Night" and he was amazing on "In Treatment" afterwards, and he's great in everything, and even though I don't care for "The Good Wife" the acting is special and he's really good. (BTW, other strange "The Good Wife" note, Alan Cumming for some reason, didn't submit his name this year; I don't know why that happened or why he chose not to enter, but he's usually on a shortlist for awards no matter role he's in as far as I'm concerned but he took himself out this year. Maybe it conflicts with his Broadway schedule or something; he's doing "Cabaret" if anybody's interested. If anybody knows a backstory on that....) Anyway, Jim Carter, is back, remember Bobby Cannavale won this category last year, for a one-season run on "Boardwalk Empire", and that's a weird thing too, btw, the blurred line between a one-season supporting/lead actor and whether that's a guest actor role or not. Jon Voight, also a new name, and the one of "Ray Donovan" I saw, I liked quite a bit, although curiously, I wasn't bit on Jon Voight in it, but it's Jon Voight, he's got a chance. Peter Dinklage and Aaron Paul have each won, although Dinklage hasn't won against Aaron Paul; he won the year, "Breaking Bad" wasn't eligible, so that's noteworthy, and Mandy Patinkin is beloved by the Emmys, no matter what, since "Chicago Hope", he's probably nominated 'til he wins or "Homeland" becomes completely unwatchable. Aaron Paul, won three times, I think, but he could win again, it's him, Dinklage, Charles, who I think could easily win this, and Voight to me are in the running, although I'm always reluctant to rule out "Downton Abbey", but I think Jim Carter, was more likely to win a few years ago than now, but you never know. He's is good on the show.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Christine Baranski-"The Good Wife"-CBS
Joanne Froggatt-"Downton Abbey"-PBS
Anna Gunn-"Breaking Bad"-AMC
Lena Headey-"Game of Thrones"-HBO
Christina Hendricks-"Mad Men"-AMC
Maggie Smith-"Downton Abbey"-PBS

Joanne Froggatt returned to this category after a year absence, although despite the general over-performing from "Downton Abbey", although the "Game of Thrones" nomination went to Lena Headey, a bit of a surprise there, most had Emilia Clarke from the show returning. I have a hard time finding the scenario where Anna Gunn doesn't repeat though, she was a clear favorite and winner last year, and she might be a bigger one now. Never rule out Maggie Smith, or Christine Baranski though. I had to think that the "Mad Men" record of no acting wins will continue, but I have hard time imagining that if they haven't given it to Hendricks by now, they're probably not giving it to her.

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Boardwalk Empire-Tim Van Patten-'Farewell Daddy Blues'-HBO
Breaking Bad-Vince Gilligan-'Felina'-AMC
Downton Abbey-David Evans-'Episode 1'-PBS
Game of Thrones-Neil Marshall-'The Watchers on the Wall'-HBO
House of Cards-Carl Franklin-'Chapter 14-Netflix
True Detective-Cary Joji Fukunaga-'Who Goes There'-HBO

Speaking on what's probably a good Drama Series predictor this year, Franklin and Fukunaga, both fairly respected names in the cinema world, but Vince Gilligan, has been nominated every year "Breaking Bad"'s been eligible for Directing, but hasn't won that specific award yet, and he's up the last time for the series finale. If "House of Cards" or "True Detective" wins it, there's a chance for a spoiler, but don't rule out "Game of Thrones" who could win an award like this, but still lose series for being a little too niche, and Tim Van Patten, former winner, multi-generation name in the industry, and "Boardwalk Empire", including him, has a history of winning in weird, unexpected high-profile places, even when their series, isn't up for Best Series or such (And why isn't it btw, that's a great show to me. I'm two seasons in, and it's-eh, it's got some tough-to-get-through-moments, but overall it's pretty interesting), so they're not to counted out here.

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
Breaking Bad: 'Ozymandias'-Moira Walley-Beckett-AMC
Breaking Bad: 'Felina'-Vince Gilligan-AMC
Game of Thrones: 'The Children'-David Benioff and D.B. Weiss-HBO
House of Cards: 'Chapter 14'-Beau Willimon-Netflix
True Detective: 'The Secret Fate of All of Life'-Nic Pizzolatto-HBO

I didn't even have to look at the nominees to know "Ozymandias" was nominated, and I probably would've guessed "Felina" and "Chapter 14" from "House of Cards" as well probably. First writing "House of Cards" nomination, Beau Willimon, an Oscar-nominated writer, more proof of the incredible talent going from film to TV, especially in writing, but I'd be surprised if "Breaking Bad", and especially didn't win for "Ozymandias", which has been universally acclaimed, some calling it one of the best TV episodes of all-time, much less of the series, even "True Detective" is gonna have a little trouble with this.

