Friday, July 03, 2015

OVP Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me (2014)

Film: Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me (2014)
Stars: Glen Campbell
Director: James Keach
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Song-"I'm Not Gonna Miss You")
Snap Judgment Ranking: 4/5 stars

I am a huge Glen Campbell fan.  For a gay man born in the 1980's, this is probably not something you'd expect, but there it is.  I have Glen Campbell songs on constant repeat on my iPhone, I can tell you every single lick of "Gentle on My Mind" or "Wichita Lineman."  His music has that sort of tenor of someone that has plucked something not out of thin air, but out of the American songbook.  Try to listen to "True Grit" and think that it hasn't been written for all-time, and not just in 1969.  You simply cannot, because like the truly great country singers, the Willie Nelsons, the Dolly Partons, the Patsy Clines, Glen Campbell is someone who is singing raw emotion, which has existed for centuries.

So I watched his documentary both as a fan and as someone a bit nervous that his memory was going to be exploited.  Recently airing on CNN (and god bless them for doing that-between this and Blackfish it might be the first great news reporting they've done since the Gulf War) the documentary was filmed while Campbell was in the throes of Alzheimer's, going on a last farewell tour and releasing his final album.  As a result, we were relying more on his wife and children to respect his privacy rather than on his own discretion, because as we see in the film, Campbell's ability to discern shades of self-revelation have largely disappeared.  Considering the legal fights that have been waging between Campbell's wife and his children, I was curious to see if this was a sad case of a family trying to make a buck off their talented patriarch's legacy (we've seen that far too many times before).

The film threads that line pretty closely, it should be stated.  There are moments in the film, such as discussions of Campbell's issues with incontinence and when he is seen having violent outbreaks toward the end of the film that you're certain he wouldn't have wanted to have them released, while there are other moments that he clearly seems to want to make a sacrifice of his own privacy in hopes of finding more recognition for this crippling disease.  As a result, I'm not sure if morally it's appropriate to watch this film, but if it is (and it's out there now, so you might as well make the jump) it's a fascinating and compelling one.

The most interesting aspects of this are both the ways that we see Campbell start to falter and the ways that we can see that reflected in the dementia of people we know in real life.  This is where his celebrity makes a HUGE difference in the film and why you couldn't have had this same punch of intrigue with just a random person suffering from dementia.  We all know people who have had Alzheimer's or some other mentally-impairing illness late in life, but we only recognize the struggle there because we know them so well.  While with a stranger it would have been "so sad," with Campbell we can see it in the way that he clings to music, and the ways he starts to let some of that slip.  There's a terrific scene which had me in tears about halfway through the film where Campbell sings "Rhinestone Cowboy" at the Grammys after winning a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Campbell flubs several of the words, though he keeps trucking through.  Watching him miss cues that he (and all his fans) know by heart is shattering, but it gets across a familiarity instantly to the audience.  We also see the way that he clings to certain things while other aspects of his life start to disintegrate.  There are moments late in the film where you're practically begging the family to stop the concert tour (which they eventually do), but it's sort of staggering to watch him come alive on stage, staying a wondrous entertainer even when he has trouble remembering his daughter's name, and you kind of get that it might be less about the money and more about seeing the glimmers of his old self that erupt onstage.

The film gets political (thankfully) late in the film with a particularly impassioned speech by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) where they discuss the minute amount of money that is spent each year on Alzheimer's research, despite the fact that with Baby Boomers starting into their seventies now it will become more and more of a national epidemic.  Pelosi makes a fair point about how "this is about how much of the budget we can get; you ask anyone in Washington about Alzheimer's and they all want to cure it but it's all about how much money you're actually willing to spend to find the cure."  The film is littered with musical superstars ranging from Brad Paisley to Sir Paul McCartney talking about Campbell and his influence on music, and you can see the amount of respect he has amassed as an artist through all of these decades.  President Bill Clinton even points out that he knew Glen Campbell songs growing up, but hopes that his greatest lasting legacy is in creating awareness of Alzheimer's and hopefully a cure.

