The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
You love them, we love them, and it's high time Emmy recognized them. We're talking about the TV actors and actresses who have yet to be recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, despite drawing us in week in and week out with their awe-inspiring ability to make us laugh, cry, or a weird combination of both. So every day here at Hollywood.com, we're going to be saluting those on the small screen who deserve an Emmy nomination, longshot status be damned. Today, we cast our ballot for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Kaitlin Olson.
It's no simple feat to name the funniest female on television. In fact, in the past 10 years, the TV landscape has been so friendly to men's other half — green-lighting sitcoms and series starring women as hilarious as they are unconventional — it's no wonder they call it the "boob tube." Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sofia Vergara... how can one choose a favorite?
But if I had to name the funniest lady on television, I would choose young Ursula Parker, who plays Louie's precocious daughter Jane, the only kid on TV who truly nails the adorable assholery parents experience on a daily basis with their children. But as much as I'd love for the young Parker to score a well-deserved Emmy nomination ("I... am... BORED!" has become as much of a catchphrase in my household as anything ever uttered by Jerry Seinfeld), she neglected to submit for one in 2012. So, instead, I have no choice but to root for the second funniest female on television: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Kaitlin Olson.
And I'm glad I'm getting the opportunity to salute Sweet Dee, the series' vain, sadistic, and alluringly vulnerable female pro(or is it an?)tagonist. After all, Olson has been tragically under-appreciated during It's Always Sunny's seven-season run. Blame society's apprehension to truly admit a woman can be just as funny (or funnier) than her male co-stars. Or blame, far more simply, the scene-stealing prowess of Charlie Day. But just watch Season 7's "Sweet Dee Gets Audited" for proof of how much Olson deserves special recognition apart from the ridiculously talented cast. We're talking about an actress who can take any delicate, sensitive subject, and expertly pervert it into shocking storyline that makes you wonder whether 22 minutes of television could send you straight to hell. And, yet, after all that, you're still rooting for Sweet Dee.
Credit Olson for being able to make you cheer for a woman you hope never to meet your entire life. She is one of the most unique actresses currently on television, playing a woman with little to no redeeming qualities outside of her ability to heavily binge drink. Still, Olson brings a certain depth to Sweet Dee that allows Sunny fans to justify the character's outlandishly terrible behavior. Perhaps that's because over the course of seven seasons, Olson has managed to morph Sweet Dee into our id, our inner (aluminum) monster who would follow through on the basest of revenge-seeking actions if given the opportunity. Sure, she lashes out against her own loved(?) ones after getting in with the cool kids in "The High School Reunion," but after enduring a decade of scoliosis-themed taunts, wouldn't anyone succumb to peer pressure weakness? Sure, she applies to become a surrogate (and eventually does become one) purely for the cash, but who hasn't had pondered just what it would take for us to act on an immoral get-rich-quick scheme? And, sure, she takes a dumpster baby to a tanning booth in order to make him more attractive to modeling agencies, but... okay, so there are some things we just wouldn't do. (Of course, we're not everyone.)
Not to mention the fact that Olson is one of the most gifted physical comediennes on television. In fact, I started rooting for her future Emmy chances the second I saw her roll down a hill (and channel Grape Stomp Lady) in "The D.E.N.N.I.S. System." The manic laughter, the clumsy feet, the way she can keep up with an Air Dancer... Olson comes from the same school of physical comedy as former Emmy winners Lucille Ball, Debra Messing, and Louis-Dreyfus. Add that to her spit-out-your-beer delivery of lines like "I will eat your babies, bitch!" and the actress' moxie (Olson once told me that she strongly lobbied for Dee to be just as terrible as the rest of her Paddy's cohorts, and not just act as "the girl" amongst horrible men), and it's hard not to hope that Olson will soon boast the award notoriety of comedy's most talented lady legends.
