Tag Archives: Kate Winslet

Carnage

27 Dec

Title: Carnage
Year: 2011
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Roman Polanski and Yasmine Reza, based on the play by Ms. Reza
Starring: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz
MPAA Rating: R, language
Runtime: 79 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Metacritic: 57

 

When I first heard there was an adaptation of Yasmine Reza’s play God of Carnage in the works, set to be directed by Roman Polanski and with a cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly, I was pretty much blown away, I expected a truly impeccable film to come out from that. After all, the play won the Tony for Best Play in 2009 (when the cast of the original Broadway production was Marcia Gay Harden, who won a Tony herself, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels), and was just super critically lauded. And the people that came on board to make it a film were all insanely talented, all of them except John C. Reilly being Oscar winners, and Mr. Reilly himself being a past nominee and one of the most versatile actors working today for my money, being able to nail both dramatic and comedic roles, which would be key for a film like this.

And yet, as amazing as the talent assembled and source material were, Carnage just didn’t soar to the heights I expected and wanted it to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the direction by Mr. Polanski is incredibly assured in the making of a film that centers on the interactions of just four people, and all four of these actors are incredible, Ms. Winslet and Ms. Foster especially, but it just doesn’t get through, the story isn’t as gripping as it probably was on stage, losing quite a lot of its funnybone and sheer impact, and even though its well-made and well-acted, I started wishing that maybe this director and actors would have teamed up in another, better project.

I still liked it quite a lot, and watching Mr. Polanski make a film that’s this short, just eighty minutes long, working at such a fast pace with a limited amount of actors in a limited space, is bound to deliver the goods. It’s just that the goods it delivers aren’t exactly consistent, the film starts off brilliantly, the first half hour or so is truly impeccable, but then it kind of falters a bit and goes off the rails by the end. But I think we should focus more on the positive side of things, like how fun it is seeing someone like Roman Polanski staying true to the limitations provided by a play as far as time and space goes, spending eighty minutes in an apartment in Brooklyn where two couples are spending an evening of bickering. Most films would have tried to expand the time, would have tried to get the characters the play establishes onto other locations that the broader field of films allow in comparison to the stage. But Roman Polanski shows confidence in making a faithful adaptation of the material he got, writing the script himself alongside Ms. Reza.

The play is about the human condition, an exploration of what happens when those required social niceties to keep society running smoothly come crumbling down and the nastier side of us is allowed to be seen. Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet play one couple, while Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play the other one, and it’s from them, two couples of middle-aged, white people, that we get to see what happens when the walls of politeness come down. What makes them come down is a schoolyard incident between both of their sons, which makes the two couples come together to talk it over, and evolves into a full-on carnage, like the title suggests, every one of them showing what’s so wrong with them and, maybe, with some of us too.

If spending time with these two couples was claustrophobic on stage, forcing you to see these ugly things, though presented to you in quite a funny way, then it’s even more so in film. As not only are you stuck in one apartment, which was really neatly designed by Dean Tavoularis the seventy-nine year-old production designer who worked on all three The Godfather films as well as Apocalypse Now, but you also have the addition of close-ups on the faces of these people to amp up the sense of claustrophobia, courtesy of cinematographer Pawel Edelman, an Oscar-nominee for his work on Mr. Polanski’s The Pianist. That sort of style works well to milk to these characters obsessions with appearances and provide a really bleak comedy that Mr. Polanski and his cast feel at home in.

Penelope and Michael, the characters of Ms. Foster and Mr. Reilly host this meeting, the parents of the injured boy. She’s tightly-wound, over-parenting her son; he seems kind of easy-going, but also rather dumb in comparison to the very bright Penelope, which of course works all that much better when you have the cerebral Ms. Foster and Mr. Reilly who’s played Dale Doback. The parents of the guy that did the beating are a more refined couple, Alan and Nancy, he a successful lawyer; she an investment broker. They obviously get together because, as they say, they’re all grown-ups, rational people, so they meet together happily, ready to quickly resolve a silly little dispute their kids had because, well, because they’re kids. Not so fast.

Things quickly start heating up, and faults of each of them start coming to the surface, faults of their marriage, each of them bubbling up because of the behavior they, the grown-ups, start exhibiting. Mr. Waltz is good at playing Alan, a guy who looks bored throughout and can’t even pretend to care about what his son did, more occupied with a business transaction that has him picking up the phone at the worst of times without care about what’s transpiring in the apartment. The first bits of Carnage work truly well, as the tension starts building up, differences of class and character start superimposing themselves between these four people who realize they just can’t stand each other. The process of watching those niceties go out the window is terrific fun, as the conversation about their kids turns into one about so many other things, but as soon as the process is done with and the third act kicks in with the niceties all gone and everyone involved, especially Mr. Foster, amping up their energy by a notch or two, it just got too messy for me to enjoy just as much, as well-acted a craziness as it may have been.