The film received one Oscar nomination, for Best Original Song, one composed by Campbell and Julian Raymond.  Like so much of Campbell's music, it's simple but very powerful, telling the story of how his wife is the last person he'll ever love, but he won't miss her because he won't remember her.  On paper it's in the category of "and then he shot my dog" sort of country music-depressing, but in reality it works quite beautifully and is a solid ode to Glen Campbell, as is this movie.

Ranting On...Fixing the Gerrymander

One of the biggest court cases of the year that you probably didn't hear about amidst the cascade of champagne that overflowed over Obamacare and gay marriage was the decision by the Court on redistricting to allow independent commissions to continue to exist, thus depriving Republicans in Arizona (and likely Democrats in California) the opportunity to redraw the districts in the middle of the decade to better advantage themselves.

I have LONG been in favor of more independent commissions to draw districts, principally because I think that we have a US House that is too stagnant with too few representatives worried about their general elections rather than their primary elections (creating little incentive to compromise), and I have long opposed redistricting in the middle of the decade, so I was all about this decision.  It does beg an interesting question for me, though, in what states would best benefit from redistricting by an independent commission-which states are the least representative of their voters?

To look into this, I decided to use the most recent presidential numbers.  Obama/Romney wasn't the closest recent presidential race, but it is the most recent and probably the most indicative of the country as a whole.  Also, considering the huge decrease in recent years of people splitting their ballots (this is becoming particularly rare with the House), I figured this was a great barometer.  As a result, I looked at the percentages of the vote that Obama and Romney achieved in each state, and then compared it with the percentage of the state that each state's congressional delegation represented.  Once I had done that, I figured how much more or less Democratic/Republican the state's delegation should be based on their presidential numbers.

The findings were interesting to say the least.  As expected, every state with only one representative in Congress had a member of the House that was the same party as the man who won their electoral votes.    However, the rest of the states were quite fascinating to look at, particularly looking at some of the states that had independent voting commissions.  Some of the states reflected their presidential numbers marvelously.  The states of Maine, Washington, Nebraska, Illinois, and New Hampshire all needed a partisan shift of less than .5 seats, which basically meant that these states best reflect their voters.  Other states were less than a 1 seat swing, which means that while they probably should come close to giving up a seat, they still are within the margin and are fairly well-represented; these include Arizona, New York, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, and Utah.  It's worth noting that Arizona, the state in question, is at a .-99, which means it is one basis point away from needing another Republican seat, which is probably what the GOP was getting at in the state with the court trial (though their plans to try and defeat both Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick AND Krysten Sinema in redistricting meant that they were going to push it over to the other side too far and under-represent Democrats in the state).

All of the other states not listed should have a swing of at least one seat based on their presidential numbers.  It's worth noting that most of these states are Democratic, which is why Democrats seem to trumpet legislation surrounding independent commissions more than Republicans.  Only five states (California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Oregon) should have more Republicans in Congress than they currently do, though to the GOP's defense the California number is a bigger discrepancy than any other state: they should have roughly seven more seats based on President Obama's numbers in 2012 compared to their current delegation.

On the flip side there are 23 states that should have at least one more Democratic seat in the House.  The worst offenders of this are large states with Republican governors, which aides the argument about how this is unfair due to redistricting.  The biggest offender is Pennsylvania, where Democrats should have 4.36 seats more than they currently do, followed by Ohio with 4.11, Texas with 3.9, and Florida with 3.5.  There are other states you might find somewhat surprising on the list, however.  States like Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky, for example, states that are rarely thought of as being major Democratic sources of votes are still underrepresented, and should have one more seat while Southern states like South Carolina and Georgia, where the president's performance amongst black voters helped his overall margin, should actually have two more Democrats in Congress.  Considering the stronghold the Republicans have on the statehouses here (they are most definitely Republican states) independent commissions are pretty much the only way to go to get the states to represent the will of the voters better.  Overall, the Democrats should have a net gain of 24 seats, which oddly enough isn't enough for them to take back the House despite Obama being victorious in 2012, but would mean that those states that are marginal and have between .5-.99 seat gains would matter a whole lot more, and would mean the House would be competitive just like the White House each cycle.