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Dylan Baker-"The Good Wife"-CBS
Beau Bridges-"Masters of Sex"-Showtime
Reg E. Cathay-"House of Cards"-Netflix
Paul Giamatti-"Downton Abbey"-PBS
Robert Morse-"Mad Men"-AMC
Joe Morton-"Scandal"-ABC

There's a few Emmy favorites here like Bridges and Giamatti,  and I have a suspicion Robert Morse for his last season on "Mad Men", might be a surprising favorite here. This category's all over the map, even the Goldderby experts are pretty much split on this one, but it seems like Beau Bridges and Morse are the expected favorites, with a few votes coming in for Cathay and Giamatti. I wouldn't rule out Morton, (Although curious that he got the "Scandal" nomination and not last year's winner Dan Bucatinsky) or one of my favorite actors Dylan Baker either so quickly.

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kate Burton-"Scandal"-ABC
Jane Fonda-"The Newsroom"-HBO
Allison Janney-"Masters of Sex"-Showtime
Kate Mara-"House of Cards"-Netflix
Margo Martindale-"The Americans"-FX Networks
Diana Rigg-"Game of Thrones"-HBO

Kate Mara's nomination's a bit interesting, she switched from the Supporting category, where she was snubbed last year to Guest this year, and got in. A lot of people thought "The Americans" might sneak into other categories this year, even some projected them for Best Series, but they didn't get much of anything this year, although Margo Martindale is pretty beloved, I think this is a stretch. Allison Janney is considered a heavy favorite for her role on "Masters of Sex" and if that's the case, being a favorite in Supporting Actress Comedy Series as well, means she can easily win two this year. I wouldn't rule out Jane Fonda though, most thought she should've won last year (Myself included) and I think they might make that up this year, unless somebody really blew the Academy away, so because of that, I think most suspect Janney and Fonda in a two-girl race despite the "House of Cards" and "Game of Thrones" presence.


MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
OUTSTANDING MINISERIES
American Horror Story: Coven-FX Networks
Bonnie & Clyde-Lifetime
Fargo-FX Networks
Luther-BBC America
Treme-HBO
The White Queen-Starz

I was one of the few that predicted "Treme" getting in for Miniseries, and I've been going back and finally watching that show from the beginning and very impressed with it, and wished I watched more of it at the time. Uh, "Luther" is good too, that's an arbitrary nomination, and another series shoved into miniseries for, whatever reason. "Bonnie & Clyde" got some mixed reviews, but if anybody wins other than "Fargo", I'd be shocked, maybe "American Horror Story..." could finally win, but I doubt it. "Fargo" it's the it show, it's based off a great movie, heavily expanded from it, big stars, etc. Most nominations of any of the nominees, very little reason to believe it won't pull it off here.

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE
Killing Kennedy-National Geographic Channel
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight-HBO
The Normal Heart-HBO
Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)-PBS
The Trip to Bountiful-Lifetime

If anybody other than "The Normal Heart" wins this, it's an upset.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR A MOVIE
Benedict Cumberbatch-"Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)"-PBS
Chiwetel Ejiofor-"Dancing on the Edge"-Starz
Idris Elba-"Luther"-BBC America
Martin Freeman-"Fargo"-FX Networks
Mark Ruffalo-"The Normal Heart"-HBO
Billy Bob Thornton-"Fargo"-FX Networks

Well, let's see. The only one of these I've seen, for this year was Mark Ruffalo's performance, and I think he's got a better than decent chance, but he's up against two from "Fargo", and that's gonna be tough. I've seen a back season of "Luther", which, I don't know why these shows are series either btw, "Sherlock" or "Luther", but Elba's good. Ejiofor, just came off "12 Years a Slave", maybe he got in partly from that, but I think it's between Freeman, Thornton and Ruffalo, most likely. "The Normal Heart" all but a guarantee to win TV movie, and "Fargo", a possible upset from "American Horror Story: Coven", but I think it's most likely a winner in that too, one of those three are gonna get Best Actor.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR A MOVIE
Helena Bonham Carter-"Burton and Taylor"-BBC America
Minnie Driver-"Return to Zero"-Lifetime
Jessica Lange-"American Horror Story: Coven"-FX Networks
Sarah Paulson-"American Horror Story: Coven"-FX Networks
Cicely Tyson-"The Trip to Bountiful"-Lifetime
Kristen Wiig-"The Spoils of Babylon"-IFC

Well, Kristen Wiig, for her Funny or Die miniseries parody "The Spoils of Babylon" has to be the real biggest surprise nominee here, and cool for the Academy to actually think about her as well actually. Lange and Paulson, actually competed against each other, not too long ago, I was reminded when Lange won, for "American Horror Story", and Paulson was up for "Game Change" in the Supporting Actress race. Carter, I'm not sure how well-received "Burton and Taylor" was, but Lange and Paulson, and Cicely Tyson, for "The Trip to Bountiful" which she did originally on Broadway, and then Lifetime, adapted to a TV feature, and that was already, a well-regarded role, even before this Broadway run, when Geraldine Page won an Oscar for the role; it's from a Horton Foote play, who's regarded as one of the greater American modern playwrights, and she usually has a habit of doing very well at the Emmys also.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR A MOVIE
Matt Bomer-"The Normal Heart"-HBO
Martin Freeman-"Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)"-PBS
Colin Hanks-"Fargo"-FX Networks
Joe Mantello-"The Normal Heart"-HBO
Alfred Molina-"The Normal Heart"-HBO
Jim Parsons-"The Normal Heart"-HBO