Grade: B+

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Contagion

8 Oct

Title: Contagion
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: 
Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Demetri Martin, Elliott Gould, John Hawkes
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, disturbing content and some language
Runtime: 
106 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 
84%

 

A lot has been made of Steven Soderbergh’s impending retirement, it seems like it’s never coming considering the guy has like five more films in various stages of development, but when he really does release his final film ever, which is set to be Liberace with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, he will be a director I will truly miss seeing new work from, and watching his latest, Contagion, that became all the more apparent to me. What’s so amazing about Mr. Soderbergh is his versatility in the topics he tackles in his films and the scope of them, he obviously rose to prominence thanks to his stunning debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape and from then he’s managed to produce big Hollywood films with huge casts (Traffic, the Ocean’s trilogy) as well as more artistically ambitious films (like his four-hour Che epic, or The Girlfriend Experience in which he cast pornstar Sasha Grey as his lead). And he’s made them all to varied to degrees to success, that’s true, but for the most part they are really amazing films and, more importantly, you never feel like this guy is compromising, even the Ocean’s films, which could be seen by many as a money-making move, are actually tremendously fun movies and, at the very least, you get the sense that Mr. Soderbergh and his amazing cast were just having the time of their lives making them.

But back to Contagion, the film at hand and his fifth-to-last film ever if his current retirement plans hold (he still has the already-completed Haywire, the currently-filming Magic Mike, a feature version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the aforementioned Liberace), this is another film that sees Mr. Soderbergh handle a huge cast full of seriously huge movie stars (you have 4 Oscar-winners here and another 4 who have been nominees) and he gets performances out of every single member of this huge cast that only a director as experienced as he can get. Seriously, this is a really well-acted film that’s just super tense and has a really neatly-written plot, a plot that’s about a deadly virus spreading, but one that handles the subject in such a smart way, insofar as that it takes a factual sort of explanation to it, that it really gets to be all the scarier because of that.

Because really that’s what makes Contagion so infinitely compelling, the fact that everything it says about this virus seems to be backed up by an logical explanation, or at least one that sounds logical. I’ve heard the film being described as science-fact instead of science-fiction, a kudos to the fact that they apparently worked with very smart scientists to create a virus that, while fictional, could very well be a real thing. And that’s what makes Contagion so scary, that’s why if you maybe go to a bar after seeing this one you will keep away as possible from the peanut bowl, especially because it’s precisely a peanut bowl that Mr. Soderbergh chooses to linger over after a sick-looking Gwyneth Paltrow grabs a few while waiting at the airport, he lets you know that the next person to go for a peanut will get a bit more than that.

This is the smartest disaster movie you’ll get to see this year, or maybe even ever now that I think about it, and it’s really a disaster movie from the very get-go which makes it all the better, Mr. Soderbergh wastes no precious time on expository scenes before that, you hear a cough as soon as the movie starts and then you’ll get a look at Ms. Paltrow, patient zero of this horrible new virus, showing the deadly signs of the disease. That’s the sort of movie this is, one that’s just incredibly fast-paced, you get little shots of people coming into contact with one another, potentially passing off something, you get all these very different cities accompanied by the number of people living in them, the number of candidates for contagion, it’s just really masterfully done, Mr. Soderbergh tightening the screws as much as he can to emphasize the tension here, it’s sharp and intelligent filmmaking at its best.

It shows that this is a director that has handled serious stuff with pure entertainment in the past in films like Traffic or Erin Brockovich, because he gives us a really terrific look at how government and society would handle such a huge pandemic but he mixes it so well with a purely entertaining and tense thriller that you never feel like this is too dense. Not to mention that, again, the talent assembled in front of the camera is just as amazing, with a who’s-who of Hollywood stars handling all of the ensemble roles. They don’t really get that much of a shot to really stretch into their characters, as they don’t get much time on screen because there are so many of them, but still, if you have Kate Winslet setting up the quarantine zones or Matt Damon as the husband of patient zero or Marion Cotillard trying to identify the source of the virus then you’re bound to see them do great things with these roles even in limited time, and indeed, they achieve some first-class emotional connection in very precious and small time.

Contagion is just a truly amazing film, Mr. Soderbergh finds a way to really make us feel scared and anxious and emotionally connected to characters that he actually keeps at arm’s-length for most of the film, and he uses this virus as a metaphor for so many things from greedy corporations to personal human relations, it’s just a wonder to watch him to do his thing here. A part of me wanted more depth to the characters to get to see these actors do wonders with them (or in the case of the blogger played by Jude Law, to make him not look like a thinly-drawn caricature of a more complex role), I don’t know, I guess I just wanted to see what Mr. Soderbergh could have done with an extra twenty-five minutes or so. But nevermind me nitpicking, this is still an incredible film, you will leave the theater afraid, that’s for sure, afraid about getting sick, afraid about how seemingly unprepared we as a civilization are if something like this happens, and afraid at only having four more films from this genius to look forward to.

Grade: A-

Emmy Results

20 Sep

The Emmy Awards took place last night, and while there were some highs (the Lead Actress in a Comedy pageant, Ty Burrell’s speech, the The Office spoof) and some lows (the opening musical number, those Emmy-Tones, the New Jersey spoof) that we can argue about how actually good or bad they were, the results are definite and can’t be argued about. As per usual, there were a few surprises (both good and bad), so I’ll round up the winners of the categories which I predicted and then see how I did with those predictions.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

Winner: Mad Men

I got this one right, as the masterful AMC series got its fourth win in a row in this category, tying a legendary streak imposed only by The West Wing, L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues for consecutive wins in the category.