So why hasn't Olson — or any of her Sunny co-stars for that matter — ever been nominated after seven seasons on the air? The Academy certainly hasn't held back on rewarding horrible characters in the past. (See: Louis-Dreyfus' Elaine on Seinfeld, Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester in Glee.) Though there's no justification (I have many times thought of unleashing Night Man on the Academy after their snubs), I'm hoping the Academy's new outlook on cable will spell bright things for Sunny, especially after fellow FX dweller Louis C.K. found himself nabbing a deserved nomination in 2011. If the Emmys continues on this trend, perhaps Olson will not be such a longshot. And wouldn't that be Sweet (Dee)?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard [Image Credit: FX] More:2012 Emmy Longshots: The VPOTUS Herself, Julia Louis-Dreyfus 2012 Daytime Emmy Award Winners: See the List Here! 2012 Emmy Longshots: Smash Singing Sensation Megan Hilty
It's Always Sunny
The veteran actress was inducted into the prestigious institution at a special ceremony in Las Vegas on Tuesday (17Apr12).
White was selected for the honour in recognition of her lengthy career, her seven Emmy Awards and her numerous TV and film roles.
NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith says, "Betty White is admired by generations of audiences. She has remarkable energy and an incredible ability to connect with viewers. Betty's contributions to television and entertainment as a whole are extraordinary. Our Hall of Fame would be incomplete without her."
After the induction, White told talk show host Piers Morgan, "I was inducted into their Hall of Fame, it was a big thrill. It's amazing, it was interesting."
White joins Regis Philbin, Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening in the NAB Hall of Fame.
Plenty of solid shows will be competing for top honors at this year's Emmy awards, but (as is always the case), there will also be plenty of solid shows that won't be competing.
That's how the cookie crumbles: with countless channels airing countless programs, there will always be quality television that slips under the Academy's radar. But over the course of TV history, there have been a few actors and shows that haven't been simply fallen to the wayside of the Emmys, they've been straight up glossed over. Snubbed.
As we approach this Sunday's ceremony, we took a look back at some of the bigger disappointments in Emmy history, the highlights of sitcoms and dramas that, for whatever reason, never earned their deserved statues.
Homicide Life on the Street/The Wire
Writer/Producer David Simon must have done something horrible in a past life. That seems like the only explanation for a man who's contributed to the world some of the best television of the past twenty years and has rarely seen love from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Simon's 1993 show Homicide: Life on the Street set a new tone for crime procedurals and only acquired a few supporting cast nods in its six year run. His HBO show The Wire is often referred to as the greatest TV show of all time and not once did it garner a nomination for Best Drama. His latest Treme is only in its second season, but from the get-go had critics raving.
So far, no love. Will Simon's series forever feel the cold backhand of Emmy snubs?
Sarah Michelle Gellar for Buffy
Trumpets are sounding for the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to primetime television (her new show Ringer debuted last night), but it's not because of her starring roles in The Grudge or Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. When Joss Whedon decided to to turn his mildly successful horror movie Buffy into a weekly TV show, he found the perfect hero in Geller, equal parts teen drama beauty and rough, vampire butt-kicker. Geller's performance combined with Whedon's snappy dialogue and imaginative plots helped Buffy transcend its home at the WB. Unfortunately, to Emmy voters, it would always be a "show for teenagers"—Whedon picked up nod once in seven season, while Geller never managed a nomination.
Former Letterman and Larry Sanders Show writer Paul Sims assembled a dream cast for his broadcast-centric office sitcom, but few would have known that at the time: Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall), Maura Tierney, Stephen Root, Andy Dick, Joe Rogen, Phil Hartman—the talent was in its infancy, but it was there. NewsRadio took a classic format and gave it a youthful edge. The result was five seasons of evolving characters, shorelines and humor, put to an untimely end by the death of Phil Hartman. Sadly, the show only earned one comedy nomination in its five season run: a posthumous, supporting nod for Hartman.
An American Family
The Emmy award for Outstanding Reality Program was only adopted by the Academy in 2001 and has since honored shows like The Osbournes, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. But without 1971's An American Family, the idea of docudramas television—or even guilty pleasure trashy reality TV—may never have come to fruition. The show's premise was simple: document a family's life for six months. The show was cut into 12 revolutionary episodes, spawning spin-off series and the cinematic adaptation Cinema Verite, which aired on HBO this past year.
How many Emmys was it nominated for? Zip.