Uh, a couple scenarios to keep an eye on, Martin Freeman, could strangely win, Lead Actor and Supporting Actor for a Miniseries/Movie in the same year if he wins for "Sherlock" and "Fargo", which isn't out of the question, and I seriously doubt that's ever happened before. And Jim Parsons can win multiple acting Emmys in the same year for Miniseries/Movie and for a regular TV series; that hasn't happened since Stockard Channing did that in '02 with Supporting Actress for "The West Wing" and for "The Matthew Shepherd Story". That said, the most likely scenario, despite Colin Hanks's "Fargo" nomination (And he's underrated as an actor in general btw) but somebody from "The Normal Heart" is probably gonna win, eh, Matt Bomer is probably the most likely one, although Parsons renewed his role from the stage performance, he might have a better-than-average shot than most think, especially if some think he might not win for "The Big Bang Theory" this year, but I think most consider Bomer's performance the most physically tough and demanding of the nominees, so he's probably the most likely winner here, but it's "The Normal Heart" all the way. Hard to split against four nominees, in the category, somebody will win from it.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR A MOVIE
Angela Bassett-"American Horror Story: Coven"-FX Networks
Kathy Bates-"American Horror Story: Coven"-FX Networks
Ellen Burstyn-"Flowers in the Attic"-Lifetime
Frances Conroy-"American Horror Story: Coven"-FX Networks
Julia Roberts-"The Normal Heart"-HBO
Alison Tolman-"Fargo"-FX Networks

Tough category. Ellen Burstyn was a surprise winner last year in this category people may remember for the canceled series "Political Animals" which USA Network decided to submit as a miniseries, and just like how they did that with "The Starter Wife" years ago, they got an acting award out of it, and here she's playing "Flowers in the Attic" in a very different more villainous role. Alison Tolman right now, is the early favorite as her role on "Fargo", and newcomers have a tendency for upset in these miniseries categories, but this is a loaded field. "American Horror Story: Coven" got three nominations in, and they've won an acting award here and there, mostly Jessica Lange, but they're definitely viable. I've only seen "The Normal Heart" myself, and Julia Roberts performance is good, I'm not as sold on her winning, especially in this crowd, but it was solid as well, and she hasn't won anything in a while, and it's a bit surprising to see her even doing television much; Ryan Murphy of course directed her in "Eat, Pray, Love" but still, they might honor a rare TV appearance from her, I think it's a longshot though.

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A MINISERIES, MOVIE OR A DRAMATIC SPECIAL
American Horror Story: Coven: "Bitchcraft"-Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk-FX Network
Fargo: 'The Crocodile's Dilemma'-Noah Hawley-FX Network
Luther-Neil Cross-BBC America
The Normal Heart-Larry Kramer-HBO
Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)-Steven Moffat-PBS
Treme: '...To Miss New Orleans'-David Simon and Eric Overmyer-HBO

Some real talent here too. Uh, Larry Kramer, is a beloved and honored playwright; he adapted his own work for "The Normal Heart". I'm not sure if that's gonna be the thing that's a detriment to him, or it's gonna win him the award, but "American Horror Story..." finally got a writing nomination, "Fargo", favorite in the miniseries, "Sherlock..." could win, Steven Moffat's a great writer. David Simon, for the last season of "Treme", I think it's a longshot at best, but they might finally honor him; I know a lot of "The Wire" fans out there, would probably be happy to see him, but I don't think that's gonna happen. 

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A MINISERIES, MOVIE OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
American Horror Story: Coven-Alfonso Gomez-Rejon-'Bitchcraft'-FX Networks
Fargo-Adam Bernstein-'The Crocodile's Dilemma'-FX Networks
Fargo-Colin Bucksey-'Buridan's Ass'-FX Networks
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight-Stephen Frears-HBO
The Normal Heart-Ryan Murphy-HBO
Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)-Nick Hurran-PBS

I gotta give credit to Ryan Murphy here, I normally can't stand him, but I did think "The Normal Heart" was quite good, he's up against his miniseries, "American Horror Story: Coven", this one's called, but that has little shot at winning. Stephen Frears, great director, multiple Oscar nominated director, always look out for them, but in this case, against two "Fargo" nominees, "The Normal Heart" and a "Sherlock", and with "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" only getting TV Movie and Director nods, I think we can safely list him as an also-ran this year.