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

Winner: Modern Family

Will this become the Comedy equivalent of Mad Men? It sure seems to be looking that way, as Modern Family really dominated last night’s award telecast, and easily got its second straight Emmy in this category.

OUTSTANDING TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Winner: Downton Abbey

Look, I haven’t seen Downton Abbey, but I guess now I really should. Got it wrong considering I was really sure Mildred Pierce would get this one.

OUTSTANDING REALITY SHOW COMPETITION

Winner: The Amazing Race

I wanted Idol to win because it was this year or never for them, but you really can’t stop the ambitious around-the-world competition.

OUTSTANDING REALITY SERIES

Winner: Deadliest Catch

I predicted this one right even though I don’t actually watch the show, not really much else to say here.

OUTSTANDING VARIETY SERIES

Winner: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

How can you bet against Stewart here? As long as he’s in business this award will have his named engraved on it.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Winner: Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)

Yes!!! Never in my life I think have I been so glad to miss a prediction. Yes, this was arguably Jon Hamm’s year considering Bryan Cranston wasn’t here to beat him, but for FNL and Chandler to get love for the final season of my favorite show of all-time was the best thing that happened Sunday night.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Winner: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Look, I love Jim Parsons as much as the next guy, but I think even he would be quick to agree that this just didn’t make sense. Who did Steve Carell piss off in the Academy? This should have been his for his stellar final season as Michael Scott.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Winner: Barry Pepper (The Kennedys)

What.the.frak? Literally any of the other five nominees would have been a much more deserving winner. Seriously didn’t get this win.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Winner: Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)

The FNL love didn’t extend to Mrs. Coach, though. As Julianna Margulies got her second Emmy for The Good Wife‘s second season (her first was in 1995 for her work on ER). And it really was much deserved.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Winner: Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)

The way all of the nominees in this category got up on stage as their names were called out and formed a kind of parade was my favorite bit of the telecast. However, the award itself shouldn’t have gone to the least deserving of the nominees. It felt like they were giving McCarthy kudos for Gilmore Girls or Bridesmaids, because there’s no way you can argue her work on Mike & Molly being superior than that of any of her co-nominees.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Winner: Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)

This one was always hers. Now she has the EGO in her EGOT. Can’t wait to see what she does to get that T.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Winner: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

I didn’t get this one right, as I didn’t see Game of Thrones getting this much love from the Academy. Kind of sad because that meant Slattery wouldn’t go on to win and the Mad Men acting Emmy drought would continue.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Winner: Ty Burrell (Modern Family)

Last year Stonestreet, now the extremely deserving Burrell. My guess is that O’Neill will be the winner in 2012 and Ferguson in 2013. This award is Modern Family‘s for as long as it stays on the air with this level of excellence.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Winner: Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce)

Good win here, even though I hated his speech about having sex with Kate Winslet, that bit was a bit weird.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Winner: Margo Martindale (Justified)

Possibly my second favorite win of the whole night after Chandler’s. Martindale has been one of the best actresses in television for years now, and she finally gets her due. How she got up after stumbling on the steps and then gave that great speech was just the icing on the cake.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Winner: Julie Bowen (Modern Family)

Another sensationally satisfying win for me. In my predictions I had her to win, but I noted that I was just going on gut feeling but thought that Jane Lynch would get it. Goes to show you that listening to one’s gut can work.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Winner: Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)

I may not have seen Downton Abbey, but I know better than to bet against Dame Maggie Smith. I got this prediction right.

OUTSTANDING REALITY HOST

Winner: Jeff Probst (Survivor)

Impossible for him to ever lose this one, really.

 

So those were the results of the races I tried to predict. I went 13 for 19 which I think is quite decent, we’ll see how I do next year. Until then!

Emmy Predictions: TV Movie/Miniseries

3 Sep

The 63rd Annual Emmy Awards will take place on Sunday September 18th, just a bit over two weeks from now, so I started making my formal Emmy Predictions and posting my review of each of the major races, since the last time I did so was in my EmmyWatch posts which I did to predict the nominations and as such they had a broader outlook. When predicting the nominees, I went 86 out of the 110 slots I had called, which I think is a solid number, hopefully my accuracy will only improve now that I’m predicting the actual winners. This Emmy Predictions post will take a look at the main TV Movie/Miniseries categories.

OUTSTANDING TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Nominees

  • Mildred Pierce
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Kennedys
  • Cinema Verite
  • Too Big to Fail
  • The Pillars of the Earth

This really will be an all-out battle between Mildred Pierce and Downton Abbey, like it was shaping up to be from the very beginning, but I think now it’s closer than we think, but Mildred Pierce has the talent and back-up to go all the way, and I don’t think it will be stopped.

Should Win: Mildred Pierce

Will Win: Mildred Pierce

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Nominees

  • Greg Kinnear (The Kennedys)
  • Barry Pepper (The Kennedys)
  • Édgar Ramírez (Carlos)
  • William Hurt (Too Big to Fail)
  • Idris Elba (Luther)
  • Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood)

I’m actually very much on the fence about this prediction, as I can easily see Ramírez, Hurt or Elba picking up the trophy on Emmy Night, and you can make good cases for all three of them doing so. So it will depend on how the voters feel, the fact that Carlos was overlooked in the Best Mini category may mean that Ramírez won’t have the support needed to pull the win here, but he’s my favorite so I’ll predict him

Should Win: Édgar Ramírez

Will Win: Édgar Ramírez

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Nominees

  • Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)
  • Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey)
  • Diane Lane (Cinema Verite)
  • Taraji P. Henson (Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story)
  • Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs)

I won’t waste your time here trying to pretend there’s more than one scenario in which this category can end up. This trophy already have Winslet’s named engraved on it, and right so, only the Tony left for her to get the EGOT.

