Sunday, July 17, 2011

15 observations about this year's Emmy nominations

Just some random thoughts on the subject...

1) The presence of so many movie talents working in television now continues to blur the line between the two mediums--more than ever, it seems TV is taking over the mantle of providing great entertainment for adults. In particular, the director categories are filled with an impressive line-up of mainstream, indie and foreign directors.

**Martin Scorsese got two nominations, one for directing the Boardwalk Empire pilot and the other for his American Masters documentary A Letter to Elia, co-directed by film critic Kent Jones.
**French director Olivier Assayas is probably the most highbrow director ever to be nominated for an Emmy, for helming the Spanish miniseries Carlos. In fact, Carlos is somewhat of an special case in that it was released theatrically in some markets before it was shown on IFC. By the way, Edgar Ramiriez (seen below) was, happily, also nominated as Best Actor in a Miniseries for Carlos.

**Canadian filmmaker Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Safe) was cited for his HBO adaptation of Mildred Pierce.
**American Splendor directors Shari Springer Burman and Robert Pulcini were honored for their direction of Cinema Verite.
**Monster director Patty Jenkins was picked for her pilot for The Killing.
**Irish director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Mona Lisa) got a nomination for his episode of The Borgias.
**L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson was nominated for his HBO movie Too Big To Fail, about the Wall Street debacle.
**Ridley Scott landed a spot in the Nonfiction Special category for being the executive producer on Bravo's production on Gettysberg.
**In the same category, Steven Soderburgh got a nod as exec producer on HBO's His Way.

2) Also, some big-time movie idols got some nominations this year: Kate Winslet, Melissa Leo, Guy Pearce and Evan Rachel Wood for Mildred Pierce; Kathy Bates for Harry's Law; Gwyneth Paltrow for guesting on Glee; Zach Galifinakis and Justin Timberlake, both for hosting Saturday Night Live; Matt Damon for guesting on 30 Rock; Kristen Wiig (the newest movie star on the block, after Bridesmaids), nominated once again for her SNL work; Steve Buscemi for Boardwalk Empire; Paul Giamatti, William Hurt and James Woods for Too Big To Fail; Diane Lane for Cinema Verite; Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper and the forever terrific Tom Wilkinson for The Kennedys; Lawrence Fishburne in Thurgood; Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey; Peter Dinklage in HBO's acclaimed Game of Thrones; and Christopher Plummer as the narrator of TCM's Moguls and Movie Stars. Wow!

3) Two theatrically released films were nominated in the Best Nonfiction Program category--Josh Fox's anti-fracking doc Gasland and PBS' Oscar-nominated doc The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers.

4) I was glad to see that the two HBO projects I'm most excited about--Todd Haynes' Mildred Pierce miniseries and the retelling of the Loud family saga, Cinema Verite, got scads of nominations. In fact, Mildred Pierce leads the pack overall with 22 nominations.

5) Somehow, even though it continues to rarely be funny, Saturday Night Live landed 16 nominations--more in one year than it has ever received. Are Emmy voters really WATCHING this show?

6) I'm wondering if this year's sentimental choice for Best Actor in a Comedy Series will be Steve Carrell, whose final episode as The Office's Michael Scott aired this year. He certainly deserves the Emmy, after losing six times in a row; his contribution to the show has been indelible. But, in my opinion, though, the award should really go to...

7) Louis C.K. Though his astounding FX show Louie got him nominations for Best Actor and Best Writing in a Comedy Series, the show as a whole failed to land in the top spot for Best Comedy Series (they should have thrown out the terminally unfunny Parks and Recreation to make room for it). Still, C.K. arrives as a 4-time Emmy nominee this year (he got two other nominations, for writing and editing (!) his comedy special Louis C.K.: Hilarious). Yay for Louis C.K. We adore him here on the Nose!

8) As always, I'm happy with the justified domination of Mad Men (17 nominations) in the Drama Series categories (and I'm especially happy that Elizabeth Moss--the show's Peggy--has moved up into the Lead Actress category). But, while I like Modern Family just fine, its 15 nominations in the Comedy categories feels like overkill.

9) Boardwalk Empire landed 16 nominations in its first Emmy year, including just ones for series lead Steve Buscemi and supporting actress Kelly MacDonald. I only wish I loved the series more than I do, or else I'd be rooting for it.

10) Nice to see that Pee-Wee Herman is back on the Emmy rosters. His Pee-Wee on Broadway special for HBO garnered a few nods, including one for Best Variety Special (interestingly, he's competing against Lady Gaga for her HBO Monster Ball concert offering).

11) It looks like The Big Bang Theory has finally arrived. As well as getting chosen as one of the six Best Comedy Series nominees, the show got two lead actor nominations, for Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki. Somehow, though, that's the best the show could do--it missed out on any of the writing and direction nominations, because Modern Family is hogging up the categories.

12) In the reality programming categories, I have to protest the exclusion of two of my favorite shows: the History Channel's Pawn Stars and Discovery's Oddities. But I DO like the inclusion of PBS' Antiques Roadshow and Discovery's Mythbusters. So I suppose it's all a trade-off.

13) I still think Gordon Ramsay should be an Emmy nominee for hosting Kitchen Nightmares (another of my current favorite shows). I think he's smart, empathetic, tough and hilarious.

14) Six years into its run and the Emmy board once again couldn't even deliver ONE nomination to the consistently hysterical It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Even for the always reliable Charlie Day? Somethin' ain't right here...

15) Finally, I look askance at the numerous nods rained down on both the controversial miniseries The Kennedys (which sounds to me like a histrionic disaster) and on the HBO movie Too Big To Fail (which looks as dry as two-day-old toast). But I'm thrilled that Julian Fellowes and company got so much love for their PBS series Downton Abbey. Again, I guess it's all a trade-off.


Jane said...

It is extraordinary to think of how television has in many ways surpassed motion pictures in terms of consistent quality AND quantity of program content. Compare the dreck of incessant super hero and action/adventure sequels (Transformer alone makes me want to weep with boredom) to the glory of the Emmy nominated series you mention in your post. We are living in a golden age of television again. Paddy Chayevsky must be beaming from heaven. Thanks for the great Emmy update Dean!

Lisa said...

Excellent post, Dean! So glad that you pointed out the scads of theatrical talent in evidence this season! I was a little underwhelmed by "Mildred Pierce" and "Boardwalk Empire" -- though I love period drama -- and while I'm sure Winslet probably has a lock on the Emmy, overall the mini didn't grab me quite as much as it might have. It was no "John Adams"! And I do love Todd Haynes, too.

I didn't know you loved Charlie Day -- he's completely hilarious and is a truly gifted comic presence. I guess we should be amazed that voters even looked at FX enough to get Louis C.K. in there -- much deserved, too!

Great column, Dean! As always, your particular and extensive knowledge of film enlightens us all in so many ways!