VARIETY SERIES
OUTSTANDING VARIETY SERIES
The Colbert Report-Comedy Central
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart-Comedy Central
Jimmy Kimmel Live-ABC
Real Time with Bill Maher-HBO
Saturday Night Live-NBC
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon-NBC

First time "The Tonight Show..."'s been nominated since Conan O'Brien's short, yet notorious hosting reign, but other than that, despite apparently "Portlandia" seeming to have close to sneaking into the category, it's technically the same six as last year, although caveat, "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" wasn't eligible, and I suspect next year, he's likely to push one of these out, and I'm looking at you Jimmy Kimmel. You've been fooling them long enough, you've been bribing somebody to get in here, but you can't compete with "The Daily Show" and two of their acolytes,- Hey, Bill, where you going? Bill? Bill!? C'mon, Bill Maher, you're not going- Oh, C'mon! You're funnier than him, no, no, no! I know you haven't won, but you will one day! No! NO! NO! Come back! OH! Hi, John, I'm glad you're here. (Pouting.) Great to see you apart of this, truly. (Evil look towards Kimmel) I really don't get how Kimmel keeps getting in here. It's true btw, Bill Maher's total is up to 32 nominations, never won. Hopefully he'll get it for "Vice", I guess. As to the winner this year, Fallon might have a shot, but I suspect it's "The Daily Show" either coming back, or "The Colbert Report" repeating from last year's monumental win that ended "The Daily Show"'s decade-long streak.

OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL
AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Mel Brooks-TNT
The Beatles: The night That Changed America-CBS
Best of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" Primetime Special-NBC
Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays-HBO
The Kennedy Center Honors-CBS
Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles-HBO

I don't know why in particular "The Kennedy Center Honors" always wins this award, but I like watching it every year, I didn't see the AFI tribute, I wish I did though. Loved Billy Crystal's one-man show on HBO; I love Sarah Silverman, but I'm a little surprised to see her here. I think her nomination, benefitted most from, a different technique for shooting a stand-up special, I have a feeling, although I did love her stand-up, but still, a little surprised. Tough to bet against the continuous winners, so to play it safe, go with "The Kennedy Center Honors", eh, if you want to gamble, eh, I don't know, throw a dart at this one, you never know.

OUTSTANDING SPECIAL CLASS PROGRAM
The 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards-NBC
The Oscars-ABC
Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony-NBC
The Sound of Music Live!-NBC
67th Annual Tony Awards-CBS

Anybody think the "The Sound of Music Live!" should've been submitted in TV Movie category? I guess it's a little debatable, um, I have a hard time imagining the Olympics winning this one. The Tonys have been winning this occasionally, I think they also should for this year. Globes were good, not perfect, Oscars very good, not perfect, they could steal it. It's "The Sound of Music Live!" vs. the "67th Annual Tony Awards". What can you say, the musical productions, they're special.

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY SERIES
The Colbert Report-James Hoskinson-'Episode 9135'-Comedy Central
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart-Chuck O'Neil-'Episode 18153-Comedy Central
Portlandia-Jonathan Krisel-'Getting Away'-IFC
Saturday Night Live-Don Roy King-'Host: Jimmy Fallon'-NBC
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon-Dave Diomedi-'Episode 1'-NBC

Uh, Don Roy King, for "Saturday Night Live" keeps winning this award. He's done it four years straight, Jonathan Krisel and Dave Diomedi's names are new. If they want to give "...Jimmy Fallon" something, this is an interesting spot here. It would be for Fallon's premiere episode, most everybody would've seen it. Uh, "SNL" though, live show, multiple camera, multiple sets, people in the know realize the difficulties in his work compared to others (shrugs) I don't know. Tough one there.

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A VARIETY SERIES
The Colbert Report-Head Writer: Opus Moreschi; Writers: Stephen Colbert, et. al.-Comedy Central
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart-Head Writers: Elliott Kalan and Tim Carvell, Writers: Jon Stewart, et. al.-Comedy Central
Inside Amy Shumer-Head Writer: Jessi Klein; Writer: Amy Schumer, et. al.-Comedy Central
Key & Peele-Writers: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, et. al.-Comedy Central
Portlandia-Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Jonathan Krisel, Graham Wagner and Karey Dornetto-IFC
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon-Head Writer: AD Miles; Writers: Jimmy Fallon-NBC

Yeah, this is something that's a little, uh, unusual, but even during "The Daily Show..."'s unbelievable streak, they wouldn't win the Writing Emmy every year, occasionally "The Colbert Report" would win it occasionally, I think Conan O'Brien, took it one year, and also occasionally there'd be a strange nominee in there. "Portlandia"'s had it the last couple years, but "Key & Peele" got in this year, and "Inside Amy Schumer" got in, both of them have to be considered longshots, but it's nice to see them here. (Honestly a part of me, thought there was a chance that Amy Schumer was gonna get a Best Actress nomination, 'cause that sixth nomination that, this time, Melissa McCarthy got, was really up in the air, and ever since Sarah Silverman got that weird nomination, it's always in the back of my mind, the Comedy Central out-of-nowhere nomination, but not this time, she got in here.) Anyway, with three writing nominees not nominated for Best Variety Series, clear sign of what we figured, Colbert, Stewart and Fallon, are the favorites, and I wouldn't be so shocked, if "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" stole this award this year. Maybe even Best Variety Series, but I think that's a stretch, but when they want to honor a Variety Show, especially in "The Daily Show" era, they will giving them the Writing Emmy once in a while, so....

