Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse.
So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French.
The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do.
The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow.
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After just one season -- and, let's be honest, not all that many actual appearances -- on The Office, James Spader is "leaving the company."
Spader, who plays Sabre CEO Robert California on the NBC sitcom, will finish out his role this season but not return next season. It's not an acrimonious split or monetary dispute, though -- this was actually the plan.
Says executive producer Paul Lieberstein (aka Toby): "James always wanted this to be a one-year arc, and he now leaves us having created one of the most enigmatic and dynamic characters in television. He's been a great friend to me and the show, helping us successfully transition into the post-Michael Scott years, and I'm grateful for that."
Mad Men looked set to dominate the night, going in with 19 top nominations, and it continued its winning streak for the best drama title for the fourth year in a row.
But the stars of the period drama didn't fair so well - Jon Hamm was a four-time loser for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series - Kyle Chandler claimed that prize for his role in Friday Night Lights, while Julianna Margulies beat the likes of Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Kathy Bates (Harry's Law) to take home the female equivalent for her turn in The Good Wife.
Meanwhile, Modern Family started the Emmys as they planned to go on - TV husband and wife Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen kicked off the celebrations by walking away with the acting honours for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Comedy Series.
The hit programme went on to earn accolades for writing and directing before being crowned best comedy at the end of the event.
It was a good night for the Brits too - Kate Winslet was named Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Mildred Pierce, while Downton Abbey's Dame Maggie Smith claimed the supporting actress in a miniseries or movie title.
Justin Timberlake (Saturday Night Live) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Glee) were already winners before the red carpet at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre was even rolled out - they were honoured at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend (10Sep11) in the Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy Series category.
Awards host Jane Lynch opened the show with a song-and-dance sequence featuring Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy and the cast of Mad Men, while Andy Samberg's comedy rap trio The Lonely Island, featuring crooner Michael Bolton and R&B singer Akon, and rapper/actor LL Cool J, were among the musical acts providing the entertainment in between awards at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre.
The main list of winners at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards is as follows:
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series: Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series: Melissa McCarthy - Mike & Molly
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series: Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series: Julianna Marguiles - The Good Wife
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Barry Pepper - The Kennedys
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Kate Winslet - Mildred Pierce
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series: Ty Burrell - Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series: Julie Bowen - Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series: Peter Dinklage - Game Of Thrones
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series: Margo Martindale - Justified
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Guy Pearce - Mildred Pierce
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Maggie Smith - Downton Abbey
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series: Justin Timberlake - Saturday Night Live (Host)
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series: Gwyneth Paltrow - Glee
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series: Paul McCrane - Harry's Law
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series: Loretta Devine - Grey's Anatomy
Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family
Outstanding Drama Series: Mad Men
Outstanding Miniseries Or Movie: Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Outstanding Animated Programme: Futurama
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: The Kennedy Center Honors
Outstanding Reality Programme: Deadliest Catch
Outstanding Reality-Competition Programme: The Amazing Race
Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series: Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman - Modern Family (Episode: Caught In The Act)
Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series: Jason Katims - Friday Night Lights (Episode: Always)
Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Julian Fellowes - Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Rory Albanese, Kevin Bleyer, Rich Blomquist, Wyatt Cenac, Hallie Haglund, J.R. Havlan, Elliot Kalan, Josh Lieb, Sam Means, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart - The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: David Boone, Matt Roberts, and Mo Rocca - 64th Annual Tony Awards
Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series: Michael Alan Spiller - Modern Family
Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series: Martin Scorsese - Boardwalk Empire
Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Brian Percival - Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: Donny Roy King - Saturday Night Live (Host: Justin Timberlake)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: Lonny Price - Sondheim! The Birthday Concert.