Archive for the 'awards' Category

Five Things I’d Like to See in the 2013 Emmy Nominations

Epic Game of Thrones-ness in Best Supporting Actress in a Drama

Because TV is so much more friendly for women actors than movies are, you could fill at least twenty slots in this category, if not more. And half of that could be women from Game of Thrones. I want Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) in the mix, for sure, and wouldn’t mind if the other four slots were taken up by Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen).

Frankly, it’s just silly that Peter Dinklage is the only actor from the show who’s ever been nominated for their role. I DEMAND GAME OF THRONES LADIES BE RECOGNIZED!

(Looking at the official Emmy ballot, I actually don’t see Christie or Williams anywhere on the list as options. I refuse to amend my wishes based on this lunacy.)

David Lynch as Best Guest Actor in a Comedy

Because that arc on Louie is simply one of the best things I’ve ever seen. And while we’re at it, can Louie get a Best Comedy Series nomination, already?

Writing and acting nominations for Enlightened

Especially writing. If “The Ghost Is Seen” doesn’t get nominated, there is no justice. (There are other truly great episodes in season two, but that’s the only one on the ballot.)

Everything on this show was pretty much perfect. Laura Dern and Mike White should both be in the acting categories, and the series deserves direction and technical recognition, as well. It still hurts that there won’t be a third season, but let’s hope for acknowledgement for the stellar work we did get to see.

Portia de Rossi for Lead Actress in a Comedy

Lindsey has always been the most underrated character on Arrested Development, and I was delighted to see her have such a central role in season four. Portia de Rossi does incredible work getting us to root for Lindsey even when she’s at her most selfish and ridiculous. She’s just brilliantly funny. (And before you ask, yes, this is the category she’s submitted in, not supporting. As it should be.)

Call the Midwife surprise writing nomination

This is the longest long shot of long shots, but the second season finale of Call the Midwife, “Episode 8,” is on the ballot for drama writing, and I would LOVE to see it somehow sneak into the nominations. This is a beautiful show overall, but this particular episode made me SOB SOB SOB tears of joy, which is a testament to the stunning work that’s been done in building up the characters and relationships over only 15 episodes’ worth of content.

In your dream scenario, what would you like to see show up in the nominations tomorrow?


In which I am struck by my own obliviousness

Today over on Twitter, someone in my feed (@alxhuls) had thrown out a request: what are some good film scores for background music while working? He retweeted a response that came in to him (from user @Jim_Lochner) that mentioned scores by Rachel Portman. The two thoughts that immediately went through my head: hmm, have I heard of Rachel Portman? and OHMYGOD have I ever heard of ANY female film composers??

Obviously there are women working as film composers out there. And in my own movie geekdom, I don’t focus on that aspect of film too much—except for the Home Alone score on CD I got as a gift last Christmas (my friends know me well), I haven’t owned a film score since I perma-borrowed my mom’s cassette of Somewhere in Time when I was a moody 14-year-old. I’m not sure why this has never been a bigger part of my film appreciation; certainly I notice bad music, but when the music is good it seems to just fuse with all of the elements and cease to be a concern for individual attention from me. But, despite my tendency to gloss over this aspect of a film, I watch awards shows. I see the composers who do the big films, who get the recognition and the nominations. I know that it’s an important part of the Hollywood machine.

So why have I never noticed the lack of women in the group?

I’m a feminist and a movie fan. These are my two Big Things. I talk about this stuff all the time. I write a column about films directed and written by women! I frequently rant about the abysmal ratios of male to female characters in film! But I had literally never thought about the fact that the film composers getting showered with accolades at the Oscars every year are almost exclusively men.

Written by someone else, someone with a better knowledge of film scores in general, this post could easily be one highlighting all of the great work that I am sure is being done by women, lamenting the lack of attention and the fact that the big jobs consistently go to the same few men. I would love to read such an article. But this post, instead, is an opportunity for me to remind everyone, including myself, that sometimes a lack of diversity is not because of malicious intent, but because of just not noticing. This is even more dangerous, in the grand scheme of things. Things that are “the norm” can blur into seeming natural. Louder discussions—such as about the position of women executives and writers and directors, that I am so fond of talking about—can keep other issues from surfacing. Movie-loving feminists can watch the Oscars religiously and not give a thought to the fact that it’s been eleven years since a woman (yes, Rachel Portman, for Chocolat) was nominated for Best Original Score. If I didn’t notice this while presented with it right before my eyes, is someone (who is probably a man) in the market to hire one individual composer for one individual film likely to give it much thought?

Noticing exclusion, noticing a lack of diversity—it takes work. It takes work because even the most aware of us are inundated with instances of the opposite in a manner that indicates it’s no big deal. That shit gets in your head, whether you want it to or not. I recently had a guy tell me I had “blown his mind” by pointing out that every single one of his favorite books had a male author. That’s exactly how I felt after reading those tweets today. That’s what we’re working with.

Let’s all try to keep it in mind.


Emmy nominations make me feel odd…

What is this feeling? I’ve just read the list of nominations for a major awards show and I seem to be…happy? Really really happy?