Desi Arnaz for I Love Lucy
Lucille Ball dominated the '50s sitcom scene with her tour-de-force performance of physical comedy, nabbing five Emmy nominations over the six year run of I Love Lucy. But while Ball's Chaplin-esque antics stand-out decades later, would she really be the legendary star she was without her co-star and then-husband Desi Arnaz?
Arnaz was the Michael Bluth of his time, the straight man counterpart to Ball's whacked out troublemaker. He's best known for throwing his hands in the air, crying "Luuuuccyyyyy!" and stirring up the occasional "Babalu" musical number, but even Arnaz was prone to jumping into Ball's crazy plots. He was a rock of the sitcom block, yet not once in his lengthy career did Arnaz find himself on the Emmy's list of contenders.
Josh Holloway for LOST
Until the final season, it was looking like none of LOST's "lead" actors would see love from the Emmys. That is, until star Matthew Fox squeezed one out as the mind-bending drama crossed the finish line.
LOST has been the object of The Emmys' affection in all categories, but with talent, it's been severely unappreciative. Case in point: Josh Holloway, James "Sawyer" Ford, never picking up a nod. While Fox's nomination was deserved, Holloway was the show's perfect foil and his work in Season Three, when his relationships with Jack and Kate really evolve, helped turn Sawyer into a three-dimensional character that mostly actors can rarely achieve.
Any chance we can go back and just throw him an Emmy after the fact?
Ed O'Neill and Katey Segal for Married with Children
On the opposite end of the brilliant performance spectrum lies Ed O'Neill and Katey Segal as the crass (but lovable) couple Al and Peggy from Married with Children. The show was the debut sitcom when Fox launched in 1987 and helped define the network as a…a youth-centric alternative to the stuffy mainstream channels. That probably didn't help Married with Children round up award nominations (after 11 seasons, it only gained technical noms), but history will forever have a place for Al and Peggy. At that point, audiences hadn't seen anything that filthy, that wrong—which makes O'Neill and Segal selling it one of the bigger snubs in Emmy history.
Lauren Graham for Gilmore Girls
Another case where the Academy can't look past the marketing of a show. Gilmore Girls was another WB/CW comedy pegged by most as a small screen interpretation of the "chick flick," light, fluffy and stale. Quite unfortunate, as Gilmore Girls had one of the sharpest wits on TV thanks to the lightning-fast writing of creator Amy Sherman and a charming lead performance by Lauren Graham. The actress' character Lorelai could have been another comedy mom, but Graham elevated her above Reba-style, surface level caricature to dimensional (but funny!) human being. In an era where Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City were dominating the lead actress category year after year, Graham remains one of the hardest working and underappreciated performers of the 2000s.
Taking genre television seriously has never been the Emmys' strong suit, but when a sci-fi show takes itself seriously enough, people start listening…and watching. Syfy's Battlestar Galactica felt like a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of cornball, syndicated genre crap, diving head first into heady character drama and political intrigue with a few robots thrown in for good measure. The talent gained plenty of critical response—most notably the stand out performance by Katee Sackoff as the tough, female pilot Starbuck—but, alas, Battlestar was confined (like its sci-fi drama predecessors) to a lifetime of technical awards. Yes, the special effects were dazzling—but so was the riveting drama. The show (and the genre as a whole) could have used the Emmy love.
Nick Offerman for Parks & Recreation
As the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation prepares for its fourth season (with destiny unknown), we have an important message for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences: don't you dare let Nick Offerman be a permanent staple on this list.
Offerman's Ron Swanson is P&R's head grump, the yin to Amy Poehler's hyper-enthusiastic Leslie Knope yang. While they can often be found butting heads, their continued friendship is the glue that keeps Pawnee, Indiana's Parks Department (and the show) together. Offerman paints Ron with a perpetual frown, usually clouded by his sizable mustache. But once in awhile Ron slips a smile (or, even rarer, a drunken tiny hat dance) and in those few seconds Offerman pulls off a complete 180 and warms audiences' hearts. Parks and Recreation began in the shadow of The Office, but thanks to guys like Ron Swanson, has become the more fulfilling of the two shows.
