Thursday, September 30, 2021


I've known for a little while now that I wanted to write about Vice. Or ViceTV? Or Viceland or Vice on TV...-? it's- see this is part of the problem, but I wasn't exactly sure how to write about Vice. This might come to a surprise to some, who see how up-to-date and modern I am with the current trends of patterns involved in global social media outreach; he says on his blog, in 2021, but Vice is something that, I've only kinda gathered at from the periphery until now. Frankly, like a lot of these companies in news and documentary media, Salon, MotherJones, Axios, Vox, Cheddar, these weird sites and with bizarre names that, frankly I can't always tell whether or not they're an actually news site or not. I've gotten in trouble with that before too btw, so yeah, it's something I'm trying to stop worrying about but, yeah, these new media brands with dumb names that I can't figure where they got these names.... Some of these have to start sounding more realistic and better soon....

Anyway, my point is that, I don't know what Vice is, per se, but since I first started noticing their content, when HBO would air their news magazine broadcasts about eight years or so ago, they've seemed like an interesting group. They have exploded across the media landscape in recent years, and it's kinda bizarre how big their reach actually goes and where it's currently, but, this whole brand is weird, and their history, if this Intelligencer article below is accurate, it feels like this thing was built on a house of cards that kinda just accidentally got run by people who cared about their work.

There's a lot of weird here, and I'm not gonna regurgitate all of it, but basically Vice originally started as a punk rock magazine in Montreal in the early '90s, and not like a cool Riotgrrl punk fanzine, like, a much more sardonic and macho kind of underground punk magazine. To give you an idea on where they came from, one of its earliest main editors was Gavin McInnes, who currently is infamous as one of the elders and founding members of The Proud Boys!!! Yes, those Proud Boys, the domestic terroristic far right extremists who were most responsible for the January 6th Insurrection. Yeah, he seems like the guy who thought he was creating punk's version of National Lampoon, and couldn't handle the facts that it was past times when either Punk or National Lampoon were remotely relevant anymore, especially to the modern youth audiences they've claimed they've been representing for at least three letter generations so far.  Now, he hasn't been associated with Vice for awhile now, and they've basically disavowed and scrubbed away all the past influence he's had from this "New Vice", whatever this New Vice is. (Although it'd be unfair to say that some of his audience isn't still with the brand; apparently one of the reasons their reporting is so strong is that they're beloved among cops who grants them inside access more often then not. Take that for the double-edged sword of what you will....)

Anyway, the main voice of Vice for most of it's run, and generally the guy behind Vice is Shane Smith, and for our purposes, he's the one who's apparently the inspiration behind Vice becoming a television presence, and so far, I've been enjoying Vice, in its numerous television forms. They're definitely different and have a particular look and approach to journalism, not just in the subjects they cover but also in the ways they cover them. And Smith, is apparently an enigmatic, charismatic and controversial figure in his own right, but who's managed to get big names to come aboard their brand over the years. Spike Jonze, yes that Spike Jonze, (Man, he's had a weird career even for an iconoclast) is their creative director and is one that influenced their unique look for their documentary series. The reason why Bill Maher is finally an Emmy winner is because he was a producer on their HBO magazine news show. HBO was one of their several pairings over the years. They've had other big names too over the years; one of their first big shows that caused a stir was a travel series helmed by Elliot Page, "Gaycation with Ellen Page", that got the channel one of their first Emmy nominations. (Did I say that right, btw, Elliot Page, as to the person but Ellen Page, 'cause that was the name of the show at the time? Or do I have to change the show title too now? I'm still trying to learn this one and I don't entirely get it, but okay....) 

Anyway, they took over what used to be H2, which was a failed History Channel spinoff network, so that makes them they're apart of the A&E subset of channels, which, believe it or not, is actually currently owned partly by Disney and partly by the Hearst corporation, although I don't think you're gonna see any of these shows on Disney+ anytime soon..., but these series of channels are nowadays mostly known for documentary and reality series, and that fits right in for them theoretically. 

That said, I don't think they understand at all, who their overall audience is, Smith has claimed that he's going to turn Vice into what MTV was for the youth, and get them back to watching television, which, is,...- well, let me put it this way, I'm more within their actual demographics and I've never literally sat down and watched their channel. I'm not going out of my way to watch old "Intervention" reruns on cable, sorry. Every time I've watched Vice on TV, it's from streaming their shows. 

Which, is good. For better or worst, their brand is documentary, but they still think they're a radical edgy brand that gets the young kids demographics, they're not, but what they do get are an expanding, older, middle age demographics, that likes what they produce. So, I like much of what they produce. Which is why I came into this piece concerned about the shows they were producing. 

It is weird that I'm doing a channel breakdown for a channel that I've only seen by streaming so far, and not actually sat down and watched. And for a channel, so  young, it's only like seven or so years old at the most. And it's not had much success. I've liked the shows I've watched, but it's mostly fallen well-short of their goals, and even by a more reasonable standard of what to expect from them as a successful channel, eh, for the most they're not doing anything particular special.

At least, they weren't until recently. They got one really big hit series right now, called "Dark Side of the Ring". 

So, "Dark Side of the Ring" is a documentary series created by Evan Husney and Jacob Eisener. Husney, he's directed a little, mostly has been a producer of documentaries for awhile, this is his big project it seems that he's helped being a creator and writer in it seems. Jacob Eisener, a little more successful, has made some more mainstream fare, most notably, he directed the short fake trailer and eventual actual film of "Hobo with a Shotgun". Remember it was a fake trailer that won a contest to appear along with those other fake trailers in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's experimental double feature, "Grindhouse" in international releases? (It was either a trailer for "Grindhouse" or it might have been apart of a trailer for "Machete," I can't remember which now exactly.) He's directed a few other shorts as apart of some compilation films, and he's got some other projects in the works, but this is his first foray into straight up documentary filmmaking. These are two talented filmmakers and they pitched this profile documentary series, that's mostly interviews and footage, but also uses some very Errol Morris effects in creating some reenactments as they tell 45 minute versions of some of the true stories of some of the more infamous tales, incidents and of people involved in the world of professional wrestling. 

Now, I'm a wrestling fan, I've talked about that occasionally, and pretty much like every wrestling fan I know nowadays, I've been watching "Dark Side of the Ring" currently in the middle of its third season religiously since it came on, and I'm watching it way more then we actually pro wrestling anymore I might add. 

(Sidenote: See, this is the kind of project I mean when I say that they don't get what their demographics are; pro wrestling is a little more relevant now, then say a few years ago, but it's not exactly something that the kids watch these days and it hasn't been at the peak of pop culture for like, twenty years or so. So yeah, for me, this is right in my wheelhouse, a mid-thirties guy who lived through the Monday Night Wars and used to scour the wrestling websites for inside knowledge on what was gonna happen and why something happened the way(s) it did/didn't on the last Monday Night Raw before Summerslam, or whatever was going on back then.) 

Anyway, it wasn't a particularly unusual project for Vice, they've done exposes on wrestling before, particularly some short subjects on deathmatch wrestling, but this was done by some talented filmmakers outside the Vice bubble, but it also get the promotion it needed within the wrestling fan community as well as got the respect of a lot of the names in and around the wrestling business that gave them the cache of respectability, and it's a really good show. It's actually earned a lot of critical acclaim and has quite a substantial viewership outside of professional wrestling. I recommend it highly, and a lot of people did and it's becomes the channel's first really big hit show. It's in the middle of season three right now and I'm looking forward to a lot of their newer episodes coming up. 

That said, let's put ourselves in the mind of Vice for a minute or so. You've been on the fringes with your channel for awhile, you specialize mostly in documentary programs, you're got a small fanbase but now it's exploding, not necessarily in the audience you were expecting but you've got a legit huge hit show on your hands for the first time. 


I can think of other networks that this has happened to over the years, and some of them have fallen into the same trap as Vice lately. Just like "Behind the Music 2", "Storage Wars: Texas", "Cajun Pawn Stars" and "The Real Housewives of..." whatever city they're in now, Vice decided to milk "The Dark Side..." for everything it's worth, and created a spinoff documentary series, "The Dark Side of Football".

Now, I haven't watched an episode of this. I am a huge football fan, but I got through, like five minutes of this show and turned it off. It's not done by Husney & Eisener; they have nothing to do with this show at all, basically Vice got some other documentary filmmakers and they had them basically replicate their similar approach to the material, expect with football instead of wrestling. It might be entertaining outside of that context but I couldn't really care. There's a lot of sports documentaries out there most of them are better then this.... I mean, there are dark stories that have happened in, around and related to American football, and I might try one or two of these again later, but it's pretty clear just how much they're filing off the serial numbers of their own program in order to just create extra material to fill in the spaces between when they're airing this. 

That said, I didn't entirely complain, 'cause, yeah, I've seen this before, all the time. You don't think documentary series have spinoffs, but they do, even great ones. Which came "American Experience" or "American Masters"? They've both been apart of PBS for thirty+ years now, it doesn't really matter. And even if they're not connected, like they're the same network, they produce and air documentaries, they both have "American" in the title, one obviously influenced the other. And it's a compelling title, "Dark Side of..." and you know what, football, wrestling, it's sports related. It's an obvious cash grab ripoff, but you could do worst. I got the move, especially for a channel that's a bit limited in their programming and has to rerun reality episodes of "Shipping Wars" to kill time during the day, then yeah, okay, I get one attempt at a spinoff, to see if it capture, even half the audience. And football's more popular then wrestling, so it's a good choice. 

Then I saw on their Youtube channel, Vice uploaded an episode of..., "Dark Side of the '90s"

Okay, well, first of all, just, fuck you now, Vice.

Like, okay, I'm not saying don't do a show about the nineties because I lived through this shit. Like, yes, I know about the talk shows and how it got out of hand, and the Jenny Jones incident, which-, btw, you guys really could've gone deeper into her show, which really changed quite a bit from it's tamer beginning to it's very absurd end...- This is the only episode I've watched, looking at the episode listings, I don't know exactly how much more I would learn much from, but that's not the point.... 

Vice, if you want to do a show about the 1990s, go right ahead. You're not the only one, CNN's been doing documentaries profiling decades, for like, forever now. You want to become more like E! or REELZ or something, then you know go right ahead, do these expose on famous pop culture incidents of the past, but don't bullshit me! Yeah, sure, there's a "Dark Side of Beanie Babies"- Oh, FUCK OFF!!!

Like, at least with "The Ring" or "Football"- (which, btw, shouldn't that show be called "The Dark Side of The Gridiron"? Wouldn't that be better?) you're narrowing your focus. The '90s is not a sport, but it's also just,- anything! You can put anything that happened in that decade. Are we gonna have a whole "Dark Side of The O.J. Simpson Trial" episode? Or "Dark Side of Tickle-Me-Elmo" or "The Dark Side of Lilith Fair"? "Dark Side of That One Time Drew Barrymore flashed David Letterman?" "The Dark Side of the "Empty Nest"/"Golden Girls"/"Nurses" Hurricane Crossover Episodes?" "Dark Side of MTV Spring Break"? "The Dark Side of The Disney Afternoon", "Dark Side of Girls Gone Wild", "Dark Side of the Breakup of the Soviet Union?- WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!

Like, just, you wanna just do a nineties show, just do a show on the nineties!? Don't be bullshitting us and bringing "The Dark Side" into it. I don't need Pogs to have a Dark Side in the future, Pogs were stupid and horrible enough at the time. Call it, "I Love the '90s: True Hollywood Stories" or whatever, just don't do this. This so wreaks of desperation, moreso then like anything I've ever seen from any of these other channels and any of their failed or even their successful half-ass/spinoffs attempts. This is dumb and pointless it's almost laughable if there weren't actually a few real tragic stories within these, but labeling this as a "Dark Side..." is such... it's literally the worst example of both an ouroboros eating it's own tail, while also piggybacking on top of itself, I've ever seen. 