It's of course worth noting before we leave that independent commissions aren't perfect, and gerrymandering isn't an exact science.  In order to achieve some of those above numbers, particularly in states that are slimly marginal like West Virginia you may have to actually gerrymander and cut up urban areas (Democrats tend to live more closely together while Republicans live further apart), diluting obvious geographic boundaries and potentially minority districts.  You also have a case like California where Republicans should hold more seats than they do despite an independent commission drawing the lines, though it's worth noting that the population in that state grows pretty rapidly and at least one of those seat gains actually happened in 2014, two years after these voting results so Obama/Romney might not be up-to-date enough.  Still, I think that overall the independent commission model provides a much cleaner and more representative version of the House, and as a result I'm glad the Supreme Court approved it, and wish that other states from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania would follow suit.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Ranting On...California's New Vaccination Law

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA)
Hate is a strong word.  It's one that I use probably more liberally than I should, but the reality is that there are few people or groups of people I hate.  Bigots, but we all hate those.  Same with dictators and violent criminals.  Donald Trump and Perez Hilton, but again, they're on pretty much everyone's list.  New parents who turn into condescending jerks (again, we all hate those, though we usually whisper about it in hushed circles).  But for me there are few people that top the list higher than anti-vaccination advocates.  I loathe them and have written about them more extensively here in the past (any time that Jenny McCarthy, the only other celebrity who rivals Trump and Hilton on my "loathe" list, is in the news for example).  However, this past week's legislation pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown in California, removing religious and personal belief exemptions from parents who want to not vaccinate their children but sill allow them in schools, has brought vaccination back into the public debate and since we haven't done anything very political this week, I figured it would be a fine time to have that discussion.

Let's start this out right now before we start to rationally discuss the logistics of this argument: people who don't vaccinate their children are stupid.  The reality is that vaccinations have been proven to not contain mercury (the CDC has stated so repeatedly) and that doctor after doctor after doctor has stated publicly that there is no correlation between vaccination and autism or colitis, and Andrew Wakefield's 1998 paper has been disproved so many times that it borders on the redundant to even bring the subject up, and yet people continue to have doubts about the veracity of the entire medical community's research.  These are the same people who say climate change is a myth and that leprechauns stole their car keys.  They are idiots who will believe anything if they read it on the internet.  The reality is that the MMR vaccine saves lives, causing children to not die from measles and mumps.  That's why everyone should continue to take it, and why it is so important for all children to be vaccinated.

As a result of the idiocy surrounding these anti-vaccination laws, measles outbreaks have grown in recent years, particularly in California where dense tourist destinations such as theme parks and beaches make contact between those too young to receive vaccination and those that may be old enough to be vaccinated but are not considerably more likely.  California's law, it should be noted, is not the first state to ban religious and personal belief exemptions; West Virginia and Mississippi have similar such bans (and it should be noted that Mississippi has the highest rate of immunization of any state, perhaps the only list I've ever seen Mississippi lead that is a good thing in all my years of stats hunting).  Considering its enormous population and its influence as the largest state in the country, I am curious to see whether this law starts something of a movement.

The bigger question is "is this a movement worth endorsing," and I'm going to argue that it is.  The reality is that we all have freedoms in this country, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and I'm usually loathe to infringe on such a freedom (for the record, considering the civil liberties involved in this law, I suspect that the Supreme Court may have a final say in this before everything is said and done), but there are exemptions and I think a major public safety risk is one of them.  The reality is that you have every right not to immunize your child or yourself, but you must also run the risks associated with such a decision and live with the consequences.  If you or your child cause another person, likely an infant too young to receive the vaccine, to become sick or die, you should be held culpable.  You should be held financially responsible if it is the same virus that you or your child is held, and should be tried for killing another person if you knowingly put an unvaccinated child into the public without regard for the public's safety.  In my opinion it's the same thing as leaving a loaded weapon out on your front yard or lighting a fire in a public space without any regard for control-you are responsible for creating that dangerous situation, and should be tried accordingly if your actions result in the sickness or death of another individual.