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY SPECIAL
67th Annual Tony Awards-Glenn Weiss-CBS
The Beatles: The Night that Changed America-Gregg Gefland-CBS
The Kennedy Center Honors-Louis J. Horvitz-CBS
The Oscars-Hamish Hamilton-ABC
Six by Sondheim-James Lapine-HBO
The Sound of Music Live!-Dir.: Beth McCarthy-Miller; Theatrical Dir.: Rob Ashford-NBC

I'm a little surprise "Six by Sondheim" got in, but other than that, Louis J. Horvitz, gotta love him, he's usually the guy directing the Emmys, so it's always fun to mention him, 'cause he usually gets his Emmy while in the directing chair, so that's always fun, and "The Kennedy Center Honors" has often taken this damn thing. Also, Beth McCartney-Miller, eight nominations over her career, including the last three years for directing "30 Rock", never won, for some reason, one of the best overall TV directors, does live-action, like a "The Sound of Music" theatrical production, which has to be very tough to do, and I'd like to see her get it.

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A VARIETY SPECIAL 
67th Annual Tony Awards-Dave Boone; Special Material: Paul Greenberg-CBS
The 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards-Barry Adelman; Special Material: Tina Fey, et. al.-NBC
The Beatles: The Night That Changed America-Ken Ehrlich and David Wild-CBS
Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays-Billy Crystal-HBO
Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles-Sarah Silverman-HBO

Hmm. Curious that The Oscars didn't get in here? Ellen DeGenerous has won a Writing Emmy here and there, but I guess it's hard to sneak in pass The Beatles. Harder than that, it's tough to taking a writing nomination spot away from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. (And Seth Meyers, the Emmy host this year, he was on that writing team too for the Globes).


REALITY
OUTSTANDING REALITY-COMPETITION PROGRAM
The Amazing Race-CBS
Dancing with the Stars-ABC
Project Runway-Lifetime
So You Think You Can Dance-FOX
Top Chef-Bravo
The Voice-NBC

No surprises here, the same six for the third year in a row, and frankly it should be- well, I don't know why the hell "Dancing with the Stars" keeps getting in, but other than that, it's the ones that should be in there. (Well, it hard thinking of a decent sixth to put in with the rest of these nominees, but still..., "Dancing with the Stars"? [Shrugs]) "The Amazing Race" has only lost this award, twice, once to "Top Chef" once last year to "The Voice", frankly I think, while "The Amazing Race" isn't bad, I think it's still quite, I think fatigued has started setting in on that show. I know, I've skipped a couple runs of it lately; it's not bad, it's just gotten tiresome, and sometimes that happens with even the best shows, you just get tired of them after a while. I'm hoping this is "Project Runway"'s year, finally; I think "The Voice" is down a bit this year as well, but I think it's still the favorite,- I don't know, this year. They could go back to "The Amazing Race", the could switch it up to "Project Runway", maybe "The Voice" is still big and popular but, it's been a long year since they won, and they had already won, for the year after they really should've, so I think this is a bit of an open category this year, and I'm kinda looking around to see if the tea leaves have changed, but it might be wishful thinking too.

OUTSTANDING STRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
Antiques Roadshow-PBS
Diners, Drive-ins and Dives-Food Network
Mythbusters-Discovery Channel
Shark Tank-ABC
Undercover Boss-CBS
Who Do You Think You Are-TLC

It doesn't particularly look like a big change if you look at nominees compared to last year at least, too much, but they decided to separate the category this year into "Structured Reality Program" and "Unstructured Reality Program", this year, and I guess if you're thinking of this in terms of a documentary perhaps, basically if the differences between having a relative format and some preparation done for a TV show, more like, let's do this, and then let's film, while un-structured is basically, people doing their regular things, and then, let's turn on a camera. It's cinema verite vs. a more structured documentary, and they decided to separated them, and it makes sense, really. There's a different kind of appeal and reason you're watching a show like "Antiques Roadshow" or "Mythbusters", or last year's winner "Undercover Boss", than their is for "The Real Housewives of..." wherever, or something along those lines. And actually it opens up the category for other shows, these are all six shows, that were nominated before, for "Reality Program" and now they're in "Structured Reality Program"; there was clearly a preference for these shows, maybe deservedly so 'cause there is more filmmaking involving, and structuring a show, and I think that that's generally appreciated more from the TV and film communities, the way they make a show, the artistry and the ideas behind them, they're more onscreen to an eye like mine, than other shows, which are more about the content that happens to be captures, and there's an art to that too, and just like structured reality a lot of it is in the editing room, (I say reality TV shows editors are the best in the business, and I stand by that) but it's an interesting and more nuanced change to me.