Like, yeah, you look at it weird, then any fucking decades has a dark side; I don't even get the premise here. Are the nineties some mysterious time to everybody now in hindsight, or is it just nostalgia, 'cause I can tell you, I live through the nineties, and, like it any other decade, it was okay. There was good and bad stuff going on. It's probably a little better then some other decades before and since, but you know, anything that's really bad about the decade, in general, I think we've had those stories told about them. Perhaps we've had those stories told a little too much in recent years, in fact. 

"The Dark Side of eh, the Oklahoma City Bombing"...?- (Shrugs) 

I can't make...- See, the appeal of Wrestling and Football is partly that they're both sports that for some people are outside the grasp of much of the general public and these are introduction to the insular world of the people who do live within them, unlike the 1990s, which is just, something that everybody's been through! Okay, not everybody, but like, enough where it's not a foreign idea to people and it shouldn't be treated as such. 

I don't know where or how this idea in Vice's creative offices devolved and turned into to "Dark Side of the '90s", but a little advice to, well, Vice, stay out of The Dark Side. Like, there's programming and compelling stories here, and I know it's your first really big thing as a cable channel that you thought was gonna be bigger then it actually was but don't just hang your hat on this. You can tell these stories, you can make them compelling television, but don't,- don't just stick to this one thing that's big and beat everything out of it.

I get why you would do this but, there's gotta be other ways. Most of the other channels would have much more programming available so that when you'd catch that one show, you might stick around for some other programming, and Vice has done that a bit. I mean, I do like most of their programming, or at least get why somebody would be compelled to watch them, or watch them if they run into it one day. That said, partly in their defense, other channels that would do this, all started before streaming was a major thing. Right now, you're lucky if you're a channel that has one "Dark Side of the Ring". I mean, look at AMC for instance; they're last cash cow, "The Walking Dead" is in its final season and despite airing such great groundbreaking series as "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men", they're not a topic of conversation anymore. What's their big program, "Killing Eve" which isn't even fully theirs and I'm probably the only one who is still following that show? At this rate, they're gonna have to go back to being a movie channel if this doesn't improve. 

Vice is quickly turning into just another A&E, at this rate, only less interesting 'cause A&E is occasionally more fun and light-hearted and doesn't have the stench of taking "The Dark Side" of every single subject they cover. (Although, maybe "The Dark Side of Storage Auctions" might be interesting though... No, it wouldn't.) That's the "At best" situation, I might add. I actually predict that Vice won't be around longer then a decade or so from now. Something's gonna change hands, business-wise, and the channel's gonna get caught in the middle and with Disney and Hearst at the top and Vice having connections to both HBO and Fox News and whoever else in the future they'll try to piggyback on, eventually it'll basically turn back into just a brand for their documentary news division again, but it'll be shut out because something like Axios or Vox is gonna be bigger and more important and relevant then them and the channel will just become, like A&E 2 or something, were they show just the more high-profile darker content. Like, that'll be where reruns of "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath" will be replayed while A&E just shows more "Storage Wars"  spinoffs. 

Or somebody else will take over the channel or something and turn it into some other morphed form of whatever they thought a Vice channel would be. Probably a reality show channel that only shows bad "Bar Rescue" and "Pawn Stars" wannabes. It's so bizarre how they got this hit, you know? Vice is an also ran that has gotten an accidental hit and kinda just doesn't know where to go from there. I don't know if it can be much else, but it's attempts to be more and what that'll end up looking like are gonna be an interesting test case for the future of modern cable television. I suspect it's ultimately not gonna succeed, but I could be wrong. I don't think that means a new channel on cable couldn't succeed in some form, but it's gonna need a lot more backing, a lot more of a wider audience appeal, and much more self-aware people behind the channel of what they're trying to accomplish, and those who understand how to adapt and grow a cable channel in a streaming world successfully. Perhaps it will be somebody who previously had experience and success from a streaming brand and move into television, but either way, it's gonna be difficult. My initial instinct was always that Vice wasn't a big enough brand to start up a channel of its own, and usually I think it's a weird and sketchy idea for any brand that isn't originally a television brand to then suddenly move into television, of any kind. Like, I don't know why I have a Red Bull streaming channel on my Roku, but I don't delete it 'cause it has actual shows..., I have no idea who watches them, but they're there and they're more successful then say, the now-defunct NRA Channel..., but arguably, while Vice haven't come close to meeting the goals they set for themselves, they have succeeded more then they probably should've so far, and potentially, they could advance farther. We'll see if that happens....

In the meantime, Vice, I know you're trying to capitalize on the hit you have, but try to stay out of the Dark Side for a little while. It's a not good look for you to keep redoing that trick to lesser and lesser results. You don't be the depressing dark channel; it'll hurt some of your more cool positive programming in the long run, and who wants to ruin "Slutever" like that? You're lucky you got this far; maybe cheer up a little more, you know...? 

Thursday, September 23, 2021


I promised I wouldn't do a full post-mortem on the Emmys this year, and it's definitely relaxing to not have to worry about it. My Gold Derby ballot, was, eh, well, I was in the top 50% this year, but barely. I was happy I called Julianne Nicholson winning, that was sweet. I'm pissed I gave up on Stephen Colbert after first predicting him for Special on FB and then switching when I posted here. Dammit, that was dumb. Cedric the Entertainer was pretty good as host; I particularly enjoyed the opening rap tribute to Biz Markie. I actually also enjoyed the In Memoriam segment, as well; I normally am a traditionalist and I don't like special performances for this segment, but it helped with the setting having the wraparound screen showcasing very touchingly all those who passed. They didn't include everybody, Michael Constantine who won Supporting Actor for "Room 222" among several other amazing performances and accomplishments feels like a particularly rough omission, but the Academy did put up a very touching database on their website of all those who've passed this past and yeah, I'm not gonna blame them for not including a few names, 'cause there was a lot... It's actually quite sad, there's six pages of profiles just or 2021 alone, and they had to include people from last year too remember.... The link for that is here if you're interested in reading more about Frank Bonner or Tanya Roberts or whomever, and I recommend you do check it out sometimes. It's been around for awhile, so you can go back ten years on this, so it's a wonderful little piece to go back to. 

That said, if there's anything I really took away from this year's show, and I'm sorry if I feel like a broken record from this, but they gotta get rid of this voting system. Last year, "Schitt's Creek" a show that, the Academy didn't seem to know was on the air two years earlier won literally every category on the main show and this year, "The Crown" in it's fourth season did the exact same on the drama side. All the acting awards, directing and writing and of course Series. Now, "Schitt's Creek" I never really loved, but I actually do like "The Crown" a lot, not this season as much as everyone else admittedly, but this is ridiculous. I'm sure if "Ted Lasso" had a female lead, they might've done the same thing, and it's all because this system takes away from tapes and panels and basically leads people to nominating the shows they regularly watch and like and that's why like three shows are getting all the acting nominees in these categories and it's tiring. And I'm not saying I loved surprise winners from shows I hated in the past; like I remember being annoyed that Tyne Daly would win for "Judging Amy" when nobody was watching it, and it wasn't a particularly great show, but knowing everybody saw the episodes helped alleviate that, and I think it helped give credence to rare shows that were in fact so good that they deserved to win everything and get nominated for everything. Nowadays, with so much more great television then ever, it feels so much more disingenuous when there's just one show winning per category every damn year and it's always the most popular and biggest show on television that second. Like, I know on some level all award shows are just a popularity contest, but it should never feel like a popularity contest, and lately it's feeling too much like it is. 

Other then that, I guess I don't have any huge issues with any of the winners or speeches or anything. Nice to see Conan acting the fool that he is on what I'm sure he fears is the last time he'll ever be invited to this thing, which I'm sure it won't be, but you know, it's nice to see him having fun at a swan song. Overall, I like these Emmys. It's a nice subdued but fun ceremony, and I like the outdoor/indoor setting with the television screens surrounding the guests; it felt like the first the Emmys got the show in the round thing done correctly, so kudos.

Let's hope next year it gets back to a more normal broadcast. Anyway, as to me, not too much else going on. I finally watch "La Chana", which is a documentary about the legendary Gypsy flamenco dancer. I bring that one up, because it's been at the top of my Netflix queue for what seems like a couple years now, and I was only recently able to find it streaming on Hoopla Digital. It's,... okay. Yeah, not a lot to talk about regarding it, honestly, but it's a nice documentary. Anyway, let's get to this latest batch of reviews.

THE WORLD TO COME (2021) Director: Mona Fastvold


Thomas Laffly of uses a good word in his review of "The World to Come", lifelessness. I was struggling trying to figure out why this movie doesn't work, but that's the key, 'cause not only is the movie itself lifeless, but it's also kinda about lifelessness itself.

"The World to Come" is the latest in this recent new trend of telling historical tales of gay and lesbian relationships. I generally like this trend; there's been some truly great movies made out of this lately, Todd Haynes "Carol", Yorgos Lanthimos "The Favourite" and of course, the movie that "The World to Come" probably most seems to falter in comparison to, Celina Sciamma's masterful "Portrait of a Lady on Fire". Sciamma's film in particular is one of the most powerful and important romances in recent years and is one of the best romantic films out there, and it's clearly sparked the biggest increase in these more classical historical romances involving lesbian lovers. And frankly, I'm okay with that. There's two trains of thoughts on these kinds of pieces, one being that they don't reflect accurately the behaviors of people of the times, and also that since gays and lesbians and others were disenfranchised for most of the past, they should get the opportunity to tell those stories, both realistically and fantastically. I kinda understand both sides of this, except that the idea that homosexual behavior didn't exist and/or occur as often in the past, that lie of omission needs to be written back into our history texts. And yeah, in the past, life was duller then it is now for most people and that goes double for women. So, I get it, a story of rejuvenating and love being a cure for endless monotony of the passing of time, and finding true passion and meaning in a coarse world full of beaten down lives on a struggling farm, where survival for oneself and each other is the main objective in life, yeah, that can make a true life-changing romance have more meaning.


You see, you kinda also have to make that lifelessness aspect, have some life to it as well. I know that sounds weird, but there's a way to do that and this movie doesn't do it well. Make the world compelling while being dull, is still a thing. What "The World to Come" seems to do is just dwell incessantly on it, long after it's point was made. It almost felt Bret Easton Ellis-like, except instead of following a young rich twat who naval-gazes about the emptiness of life, we get a couple of farmer couples constantly obsessed with the details of farming. The main couple are Abigail and Dyer (Katherine Waterston and Casey Affleck), a struggle frontier couple who suffer through their struggles. They're not particularly in love in the same ways that we would think of love today; he seems to constantly be obsessed with the farm and trying to stay above water and avoid the potential pitfalls that surround the times. And it's understandable, especially after they lose their only child to illness. 

The second couple are renters Tallie and Finney (Vanessa Kirby and Christopher Abbott) who work on a nearby farm. Tallie and Finney begin connecting in their spare time and they start to become intimate in their shared struggles of being unloved wives in the way of their husband's shared doldrum obsessiveness. Also, Finney seems like a bit more prickish towards Tallie, which comes into play eventually. In the meantime, it's a slow build discovering their romance. 

I guess the big thing that screws this up for me, is the writing. Particularly, this bizarre use of a voiceover narration, which is genuinely one of the worst I've seen in recent years. I guess they were trying to give this story a more literary tone; it certainly feels more like this should be a book. I think I would tolerate the more one-note male characters talking almost strictly about work and occasional foreshadowing in a novel, but this wasn't an adaptation. The screenplay was written by two guys and the director, Mona Fastvold is more known as an actress. The other films I've previous mentioned were made by much more interesting and established filmmakers, and the best of them, Sciamma, is not only a female writer/director, but she's been really good at telling wonderful stories about young women for years now. Also, think about "Brokeback Mountain" another period piece romance between about a secret homosexual affair between married people, there's so much more interest and tension in that film despite those characters, not really doing much different then these characters. It's a little more modern a setting but the main antagonist is really the setting and the societal expectations of their lives and it never feels like it isn't compelling. Maybe if there was more chemistry between Waterston and Kirby; I've seen that note in a few reviews, although I thought their chemistry was fine, but the excitement of the love and romance doesn't outway the dreariness of the rest of their lives and that's a problem with the script and perhaps even the filmmaking. 