It should be noted in this country that we do regulate potentially dangerous or violent actions in order to protect the public safety, which is essentially what this amounts to doing.  We allow religious practices to take place as long as they don't infringe on the larger public safety (human sacrifices are a no-no, even if some religious cultures have allowed them in the past, for example).  We also regulate who can own guns, where you can start fires, drug usage, and set parameters around who can drive a car and in what capacity.  Forcing vaccinations before entering public education is a similarly-themed sort of action.  We don't cry afoul when someone can't use heroin or when someone who is inebriated wants to drive a car because of the larger good, even though technically someone's freedoms are being infringed upon. Mandatory vaccination laws, in my opinion, are in the same bucket.

I might have some sympathy here if access to vaccines was more difficult, but this is not the case.  All major insurance companies, as well as the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid cover childhood immunizations, so money should not be an issue here.  As a result, in my opinion the only real reason that someone should be waived of the vaccination requirement is a medical condition precluding them from getting the vaccination (such as an allergy to one of the ingredients within the vaccination).  Otherwise, this makes sense.  I'm tired of having the anti-science community putting our lives in jeopardy because of ignorance.  And so I applaud Gov. Brown and the California legislature for their actions with this law.

OVP: Cinematography (2008)

OVP: Best Cinematography (2008)

The Nominees Were...


Tom Stern, Changeling
Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight
Chris Menges and Roger Deakins, The Reader
Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire

My Thoughts: Looking at the list above, the first thing that really sticks out to me is that I always forget how troubled The Reader's production was, and how it almost didn't get made (hence two cinematographers when Roger Deakins usually works alone).  Otherwise, this is a pretty standard list of nominees for Cinematography, which much like most of 2008 was pretty uniform in the way it addressed its nominations.  Three Best Picture nominees, with two films that were clearly on their way to that field (both Changeling and The Dark Knight surely would have made it in a ten-wide slate), so it'll be interesting to see where we take this relatively standard looking lineup right now.

We'll start with The Reader, both because I just brought it up and because it's the final Best Picture nominee we haven't yet discussed.  The film is the sort of movie that, were it the early 1990's, would have seemed like an easy Best Picture nominee, and potentially even a threat for the win.  Classically-trained actors, beautiful historic sets, and a desperate woman at the center.  Throw in the Holocaust and you've got yourself an AMPAS hit.  The film itself, though, surprised many by being included in so many categories, one of those great surprises that come from stealth campaigning and underestimating Stephen Daldry.  The actual cinematography is fine, but rarely particularly interesting.  The early scenes occasionally flirt with eroticism, and the camera knows when to shock us with nudity (David Kross's bare buttocks and Kate Winslet's random naked form both are filmed for complete "what?" factor which is sort of the point of their affair-it's unexpected and not all-together understandable).  The film's later scenes occasionally feel fascinating (the whiteness of Lena Olin's apartment), but this isn't really beautiful in a non-postcard way nor is the camerawork interesting in the way we usually expect of Roger Deakins.

Claudio Miranda would four years after this win an Oscar (but not the OVP-click the 2012 button below to find out who did!) for Life of Pi, a similarly-themed film visually, though Life of Pi is a bit more extraordinary in my opinion than Benjamin Button.  The movie relies too heavily on the visual effects, which occasionally don't look believable in the way we'd expect, and some of the shots (such as the boat) look too much like CGI for Miranda's own good.  The movie does have some beauty (Miranda knows how to frame the ballet sequences quite nicely), but all-in-all this is one of the weaker attributes of this film's technical achievements, and I wasn't smitten in the way I was with the costuming or the visual effects.

Slumdog Millionaire is an odd position here, quite frankly, because I foolishly put one of the best shots of the film up-top in the picture (I love the Monet-style combination of blue and peach in that picture), but the rest of the film doesn't combine that color palette in such an original and inspiring way.  Instead we get flashbacks that are meant to be gorgeous but juxtapose together terribly, like we're seeing multiple different movies (occasionally there's a visual fire burning onscreen, while the indoor shots look like we're watching a sitcom).  Mantle can't seem to get a handle on what cohesive place he wants to take the film (in his defense, neither can Danny Boyle), and so as a result we get too many different visions as the film goes on, frequently trying to be artistic one moment and the next merely moving along the plot.