OUTSTANDING UNSTRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
Alaska: The Last Frontier-Discovery
Flipping Out-Bravo
Million Dollar Listing New York-Bravo
Wahlburgers-A&E
Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan-BBC America

Well, just like how there were a few big names in the Structured Reality Category. (I didn't list producers, but Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky, Scott Cooper, Mark Burnett Guy Fieri among others names in these category listed as producers for some of those shows, and people like Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Bill Maher, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth MacFarlane, James Lipton, Anthony Bourdain, Barbara Kopple, etc. They're nominated in some of these more documentary or reality programs among other categories, and don't internet programming either.) I had a feeling "Flipping Out" would show up, and I'm glad it did, I'm a big fan of Jeff Lewis and that show of his, the new "Wahlburgers" is an interesting one, another one where some big names got in. Still, this is basically a dart shot as far as predicting; we just don't know. I think "Wahlburgers", might win, maybe the "Alaska" one could win, but I notice two shows about the real estate industry and they're both on Bravo, and while I haven't seen "Million Dollar Listing..." I'm sure the shows are in some way connected, or paralleling each other, so my guess would be that those are the shows that are most watch by the Academy, now that could either split the vote between and put something or it might be a "The Daily Show..." /"The Colbert Report" kinda thing, where one's dominant and they may eventually switch off or something. Again, we'll see and find out; uncharted territory in the meantime. And either way, I believe both of these categories are big and important enough to be on the main show, and not necessarily on the Creative Arts Emmys.

OUTSTANDING HOST FOR A REALITY OR REALITY-COMPETITION PROGRAM
Tom Bergeron-"Dancing with the Stars"-ABC
Anthony Bourdain-"The Taste"-ABC
Cat Deeley-"So You Think You Can Dance"-FOX
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn-"Project Runway"-Lifetime
Jane Lynch-"Hollywood Game Night"-NBC
Betty White-"Betty White's Off Their Rockers"-Lifetime

I was happy that I correctly predicted Jane Lynch to get in here, but other than that, no real change from last year, and I don't know Anthony Bourdain keeps getting nominated for "The Taste"; I wouldn't have even know he was a host, and I thought the show was cancelled. (Now that I'm thinking about it, why don't Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio get nominated here more often. I know they were in once, but none since?) Uh, Bergeron's won it once, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn won the award last year, finally "Project Runway" won something. Betty White, maybe, but it's an arbitrary nomination for her, although she does on the daytime side, have a Game Show Hosting Emmy, not everybody knows that, but, I think, Bergeron, Cat Deeley, who does multiple shows on both sides of the pond as a reality host and is very good at all of them, I think she's due. Maybe the give it to Jane Lynch, but, I don't know. Bourdain's nominated for other awards on his better shows, I doubt he's a real contender here.


OTHER NOTABLES
Now, those above are most of the main Awards, a few extras that should also get attention and notoriety and awareness as well, and you know, people realize that, the Emmys, really do cover, as much as possible. Usually everything. I once talked about somebody how their shows were never nominated, and I asked him what he watch, and he said the Science Channel, and I looked it up, "Oh they've been nominated"! This show, that show, etc. and well, he still didn't like the Emmys, 'cause he wondered why the shows he wanted weren't on TV on the main show, but you know, you put on the most popular and most important, and simple as that, but his point is valid, in that we really watch all of TV. We may not think we do, but you pry somebody long enough, who does watch reality television, you'll find that they watch something that's in the reality realm, guaranteed. We watch, all of television, and there's a lot of good shows and amazing work being done across the board, and we did in here, so we're gonna highlight, some more than others awards, that many might not think about or even know about, but they're just as interesting if not moreso than some of the main awards, and you'd be surprised at the level of talent involved in some of them, so keep an eye on these categories.

OUTSTANDING CHARACTER VOICE-OVER PERFORMANCE
Chris Diamantapolous-"Disney Mickey Mouse": 'The Adorable Couple'-Disney Channel
Stephen Full-"Dog with a Blog": 'My Parents Posted What?!'-Disney Channel
Seth Green-"Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villains in Paradise"-Cartoon Network
Maurice LaMarche-"Futurama": 'Calculon 2.0'-Comedy Central
Seth MacFarlane-"Family Guy": 'In Harmony's Way'-FOX
Harry Shearer-"The Simpsons": 'Four Regrettings and a Funeral'-FOX

There was a slight change in this category this year, after Lily Tomlin won last year for narrating a documentary, as instead of just "Voice-Over Performance", we now have a Character Voice-Over Performace", and a new category for Best Narrator. This hypothetically should open it up for Harry Shearer who is one of the few regulars on "The Simpsons" to have never won the Emmy, so it's past his due. Mauriche LaMarche though, "Futurama" recently canceled, he's won multiple times in the past, he's also probably considered somewhat of a respectable favorite in the category.