I think there's a good film in here, but they put this together so wrong and awkwardly, that I kept drifting off into thinking about what other movies have done this better and why they succeeded when "The World to Come" just doesn't. Maybe in a less saturated market I could be more forgiving; I kinda always thought Donna Deitch's seminal lesbian romance "Desert Hearts" kinda got that kind of critical appreciation for instance, beloved mainly because there wasn't much else out there at the time, but today, there's just too much better to let this one get by.

THE WAY BACK (2020) Director: Gavin O'Connor


A few years ago, I had an argument with someone on Facebook who really liked director Gavin O'Connor. We were arguing about his film "Warrior" which I thought was good, was then, and still am ultimately completely baffled by the fact that Nick Nolte got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for it. Anyway, he was arguing for him and talked about how he saw O'Connor's work on par with that of Eugene O'Neill in terms of his specialty of familial melodrama. I guess I can kinda see it when you dig deep into his filmography what he's talking about, but mostly I kinda think I'm losing my mind when I see that kind of praise he's getting, 'cause mostly I kinda see him as a good genre filmmaker. Like, not a name that everybody's gonna appreciate in an auteur matter but a he's still one of those director that certain film theorists are gonna have a Howard Hawks-like appreciation for them. Like, he's a man's man's of a filmmaker's filmmaker. Or, perhaps on a more modern comparison, a Bill Forsythe type. He reminds me a lot of him, not necessarily in the family/personal dilemma/demons sense, Forsyth's movies were more about character struggling to survive or understand their setting, but otherwise I feel like they have similar followings, only Forsythe's movies I always thought were a lot deeper below the surface. O'Connor's films, they're good, sometimes really good, but I just don't see them as truly great.
I thought about that a lot with "The Way Back", a movie that's eh, not a bad movie by any means, but it's basically kinda just, if "The Mighty Ducks" was a serious drama on alcoholism. Well, actually it's deeper then that, but not much deeper. It's a sports drama where the main guy, Jack (Ben Affleck) is a former high school basketball star who's wasted away most of his post-high school years at the bottom of a bottle. He's out-of-nowhere given an opportunity to coach at his alma mater, a struggling religious high school that hasn't been good since he left. At first, he doesn't want to do it, even monologues to himself at his kitchen table between trips to the freezer to pull out another beer, but he takes the job since there's not much else for him to do. 

He's a bit abrasive at first, this isn't a team of winners. His assistant coach, Dan (Al Magridal) came up after him and now basically coaches as his second job from being an algebra teacher. He's also berated by the team's chaplain, Father Whelan (Jeremy Radin) for his language. Below the surface though, is his drinking, which he seems to start to curb, if not control, and soon enough, he's in coaching mode and gets the team to start winning games despite their lack of depth and talent. 

This is what I mean when I think about O'Connor, it's not that he's ever doing anything new, but he usually does it well. "Warrior" isn't particularly special on the surface, but I get why people like it a lot; there's enough of the serial numbers edged off of it to make the story seem more unique and original then it actually is. He's good at first taking from the genre picture but then he's good at twisting the conventions just enough to find a compelling different narrative in them, usually from other genre pictures, but he knows how to do it. This isn't even his first film about coaching, that's arguably his best film, "Miracle", the Disney film about Herb Brooks and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. This movie isn't about the championship run though, the main focus is the character study of this downtrodden and demon-filled coach. 

Ben Affleck got quite a bit of praise for his acting in this role, some reviews barely mention anybody else in the film, and he talked a lot about how the film itself was therapeutic for him after his long-detailed struggles he's had with alcohol abuse and addiction. That's nice and all, and Affleck is really good here, but I don't know. I can't help with O'Connor's films no matter how good they are technically to see the structure underneath. I get that, that's his thing, he takes the genres we know and peels enough of it to tell more human stories, but sometimes when you peel back too much, you don't really end up with as much in the middle as you'd think. I'm still recommending it, mainly I guess because it's good enough for O'Connor, but I still think the script itself could've used a few rewrites so that the movie didn't just entirely hinge on Affleck's performance, and even then, that performance might only work because of our shared background knowledge of the actor who's cast. 

THE LAST TREE (2020) Director: Shola Amoo


You know, from an American perspective, it's been surprisingly strange and weird to think about all the stories we've gotten in recent years about immigrants living in England. The United Kingdom is simply, not a land of immigrants in our mind. That's of course ridiculous; it's actually weird to think of most any country anymore as being a place so homogenous that literally the only people who live there are the people who are ethnically identified as being from there. People move around to different places all the time now, some for their own joy, others because it's their only real option, but it's not just places like America or Canada that are specifically, historically designed as nations of immigrants that have culturally diverse populations. Still though, we've had some wonderful movies from England about the immigrant experience there, and many of them made by immigrants themselves. 

This latest one "The Last Tree" by Nigerian-born British filmmaker Shola Amoo is quite a touching autobiographical look at several years of cultural clashing and struggles. The film focuses on Femi (Tai Golding) a young boy who spends much of his early childhood is foster care, especially with a white country woman named Mary (Denise Black). Eventually though, his mother Yinka (Gbemisola Ikumelo) eventually is well-enough, supposedly, to claim him and take him back and he begins living with her in the inner-city. It's a bit awkward that he was so peaceful in the less-integrated countryside as a kid, but has deeper struggles in a more mixed system in the city. Although that said, Yinka, might not have been completely well-enough to take care of him at the time, either. Honestly, at first, the story that the film was reminding me of in the beginning was, believe it or not, "Heidi" but suddenly, it felt like it was bordering on "Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire" for a little bit. 

It doesn't stay there, thankfully, but things don't get a lot better as he gets older (Samuel Adewunmi). It does get a little "Moonlight"-ish, especially when he's dealing with more traditional inner-city criminal elements, but the real struggle is of Femi trying to find himself. He's caught between he's British self and his African self, between his old life as a kid and his new one with a mother who wasn't around until suddenly she was. Eventually He meets his father and get a little bit of a bigger picture on him, but there's a lot kept from him as well for many years, and a lot of contrasting influences that come in and out of his life. 

It's probably a bit too much honestly; I think the movie's trying to jam a lot more then needed, probably ambition. Amoo has only previously made one other movie and clearly this is his most personal, so he's trying to get a little bit of everything in there. Some of this turns into cliche, especially both the street criminal aspects, and even the singular male outsider trying to help him get through it, in this case a teacher played by Nicholas Pinnock. 

Still though, "The Last Tree" is very compelling. It's a very personal film that effectively creates a coming-of-age story full of unease, frustration and confusion. Sometimes coming-of-age and growing up is just that, and messy as Hell as well. Pulled in a bunch of different directions, none of them seeming right, and looking for answers, emotions and explanations from those who either can't or won't give them to you when you need them. Few films capture this kind of confusion in both the world surrounding a character, especially a teenager character, and the mindset of them and "The Last Tree" does nail both. I hope Shola Amoo didn't say everything with this film, 'cause I want to hear more from him after this. 

REBUILDING PARADISE (2020) Director: Ron Howard



It's actually somewhat amazing just how many mainstream Hollywood filmmakers, will at some point, decide to begin working in documentary features. It's not a new development by any means, but it's always a curious one. Part of it, I think is just that they're filmmakers who've said enough and are fine enough with their cultural presence already that they feel no repercussions diving into projects that are more personal to them. Part of it is that I think they're looking for new challenges in the medium; occasionally there's filmmakers like Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee and Jonathan Demme who will bounce back-and-forth between documentaries and more traditional features and think of them as apart of a greater vision of what they want to say in general, but I do tend to like it when say, Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese or even James Cameron decide to drift their attention away from mega-blockbusters and tell some more intimate, smaller documentaries for stuff that they're more passionate about. Ron Howard, is one director who I wouldn't have expected offhand to have started making this transition, but I get why he would. 

I remember that when he was younger, him telling a story about a short film he tried to make about the Great Depression; I remember hearing him talk about interviewing people about the depression for the special feature for "Cinderella Man" I believe. Yet, he's been quietly and slowly drifting into this direction since "Jay-Z: Made In America" a concert documentary he directed in 2013. I haven't seen that one, but I did see "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week--The Touring Years", which was mostly a historical documentary in the sense that it's mostly editing earlier footage together. That's not a criticism, some of the greatest documentaries are just that, but this time, Howard's actually taking his camera out to the field and trying to capture something close to his heart. 

Paradise, California, is/was a northern California town about 85 miles northeast of Sacromento, technically apart of the Chico greater metropolitan area, although those words are kinda iffy 'cause Chico, is only barely 100,000 people itself. Paradise is/was much smaller at only about 26,000, but then the Camp Fire of 2018 happened. It's one of the deadliest and most disruptive of American wildfires, ever. 86 died either from the fire or trying to get out and getting inundated with smoke that seemed to cover the sky and whatever was left of the forest. Only five percent of the town remained standing after all was said and done and over 90% of the population was displaced. 

Howard, actually knew family from the area, and at certain points in his life had spent time there. He's also a longtime Californian who is well aware of the area's issue with wildfires. The area was heavily forrested for timber after the initial population boom from the Gold Rush and it wasn't replanted 'til later. The droughts that have come recently have also led the area more susceptible to fires; this isn't alone entirely uncommon, especially for the western-U.S., which is a combination of dying forest and desert, both of which are mostly drought-ridden and have been for decades now. [Global Warming is real, and it sucks] 

Anyway, Howard decided to start filming after the fire, and the movie follows several of the time's residents. The Mayor for instance, for instance, who was once the town drunk before he got rehabilitated. Now, they're just trying to rebuild. It took months for people to even remove enough debris to even be able to go in and investigate what's left and even then.... There's delays in even getting back, there's issues with the water now after the fire burned plastic that seeped into the water system, that's gonna take forever to fix, meanwhile PG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric, are responsible for the fire, so they're trying to get anything out of them. PG&E is the company that Erin Brockovich famously was the lead activist against, and this tragedy, in a long line of tragedies and travesties that they've caused over the years might've actually done them in, as shortly after this, and in the middle of everything else, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

If there is a main struggle or narrative, it's basically this idea from the Senior Class from what was the local high school to actually have their graduation on the football field, which is a lot harder then it sounds. Most of the families that have tried to hang around eventually get some temporary trailers. There's a brief clip of Trump's one visit to the area after the desire, where he kept insisting on calling the town "Pleasant" instead of "Paradise", thankfully we didn't get the part about how he thought raking the forest better would've prevented wildfires. 

"Rebuilding Paradise" is precisely that, it's the first early steps towards rebuilding a town, and the struggles involved in that. There's a nice montage at the end where some of the townspeople reflect on how other disasters natural and otherwise occur how they seem to not only have more empathy for them and want to help out those in need. They don't need to, they're still helping themselves, still struggling. Disasters like these, they don't need to be the helpers, nobody would blame them for not diving in headfirst into similar disasters, kinda like how we wouldn't blame Ron Howard for not making a documentary about the survivors of the Camp Fire. But they do anyway. 

SOME KIND OF HEAVEN (2020) Director: Lance Oppenheim


Retirement is not something that's ever really been on my mind much, thankfully, but I have always kinda wondered about it. I can't imagine anybody who's ever been young who has ever actually imagined themselves living at a retirement community; I don't think we want to imagine that no matter how glamorous or luxurious such a place would be. I can't think of too many positive portrayals of them in media, at best, there's some sort of twist along the lines of, "Well, it's nice to see them having fun, at their age". 