Changeling actually works out quite well in comparison, even though it's also a film that I was a bit blase regarding.  The film's shots are very aware of the time of the day.  You can say in the image I selected above that the sun is overpowering (much like everything is overpowering Christine Collins at that point in the movie), and the night scenes are always dancing with deep blue and black light.  I loved the claustrophobia that sets in in the interior shots as well-we see so much of how Christine's world is shaped by Walter, and how getting him back is necessary for her tiny abode to have purpose and not be seen as a prison.  The film really has a painter's technique that is missing from most of Eastwood's pictures (Stern has lensed every one of Dirty Harry's films since Blood Work) and I am both surprised that Stern hasn't been able to translate that vision into similar pictures like J. Edgar and American Hustle and that he was able to find it here, in what is a film that didn't (on-the-surface) need such a caring hand.

The final nominated movie is The Dark Knight, where Wally Pfister, who would win the Oscar two years later for Inception, (but not the OVP-come on, click below as I know you're curious) got his third nomination for a Christopher Nolan film.  Like all of Nolan's movies, The Dark Knight has some splendid visual cues.  The action scenes alone are worth the price of admission, and Pfister knows when to go big and when to go small (how often do you see a car race like that lensed in so many long-shots and various angles rather than in close-ups of the driver's faces?).  The film's opening, with its iconic zooming in on a bank robbery is key to Pfister's work here-he knows how to catch your attention, knows when to just push over the edge, and not give us gaudiness or everything we want (we don't actually see the blood of the magic trick, for example, giving us more menace and less killer in the Joker, which is crucial for Ledger's intoxicating of the audience).  Pfister isn't perfect (some of the scenes seem a bit less inspired than the one before it, like those in the bat cave), and we aren't talking about something like Emmanuel Lubezki here where everything feels meticulous, but all-in-all this is probably my favorite Pfister creation.

Other Precursor Contenders: The ASC is one of my favorite precursor awards, principally because they only go for five nominated films, and they did here, though they almost entirely mimicked Oscar, only skipping Changeling in favor of Revolutionary Road (another Roger Deakins creation, for the record), with Slumdog Millionaire taking the crown.  The BAFTA Awards were a carbon copy of the Oscars, both in winner and in nominations.  As a result, I suspect that Revolutionary Road nabbed sixth place (Deakins is involved y'all, it had to be close), though I wonder if they may have been close to honoring Mandy Walker for Australia.  The film is in this category's wheelhouse (foreign country, expansive outside shots, epic in scope), and Walker could have finally cracked the glass ceiling for the category, as Best Cinematography is the only non-gender segregated category at the Oscars to not have nominated a woman before.
Films I Would Have Nominated: Yikes-I didn't care for this lineup. I would certainly have included Deakins' superior work in Revolutionary Road, while also finding room for the complicated blues and greys (and occasional reds) of Let the Right One In.  Otherwise this was not a great year for impressive cinematography, as nothing really stands out in a major visual way from this year.
Oscar's Choice: Enamored with Bollywood and with a foreign culture in a year that was pretty weak overall, Oscar had an easy choice with Slumdog Millionaire over more domestic fare like Benjamin Button and The Dark Knight.
My Choice: I'm actually kind of surprised that I liked Changeling as much as I did in the write-up, but I'm sticking with The Dark Knight for the victory.  It's not perfect, but it's by far the best here.  Stern gets the silver, followed by Benjamin Button, The Reader, and Slumdog.

Those are my thoughts-what are yours?  Are you with me that this was Wally Pfister's time or are you all about Slumdog's overuse of orange?  Do you agree with me that this was a pretty weak year for cinematography overall (especially sandwiched between 2007 and 2009), and if not, what am I missing that should have been included instead?  And which film of 2008 had the best overall Cinematography?  Share your thoughts in the comments!