Should Win: Kate Winslet

Will Win: Kate Winslet

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Nominees

  • Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce)
  • Brian F. O’Byrne (Mildred Pierce)
  • Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys)
  • Paul Giamatti (Too Big to Fail)
  • James Woods (Too Big to Fail)

I’m not sure how this will go, it’s probably Woods versus Pearce at this point, and just for the sheer impact that Mildred Pierce will have in the telecast I’ll go ahead and predict a Guy Pearce win.

Should Win: Paul Giamatti

Will Win: Guy Pearce

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Nominees

  • Evan Rachel Wood (Mildred Pierce)
  • Melissa Leo (Mildred Pierce)
  • Mare Winningham (Mildred Pierce)
  • Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
  • Eileen Atkins (Upstairs Downstairs)

Here’s what I think will happen, the trio of Mildred Pierce ladies will cancel each other out by losing some votes to their very own co-stars and the beneficiary from that will be the always excellent Maggie Smith.

Should Win: Evan Rachel Wood

Will Win: Maggie Smith

Emmy Nominations

14 Jul

Melissa McCarthy and Joshua Jackson announced the Emmy nominations bright and early this morning, and there were quite a few interesting nominations to say the least, as well as your usual group of horribly snubbed actors and shows, but then again it wouldn’t be the Emmy nominations if you weren’t cheering uncontrollably for someone while you were weeping over the exclusion of someone else. I did four EmmyWatch posts last month, tackling the major categories in the Drama, Comedy, TV Movie/Miniseries and Reality/Variety races, so now I’ll list the full set of nominations, and a brief reaction to it, including how I did with my predictions.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Dexter
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Good Wife
  • Mad Men
Reaction: I went 5-for-6 in this one, I predicted Justified over Game of Thrones. However, Game of Thrones was amongst my 6 dream nominees so I’m happy about it. Still this one is still probably a Boardwalk Empire vs. Mad Men race to the finish line, and I’m just happy that my beloved Friday Night Lights was finally given a shot to compete in the big race.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
  • Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
  • Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Hugh Laurie (House)
  • Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
Reaction: Also went 5-for-6 in this category, predicting a William H. Macy nod over that of Timothy Olyphant. That said, Olyphant was actually my #3 dream nominee, and hearing his name called out was one of the happiest moments of the nominations for me, so I’m seriously glad he’s in there. Much like in the Outstanding Drama category, though, this is a Boardwalk Empire vs. Mad Men battle.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
  • Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law)
  • Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
  • Mireille Enos (The Killing)
  • Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU)
  • Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
Reaction: I went 4-for-6 here. I predicted Katey Sagal and Kyra Sedgwick instead of Bates and Hargitay. And those misses are weird to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Sagal won the Globe and I can’t believe she got snubbed again by the Emmy’s. Sedgwick actually won this last year and her total omission from this year’s race was bizarre. And Kathy Bates may be great, but Harry’s Law really isn’t, this just goes to prove how Emmy voters sometimes just vote for the name.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
  • Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
  • Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
  • Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
  • Walton Goggins (Justified)
  • John Slattery (Mad Men)
  • Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age)
Reaction: A strong 5-for-6 showing again in this category. And, again, the one prediction I missed was one I was still incredibly happy to hear. I had Michael Pitt of Boardwalk Empire getting a nod because I reckoned the voters wanted to go deep for their love of the HBO crime saga, but Goggins got in there, and he was actually my #2 dream nominee, so I was damn happy about his inclusion. Still pissed about the lack of John Noble, though.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
  • Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire)
  • Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
  • Christine Baranksi (The Good Wife)
  • Margo Martindale (Justified)
  • Michelle Forbes (The Killing)
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
Reaction: Another 5-for-6 here. Missed Forbes’ nomination in favor of Sharon Gless. However, Forbes was #4 dream nominee and I don’t even watch Burn Notice so I was seriously glad to miss out on a perfect prediction score here.
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Glee
  • Modern Family
  • The Office
  • Parks and Recreation
  • 30 Rock
Reaction: 5-for-6 again here, but I was SO happy about that, because that miss of mine in this category meant that Parks and Rec, my #2 dream nominee, got in instead of Nurse Jackie which I had predicted to get a nod. The Big Bang Theory also finally broke through to the big race. Still, the thing that pissed me off the most about today’s nominations was the overall lack of love for Community.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Louis C.K. (Louie)
  • Steve Carell (The Office)
  • Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
  • Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Reaction: 4-for-6 in this one. I had Joel McHale and Matthew Morrison instead of Louis and Galecki. And while I was ecstatic to hear Louis C.K. named this morning (he was #5 in my dream ballot), and I loved that he got in instead of Morrison, I don’t really care much for Galecki and the fact that he probably meant McHale wasn’t nominated ticks me off.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Laura Linney (The Big C)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
  • Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope)
  • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Reaction: 5-for-6 again, I had Toni Collette instead of McCarthy in this one. Still, it was awesome to see Poehler and Plimpton get in, and I actually quite liked the fact that they realized this was a comedy category and Lea Michele got snubbed.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Chris Colfer (Glee)
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
  • Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
  • Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
  • Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
  • Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Reaction: 4-for-6 here, I predicted Nick Offerman (who was my #1 dream nominee) and Neil Patrick Harris over Cryer and Ferguson. But I guess the Modern Family party prevailed (and I’m actually very happy about that) and the voters wanted to give Cryer the nod for having to put up with Sheen’s antics, which is good too, I guess. I just wanted to see Ron Swanson in there.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
  • Jane Lynch (Glee)
  • Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
  • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
  • Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)
  • Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Reaction: Finally, my first 6-for-6! Though I was still holding out for a surprise Alison Brie or Aubrey Plaza nod.
OUTSTANDING REALITY SHOW COMPETITION
  • The Amazing Race
  • American Idol
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Project Runway
  • So You Think You Can Dance
  • Top Chef
Reaction: 5-for-6. I was hoping The Voice would get in there instead of So You Think You Can Dance, but here’s hoping it’ll make the shortlist next season!
OUTSTANDING REALITY SERIES
  • Hoarders
  • Antiques Roadshow
  • Deadliest Catch
  • MythBusters
  • Undercover  Boss
  • Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Reaction: 4-for-6, not bad considering this was the category I randomly guessed because I only watch Mythbusters out of the contenders.
OUTSTANDING REALITY HOST
  • Jeff Probst (Survivor)
  • Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance)
  • Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race)
  • Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars)
  • Ryan Seacrest (American Idol)
Reaction: 4-for-5. I was thinking Padma Lakshmi over Deeley here.
OUTSTANDING VARIETY SERIES
  • The Colbert Report
  • Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
  • Saturday Night Live
  • Conan
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Reaction: 5-for-6 here, I went with Letterman over Fallon in my predictions, but I’m damn glad Fallon got in, he keeps getting better and better.
OUTSTANDING TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Mildred Pierce
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Kennedys
  • Cinema Verite
  • Too Big to Fail
  • The Pillars of the Earth
Reaction: 4-for-6 here, and I’m really pissed that Carlos (my far-and-out #1 dream nominee) wasn’t nominated. I also predicted Luther would get in but it didn’t.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Greg Kinnear (The Kennedys)
  • Barry Pepper (The Kennedys)
  • Édgar Ramírez (Carlos)
  • William Hurt (Too Big to Fail)
  • Idris Elba (Luther)
  • Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood)
Reaction: 4-for-6 again in this one, I had Hugh Bonneville and Samuel L. Jackson over Kinnear and Pepper, because I really didn’t think The Kennedys was going to get this ridiculous amount of love. Still, Ramírez and Elba got in here, and that’s really all I cared about.
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)
  • Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey)
  • Diane Lane (Cinema Verite)
  • Taraji P. Henson (Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story)
  • Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs)
Reaction: 4-for-5 here, even though I did 6 predictions and Henson was in there but at #6 so I’m not going to count her. I had Haley Atwell over her. Still, this Emmy probably already has Winslet’s name engraved on it.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce)
  • Brian F. O’Byrne (Mildred Pierce)
  • Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys)
  • Paul Giamatti (Too Big to Fail)
  • James Woods (Too Big to Fail)
Reaction: 4-for-5, I had Tim Robbins over Wilkinson, even though Wilkinson was my #6 in the predictions. I just didn’t anticipate The Kennedys getting this much love.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES
  • Evan Rachel Wood (Mildred Pierce)
  • Melissa Leo (Mildred Pierce)
  • Mare Winningham (Mildred Pierce)
  • Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
  • Eileen Atkins (Upstairs Downstairs)
Reaction: 4-for-5 again here, I had Cynthia Nixon over Winningham, but apparently Mildred Pierce just dominated the category.
So there they are, the Emmy nominations for the categories I had predicted and commented on in my EmmyWatch posts. As the ceremony grows nearer I’ll make similar posts detailing the state of the race and my final prediction for who will actually win it, but for now let’s just let these nods simmer. There were plenty to be happy about (The Justified love, the Friday Night Lights love, Ed O’Neill finally getting in) but there were also a fair share of misses (like the shut-outs for Community and Fringe), but all for all it was a solid pack of nominees. As for my predictions, I went an overall 86-for-110, which I think is pretty damn solid, and hopefully my accuracy won’t fall when predicting the actual winners!

EmmyWatch 2011: Movie/Miniseries

22 Jun

Joshua Jackson and Melissa McCarthy are set to announce the nominations for the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards bright and early on Thursday, July 14th. And even though this is a film blog, some of you many know I’m also a pretty obsessive TV-watcher, and I currently watch over 70 television series, so I’d like to think I know a fair bit about what’s on the air right now. And in that spirit, I’ll do what I did with my OscarWatch posts back in January, and tackle the major categories for this years Emmy Awards in 4 EmmyWatch posts: Reality/Variety, Mini/Movie, Comedy and Drama.