Are they really having fun? Most of the time, I doubt it. I'm sure they enjoy not working anymore and all, but I doubt it. I think, if you're at all physically capable of anything, and have a good mind at work, then retirement, especially retirement to a place like this, isn't so much a natural progression to life as it's always seemed more like a way to escape from it.

"Some Kind of Heaven" documents "The Village", the biggest gated planned retirement community in the country. With over 130,000 people in Central Florida, developed by a Harold Schwartz a Michigan who was selling land in the 1960s, and like everybody else during that time, starting turning the swamps of Florida into, well, Florida what it is today. Mostly, the whole area is full of tall tales of it's so-called history though, local reimagined myths. Honestly, it is kinda like Disney if Disneyland was a gigantic neighborhood full of old people. So, it's Celebration, Florida, but full of old people. 

We meet a few of the residents, including one guy who isn't quite a resident, but lives in his van trying to coarse his way into the beds of some of the women in town. He's Dennis, the most interesting character for much of the movie. We also meet Reggie and Anne, a couple who've been married well over forty years before moving into the neighborhood, and things have been going downhill for Reggie ever since, and not just normal downhill. Like, he's getting in trouble with the law, downhill.... 

Honestly, I kinda get it; you've spent the majority of your life living one way, and now you're not bound by your old lines and obligations, you suddenly get into some things. And Florida is full of some things....

We do get glimpses of the brochure images of this place, but I still think the movie, overall is mostly too slight for me. It's got some interesting characters to follow, but I feel like I don't learn much that I didn't already know and what I know is not much at all. I think documentary is actually a strange genre for this kind of story; I can think of several movies, most notably "Cocoon", that take place in retirement communities like these, and frankly it's a good setting for a film. I think I would've preferred that to this documentary oddly enough.

FAST COLOR (2019) Director: Julia Hart


So, Julia Hart is one of those up-and-coming directors that I'm only now, starting to catch up on. This is, according to IMDB, her second feature after a comedy called "Miss Stevens" which broke out a bit at SXSW. I haven't seen that film, or any of her recent films yet, although the Rachel Brosnahan Amazon feature "I'm Your Woman" is climbing up my Netflix queue, so I'll get to that sooner then later. She's also done a couple movies for Disney with the word "Stargirl" in the title. One's in post-production, and they both star Grace Vanderwaal and have a peculiar cast, and appear to be about this, uh, magic pixie dream girl...- looking at the trailer is weird; I don't know what I'm looking at, but yeah, I'm gonna say "magic" pixie dream girl, for lack of anything better to say. Also, based on "Fast Color" it makes the most sense, 'cause this movie is also about, magic girls.... 

Sidenote: Are we getting way too inspired by anime? Or is that just me? 

Yeah, one movie in, and I don't know what to make of this director, but she seems to be interested in youth, particularly young women, coming-of-age narratives, and some kind of magical realism element, that makes you think somebody watched way too much "X-Men". (Note: It doesn't take much to have watched way too much "X-Men"). In "Fast Color", which seems like the most adult version she's made of this so far, involves Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a longtime drifter who travels from hotel-to-hotel seemingly evading, well, everybody and everything. It's a semi-futuristic desert landscape where a perpetual drought has lasted years and water is such a rare commodity that it costs extra with your hotel room. She also, has some magical powers that she can't control. This has led to the government out to get her. 


Okay, um, I'm just- I know this is a common and probably believable trope of science-fiction and science-fantasy, the government's out to get somebody who's so different and can possibly, I don't know, be powerful enough to just, overtake the entire world because of their superhuman abilities, kinda thing, and I'm sure there's symbolism here, being that this is one of the rare times I'm seeing on film an African-American protagonist with that issue, but, I don't know, I'm just gonna say it, with this movie in particular, it kinda started to feel a bit like Raquel Ochmonak calling about ALF. I don't know, the way they did this, and the way they did portray the main government character, a weird nerdy scientist named Bill (Christopher Denham). 

Anyway, the movie isn't about that battle, it's actually a story about the prodigal daughter returning home to her family. Her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) had been living off the map for years in a forgotten town and she's been taking care of Ruth's now-teenage daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney) who she left years earlier, partly because of her rare ability, but also because she was quite a mess-up herself. Because she couldn't control her ability to have cause earthquakes with seizures and turn objects into dust by looking them. 

The movie, without the sci-fi elements, is a nice, well-acted little story of someone trying to make amends for their actions in the past while trying to return to a normal life, but gets caught up in her own issues. In this case, the issues are addiction, struggles with her family, and, the superpower stuff putting her on the run. Eventually there's a climax where everything comes together, including a touching performance from David Straitharn as the town Sheriff's that got reasons for protecting the family.

Still though, "Fast Color" feels more like parts of other movies kinda thrown together in a hope to make something new and magical. It's a strange conflation of genres and ideas that feels like it has a point of view I should be caring about, but ultimately, I don't know what to make of it. It kinda feels like a half-ass student short film made on a big budget. Julia Hart wrote the movie along with her producer partner Jordan Horowitz, who I mostly remember as being the Producer for "La La Land" that graciously handed over the Oscar to the producers of "Moonlight" after that disaster of an event. He's been producing a lot longer then Julia's been writing and directing; he started in 2010 with Lisa Cholodenko's wonderful "The Kids Are All Right" and one of my favorite little Indy gems, Keith Bearden's "Meet Monica Velour" but Julia seems to be the only person he writes with. I'm not sure what to make of that either. Maybe "Fast Color" will feel prescient once I look through their other works together, but right now, I find myself for, just, bemused at "Fast Color". I don't think it's a bad movie that I should stop people from watching; I just have a hard time seeing why I should be seeking it out. 

ATHLETE A (2019) Directors: Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk



Gymnastics is one of my favorite sports. No, seriously, I've been a huge fan for years. It helps that my fandom has correlated with the United States's slow but constant and continual rise to the absolute dominance of the sport in recent years. To this day, one of the most unbelievable sporting events I remember of my youth remains the '96 Olympics Women's Gymnastics Team Finals. Former gymnast Jennifer Sey recaps that story in the middle of "Athlete A", although Sey tells the story a little differently then I recall and have rewatched several times over, even recently; I actually have those finals saved on Youtube as well as several other gymnastic events that have amazed me over the years. It was a very big deal at the time, still recollected heavily. I could do a whole dissertation on it, and '96 in particular, but yeah, seeing Kerri Strug, gutting through a severe ankle injury to stick a vault that she just fell on, that minutes earlier Dominique Moceanu fell on twice, just to make sure that we don't have to rely on the Russians or Romanians coming back and winning our first Team Gold Medal, yeah, it never would've dawned on me, why should a barely-18-year-old girl be forced to compete on a possibly broken ankle. And why are the then-seven little girls, well, little girls. 

Gymnastics wasn't a sport dominated previously by the very young until pretty recently, and even by the time they did dominate Elite, there was always extreme criticism of the Cold War tactics often implemented by the Karolyis and others; "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes" they were once famously referred to as, in regards to how they were cut off from the rest of life and how their coaches and ultimately USA Gymnastics would physically, for lack of a better word, abuse them. 

"Athlete A" was Maggie Nichols, who was curiously left off the Final Five Olympic team back in 2016; she's the first one who came out publicly about Larry Nasser, the USA Gymnastics Team Doctor, and the one who you may notice is by Kerri Strug's side after her vault. Or, you've probably seen him during most any kind of horrific injury a Team USA gymnast has. Originally, the focus of the Indianapolis Star expose wasn't Nasser, but coaches throughout USA Gymnastics, and yes, this has been a fertile breeding ground for pedophiles and rapists, but then they immediately started getting calls and complaints about Nasser, and that's when the shit started hitting the fan.

I'm not gonna dive into everything, but "Athlete A" is a damn good documentary that does go into it pretty thoroughly, and even then, we're still not getting the whole story. I don't blame the movie for that, there's just too much. There's over 500 girls across USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan St. University where Nasser was also the doctor for their athletics programs, who have accused Nasser of sexual assault and rape. And he's in jail, thank God for now, and we do get Nichols, who's become a National Champion at College Gymnastics at Oklahoma, as well as former Olympian Jamie Dantzscher and in particular Rachael Denhollander, who was among the first in 2015 to file a report, as well as happened to grow up to be a lawyer and had apparently collected about as much info and corroboration on Nasser as the reporters had. 

However, it's not just Nasser, it's the culture that led to people like Nasser to infiltrate and thrive within USA Gymnastics. I've been following and looking more and more into this case, and it's evolved continuously since the movie came out. The movie near the end mentions that McKayla Maroney for instance, signed and NDA agreement with USA Gymnastics at one point, that's new information to me, and I was already on a waitlist for her upcoming book after seeing her during these recent Olympics go on, I think it was Instagram Stories, she posted on, but I saw it on Youtube, but anyway, she went on a fifteen minute rant in light of Simone Biles's mental struggles during the Tokyo games, where she just did not give a shit anymore and talked about just how frickin' ridiculous and hard it is even being at the Olympics, and that's before you get into Nasser. (She performed in 2012 in London, on apparently, no joke, not being facetious, a broken foot! Keep that in mind next time you watch that commercial of hers and remember her vaults.)

That's just one link in this neverending chain of victims of the poisonous system that the Karolyis put in place and was protected by several of those incredibly high up, including how their President of USA Gymnastics Steve Penney didn't report sexual assault complaints and cases to the FBI, and apparently offered the officials a job when he did, way too late, and he was just the top of the chain of ignorance and corruption.

At the end of the 2016 NBC Olympics coverage, they showed a special documentary movie on the Karolyis that they produced; it was their "retirement" and Simone Biles and the Final Five team and they showcased a lot of the Karolyi ranch, which was tucked away in the remote secluded area outside Huntsville, Texas where every Elite gymnast, trained by the Karolyis or not would go and train with/for them in order to try to showcase whether they'll make the Olympic team. It was portrayed rather eloquently showcasing the legacy of champions they created from when the emigrated from Romania all the way to the current and next line of greats our country would produce. It was essentially a love letter to the dynasty of women's gymnastics that they produced, and for all-intensive purposes, they were indeed the catalysts for that. It reads a lot differently now that we know what else was going on at that retreat where they little girls would all be staying at without their parents around. 


You know, Strug didn't need to do that second vault. We weren't 100% sure at the time, but we would've ultimately won the Team Gold without it, and the Russians, even at the time...; we won by eight tenths, it would've been tighter but the Russians would've had to be damn near perfect on the floor to catch us even without it. Maybe we didn't need all these medals either.

GREENER GRASS (2019) Director: Jocelyn Deboer & Dawn Luebbe


Well, toss this one up in the "What the hell did I just watch" pile. 

Okay, I'm not even sure I want to go into what actually occurs in "Greener Grass", not that anything that happens would necessary offend or dissuade potential viewers, and despite my negative rating here, I'm not even sure this is actually a bad movie, per se, but I definitely did not respond well to it. There's a lot to take in with "Greener Grass" and trying to analyze it's quality is going to be a lot. I'm gonna start with,... improv.

"Greener Grass" is a very dark, sardonic comedy that feels like John Waters decided to try to be David Lynch, and fell into an ethereal void somewhere in the middle and never got out of it. The movie originally started as a short film by writer/directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, who are two performers most notable for being apart of the Upright Citizens Brigade, the famed improv theater and sketch group notable for producing comedy greats like Amy Poehler, Donald Glover, Nicole Byer,  Ellie Kemper, Adam McKay,... a bunch of others. Now, improv sketch comedy is weird; you can use it as a starting point for creating greater pieces of work and people have for years; even recently, stuff like the sitcom "Broad City" originated as a UCB sketch. I can't tell if this movie started there, but the movie definitely begins with sketch comedy. 