Past Best Cinematography Contests: 2009201020112012, 2013

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

Film: Inside Out (2015)
Stars: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Richard Kind
Director: Pete Docter
Oscar History: Considering the raves the film is receiving, it seems certain to score a Best Animated Feature nomination, along with perhaps citations for Score, Sound, or even Writing
Snap Judgment Ranking: 4/5 stars

Pixar has been on the naughty list lately, hasn't it?  Honestly since Toy Story 3 has anyone really been excited about the crew over there?  Cars 2, Monsters University, even Brave hasn't aged marvelously (though it's a strong picture that, had it come out in 2006, we'd all be a lot kinder to).  Plus, the new news seems like a list of disappoinments: constant sequels (including the vomit-inducing Toy Story 4) and persistent threats from studios like Laika over who should actually be wearing the Cartoon Crown. As a result, something like Inside Out, inventive, original, and shiny was bound to stand-out, but I'll admit here I was leery.  After drowning in bad movies, perhaps a taste of the old Pixar was going to make us think we were doused in Dom Perignon, rather than just tasting a solid merlot.  The hyperbole for this film was reaching a fever pitch when I saw the film's reviews (Kris Tapley over at In Contention called it the finest Pixar film ever made, which feels a bit much even if it is-wait a few weeks buddy).  Still, I went in ready to be surprised and delighted, and for the most part I was.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film follows five emotions in the mind of one little girl named Riley: Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), Anger (Black), Disgust (Kaling), and Fear (Hader).  Joy and Sadness throw Riley's world into disarray when they accidentally are sucked out of Headquarters and brought into long-term memory, leaving Anger, Disgust, and Fear to try and control Riley, which is pretty much a recipe for any young girl's teen years, and things turn out exactly how you would expect.  The film follows Joy and Sadness as they bound through Riley's mind alongside her former imaginary friend Bing Bong (Kind), and they learn to appreciate one another and what they bring to Riley's world.

The film's best attributes, and it has a lot of them, are all surrounding the world-creating.  Few films have done that so well-every corner of Riley's mind feels like a new jewel to uncover, whether we're in Imagination Land or on the Train of Thought, this is inventive and creative Pixar, a vintage look at a new world reminiscent of Monsters Inc.  The movie really deserves a nomination for Art Direction, which I doubt would happen (animated films never seem to be cited outside of the sound tech categories), but I think you're going to be hard-pressed to find a more fascinatingly complete world-view in a movie this year.

The world is also complete because we have six instantly lovable characters in the five emotions and Bing Bong.  Pixar's casing prowess (where it towers over pretty much every other studio) shows here in a way not felt since Finding Nemo.  We have the ideally cast Amy Poehler, who is just beloved enough right now for everyone to adore her (ala Ellen) but not quite overexposed yet (like, admittedly, Ellen a few years after Nemo).  The rest of the cast is also ideal, with Bill Hader's nervous vocals joining Mindy Kaling's dismissive alto to Lewis Black's constant passion.  Best of all is Phyllis Smith, most known for playing Phyllis on The Office, who is marvelous as Sadness, a character who doesn't quite get herself and just has a hint of the goth to make her funny, while always being very relatable.  Honestly-there's not a false note in Smith's work, and while I know the Annie Awards don't usually shine to Pixar, it'd be a damn shame if she didn't get a nomination for Best Vocal Work this year.  These six characters all feel very cohesive and work well in the world-they don't feel like added characters just to sell Happy Meals, but instead feel authentic to the story-you actually want to collect them all, not out of OCD but out of liking each one.

The film's faults are few (while Tapley was wrong to call this the best Pixar movie, it's definitely the best Pixar film since Up, and possibly even since WALL-E), but they're there.  The movie occasionally ventures into the cute and cloying with the minds of the parents, for example (going for cheap stereotypical jokes and having all of the emotions in their heads be the same gender, despite Riley being a conglomerate of male and female), and the film's darker edges get a bit glossed over in the final, happy ending.  Overall though, this is a serious step in the right direction for Pixar-a creative endeavor that actually feels like something we'd be proud to watch during Pixar's heyday, rather than just a rescue from a downward spiral.

Those are my thoughts-what are yours?  What did you think of Pixar's latest film?  And where does it rank on the studio's list of movies?  Share in the comments!