In them I’ll give my quick thoughts on a particular race and how I personally think things will eventually shape up, listing both the 6 contenders I would personally pick were the nominations up to me, and then 6 who I actually think will have their names called out come nomination morning. Then once the nominations are announced I’ll do a post with my reactions and my actual predictions for the races. In this, the second EmmyWatch, we’ll take a look at the Made for TV Movie and Miniseries races…

TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Look, this is the category in which Carlos competes, and even though I haven’t seen the mini-series version, I have seen the shortened film version and I absolutely adored it, and my guess is that an elongated look will only make it that much better a watch, so I definitely love that. Then we have Mildred Pierce and Downton Abbey and Cinema Verite, and the latest editions of Sherlock and Luther, so yeah, I’m actually really like the Movie/Mini category this year.

My Personal 6 (in specific order)

  1. Carlos – Again, I’ve only seen the shortened movie version of this one, but the longer one I assume only means additional hours with the powerhouse performance that Édgar Ramírez gave in the titular role, which is saying something, so yeah, this is my number one.
  2. Sherlock: A Study in Pink – I’m guessing this one will have a tough time actually cracking the nominations, but I absolutely adore Sherlock and Bennedict Cumberbatch in the title role, so it gets my personal number 2 slot.
  3. Mildred Pierce – This one was made I guess with the sole mission to reap through these awards. And even though I really liked it, and Kate Winslet was perfect as ever in the leading role, I thought I’d find myself liking it more than I ultimately did.
  4. Luther – The stuff Idris Elba does with this character is just magnificent to watch and he should get all the kudos he deserves, he just makes the series an insanely compelling watch.
  5. Too Big to Fail – The cast, the timing of the story, the direction, this one had all the key elements to make it a big player, and even though I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would considering the pedigree, it’s still pretty excellent.
  6. Cinema Verite – In any other year in which Mildred Pierce didn’t have Kate Winslet then my guess is that Diane Lane would be the front runner for the actress award, she makes Cinema Verite very good.

How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)

  1. Mildred Pierce – Read above, they made this one to rule these categories, and it should win the top prize.
  2. Downton Abbey – Not even in my Personal 6 but I think that if Mildred Pierce is to suffer an upset here it’ll be at the hands of this one.
  3. Carlos – It’s my number one but my guess is that in the actual ballots it will end up somewhere in the middle of the pack.
  4. Cinema Verite – It’s good but it should’ve been better in order to have a shot at the big prize.
  5. Too Big to Fail – Read Personal 6.
  6. Luther – I’m torn between this, Sherlock and The Sunset Limited for the final slot that will be given, but I think Luther will eventually prevail.

ACTOR IN TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

There were some great performance in this field this year actually. As I said in the aforementioned category Édgar Ramírez totally stole the show in Carlos and he’ll obviously be my personal #1 as well as the one I’ll bet on to win the eventual trophy, but other than him there were great ones given by the likes of Laurence Fishburne and Samuel L. Jackson, so you’ll see some really heavy names trying to take it away from the relative unknown.

My Personal 6 (in specific order)

  1. Édgar Ramírez (Carlos) – His performance is just a tour de force, what he does with this character, the journey he so believably takes us through, it’s really something spectacular to watch, he’s at the top of my personal list without even the slightest doubt.
  2. Idris Elba (Luther) – If Edgar Ramirez somehow loses this prize I’ll be pissed no matter what, but if he loses the trophy to Elba I’ll understand, he’s just incendiary as Luther day in and day out.
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: A Study in Pink) – Much like the series itself, I think the guy will have tough time cracking the list of nominees, but he’s certainly top 3 in my personal book.
  4. Samuel L. Jackson (The Sunset Limited) – The movie wasn’t as good as many were it expecting it to be, but there’s just no denying the tremendous level of Jackson’s performance in this Cormac McCarthy adaptation.
  5. Kenneth Branagh (Wallander: The Fifth Woman) – Just another fantastic performance by Branagh in this role, I doubt he’ll actually receive the nod but he certainly gets in my Personal 6.
  6. Jim Broadbent (Any Human Heart) – I’m a big Jim Broadbent fan, so he gets my final personal slot.

How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)

  1. Édgar Ramírez (Carlos) – Read Personal 6. He’s just the best in the pack.
  2. Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood) – Something tells me that if Ramirez doesn’t pull it off it’ll be Fishburne who stops him.
  3. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) – Like Fishburne, Bonneville is another one that didn’t make my Personal 6 but that I put in the Top 3 of eventual nominees. If Downton Abbey starts overperforming come Emmy night then watch out for him
  4. Samuel L. Jackson (The Sunset Limited) – Read Personal 6.
  5. Idris Elba (Luther) – Read Personal 6.
  6. William Hurt (Too Big to Fail) – Picking Hurt over Tommy Lee Jones (for The Sunset Limited) but I think it could really go either way.

ACTRESS IN TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

This is probably the biggest lock of the night, there is just simply no scenario in which Kate Winslet leaves without a trophy in her hands, and rightfully so. I really don’t know what else to say about this category, there will be four or five other nominees, but they’ll just have to sit pretty and watch the greatest living actress under 60 take the stage.