In fact, the movie almost feels like it exists in a world that's just a long game of "Yes, and...". Imagine a world where you can put a soccer ball up your dress, and then claim that you're pregnant, and then, everybody just literally accepts it. And then, the soccer ball falls out after you slip off your dress and you now have a child, and that child is a soccer ball, but you and everyone else treats it like it's your new child. You see, that's something that would be funny and downright logical on an improv show. Somebody gives a prop, you start a scene, and suddenly, that prop is now a fetus, and then a kid. That's funny on stage, 'cause it's Improv comedy and everyone's playing along. 

Most of the movie feels like it's imagining a world where the rules of improv are the rules of the universe, and that's why we're in a bizarre glossy white picket fence neighborhood. The film centers around Jill and Lisa (DeBoer and Luebbe) who are two struggling mothers in this insane candy-colored braces-filled neighborhood. They have kids who play soccer, and Jill is also struggling with her new baby, who she then gives to Lisa. Yeah, she just gives the baby to Lisa, and she becomes Lisa's baby, I guess figuring that she's got one and this one's not taking too much of a liking to her, maybe Lisa can have it? I guess she's also a people-pleaser and will go to extremes for everyone else, supposedly? I mean everything bad seems to happen to her when she does anything for herself like the time she goes and gets her hair done and her husband Nick (Beck Bennett) finds their other kid Julian (Julian Hillard) alone and naked in the house. Of course, by this point Julian's become a dog, so I don't think it's that weird but....- 

I think the idea is that this is a skewering of suburbia, like how the school is taught by a teacher named Miss Human (D'Arcy Carden) who's family was like founders of the place, okay, that's kinda funny. There's some kind of murderer going around who takes over people's lives by breaking into homes and lives and just taking them over essentially, or at least trying to. 

I guess it succeeds at its satire, but is it that interesting, or did I laugh a lot? (Shrugs) Kinda.... but not really. "Greener Grass" is well-made and compellingly interesting, I can already imagine this being a beloved twisted midnight cult movie in the near future, but I think this was just, mostly a few strained ideas from old sketches that they tried to keep extending and extending into something that resembles a real movie, but eh, I think sometimes you gotta give up on a scene and ask for a different suggestion from the audience.

AVENGEMENT (2019) Director: Jesse V. Johnson


I don't know much about Scott Adkins or director Jesse V. Johnson; apparently Adkins is a martial arts hero and Johnson is a former stuntman-turned-director, which normally I fear as a red flag, but they've been at this for awhile, literally. Johnson and Adkins have teamed up for several action movies up 'til now, and I'm not familiar with any of them until this one. I've never been against martial arts or just action films in general, but it's just never been a huge priority for me. I guess, I just never cared too much about martial arts movies, 'cause martial arts alone, doesn't get me into a theater normally. I like a good story, and if there's action and martial arts involved, I'm all there, but y'know, if the main appeal is the action, then I tune out. I can see great action, in many other places when I want to see it. 

So, I didn't expect much from "Avengement", which, is gotta be the dumbest name I've ever heard for a revenge movie, ever, but that said, dumb name, good movie. Adkins play Cain Burgess, an escaped convict, who has held up an organized crime family at their local pub hangout, including killing a couple of them already. He's going after the whole gang, but most importantly, the leader Lincoln (Craig Fairbrass), his brother.

So, without giving too much away, basically the rest of the movie is flashbacks of what happened to Cain, and how he survived it, including several years in prison getting attacked and then having years added onto his sentence, for defending himself from these constant attacks. His face deformed, his teeth knocked out and replaced, he's been through a lot, and even the crime that he went down for, that he did only because his brother insisted on it instead of helping him out with a legitimate business,... like I said, it's a lot. I like it, mostly because it actually is a good story to center around these action sequences, and it also gives a rare intimate vibe and location to an action movie. Most action films, especially most martial arts films don't create tension with the limiting use of locations this well. And not just for fight scenes, there's a genuine conflict and tension here, not just choreography. 

"Avengement" keep me interested in an otherwise fairly typical action movie narrative by finding a cool, different way of telling it, and that's basically all I really want out of these movies. So, definite recommendation for me; I'm informed that this is the best film of the duo of Johnson and Adkins, but either way, I'm definitely interested in seeing what else they've done now. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

73RD ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS PREDICTIONS! Eh, I guess these are the Emmys this year.

This is a weird Emmys. It's weird, 'cause in one hand, nobody cares about these Emmys, and I mean, more then usual we don't care. Every time I do posts on some awards show, I got some commenter on Facebook or something talking about how they think they're stupid and don't matter and I shouldn't care about them, or blah, blah, blah, these are the same morons who want to spoil pro wrestling fans fun by telling them it's fake and I don't care about them. Just because you, for whatever dumb reason don't want to meet the award show halfway in their artificiality, don't ruin it for everybody else, you're all dicks!! I ought to tell the next one, that I think the MCU is stupid because those aren't real superheroes with superpowers, they're actors pretending to be able to do stuff like, um, snap a finger and-eh, end/revive existence. 

Anyway, that annual diversion rant over, what I mean is, nobody cares this year, because this year has just been, well, like, half a TV season. The shows we would've expected to be here got delayed due to COVID and instead of an interesting batch of the usual suspects, we ended up with, whatever just happened to get made, and fit-in close enough into a traditionally recognized genre of television. 

That said, it's also weird 'cause, well, a lot of stuff that probably wouldn't have gotten into these awards during normal televisions seasons, have found a way in this year, and that's not bad either. There's so much television right now that there's a lot of good that everybody misses and this was the one time they could catch up. 

Well, most people caught up. Personally, I have not been as on-the-ball on television as a hole this year; Instead of binging every true crime documentary and miniseries that's suddenly available on Netflix, I've spent most of the pandemic surfing Youtube, trying to watch all the movies I'm behind on, and spending the time working on other scripts and side projects and jobs, and that's if I'm not going to a real job and getting sick with COVID myself. (I got sick before the vaccines came out, I've taken them, I'm planning on a booster shot when it's available, I'm not a nutjub that thinks horse dewormer is a cure; didn't think I'd ever have to put that sentence together....) That doesn't mean I haven't watched a few things, but I'm having a lot of catch-up to do, as I'm writing these predictions. 

This is it, I've finally becoming the person who's discovering the great shows years into their run, and starts talking about them like their new despite their being like six seasons of them on some streaming service. Except they're mostly just, okay, and not that great, but whatever.... It's a weird year, and I gotta fill out a Gold Derby ballot at some point. Here's my Predictions. 


Cobra Kai-Netflix
Emily in Paris-Netflix
The Flight Attendant-HBO Max
Hacks-HBO Max
The Kominsky Method-Netflix
Ted Lasso-AppleTV+

So, as I'll write these, I'll also be watching some of the series that I haven't watched yet, or am behind by. For instance, it seems like "Ted Lasso" is the clear frontrunner for the Comedy Series, so I finally found a way to watch an episode. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much, the premise seemed a too hokey for me, but so far, not too bad. I don't know how it's gonna keep playing out: I do think the premise is a bit ehhh, and it does sound a bit like Season 2, has been underwhelming overall.... But the only other show that seems like it could take it here is "Hacks" HBO's new comedy series about stand-up comedy. I actually have seen some episodes of that, and I like it, but I think I prefer "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and now I'm just sad that I have to wait for the fourth season of that series, which, for the record, is still the best sitcom on television. I'll finally get to "Cobra Kai" eventually... (Look, I never cared for "The Karate Kid" and this weird Barney Stinson-esque rebrand, reboot,.... eh.) I did actually get around to "Emily in Paris" though, and I don't think it should've been nominated; it's-, okay, but it's "Sex and the City" romanticism is so outdated, and- god, why is there suddenly an outburst of American-Out-Of-Water sitcoms this year? I feel like that's not a great genre normally, but yeah, "Ted Lasso" is the better version of it so far, even after only one episode of it. Personality, if I had a vote, I thought "The Flight Attendant" was the most fun this year. I wouldn't say it blew me away, but for a long-form narrative comedy series that has a mystery plot to it, it pulled off well a lot of the things that in other shows I've generally hated. It even has me excited about the next season, and Kaley Cuoco played a really great character there. I'll be cheering for that, or "PEN15" which I happy to see get in, but yeah, this seems to be a "Ted Lasso" year, and I don't see anything topping it late. 

PREFERENCE: "The Flight Attendant"

Anthony Anderson-"black-ish"-ABC
Michael Douglas-"The Kominsky Method"-Netflix
William H. Macy-"Shameless"-SHOWTIME
Jason Sudeikis-"Ted Lasso"-AppleTV+
Kenan Thompson-"Kenan"-NBC

Good lord, when is "Shameless" gonna end? Like, look, I'm a fan of the show, but Jesus, this series still going on.... I'm in like season 3 or 4 on DVD and I'm exhausted by it and they're in like season ten now. Ugh! Anyway, I'm checking out Kenan's sitcom, one of two current "SNL" cast members who are nominated in the Lead for their own sitcom this year.... Yeah, "SNL" has-eh, yeah, I'm not gonna get to the homesteading on the show anytime soon, but "Kenan" looks pretty decent actually. And it'd be nice to finally see him win an Emmy; he's been doing so friggin' long by now. Man, when that Pop Arena gets to "All That" on his Show-by-Show History of Nickelodeon profile, the younger people watching who don't know are just be amazed.... Anyway, I can't see him winning. It's a tough category, but "Ted Lasso" feels like the favorite for everything, and we've got three longtime also-ran nominees against, and Kenan, who's show not up for anything else major and who's more likely to win in Supporting Actor. And you know what, "Ted Lasso"'s growing on me.

PREDICTION: Jason Sudeikis-"Ted Lasso"
PREFERENCE: Jason Sudeikis-"Ted Lasso"

Aidy Bryant-"Shrill"-Hulu
Kaley Cuoco-"The Flight Attendant"-HBO Max
Tracee Ellis Ross-"black-ish"-ABC
Allison Janney-"Mom"
Jean Smart-"Hacks"-HBO Max

Well, I've seen all these shows, and although I really should watch more "black-ish", I'm watching an episode "Cobra Kai" at the moment. (Shrugs) I don't know, it looks okay, just sorta,...- I don't know; I feel like we care too much about continuing universes that don't need to be continued to begin with and yeah, this shows feels like it's jumping near the top of my frustration list with that one, although outside of that context the show's fine. Anyway, the only repeats in the category are Tracee Ellis Ross for "black-ish", and oddly Allison Janney for "Mom" getting a surprising nomination for the show's last season, which honestly I thought was the jumping the shark season for the show. Aidy Bryant, is the other "SNL" cast member and nominee up for Lead in a Comedy with her finale series of her cult show "Shrill". I've seen a few episodes, I liked it, I get why it has an audience. Really the only two that genuinely have a shot in the category, barring something particularly weird, are Kaley Cuoco and Jean Smart, and it's probably gonna be Smart. I mean, that's a general rule with the Emmys anyway, and even though she's also nominated in Miniseries for "Mare of Easttown", "Hacks" is the big show, she's got a flashy role, it's a good show.... I'd like to see Cuoco win it, who's been around, for a lot longer then some people might realize actually. I literally know people who've worked with her since she was a child actress, but yeah, Jean Smart collects another Emmy for her trophy case. 