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PROGRAM
Archer-"Archer Vice: The Rules of Extraction"-FX Networks
Bob's Burgers-"Mazel Tina"-FOX
Futurama-"Meanwhile"-Comedy Central
South Park-"Black Friday"-Comedy Central
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project-"Nickelodeon"

One of these days, somebody's gotta explain to me, both, why they only honor a single episode of an Animated Program, (Which is why an animated special can get in here sometimes, or whatever the hell the Ninja Turtles somehow submitted that somehow snuck in on this) and not an entire season of a series, and why these are like a separate category or,- I don't know, there was the one year, "Family Guy" got into Comedy Series, and I guess they and "The Simpsons" submit there and these shows submit here-, and they can't submit in both or- I don't know what-the-hell it is. (And why could "Regular Show" submit here last year, but in short-form Animation this year? The animation branch needs some rules overhauling) Anyway, we've said it before, but this might be "Futurama"'s last nomination, sentimental vote is probably heading their way. "South Park" won last year, although "Bob's Burger's" is the one I'm watching most often nowadays, and seems to have a really POV and sense of comedy and characters that I haven't seen before; I would be shocked if they were a player. "Archer" finally got nominated in this category though, about time! They should've been a regular in this years ago.

OUTSTANDING SHORT-FORM ANIMATED PROGRAMMING
Adventure Time-"Be More"-Cartoon Network
Disney Mickey Mouse-"O Sole Minnie"-Disney Channel
Disney Phineas and Ferb-"Thanks but No Thanks"-Disney Channel
Regular Show-"The Last Laserdisc Player"-Cartoon Network
Robot Chicken-"Born Again Virgin Christmas Special-Cartoon Network

One of these I'm gonna watch "Phineas and Ferb" and figure out what the hell that is, but, "...Mickey Mouse" won last year, and it's Cartoon Network vs. Disney Channel, pretty much. Can't imagine this category changing much from that for the next few years, unless the internet starts getting involved a bit more.

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL MUSIC AND LYRICS
"Bigger!"-"67th Annual Tony Awards"-Music: Tom Kitt; Lyric: Lin-Manuel Miranda
"No Trouble"-"A Christmas Carol-The Concert"-Music: Bob Christianson; Lyric: Alisa Hauser-PBS
"Les Mis"-"Key & Peele": 'Substitute Teacher #3'-Music: Joshua Funk; Lyric: Rebecca Drysdale-Comedy Central
"Home for the Holiday (Twin Bed)"-"Saturday Night Live": 'Host: Jimmy Fallon'-Music: Eli Brueggemann; Lyrics: Chris Kelly, Sarah Schneider, Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon-NBC
"Merroway Cove"-"Sofia the First": 'The Floating Palace'-Music: John William Kavanaugh; Lyric: Craig Berger-Disney Channel
"Day is Gone"-"Sons of Anarchy": 'A Mother's Work'-Music & Lyric: Bob Thiele, Noah Gunderson and Kurt Sutter-FX Networks

Sometimes there's interesting people in this category. People as varied as Randy Newman, Justin Timberlake, Alan Menken, Sarah Silverman, Seth Meyers, Adam Sandberg, Paul Williams, Stephen Poliakoff and Seth MacFarlane have either been nominated or won Emmys in this category. I'm not sure exactly how Kurt Sutter fans feel that this might be "Sons of Anarchy" best chance they'll and him ever get at possibly winning an Emmy, but "Day is Gone" is actually a good song, but I've been singing "Bigger!" the opening number from last year's Tonys, (Not this years, last one's) since then, it's been stuck in my head. By the way, I'm not sure how Key and Peele's song qualifies as original music;  that was a decent, parody of the "Les Mis" medley of music, but it was basically taking the music and cues and notes from the original songs and re-doing the words, right? Is that really Original Music? Just asking, I don't know? Either way, I'd be shocked if anyone other than "Bigger!" or "Day is Gone" won the award, and I think "Bigger!" is a pretty big favorite actually.