My Personal 5 (not 6) (in specific order)

  1. Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce) – She’s the greatest, the classiest, just impossible not to love, and she’ll be taking her second step towards an EGOT, there’s just no possibility she won’t win.
  2. Diane Lane (Cinema Verite) – I actually love this performance, and I think that in any other Winslet-less year she would’ve had a genuinely good shot, but alas that just wasn’t the case.
  3. Katie Holmes (The Kennedys) – Yes, that’s right, I have Katie Holmes as my personal #3 over some other probably more deserving contenders, but I just really thought her performance here was stellar and she should get the nod.
  4. Taraji P. Henson (Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story) – This was a very tough story to tell and Henson just made all the right choices with the titular role, a very emotionally touching performance.
  5. Hayley Atwell (The Pillars of the Earth) – Already nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in this one, I thought she was one of the best things about this adaptation of Ken Follett’s work.

How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)

  1. Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce) – Read Personal 6.
  2. Diane Lane (Cinema Verite) – Read Personal 6.
  3. Elizabeth McGovern (Downtown Abbey) – Something tells me she, and not Lane, may be the eventual #2, but it doesn’t matter, it’s not like she’s any real threat to Winslet.
  4. Jean Marsh (Upstairs, Downstairs) – She’s terrific in the role she originated in the 1970’s original, and should definitely score a nomination.
  5. Hayley Atwell (The Pillars of the Earth) – Read Personal 6.
  6. Taraji P. Henson (Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story) – Read Personal 6.

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

Some big big names will battle it out here, and my guess is that it’ll boil down to a match up between Gandolfini and Giamatti for the trophy, but if someone else picks it up then it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise, I think this one is more open than it seems right now.

My Personal 6

  1. Paul Giamatti (Too Big to Fail) – I’m a huge huge Giamatti fan, he’s just a scene stealer always and he was the best part about this one, a TV film that was just full of terrific male supporting performances.
  2. James Gandolfini (Cinema Verite) – My guess is that he’ll actually have the edge when the nominations are announced over Giamatti, but he’s my personal #2.
  3. Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce) – Kate Winslet is obviously what everyone talks about when referring to this mini, but Guy Pearce alongside her is one of the reasons why she shined so much, he does a truly phenomenal job.
  4. Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys) – Another guy I’m a huge fan of, and alongside Katie Holmes he was probably the best part about this mini series that had such a hard time getting to air.
  5. Billy Crudup (Too Big to Fail) – If two supporting actors of this one end up in this category I doubt it’ll be Crudup who joins Giamatti, but I just loved him in this one so he gets a slot on my Personal 6.
  6. Tim Robbins (Cinema Verite) – Another one I think will have multiple nominees in this category, Robbins is pretty damn good here.

How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)

  1. James Gandolfini (Cinema Verite) – He has 3 of these already, so this group definitely loves him, and my guess is that he has the edge in this category.
  2. Paul Giamatti (Too Big to Fail) – Read Personal 6.
  3. Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce) – Read Personal 6.
  4. James Woods (Too Big to Fail) – In my Personal 6 I had Billy Crudup as the co-star that would join Giamatti in this category, but in reality it’ll most likely be Woods, who gives another one of his terrific commanding performances.
  5. Tim Robbins (Cinema Verite) – Read Personal 6.
  6. Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys) – He won this one a few years ago, so just for that I’m giving him the edge over Downton Abbey’s Brendan Coyle to return to the nominees circle.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES

This one seems to be a likely fight between Maggie Smith and Evan Rachel Wood for the trophy, and I would love nothing more than to see the latter take the stage come Emmy night.

My Personal 6

  1. Evan Rachel Wood (Mildred Pierce) – Yes, Winslet is a mortal lock to win the Leading Actress race, and with good reason because she’s perfect in it, but Guy Pearce in the above discussed category and Evan Rachel Wood here are the two biggest reasons why she shined like she did, they gave the perfect supporting turns.
  2. Gillian Anderson (Any Human Heart) – I love this woman in everything she does, and though she probably won’t end up this high on the actual ballots she gets the slot in my personal list.
  3. Melissa Leo (Mildred Pierce) – Yet another shining piece in the stellar cast of this mini series, she’s terrific here, though not as great as her other female supporting co-star (but then again she wasn’t as good as Amy Adams in The Fighter and she won the Oscar, so who knows…)
  4. Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) – Yes, she probably is the favorite but she’s just middle of the pack in my opinion.
  5. Cynthia Nixon (Too Big to Fail) – Another woman I really like, plus she’s just an Oscar away from the EGOT so that makes her even cooler.
  6. Betty White (The Lost Valentine) – She’s Betty White, there really isn’t much more to be said here, everyone loves her and she’ll surely get a nod here.

How I think the actual nominations will look like (in specific order)

  1. Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) – A past winner, I think she’ll eventually have the advantage over my personal favorite…
  2. Evan Rachel Wood (Mildred Pierce) – Read Personal 6… nothing would make me happier than to see her take the stage.
  3. Melissa Leo (Mildred Pierce) – She’s really well liked and might ride the wave of kudos she’s now currently enjoying.
  4. Eileen Atkins (Upstairs, Downstairs) – Another legendary British past winner, she didn’t make my Personal 6 but my guess is that she’ll get in there.
  5. Cynthia Nixon (Too Big to Fail) – Read Personal 6.
  6. Betty White (The Lost Valentine) – Again, she’s Betty White, she’s gotta keep on racking up them nods.