PREDICTION: Jean Smart-"Hacks"
PREFERENCE: Kaley Cuoco-"The Flight Attendant"

Carl Clemons-Hopkins-"Hacks"-HBO Max
Brett Goldstein-"Ted Lasso"-AppleTV+
Brendan Hunt-"Ted Lasso"-AppleTV+
Nick Mohammad-"Ted Lasso"-AppleTV+
Paul Reiser-"The Kominsky Method"-Netflix
Jeremy Swift-"Ted Lasso"-AppleTV+
Kenan Thompson-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Bowen Yang-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC

Well, I guess I should watch more "Ted Lasso" seeing as they overtook half the category. I looked it up, and there's been one other time, in 2019, where four performers from the same show got nominated, and all of them managed to lost. That was "Game of Thrones" in Supporting Actress Drama year where they all went down to Julia Garner for "Ozark", so it's possible. Also, this is annoying. This is why you don't just want a popular vote, the same biggest show will get all the nominees and everybody else in this case gets screwed over. We got one nominations for "Hacks", one nomination for "The Kominsky Method" of all things, although it is really nice to see Paul Reiser nominated again, and the main battle according to most of the pundits, between Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang. This is kinda interesting if it is between these two, because we haven't had this kind of split vote before either. Rarely are there performers nominated in the same genre for two different series in Lead and Supporting categories like Kenan and Aidy Bryant are this year. It's not like when an actor for a movie gets nominated for Lead and Supporting Oscars, 'cause usually when there is a multi-nominee or even a double winner, it's usually got an arm through the Movie/Miniseries categories instead of just the same genre. Right now, I suspect Bowen Yang is a slight favorite, but I gotta think that they're trying to figure out a way to give Kenan something.... 

PREDICTION: Kenan Thompson-"Saturday Night Live"
PREFERENCE: Paul Reiser-"The Kominsky Method"

Aidy Bryant-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Hannah Einbinder-"Hacks"-HBO Max
Kate McKinnon-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Rosie Perez-"The Flight Attendant"-HBO Max
Cecily Strong-"Saturday Night Live"-NBC
Juno Temple-"Ted Lasso"-AppleTV+
Hannah Waddington-"Ted Lasso"-AppleTV+

I think this is a trickier category. Three pretty strong "SNL" nominees here, McKinnon's won in the past, Bryant's unlikely to win for "Shrill" so this would be the most likely spot for her to win. Hannah Waddington seems like an interesting pick for "Ted Lasso", although I think you can argue that she should be a co-lead, although I think a bigger category fraud might be Hannah Einbinder for "Hacks" who's really the co-lead. Frankly, that's why I'm leaning a bit more towards her for this category, although lookout for Rosie Perez to play spoiler. Her having never won anything yet is a damn crime. Oh, also, I watched more "Hacks" writing this, and okay, I get it now. 

PREDICTION: Hannah Einbinder-"Hacks"
PREFERENCE: Rosie Perez-"The Flight Attendant"

B Positive-"Pilot"-James Burrows-CBS
The Flight Attendant-"In Case of Emergency"-Susanna Fogel-HBO Max
Hacks-"There is No Line (Pilot)"-Lucia Aniello-HBO Max
Mom-"Scooby-Doo Checks And Salisbury Steak"-James Widdoes-CBS
Ted Lasso-"Biscuits"-Zach Braff-AppleTV+
Ted Lasso-"The Hope That Kills You"-MJ Delaney-AppleTV+
Ted Lasso-"Make Rebecca Great Again"-Declan Lowney-AppleTV+

Okay, so this is weird. The rule is that, there has to be at least one nomination in this category for a multi-camera show, but apparently, two got in. The most likely scenario is that there was a tie for the automatic multicam, so, technically there might be a nomination that got enough votes but was left off. Anyway, checking the recent history of the category, it's actually shockingly rare how often the show with the majority of nominees actually wins; it hasn't happened that a show with three nominees has won since 2011 with "Modern Family". Gold Derby is predicting that "Biscuits" episode of "Ted Lasso" being the most likely to get nominated; it's only Zach Braff's second career nomination. I'm not entirely sure about that analysis, it's a good episode, and well-directed, but I think the votes are gonna split the show. That leaves the pilots for "Hacks" and "The Flight Attendant". Both good, but in terms of what's the most directing....

PREDICTION: "The Flight Attendant"-In Case of Emergency-Susanna Fogel
PREFERENCE: "The Flight Attendant"-In Case of Emergency-Susanna Fogel

The Flight Attendant-"In Case of Emergency"-Steve Yockey-HBO Max
Girls5eva-""Pilot"-Meredith Scardino-Peacock
Hacks-"There Is No Line (Pilot)"-Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky-HBO Max
Pen15-"Play"-Maya Erskine-Hulu
Ted Lasso-"Make Rebecca Great Again"-Teleplay: Jason Sudeikis; Story by Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly-AppleTV+
Ted Lasso-"Pilot"-Teleplay & Story by Jason Sudeikis and Marc Lawrence; Story by Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly-AppleTV+

Well, now I guess I better watch an episode of "Girls5eva". I've been wondering when Peacock was gonna do something that isn't just rebooting bad old NBC shows. What the hell is this show anyway? Whoa, Sara Bareilles can act?! And Busy Phillips! And Renee Elise Goldsberry!? Holy god, NBC, how are you stashing this on Peacock!? I mean, it's not great, but you know, this is interesting. Anyway, eh, what do we have here? We got four pilots, a second episode of "Ted Lasso" and an episode of "PEN15", which I really do gotta get to the second season of soon. I'm gonna presume a Pilot is gonna win this, but which one? I think we can knock out "Girls5eva" but the three-way race between "Ted Lasso", "Hacks" and "The Flight Attendant" is basically gonna climax here. Whoever wins this category is probably winning series, so....

PREDICTION-"Ted Lasso"-Pilot-Teleplay & Story by Jason Sudeikis and Marc Lawrence; Story by Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly
PREFERENCE-"The Flight Attendant"-"In Case of Emergency"-Steve Yockey


The Boys-Prime Video
The Crown-Netflix
The Handmaid's Tale-Hulu
Lovecraft Country-HBO
The Mandalorian-Disney+
Pose-FX Networks
This is Us-NBC

Well, if I'm behind in Comedy Series, then I'm really behind in Drama series. I guess I'll start with "Bridgerton" while I write these. I'm sure that won't be a bit distracting. (LOL, Prudence Featherington, What a ridiculous name. Oh boy, this'll at least be fun British aristocratic absurdism.) Actually, we do have an interesting category here. Only three series nominated last year, "The Handmaid's Tale", the only one of the nominees to win this category, "The Crown" and "The Mandalorian", while "This is Us", and somewhat surprisingly "Pose" have returned to the category after missing a nomination here in previous years. Newcomers "The Boys" a superhero series, along with the aforementioned "Bridgerton" and for the first time in a while a series that only lasted one season before getting canceled "Lovecraft Country", that's the first time that's happened in this category since they they stopped including limited series. Frankly, this is a very unfortunate group of lesser-tier nominees, but all sign are pointing to "The Crown" finally pulling this off, which I find disappointing, 'cause I found this season of "The Crown" frustrating. (In fact, I thought the last two seasons have been annoying.) I mean it was technically good and well-done, but I couldn't put up with getting pissed off at Margaret Thatcher or the constant sighing for all the Diana moments. To me, they're giving to them late, but whatever, it's by far not the worst choice they can make even out of this group of nominees.

PREFERENCE: "This is Us"

Sterling K. Brown-"This is Us"-NBC
Jonathan Majors-"Lovecraft Country"-HBO
Josh O'Connor-"The Crown"-Netflix
Rene-Jean Page-"Bridgerton"-Netflix
Billy Porter-"Pose"-FX Networks
Matthew Rhys-"Perry Mason"-HBO

Okay, so now, I'm starting "Lovecraft Country" with this one. I guess I could watch "Perry Mason" but I'll watch that one later. I'll probably enjoy it too since I love "Perry Mason", but I really do need to get to "Lovecraft Country" because-um, well..., okay, I might as well confess this now because apparently it's something I should've known before hand, but-um, well, I don't know how much H.P. Lovecraft's work is referenced or involved or required knowledge for "Lovecraft Country", just based on the opening sequence it feels like it'll help, but-eh, here's the thing, I actually, don't know anything about his work.... Yeah, I understand he's important and influential, especially in science-fiction, but he's a real big blind spot for me. It's somebody asked me to define "Lovecraftian" right now, I wouldn't be able to do it. I'm sure somebody will explain it to me now, or give me titles to read. I don't know what to tell, I was much more into Ray Bradbury and Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson growing up I totally whiffed on Lovecraft. Anyway, so far, the show looks really good. Anyway, as to this category, Gold Derby has Josh O'Connor as the slight favorite..., over Billy Porter. (Shrugs) "Pose"'s finale series was apparently well-acclaimed and Porter's won in the past, so it could happen.... Matthew Rhys is also a previous winner, but "Perry Mason" split a lot of critics and fans; I can't imagine it winning a top acting award here. They might go back to Sterling K. Brown as well, which might be my vote. "This is Us" I thought was great this year, up until the very end of the season...- which we probably should talk about more 'cause boy I would consider a RETCON of that if possible.... They better do a good job convincing me that's the right direction to go next season.... I kinda have half-a-thought that Jonathan Majors could steal this, but Rene-Jean Page was the big breakout star from "Bridgerton" and he's apparently not coming back to the show, so they'd have to honor him here. "Lovecraft Country" is canceled too here, so they'd have to honor Majors here too if they had the chance. That said, there is a small controversy of category fraud with "Lovecraft...", cause while they did dangle and consider a second season of the show, apparently this was originally considered a limited series at some point in the pre-production and/or greenlighting of the show. I can't imagine that really hurting the series, but canceled shows after one year, don't tend to do that well in the acting or series categories. There's been a few nominees over the year, but I think you gotta go back to "My World... and Welcome To It" to find really Emmy success. (Shrugs) I might just pick an upset to be different here.

PREDICTION: Rene-Jean Page-"Bridgerton"
PREFERENCE-Jonathan Majors-"Lovecraft Country"

Uzo Aduba-"In Treatment"-HBO
Olivia Colman-"The Crown"-Netflix
Emma Corrin-"The Crown"-Netflix
Elisabeth Moss-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
Mj Rodriguez-"Pose"-FX Networks
Jurnee Smollett-"Lovecraft Country"-HBO

I guess, technically, I didn't have to watch an episode of "In Treatment" since it's not technically a new show that I haven't seen, but is instead a continuation from the original run of the series and I watched that. That said, it's a continuation of the original run of "In Treatment" and you better damn well believe I'm watching that, 'cause "In Treatment" is HBO's most underrated television series. I know it was always experimental, but it's such a good show, brilliant idea for a show; I never did understand why it never really caught on as well as it did. This is one, "reboot" that should've happened a long time ago; arguably it should've always been around. It's one of the few shows that could've changed actors all the time and not lose anything, you'd think.... Oh well, is it good enough for Uzo Aduba to win this category? (Shrugs) Probably not, although the show can surprise and Uzo wins a lot. Gold Derby has Emma Corrin winning, at the moment, which... eh.... Hmmm. Well, hard enough beating your own castmate, much less when that castmate is Olivia Colman. They've also got MJ Rodriguez, the first trans actress nominated in this category, in the second choice spot; I can see that happening with "Pose"'s finale season and it getting back into Series. Part of me wonders if we're underestimating "The Handmaid's Tale" especially Elisabeth Moss; she's a former beloved winner, and while technically the show didn't win any acting awards last year, there's an asterisk to that, because it won acting awards the previous year when it wasn't eligible for Best Series due to an eligibility issue regarding release dates and they got ten acting nominations. Gotta figure they're gonna win, one of them, right...? 

