The Emmy awards inspire more conflict, shock and outrage than possibly any other major awards show on the circuit. It makes sense; we spend so much time getting to know these characters and their struggles that we become incredibly invested in the show's success. But with so many channels, platforms, programs, stars and prestige dramas on the air right now, it’s going to be impossible to please everyone. Of course, that knowledge doesn’t stop us from waiting impatiently every year, hoping that our favorite performances from the past year will be recognized with an Emmy nomination. And every year, we end up with a new list of nominations that surprise and delight us, or send us into a spiral of rage, heartbreak and Twitter ranting. The 2014 nominations were no different, and these are the biggest shocks of the year.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Despite its critical acclaim and Golden Globe wins, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still something of an underdog in terms of ratings and public attention, so we weren’t expecting the Television Academy to take much notice of the Fox show. Which is why we were so delighted to read Braugher’s name on the list of nominees this morning for his work as the magnificently deadpan Captain Ray Holt. Brooklyn Nine-Nine might have only gotten one major nod, but it was for the single best part of the show, and for that we’re endlessly grateful. We know it might be hard to read, but we are... ecstatic.
Best Actress in a Drama: Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex Masters of Sex probably tops the list of brilliant shows that nobody pays enough attention to, but for all of its high points – the costumes, the dialogue, the chemistry between Masters and Johnson, the tense, quiet drama, the brilliant guest starts – much of the show’s excellence can be credited to Caplan’s performance as Virginia Johnson. It’s a complex, layered, funny, sexy, compelling role and it’s thrilling to see her work rightfully acknowledged as one of the best performances of the year.
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Allison Janney, Mom Mom is a complicated show. It’s ostensibly a typical Chuck Lorre comedy, with lots of inane jokes and strange plots, but it also devotes a great deal of time to the dramatic, difficult relationship between mother and daughter, both of whom are recovering addicts. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s usually thanks to Janney, who transforms what could have been a stereotypical over-the-top, obnoxious character into a flawed, layered, realistic human being.
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Fred Armisen, Portlandia While it’s sad not to see Armisen’s co-star and co-writer Carrie Brownstein on the list of nominees as well, we’re excited to see the Television Academy finally pay attention to this weird, hilarious show and the weird, hilarious characters who inhabit it. Whether he’s learning the history of hip hop before a big concert or playing a feminist hippie who hates the customers in her shop, Armisen’s always original, funny, and just a little strange.
Best Comedy Series: Silicon Valley Another critical favorite that didn’t seem to get a lot of mainstream attention, Silicon Valley had an excellent first season, skewering the tech industry, the people who aspire to be part of it, and the people who make fun of it. Although airing on HBO automatically got the Emmys’ attention, it wasn’t the cultural phenomenon that some of its network-mates have become, and so it was good to see that a show doesn’t necessarily need A-list stars or famous directors in order to get attention.
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live This season of SNL got bogged down by an influx of new cast members, the loss of its head writer halfway through the year, and controversy over the diversity of its cast. But there was one cast member who held things together, who was consistently hilarious and able to rescue just about any sketch just by being in it, and that cast member was Kate McKinnon. From Bieber to Ellen to “Dyke and Fats” to doing it on a twin bed, McKinnon was definitely this year’s MVP, and we’re happy to see the Emmys recognize that as well.
Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie: Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon To be honest, we never expected this weird, awkward and often hilarious miniseries to even be on the TV Academy’s radar, let alone the nominations list, but Wiig’s performance as Cynthia Morehouse, who endures poverty, war, an unhappy marriage, and a forbidden romance with her adopted brother in outrageous, strange and hilarious fashion was one of the funniest things on TV this year. Not quite on the same level as Lady Anne, but we imagine it would be a little awkward to nominate a mannequin for an Emmy.
Best Supporting Actress and Guest Actress(es) in a Comedy: Kate Mulgrew, Laverne Cox, Uzo Aduba, and Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black Orange Is the New Black swept the nominations this year, and while we’re happy to see it get recognized for Best Comedy and Taylor Shilling’s lead performance as Piper Chapman, it’s the supporting cast who we’re really thrilled for. Between Mulgrew’s transformative work as Red being included in the Supporting Actress category and three of the finest, funniest and most heartbreaking actresses (Aduba, Lyonne, and Cox, who is the first transgender Emmy nominee) crowding everyone else out of the Guest Actress category, don’t be surprised if Orange takes home plenty of gold on Emmy night.
Tatiana Maslany Gets Snubbed… Again Apparently, playing eight distinct characters, all of whom are equally complex, interesting, and fully-realized is not enough for the Emmy voters to take notice of Maslany’s incredible performance on Orphan Black, and both she and the show were snubbed for a second year. Since the tension between Helena and Sarah or the complicated relationship between Allison and Donnie or Cosima’s fight through her debilitating illness wasn’t enough, it seems the only way that Maslany will ever a nod is if she plays every single character on True Detective Season 2.
The Emmys Don’t Care About The Americans Despite turning out some of the most compelling, interesting, thrilling drama that has aired on television in the past year, The Americans was almost completely ignored by Emmy voters, earning one nomination for Margo Martindale’s guest spot. And though we pretty much expected the show not to make the Best Drama Series cut, we’re mostly shocked that Matthew Rhys’ incredible performance this season was also completely ignored by the Academy. Clearly the Emmys have a hard time looking past some bad wigs to see the brilliance underneath.
Really, Jeff Daniels Again? Don’t get us wrong, the once and future Harry Dunne does good work on The Newsroom, but it’s nothing special, especially compared to both what his fellow Best Actor in a Drama nominees turned out this year, and the performances of so many other actors who didn’t make the cut. But considering how much the Emmys seem to love him, we think Bryan Cranston and Matthew McConaughey might want to hold off on writing their acceptance speeches.
Ricky Gervais Gets Nominated For… Derek? We loved Gervais’ arrogant, deluded David Brent on The Office. We’re still laughing about his performance as the rude, frustrated and sometimes desperate Andy Millman on Extras, and we’d watch him bicker with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington all day. However, we weren’t as crazy about his work on Derek, the saccharine, gentle-hearted sitcom where he plays the saccharine, gentle-hearted nursing home caretaker Derek, so we’re surprised to see just how vastly the Television Academy’s opinion about the show differed from ours. Still, at least we know we’re guaranteed a hell of a show if he actually wins.
Downton Abbey Keeps Racking Up the Nominations We get it: Maggie Smith is an international treasure. That doesn’t mean that the Emmys have to nominate her every single year, without fail. And just because Downton Abbey is a British period piece, that doesn’t mean it’s better than any number of excellent dramas who continue to be overlooked just because everyone on the show speaks with a British accent. It’s okay not to nominate them, Emmys. Everyone will still think you’re smart and worldly, we promise.
The Wrong People from Shameless Get Nominated, as Per Usual Here’s the good news: Shameless finally got more than one nomination! The bad news, though, is that they went to the actors with the most name recognition – William H. Macy, who is up for Best Actor in a Comedy and Joan Cusack, whose Guest Actress hot streak continues – rather than the ones who carried the show this year – Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Allen White and Noel Fisher, to name just a few. But, hey, it seems like that category switch actually paid off, even if it means nominating the actor whose character was in a coma over the ones who were struggling with jail time, balancing college and caring for his family and coming out and looking after his bipolar boyfriend.
Somehow, House of Cards Got 13 Nominations There are only two possible explanations: either the Emmy voters thought that, like Orange Is the New Black, they were voting based on the first season of the show, or they didn’t actually watch the new season of House of Cards, and they decided to throw a bunch of nominations its way to cover up that fact, since it’s an “important, prestige” drama.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.