Meek’s Cutoff

12 Jun

Title: Meek’s Cutoff
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Jonathan Raymond
Starring: 
Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Tommy Nelson, Will Patton
MPAA Rating: 
PG, mild violent content, brief language and smoking
Runtime: 
104 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
85%

I’m a big big fan of director Kelly Reichardt. Her debut film, River of Glass, is pretty excellent. 2006’s Old Joy, starring musician Will Oldham, is absolutely incredible and I have it ranked as my 28th favorite film of that year. And then there’s 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, which saw her working with Michelle Williams and which I have ranked as my 24th favorite film of that year, that film is pretty spectacular on so many levels. So yeah, when you are a director that has a style that’s so personal and minimalistic, one that resonates a lot with my tastes, and you see her track record being as impeccable as Ms. Reichardt’s is, then you can sure as hell be impressed.

And then there’s the matter of Michelle Williams. If I had to name my five favorite living actresses, I wouldn’t hesitate to put her name in the conversation, next to Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Diane Keaton. I seriously love her, and every performance she gives I find to be pretty much perfect. Hell, even her breakout turn as Jen Lindley on TV’s Dawson’s Creek was seriously well acted, and her film work since, in films like The Station Agent, Brokeback Mountain, Wendy and Lucy, Synecdoche, New York and, especially, last year’s sublime Blue Valentine, has been a thing of beauty, a really thrilling journey to witness from film to film, the maturation of an actress, a woman who’s barely over thirty and yet I still have no doubt in my mind to proclaim her as one of the greatest, I just love her.

So, you see, if I liked Ms. Reichardt’s previous collaboration with Ms. Williams, you can be sure as hell about me being insanely excited for this one. And they didn’t disappoint, Meek’s Cutoff is another stellar addition to Ms. Reichardt’s body of work, and yet another spectacular performance from Ms. Williams, who you can tell is bound to get an Oscar sooner rather than later, she’s just delivering like crazy every single role she gets. I guess you could call this film a neo-western, and it’s a very unique take on that genre, because it’s probably the most slowly-paced western I’ve seen, focussing a lot on the day-to-day workings of just traveling from one place to another by foot, with wagons and oxen next to you for weeks at a time. And I think it’s tremendous how Ms. Reichardt never gives us a really huge event to take away from that monotony, instead just allowing us to immerse ourselves into this lonely and arduous journey.

Bruce Greenwood is the actor in charge of playing the title character, Stephen Meek, and the cutoff referred to in the title is this other route Meek was taking a group of settlers through instead of going through the main trail where Indian attacks were rumored to be happening. This is actually all based on a true story, but the film isn’t about a historical event, it’s just about what went on through the minds of these few people going on such a hugely demanding journey following a man who was extremely hard-headed in his views and opinions, even when it turned out he was totally wrong and had no idea of what he was doing.

And it’s all very hard-hatting stuff that these settlers have to go through after it becomes clearer and clearer that Meek didn’t really know this new path as well as he thought he did, and you really get the sense of just how hard an odyssey it might have been, fearing to run out of water, having to leave things behind just so that your burden might lessen, and this isn’t all done to create some sort of huge scene of desperation, but to allow Ms. Reichardt to do what she does best, to create her very minimalistic outlook at the psyches of her characters, not to show the desperation itself, but to show what the desperation does, it’s just seriously well done.

A member of this group of settlers is Emily Tetherow, the character played by the incomparable Ms. Williams. And she’s just pitch perfect for this role, and it’s terrific that Ms. Reichardt has her to work with here, because another thing that really sets Meek’s Cutoff from other westerns is that it focuses a lot on the women in this group of settlers, and Ms. Williams is front and center, delivering a performance that’s will most likely end up in my Top 5 given by a female lead actress this year, one of incredible restraint, saying so much just with her eyes that it’s stunning to watch. And it’s Emily who confronts Meek, who blames him for not admitting he didn’t knew where he was going, and the scenes between the two are really something to behold.

There is an indian watching them, you see, and we are to assume that he’s doing just that to guide an indian attack to their location. And even the portrayal of the indian is unlike what you see in your regular westerns, he’s not that fierce warrior dressed in a particular way, he’s an observing man, a mysterious figure throughout. And the settlers eventually catch him, and there’s a discussion about whether they should just kill him so that he can’t kill them while they sleep, which is what Meek proposes, or to try and get him to tell them which way to go to get water, which is what Emily proposes. And it’s all sensationally well told, with a huge sense of slow-burning tension through the story, with a slow paced designed to really show us the grim realities of the time.

This is just truly a spectacular film, shot in a screen ratio we haven’t seen for decades, but that was the one used in most of the great western classics, which only adds to its faithful look. Yes, the pacing may be slow, but the film is all the more perfect for that, because that way we really get to feel how long and hard their journey was, and it’s just such an impressively immersive film that you have to give all the props in the world to Ms. Reichardt, who gives a masterclass in how to handle this material, and to Ms. Williams, who between this one and the upcoming Take This Waltz and My Week with Marilyn is bound to have another terrific year, and we’re all very lucky because of that.

Grade: A-