PREDICTION: Mj Rodriguez-"Pose"
PREFERENCE: Elisabeth Moss-"The Handmaid's Tale"

Giancarlo Esposito-"The Mandalorian"-Disney+
O-T Fagbenie-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
John Lithgow-"Perry Mason"-HBO
Tobias Menzies-"The Crown"-Netflix
Max Minghella-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
Chris Sullivan-"This is Us"-NBC
Bradley Whitford-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
Michael K. Williams-"Lovecraft Country"-HBO

This time around, I got to the new "Perry Mason" reboot. It's...- it's interesting. I'm not entirely sure what to make of that so far to be honest; I might just be too big of a fan of "Perry Mason" to really judge it as it's own piece. Lithgow's good in it but I don't know if he's gonna win it this year. Obviously, the category is currently more somber now after the sudden passing of Michael K. Williams. He's never won an Emmy, so this is their last chance, but the Emmys have rarely been sentimental, but still, Williams was well-loved and beloved, and a lot of people think he was overdue after his work on "The Wire" and "Boardwalk Empire". Still, Tobias Menzies had been the favorite until then but "The Crown" is kinda underperforming so far.... "The Handmaid's Tale" has three nominees, including Bradley Whitford, who's won for the show before in Guest and has won this category before for "The West Wing". There's a few returning nominees in this category too with Chris Sullivan and Giancarlo Esposito. I don't know where to go with this category actually; I'm just gonna take a shot and go with the default.

PREDICTION: Tobias Menzies-"The Crown"
PREFERENCE: Michael K. Williams-"Lovecraft Country"

Gillian Anderson-"The Crown"-Netflix
Madeline Brewer-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
Helena Bonham Carter-"The Crown"-Netflix
Ann Dowd-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
Aunjanue Ellis-"Lovecraft Country"-HBO
Emerald Fennell-"The Crown"-Netflix
Yvonne Strahovski-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
Samira Wiley-"The Handmaid's Tale"-Hulu
Well, I've seen all these shows, so I guess while I'm analyzing this category, I'll try watching that "The Boys". I'm not looking forward to this one, 'cause I-, well, I'm sick of superhero shit to begin with, but also, I can't stand Eric Kripke's first show "Supernatural". Actually, it's not that I can't stand the show, the show's mostly just a stupid teenage version of "The X-Files" only with brothers instead of Mulder and Skully, and it focused a little too much on "The X-Files"'s worst storytelling tendencies.., but it of itself, it was just relatively harmless bad tv, but the fact that it lasted so frickin' long and has so many fans has sorta baffles me. Yeah, I know it's got fans, and they can go fucking die; they kept a bad show on for four years longer then "M*A*S*H", they can go screw themselves; I'm happy they all hated their finale; they can all bite me. (This is why fans are the worst; fifteen years of a shitty show means a potential good show that didn't get mad, fans are awful!) Anyway, speaking of "The X-Files" Gillian Anderson is the favorite for playing Margaret Thatcher on "The Crown". She was incredibly good as Margaret Thatcher, in that I basically wanted to choke her every time she was onscreen. (Yeah, I really hated this season of "The Crown".) That said, I wouldn't mind if she won. Anyway, not an eclectic mix here, other then Aunjanue Ellis it's "The Crown" vs. "The Handmaid's Tale", three nominations, mostly who we expected, past winners and nominees, and a newly-Oscar Winning writer, that's odd. Ann Dowd's listed on Gold Derby as the second choice, personally I'm debating between Yvonne Strahovski and Helena Bonham Carter for my personal preference for this year. Helena in particular was essentially the lead in my favorite episode of "The Crown" from this year. Eh, Ann Dowd's won before so I don't know if they're in a hurry to give it to her again, and they haven't honored Gillian Anderson in a while.... Also, they shouldn't be ignoring Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore in this category, bad Emmys.

PREDICTION: Gillian Anderson-"The Crown"
PREFERENCE: Helena Bonham-Carter-"The Crown"

Bridgerton-"Diamond of the First Water"-Julie Ann Robinson-Netflix
The Crown-"Fairytale"-Benjamin Caron-Netflix
The Crown-"War"-Jessica Hobbs-Netflix
The Handmaid's Tale-"The Wilderness"-Liz Garbus-Hulu
The Mandalorian-"Chapter 9: The Marshal"-Jon Favreau-Disney+
Pose-"Series Finale"-Steven Canals-FX Networks

This is a category that could be weird. Right now, Gold Derby has "The Crown"'s "Fairytale" but eh... I don't know. I'm reluctant on "The Crown" and I just kinda wonder if there really is that many royalty lovers in the Academy, especially modern royalty lovers, 'cause the show, for me, really is starting to get into shit that I grew up with knowing, and especially since most of this was Diana stuff, I'm really reluctant to relive some of this shit. This might just be me though. Also, eh, the directing category has seen a surprise or two lately, like Jason Bateman winning out of nowhere for "Ozark" recently. I wonder if they're underestimating Jon Favreau. Also, "Pose" is in for the finale, and I kinda wonder if that could be where they honor the show. The pilot for "Bridgerton" is here as well, if they like that show, but I think that will stumble and underperform because I suspect them and "The Crown" are basically similar audiences, and "The Crown" is winning that. Oh, I'm watching "The Handmaid's Tale" at the moment, I gotta catch up at least a little on that one at this point, and it's up for the finale here, but if there's one I think we're underestimating, they do sometimes give this award to the biggest named director, and "The Mandalorian" is a really directing-centric series.... I might go out on a limb on this one.

PREDICTION: "The Mandalorian"-"Chapter 9: The Marshal"-Jon Favreau
PREFERENCE: "The Handmaid's Tale"-"The Wilderness"-Liz Garbus

The Boys-"What I Know"-Rebecca Sonnenshine-Prime Video
The Crown-"War"-Peter Morgan-Netflix
The Handmaid's Tale-"Home"-Yahlin Chang-Hulu
Lovecraft Country-"Sundown"-Misha Green-HBO
The Mandalorian-"Chapter 13: The Jedi"-Dave Filoni-Disney+
The Mandalorian-"Chapter 16: The Rescue"-Jon Favreau-Disney+
Pose-"Series Finale-Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals, Janet Mock and Our Lady J-FX Networks

Wait "The Boys" is on Season two right now?! I just realized that! Ugh! It's gonna be like "The Handmaid's Tale" except their escaping from superheroes isn't it? Eh, I'll watch more "Lovecraft Country" first, at least that getting canceled means it's shorter. Honestly, I'm not sure which of these is the favorite. This is actually a weird category this year, six different shows nominated, that's a lot for this category, the only double-nominee is "The Mandalorian" and the other five nominees are nominees for series, with only "Bridgerton" and for reasons I will never get "This Is Up" being left out. That's not as unusual, although it is weird, but it can be forgiven because of the television environment this year and also because the way the Emmys have been voting in the last few years, has lead to a lot less diversity in nominees among the main categories. (Note: I still don't like the current voting system #BringBackEmmyPanels #BringbackTapes) Anyway, I think this category will probably just go to the show that's the most likely to win Series, so....-

PREDICTION: "The Crown"-"War"-Peter Morgan
PREFERENCE: "The Handmaid's Tale"-"Home"-Yahlin Chang


The Daily Show with Trevor Noah-Comedy Central
Jimmy Kimmel Live!-ABC
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver-HBO
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert-CBS

There's not too much to talk about with the Variety Series categories this year, so I'll be putting on a movie while writing these; I'll watch more shows later. Uh, I guess a potential spoiler here could be "The Daily Show..."; I think they're second anyway, and Trevor Noah in particular thrived under COVID, but yeah, that said, everyone here thrived in these conditions and it looks like "Last Week Tonight..." should be able to easily take this again.

PREDICTION: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"
PREFERENCE: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"

A Black Lady Sketch Show-HBO
Saturday Night Live-NBC

I did kinda fear something like this would happen when they separated out the Variety and Sketch genres. Not because I thought there wasn't a big enough difference; I actually thought it was a good idea and while there's a lot of similarities, comedy talk shows and sketch comedy shows are pretty different from each other, enough where I think separating out the two is justified, but I kinda had this irksome feeling that the trend of sketch comedy series taking over was, basically just a temporarily fad that wouldn't survive much longer. And, yeah, I think I was kind of right. "Inside Amy Schumer"'s gone, "Key & Peele", "Drunk History" is gone, "Portlandia" is gone, and all those were before COVID. I said back then that "SNL" was gonna be the survivor and was always gonna be the top in the genre and well, yeah, like, it happened again. I mean, I had already watched 30+ years of contenders try to take them down and none of them ever did. I mean, many of them were great, important shows that took real shots at them, but "SNL" had positioned and established itself as the single great hall of sketch comedy and had done so for decades, and it was destroying it's temporary competition way back since "Fridays", why would these groups of upstarts that are basically centered around one or two people's visions ever completely overtake them? It's not like I don't think "A Black Lady Sketch" show can't win, and frankly I love that show, I hope they could pull this but they're not pulling this off and even if they did, it's only for one year, and "SNL" is "SNL"; it ain't going away anytime soon. Let's hope I'm wrong about the fad and this is just a temporary setback for Sketch due mainly to COVID and the next generation of indys come later, with "A Black Lady Sketch" show leading the way, next year....

PREDICTION: "Saturday Night Live"
PREFERENCE: "Saturday Night Live"

8:46 - Dave Chappelle-Netflix
Bo Burnham: Inside-Netflix
David Byrne's American Utopia-HBO
Friends: The Reunion-HBO Max
A West Wing Special To Benefit When We All Vote-HBO Max

In a bit of a surprise, this category got placed in the Main Show this year for the first time in a while as opposed to the Creative Arts Emmys. (Oh btw, while I'm not posting them here, I did make predictions for the Creative Arts and filled out a Gold Derby ballot for them. You can see my predictions and how I did on our Facebook page, here.) That said, I can see why; there's a lot of big television shows and names in this category. "The West Wing" voting special is here, so is the "Friends" reunion. Dave Chappelle's great "8:46" special, Spike Lee's documentary on David Byrne, as well as Bo Burnham's comedy special which has already won a lot of Creative Arts awards, including Writing and Directing for the performer. And then there's, "Hamilton".... Jesus, this is a loaded category. 

PREDICTION: "Hamilton"
PREFERENCE: "Hamilton"

The 83rd Annual Grammy Awards-CBS
Celebrating America-An Inauguration Night Special-Multiple Platforms 
The Oscars-ABC
The Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show Starring The Weeknd-CBS
Stephen Colbert's Election Night 2020: Democracy's Last Stand Building Back America Great Again Better 2020-Showtime

Another award that has typical been subjugated to the Creative Arts in Previous Years brought back to the main show now. And, if you checked my Creative Arts Predictions on our FB page, which you can also find on my own personal FB page btw, here, you'll notice that I've change my prediction on this category. I was going with Stephen Colbert's special, and I still think that could win, although it's in last place on Gold Derby, so I'm in the minority but after getting an extra week to think about it unexpectedly, I think I was underestimating "Celebrating America..." I don't know if everybody watched Colbert, or the Grammys and if they saw The Oscars they're likely gonna mostly remember the clusterfuck of an ending, but they probably saw the Inauguration. Maybe the Super Bowl Halftime Show, but I thought that was a forgettable and underwhelming show overall.... (Shrugs) just thinking about how they're going to go about this, I think "Celebrating America..." probably has this.

PREDICTION: "Celebrating America-An Inauguration Night Special"
PREFERENCE: "Celebrating America-An Inauguration Night Special"

The Amber Ruffin Show-Head Writer: Jenny Hagel; Writing Supervisor: Demi Adejuyigbe; Writers: Ashley Nicole Black, Amber Ruffin, et. al.-Peacock
A Black Lady Sketch Show-Head Writer: Lauren Ashley Smith; Writers: Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, et. al.-HBO 
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver-Writers: Johnathan Appel, Ali Barthwell, Tim Carvell, Liz Haynes, John Oliver, et. al.-HBO
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert-Head Writers: Ariel Dumas, Jay Katsir; Writers: Stephen T. Colbert, Delonte Bent, et. al.-NBC
Saturday Night Live-Head Writers: Michael Che, Anna Drezen, Colin Jost and Kent Sublette, Writing Supervisors: Fran Gillespie, Sudi Green, Streeter Seidell; "Weekend Update" Head Writer: Pete Schultz: "Weekend Update" Writers: Megan Callahan-Shah, Dennis McNicholas, Josh Patten, Mark Steinbach, Dave Sirus and Mike Lawrence; Writers: Dan Bulla, Steven Castillo, Allison Gates, Lorne Michaels, et. al. -NBC

Okay, when the hell did "SNL" get so many "Head Writers"? Like, there's a 80 people nominated in this Variety Writing category, which always makes for a fun montage at the Emmys, but when I write them down here, I try to write out the main ones that get separated on the official nominations document, and then just a few of the other writers, so like the Head Writers, mainly, but "SNL" Jesus, they have Head Writers, Writing Supervisors, special writers for "Weekend Update",... like Christ! Anyway, not sure why Amber Ruffin got the Seth Meyers nomination in the category, but fine, at least some woman got recognized in Variety Talk this year.... Anyway, eh, yeah, John Oliver's taking this again. Nice to see "A Black Lady Sketch Show" get in though.