OUTSTANDING NARRATOR
Daniel Craig-"One Life"-Nat Geo WILD
Whoopi Goldberg-"Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley"-HBO
Jeremy Irons-"Game of Lions"-Nat Geo WILD
Jane Lynch-"Penguins: Waddle All the Way"-Discovery Channel
Henry Strozier-"Too Cute!": 'Holiday Special'-Animal Planet

I had to look up almost all of these programs that got nominations in the new category of "Outstanding Narrator". I had seen "Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley", which I think is an absolute must-watch, especially if you don't know who Moms Mabley was, and even if you do, there's startling little that we do know, so I was thinking Whoopi Goldberg, but then I looked up a thirty second commercial for "Too Cute!" on Animal Planet, and that was just so cu-ute! Ah, the little puppies playing, and ah, that's so cute! LOLOL, ah, he fell. Oh, not the other puppies are consoling him, ah, they're sleeping. Ah! That is so cute! Oh, there's cute, and pretty, awe. I'm gonna watch that, again. Ah, they're so cute. (20 minutes later)... Ah, so cute. What was I talking about? Oh, the narrator category, you know, Bob Saget wasn't in, thought he'd get in for "How I-..." what's that show? I forget now. The one, that-, yeah that one. Um, (smacks lips) is there any more of that "Too Cute!" show on Youtube, or something? There is? Ah, that's so cute, aah, look at that, awe that's cute.... Awe.....

OUTSTANDING SHORT-FORM NONFICTION PROGRAM
30 for 30 Shorts-ESPN
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee-Crackle.com
COSMOS: A National Geographic Deeper Dive-NationalGeographic.com
I Was There: Boston Marathon Bombings-History.com
Jay Leno's Garage-NBC.com
Park Bench with Steve Buscemi-AOL

OUTSTANDING INTERACTIVE PROGRAM
Comedy Central's @midnight-Comedy Central/Funny or Die
Game of Thrones Premiere: Facebook Live and Instagram-HBO
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Digital Experience-NBC
The Voice-NBC.com

OUTSTANDING SHORT-FORMAT LIVE-ACTION ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM
Between Two Ferns with Zach Galiflanakis: President Barack Obama-FunnyOrDie.com
Children's Hospital-Adult Swim
Parks and Rec in Europe-NBC.com
The Soup: True Detective-E!
Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show Starring Bruno Mars-FOX

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY OR NONFICTION SPECIAL
JFK (American Experience)-PBS
Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert-HBO
Running from Crazy-OWN
The Sixties: The Assassination of President Kennedy-CNN
The Square-Netflix
Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley-HBO

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY OR NONFICTION SERIES
American Masters-PBS
COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey-FOX/National Geographic
Pioneers of Television-PBS
The World Wars-HISTORY
Years of Living Dangerously-Showtime

OUTSTANDING INFORMATIONAL SERIES OR SPECIAL
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown-CNN
Inside the Actors Studio-Bravo
Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman-Science Channel
Vice-HBO
The Writer's Room-Sundance Channel

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR NONFICTION PROGRAM
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: 'Congo'-Anthony Bourdain-CNN
COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: 'Standing Up in the Milky Way'-Ann Druyan and Steven Soter-FOX/National Geographic
JFK (American Experience)-Mark Zwonitzer-PBS
The World Wars: 'Trial By Fire'-Head Writers: Stephen David and David C. White; Writers: John Ealer, et. al.-HISTORY
Years of Living Dangerously: 'The Surge'-Adam Bolt-Showtime

OUTSTANDING MUSIC COMPOSITION FOR A SERIES (ORIGINAL DRAMATIC SCORE)
COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: 'Standing Up in the Milky Way'-Alan Silvestri-FOX/National Geographic
Downton Abbey: 'Episode 8'-John Lunn-PBS
Game of Thrones: 'The Mountain and the Viper'-Ramin Djawadi-HBO
House of Cards: 'Chapter 26'-Jeff Beal-Netflix
True Detective: 'Form and Void'-T Bone Burnett-HBO

Hey pay attention to all these music categories, this is where most of the EGOT winners get their awards, don't forget, and T Bone Burnett could get real close to it if he wins.

OUTSTANDING MUSIC COMPOSITION FOR A MINISERIES, MOVIE OR A SPECIAL (ORIGINAL DRAMATIC SCORE)
American Horror Story: Coven: 'The Seven Wonders'-James Levine-FX Networks
Clear History-Ludovic Bource-HBO
Fargo: 'The Crocodile's Dilemma-Jeff Russo-FX Networks
Herblock: The Black & the White-Rob Mathes-HBO
Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)-Dan Arnold and Michael Price-PBS
The White Queen: 'The Final Battle-John Lunn-Starz

OUTSTANDING MUSIC DIRECTION
67th Annual Tony Awards-Elliot Lawrence & Jamie Lawrence-CBS
Barbara Streisand: Back to Brooklyn (Great Performances)-William Ross-PBS
The Beatles: The Night That Changed America-Don Was-CBS
The Oscars-William Ross-ABC
Saturday Night Live: 'Host: Jimmy Fallon'-Lenny Pickett, Leon Pendarvis and Eli Brueggemann-NBC
The Sound of Music Live!-David Chase-NBC

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL MAIN TITLE THEME MUSIC
Black Sails-Julian Bear McCreary-Starz
COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey-Alan Silvestri-FOX/National Geographic
Magic City-Daniele Luppi-Starz
Sleepy Hollow-Brian Tyler and Robert Grant Lydecker-FOX
The Spoils of Babylon-Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau-IFC