Liza Minnelli and her new husband, producer David Gest, are already planning to adopt four children, the Associated Press reports. The couple was quoted as saying in Britain's Daily Express that they wish to adopt children "of all different races." Minnelli, 56, met Gest last year when she appeared on his television special Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special. "Liza is going to be the best mother in the world," Gest, 48, was quoted as saying.
Billy Joel and Elton John were forced to postpone the rest of their U.S. concert dates after Joel suffered from an inflamed vocal cord and upper respiratory infection, the AP reports. The shows affected on the Face to Face tour include Monday night's performance at Madison Square Garden; the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on March 20, 22, 28 and 30; and at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., on April 4, 8 and 11. The shows are expected to be rescheduled in the next day or so.
Britney Spears will be the co-owner of a new restaurant in New York tentatively called Pinky, the AP reports. The moderately priced American bistro, which will be run by restaurateur Bobby Ochs, is scheduled to open in May on East 41st Street. Pinky, for those not in the know, is Spears' nickname given to her by Justin Timberlake.
Charlotte Ross, who plays Detective Connie McDowell in the police drama NYPD Blue, is the latest star to bare it all for a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign. According to PETA's Web site, Ross will pose naked holding a white bunny, with a slogan reading, "I'd rather show my buns than wear fur." Ross will be following in the footsteps of former PETA models Pamela Anderson, Sheryl Lee, Dominique Swain, Kim Basinger and Christy Turlington.
Harry Belafonte was presented with the Distinguished American Award at the John F. Kennedy Library Friday for his lifelong work as an advocate for human rights and racial equality, the AP reports. Belafonte, who starred in the 1954 film Carmen Jones and sold a million copies of his album Calypso, refused to perform in the South from 1954 through 1961 because of racial segregation.
Filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, whose film All About My Mother won an Oscar in 2000, is stirring up controversy with his latest film Talk to Her, which premiered in Spain this week. According to Reuters, the film is about a male nurse who falls in love with a comatose patient while striking up a friendship with the boyfriend of another comatose patient--an injured woman matador. Spanish animal-rights activists complained of cruelty during shooting of the film's bloody bullfighting sequences, but Almodovar contends he was filming an already scheduled bullfight.
Eddie Murphy is in talks with The Lion King director Rob Minkoff to star in Disney's Haunted Mansion. According to Variety, the film is based on a popular Disney attraction. Murphy is set to play a father who visits a haunted house and encounters a ghost that spooks him into a greater understanding of the importance of family.
Johnny Depp will star as Peter Pan author Sir James M. Barrie in Miramax Films' Neverland. The film, which begins shooting in June in London, will be directed by Monster's Ball director Marc Forster, Variety reports.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Royal Tenenbaums have won best movie costume awards from the Costume Designers Guild, Reuters reports. Because members of CDG are often also members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the awards are seen as a predictor of the Best Costume Design award for the Oscars.
Brass Eye, the controversial British satire on pedophilia, has been nominated for two British Academy Television Awards, including best innovation and best comedy program or series, Reuters reports. The show was widely criticized last July after it failed to sufficiently warn viewers about its content.
George Michael is speaking out about his 1998 arrest for lewd behavior. Michael said the incident, which occurred in a park outside the Beverly Hills Hotel, forced him to come out publicly as a gay man. "Suddenly," he said, "it was a way of making my life about me. And for six months, it worked." Michael's new single, "Freeek," was released Monday in the U.K.
Revlon is spending somewhere between $3 million and $7 million, a larger part of its daytime TV ad budget, to co-star on the ABC soap opera All My Children. According to Variety, Revlon will be featured as the archrival to Erica Kane's (Susan Lucci) Enchantment cosmetic company. Because ABC is the only network to own all of its soap operas, the product placement sell is an important source of revenue.
Beloved late comedian Lucille Ball, whose cremated remains are with that of her mother's at a cemetery in Los Angeles, could be going to Jamestown, N.Y., the AP reports. Her daughter, Lucie Arnaz, said she would like to see the remains of both women moved to a cemetery in Ball's hometown. Arnaz is currently scouting a location in Jamestown to expand the Luci-Desi Museum.