PREDICTION: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"
PREFERENCE: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"


The Amazing Race-CBS
Nailed It!-Netflix
RuPaul's Drag Race-VH1
Top Chef-Bravo
The Voice-NBC

"The Amazing Race" returns to this category from a year-long absence as a result of COVID. I'm surprised it was only one year personally. Come to think of it, the only four shows that have ever won this category, "The Amazing Race," "RuPaul's Drag Race", the most recent winner, "Top Chef" and "The Voice" are all here this time around. Along with, for some reason "Nailed It!" returning. I'm sorry guys, I don't understand the appeal of "Nailed It!", at all. And like, not in the same way that I don't understand the appeal of "RuPaul's Drag Race", which, I know that I don't get because there's a cultural thing that I'm missing, (Who knew lipsyncing was like, a culturally essential thing for drag queens to be able to do? [Shrugs] I-eh, I don't get it, but it sure looks fun at least.) but "Nailed It!" is just, watching amateurs be shitty bakers? What's the appeal of this? Why can't I just appreciate good baking and desert creations, you've got Jacques Torres and Sylvia Weinstock right fucking there?! Ugh! Just bring back "Top Chef Just Desserts" please if you guys actually like this. It's like, "Dancing with the Stars" being nominated every year all over again, despite "So You Think You Can Dance?" being a billion times better. 

PREDICTION: "RuPaul's Drag Race"


I May Destroy You-HBO
Mare of Easttown-HBO
The Queen's Gambit-Netflix
The Underground Railroad-Prime Video

I was going to watch the miniseries as well for these categories, not yet anyway, but I felt like I had to watch at least one "WandaVision" because, after seeing the clips and the classic television homages and parodies, I felt like I had, 'cause so much of this is up my alley. So far, holy hell this is cringy. I hope this goes somewhere. Like, I am impressed with it, that's fair to say...., I don't know where this will ultimately go, or why, or what the fuck this has to do with anything else in the Marvel anything.... You know, that really does hurt things like this, the fact that this bizarre and interesting concept, I do have to think about in terms of this supposed greater narrative of the Marvel Universe, 'cause I don't give a fuck about that! Like seriously, why does everything have to be connected, can't all things be separate, or how about just, not apart of this superhero universe; why can't Marvel just makes movies and TV shows and not have them instantaneously be connected. One of the great things about most television crossovers over the years was that most of the time, the crossovers only happened when you could make a connection between the shoes, like how NBC had all those New York sitcoms on Thursday Nights or their Saturday night Miami sitcoms and usually they had producers and creators in common, like how the whole "Happy Days" universe was Garry Marshall's idea. It worked well, in those senses, but it also benefitted from only working well for a very limited time. I never consciously considered how whatever Laverne & Shirley were doing were ever effecting Richie Cunningham's struggles with dating, 'cause they fucking didn't and both shows were better for it. Now like, I can't even like something in this universe like "Black Panther", the best of the movies, because I gotta be concerned about how "Infinity War" is gonna completely fuck everything up I liked about the film in it. Like, I know it's their brand, but really fuck their brand. If they're owned by Disney now anyway, Disney has Touchstone and like nine other companies for shit they don't want their name on, just do that and do these weird things that don't matter to this goddamn universe!!!!
Anyway where was I? Oh yeah, uhh, "The Queen's Gambit" is the favorite, they took almost everything at the Creative Arts, I saw it, I loved it, it's probably gonna win here, maybe "Mare of Easttown" can play spoiler, but "The Queen's Gambit" got the easy path here.

PREDICTION: "The Queen's Gambit"
PREFERENCE: "The Queen's Gambit"

Paul Bettany-"WandaVision"-Disney+
Hugh Grant-"The Undoing"-HBO
Ewan McGregor-"Halston"-Netflix
Lin-Manuel Miranda-"Hamilton"-Disney+
Leslie Odom, Jr.-"Hamilton"-Disney+

So, the way it seems like everyone's thinking, or the way Gold Derby is promoting it a bit, is that they think "Hamilton" shouldn't count here because, it was a taped performance of a show from like, five years ago. I'd argue that's bs. This was intended to be a theatrical release, it's still a filmed performance, it's still acting, and I think they're underestimating it. Huge, especially in this category where Paul Bettany's the only nominee from a Best Limited Series nominee and the presumptive favorite. I think look out for "Hamilton" frankly and we're gonna see a repeat of the Tonys here. 

PREDICTION: Leslie Odom, Jr.-"Hamilton"
PREFERENCE: Leslie Odom, Jr.-"Hamilton"

Michaela Coel-"I May Destroy You"-HBO
Cynthia Erivo-"Genius: Aretha"-National Geographic
Elizabeth Olsen-"WandaVision"-Disney+
Anya Taylor-Joy-"The Queen's Gambit"-Netflix
Kate Winslet-"Mare of Easttown"-HBO

I'm a little concerned everybody's underestimating Michaela Coel here. "I May Destroy You" is kinda under the radar compared to the other programs, but it did overperform so far and I think she can play spoiler here. Kate Winslet's listed as the favorite and I suspect "Mare of Easttown" could win something, but I think "The Queen's Gambit" gonna win at least one acting award and this is the one that makes the most sense. This is her star-making role, everybody else can win some other time, hell Winslet's won this award before.... 

PREDICTION: Anya Taylor-Joy-"The Queen's Gambit"
PREFERENCE: Anya Taylor-Joy-"The Queen's Gambit"

Thomas Brodie-Sangster-"The Queen's Gambit"-Netflix
Daveed Diggs-"Hamilton"-Disney+
Paapa Essiedu-"I May Destroy You"-HBO
Jonathan Groff-"Hamilton"-Disney+
Evan Peters-"Mare of Easttown"-HBO
Anthony Ramos-"Hamilton"-Disney+

I'm riding the "Hamilton" train here. I think the actors from the three limited series have a shot here, but I think three "Hamilton" nominees is too many to overcome and Daveed Diggs in particular is too much to overcome. Another Tonys repeat.

PREDICTION: Daveed Diggs-"Hamilton"
PREFERENCE: Daveed Diggs-"Hamilton"

Renee Elise Goldsberry-"Hamilton"-Disney+
Kathryn Hahn-"WandaVision"-Disney+
Moses Ingram-"The Queen's Gambit"-Netflix
Julianne Nicholson-"Mare of Easttown"-HBO
Jean Smart-"Mare of Easttown"-HBO
Phillipa Soo-"Hamilton"-Disney+

Okay, so there's some category fraud here. Phillipa Soo was actually nominated for the Lead Actress Tony, while Renee Elise Goldsberry won for Feature Actress, which is their equivalent to Supporting Actress, so putting them both in Supporting here is questionable. That's probably the only reason I'm kinda going against "Hamilton" here a bit. Kathryn Hahn is currently the favorite for "WandaVision" she could win here. Her character's villain reveal song just won Best Song, so they care about the character. Still though, I feel skeptical about predicting her. My next instinct is to think that this is where "Mare of Easttown" will work here, but which one? Jean Smart's the obvious pick, but they're more likely to give it her for Comedy Series this year, so they could go somewhere else. Not that that's ever stopped them before; Stockard Channing famously won for both Supporting Actress awards for Drama Series and Movie/Miniseries for "The West Wing" and "The Matthew Shepherd Story" in the same year once, they could give it to her again. However Julianne Nicholson is the second choice, and I'd like to see her win. She's been a great character actress for awhile and surprisingly this is her first Emmy nomination. I'm back and forth on this one more then any other category so far; basically it's a matter of, do I think they want to give "Mare of Easttown" something or not...

PREDICTION: Julianne Nicholson-"Mare of Easttown"
PREFERENCE: Renee Elise Goldsberry-"Hamilton"

Hamilton-Thomas Kail-Disney+
I May Destroy You-"Ego Death"-Sam Miller & Michaela Coel-HBO
I May Destroy You-"Eyes Eyes Eyes Eyes"-Sam Miller-HBO
Mare of Easttown-Craig Zobel-HBO
The Queen's Gambit-Scott Frank-Netflix
The Underground Railroad-Barry Jenkins-Prime Video
WandaVision-Matt Shakman-Disney+

Oh boy, a really tough category here. Like, four people here who directed entire miniseries and the one miniseries that got two nominations for directing, share a nominee. I don't think "I May Destroy You" have much of a shot of winning this category, but trying to figure out the winner is tough here. Barry Jenkins is the biggest name, but unfortunately "The Underground Railroad" has so little else in the major categories that I don't see it winning here. "The Queen's Gambit" is the current Gold Derby leader, which makes sense. Scott Frank is normally known as a writer though, so it would be interesting if he won Directing here. Craig Zobel is a big named film director, so this would make sense for him to win here; the category has gone to some big directors who do entire miniseries over the recent years. That said, I could also see Matt Shakman making the argument that he had to recreate and combine, and he's the one who's the big TV director in the group and he had to combine classic television directing with Marvel filmmaking style. Maybe they could give it to "Hamilton" but I doubt it in this case; it's one of the miniseries for sure. I don't know, in a year where everybody did both good directing and the most directing, I'm gonna go with the biggest film name

PREDICTION: "Mare of Easttown"-Craig Zobel
PREFERENCE: "WandaVision"-Mat Shakman

I May Destroy You-Michaela Coel-HBO
Mare of Easttown-Brad Ingelsby-HBO
The Queen's Gambit-Scott Frank-Netflix
WandaVision-"All-New Halloween Spooktacular"-Chuck Hayward & Peter Cameron-Disney+
WandaVision-"Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience"-Jac Schaeffer-Disney+
WandaVision-"Previously On"-Laura Donney-Disney+

Gold Derby has "I May Destroy You" in a distressingly big lead at the moment, which surprises me. I think they think that that's the best chance for Michaela Cole to win.... (Shrugs) I don't know, I can kinda see this.... There is occasionally a completely out-of-nowhere surprise in this category, like "The Hour" winning that one time. My instinct is actually to still think "The Queen's Gambit" can take this, especially with Scott Frank, being one of the better writers in Hollywood over the years, but then again, looking at the recent history of this category, maybe we're underestimating "WandaVision". It's unusual for a single episode to win for Directing, but not writing. Trying to figure out which episode is a tougher job. I have a feeling "WandaVision" would've won had they been allowed to submit as a full miniseries, the split just doesn't add up. I also don't think the Academy is gonna be able to separate between the Top 3. All things being equal, Writer's Branch will pick the Writer, so I'm taking the biggest writing name.

PREDICTION: "The Queen's Gambit"-Scott Frank
PREFERENCE: "The Queen's Gambit"-Scott Frank

Alright, that's my ballot and my predictions for the main show. I'm not gonna do an immediate post-mortem on the Emmys this year. I'm sorry about that, but I'll put some thoughts together on my next Movie Reviews post on show. 

Anyway, hope these predictions help, or if not, hope you can laugh at them after the show. Let's try to enjoy the Emmys everyone.