Emmy Predictions: The Miniseries

We'll finish off the Emmy predictions with a look at the Miniseries/TV Movie categories, the categories that always get a bit of a brush through at the ceremony, but feature the people whom you actually expect to see at an awards show (the movie stars), so it's hardly something you can relegate to the Creative Arts Emmys.  If you missed earlier this week, don't forget to check out the Drama and Comedy predictions:

Best Limited Series

1. Olive Kitteridge
2. American Crime
3. American Horror Story: Freak Show
4. The Honorable Woman
5. Wolf Hall

The Lowdown: This is always the place to over-bet on HBO, not only because they campaign the hardest, but usually because they have the legit best contenders.  As a result, we've got Olive Kitteridge, the likely victor, on the top, though the network's only other major contender (The Casual Vacancy) has no buzz and I'm taking out for now.  Instead, I've got the rare nominee from a major network (American Crime), the perennial nominee American Horror Story (only at the Emmys could a perennial nominee be in the Limited Series category), the prestige-y Wolf Hall (PBS usually slices a nod here too), and the Sundance hit The Honorable Woman.  I suspect that there will be love for Texas Rising in other Emmy categories, especially in the tech slots, but both it and The Missing seem too small to take out this quintet.

Best TV Movie

1. Bessie
2. Derek: The Final Chapter
3. Nightingale
4. Killing Jesus
5. Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain, Poirot's Last Case

The Lowdown: Eww, this category looks awful.  No wonder Bessie seems so out-in-front here, there's nothing really to choose from (someone seriously dropped the ball here as every decent contender seems to be in the miniseries category).  Derek made it before and if The Big C and 24 are any indication should have no trouble scoring a couple of nods in an easier slate of nominees, and Nightingale may be largely forgotten but with an up-and-coming star and a weak bench to compete against is a certainty (David Oyelowo should succeed here where he couldn't at the Oscars).  The final two slots I'm going with Killing Jesus because apparently it's a frontrunner (ugh though-Bill O'Reilly with an Emmy?  Blech!) and Agatha Christie's Poirot, a swan song for a famed series.

Best Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie

1. David Oyelowo (Nightingale)
2. Richard Jenkins (Olive Kitteridge)
3. Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall)
4. Bill Paxton (Texas Rising)
5. David Suchet (Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain, Poirot's Last Case)

The Lowdown: I am near certain that Oyelowo wins this one, so it's really just four guys going for an "honor just to be nominated."  That means that Richard Jenkins, who is the well-noted lead of Olive Kitteridge will make it, as will Bill Paxton who is enjoying a nice resurgence in TV movies at the moment (at this rate he might well win an Emmy soon), and Mark Rylance, who has owned Broadway for the past decade and seems likely to be both an Emmy and an Oscar nominee by year's end.  The final slot I'm going to do my true random prediction of the bunch (I haven't really gone out on a limb quite yet in any of these predictions) and go with David Suchet, who has been a TV icon as Poirot for years now without ever being cited, and it's not like Ricky Gervais or Timothy Hutton really need points for largely forgotten work this year.  Either of them make more sense (or perhaps even Oscar-winner Adrien Brody in Houdini), but Suchet seems like a nice way to honor a longtime TV trouper.

Best Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie

1. Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)
2. Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honorable Woman)
3. Queen Latifah (Bessie)
4. Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
5. Felicity Huffman (American Crime)

The Lowdown: In this category, "always go with the Oscar nominees" is a solid maxim, and it's completely true this year.  While some of these women are more known for television than film (namely Felicity Huffman, though lately Jessica Lange as well), all five have at least one Oscar nomination and in two cases a number of them.  Each of them have dominated the conversation so much that the only other person who could remotely compete appears to be Frances O'Connor in The Missing, but I don't think she'll have enough fame to get past this list (maybe if it had been Frances Conroy).  The best question here is whether Frances McDormand will actually show up to pickup her Triple Crown, or will she bow out on the off-chance she's going to lose to Gyllenhaal or Latifah?

Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie

1. Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge)
2. Stephen Rea (The Honorable Woman)
3. Joanthan Pryce (Wolf Hall)
4. Damian Lewis (Wolf Hall)
5. Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story: Freak Show)

The Lowdown: If there's one rule in doing any sort of awards' predictions, it's to ignore your own personal opinions and always just go with the buzz.  Most of the time this is easy, as frequently the buzz and my own opinions are easy to separate.  For example, I can see that Damian Lewis and Jonathan Pryce both have that aura of former nominee and prestige, or that Stephen Rea's an Oscar nominee which should help him for The Honorable Woman, or that Bill Murray is a movie star icon in a major production, likely meaning not only a nomination but a win.  However, I just cannot buy the buzz behind Michael Chiklis, who was in every channel imaginable worse than Finn Wittrock in Freak Show.  It makes sense that the Emmy-winning Chiklis beats the ingenue and part of me is expecting it, but it will break my heart not to predict Wittrock for the performance of a lifetime, and so I am going with him, wrongness be damned.


Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie

1. Mo'Nique (Bessie)
2. Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
3. Kathy Bates (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
4. Janet McTeer (The Honorable Woman)
5. Susan Sarandon (Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe)

The Lowdown: I got a little bit off-the-track in the past category, but won't be in this one.  I know what side Emmy's bread is buttered on, and big names mean nominations (just ask Ellen Burstyn).  Susan Sarandon may be in a tiny film that got minimal plaudits, but she's also Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, who has never won an Emmy in four nominations and she's competing in supporting not the more competitive lead, so that should be enough to make it short of Alfre Woodard being in a show I haven't heard of yet.  The rest of the nominees seem set-Cynthia Nixon, Angela Bassett, and Zoe Kazan all have potential, but Sarandon makes the most sense on-paper, and that's where I'm headed.

Those are my final nominations (I don't really do the reality categories).  What are your thoughts?  Who do you agree with and who are you thinking has no shot?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Playing the Odds on the Bennifer Split

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner have broken up, and this is sad.  The end of a marriage always is.  And I feel like karma would probably like me to just sit on my hands and not make any jokes right now, but I've been in my house all day, am starving (I am on a weird eating schedule during my vacation), and am feeling a little bit naughty from stir craziness so considering Affleck's penchant for Vegas, I figured we might as well put together a few betting odds about what the next few months will result in for us, since we've all seen headliner celebrity divorces before.  Here we go:

Odds That...

-They will describe the split as amicable (Even)

-That CNN will have used the phrase "breaking news" and interrupted a story about ISIS or the Greek economic meltdown to share this story (11-8)

-That a body language expert will be referenced in an In Touch magazine article to discuss their last public outing (5-4)

-That Garner will appear on the cover of Star magazine in a photo of her yelling, with a headline saying "Get Out!: Jen Kicks Ben to the Curb!" (4-3)

-That Affleck will be linked with a cocktail waitress, bartender, stripper, or some other "other woman" cliche (3-2)

-That Garner will be put on the same OK! Magazine cover as Katie Holmes looking sad and like a bag lady despite wearing enough couture to make your next ten mortgage payments (2-1)

-That Affleck will be romantically linked to his next leading woman (3-1)

-That Garner will move to NYC and make her Broadway debut to try and get around the paps in LA (5-1)

-That Garner will start dating a personal trainer/life coach/bodyguard/yoga instructor/costar in that play within six months (7-1)

-That Affleck will be linked to one of George Clooney's exes (8-1)

-That Matt Damon will be labeled the other man by the National Enquirer (10-1)

-That Matt Damon will be labeled the other woman by the National Enquirer (25-1)

-That Ben Affleck will start dating Jennifer Lawrence to create Bennifer, Part 3 (50-1)

-That Jennifer Lopez was somehow involved (100-1)

-That a Kardashian was somehow involved (250-1)

-That Angelina Jolie was somehow involved (500-1)

-That Scientology was somehow involved (1000-1)

-That this will finally give Affleck the time to make Gigli: Back in the Habit (2000-1)

-That Garner said "argo fuck yourself" when she told Affleck to hit the curb (5000-1)

-That they will put aside their differences to make Daredevil 2: This Time It's Personal (10,000-1)

-That Donald Trump will somehow blame this on Mexico (EVEN)