Honestly folks, as someone who knows she shouldn’t care so much, but totally does care that much about my favorite projects getting award show recognition, this list is just stellar. I mean, there are always omissions due to too many worthy candidates (and yes, it does break my heart a little that Zach Gilford didn’t squeak in) but they fucking killed this thing. Highlights:

*Jim Parsons for lead actor in a comedy as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. He really was snubbed last year (he was nominated, but didn’t win); this performance will be a thing of sitcom legend.

*It’s too bad it ultimately had to come in the guest actress category, but it’s beautiful to see Elizabeth Mitchell get nominated for her role as Juliet Burke on LOST. Her role wasn’t as flashy, but I could argue that she gave the best performance of anyone on that show.

*Lea Michele and Chris Colfer for their roles as Rachel and Kurt on Glee. They are the main two things that keep me coming back to that show even when I find it exasperating.

*Almost the entire adult cast of Modern Family gets recognized. Too bad there wasn’t also room for Ed O’Neill, but his career in comedy is hardly just getting started like the other five. Absolutely thrilled to see that the “straight woman” nature of Julie Bowen’s role didn’t keep her out of it; that shit is much harder than it looks.

*January Jones for lead actress in a drama as Betty Draper on Mad Men. About time she was up there with Jon Hamm; he owes some of the credit for his nominations to having her stellar performance to play off of.

*For outstanding writing in a drama series, “The Son” from Friday Night Lights. Yes yes yes. This is the episode that should also have gotten Zach Gilford in the running (Matt Saracen, I will love you forever), but thank the TV gods that it is not going totally unnoticed. I watched it twice, and the experience is unreal. I should not feel this deeply for people I know to be fictional.

*And of course CONNIE BRITTON and KYLE CHANDLER for their roles as Tami and Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights. I shrieked when I saw this. Fucking finally.

Party at my house August 29th!

Female Best Director nominations: part two

My best friend and I were having a discussion about the films for which a female director had received an Academy award nomination. Her favorite film (not just for this purpose, but for all-time, essentially) is Lost in Translation. Lost in Translation is her jam, she says. She’s lived in Japan, so she can relate to that aspect; she loves the actors; she just flat-out adores the whole movie. Except…she’s not sure Sofia Coppola deserved that nomination for best director.

I get it. It’s about trying to determine what’s actually an award-worthy feat of direction. Coppola’s self-penned screenplay was so personal, it can’t have been that hard to direct, right?

The argument—even just the perception of it—is enlightening. It makes sense and yet it doesn’t. Who’s to say that getting your own written word to work on the screen is easier than getting someone else’s to? I’ve never directed a film, so I don’t know.

What I do know is that up until Kathryn Bigelow’s nomination this year, all of the women who’d been nominated for best director had done so directing self-penned, original (not adapted) scripts. Lina Wertmüller wrote Seven Beauties, and Jane Campion wrote The Piano. As a kind of comparison, in the 2000s, out of 50 nominees for best director, only six (including Coppola) had written their own original screenplay. It’s interesting to ponder: perhaps the nature of Hollywood “glass ceiling” means that in order to get the job as director on a worthy script, a woman usually just has to write it herself? I feel like there’s some truth to that, and it makes me feel even more strongly that a win for Bigelow would be very significant for women directors in Hollywood.

Oh, and one more fun fact: the last time someone took home the best director award for directing their own original, not-adapted screenplay? That’d be James Cameron, for Titanic.

Female Best Director nominations: part one

Each time I see a news story about the Oscars, the odds in favor of Kathryn Bigelow winning the Best Director award seem to have increased. It’s close to the point where it will be a real upset if she doesn’t take it home. While I definitely think it’s problematic to focus on her as a female director—rather than just an accomplished filmmaker who’s made the best film of her career—my inner angry woman (the one wearing the “Don’t blame me, I caucused for Hillary” t-shirt) is rooting for her so hard not just because of the brilliance of The Hurt Locker, but because she is a she. And her win really would be historic.

So, as my anticipation builds, a distraction: going back to visit/revisit the three films before The Hurt Locker that earned a woman a Best Director nomination. For today’s entry, I’ll begin at the beginning. Such a nomination first occurred for Lina Wertmüller, writer and director of the 1975 film Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties). (She was recognized for her original screenplay, as well.) But, before I discuss this movie in depth, let me ask a leading question…

What’s the weirdest movie you’ve ever seen?

Now, let’s eliminate films such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and other such novelties. These types of films are narrow in their weirdness; we know what sort of experience we’re in for just from the title. Along the same lines are low budget let’s-just-do-the-craziest-thing-we-can-think-of films (often horror). These can get very weird, but we understand why they are so weird. It’s the same with any exhibitionist or exploitation film. Personally, I could also eliminate from contention those films that “break the rules”, so to speak, but seem clear in their message and purpose: films like Lars von Trier’s Dogville, or  Michael Haneke’s Caché or Funny Games. We know what theme the director is trying to get across. Even bizarre experiences like David Lynch’s Blue Velvet or Mulholland Dr., or Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, are consistent in tone, and operate within a certain established genre of surrealism.

Seven Beauties, however…I don’t know what world it came from.

First, before I tell you about this movie, which I was totally unfamiliar with before starting it, enjoy the opening sequence:

Right. From there, we move along.

We are presented with a main character, Pasqualino Frafuso (Giancarlo Giannnini). He has seven sisters, each uglier than the last, in a garish, cartoony version of 1930s Naples. One of the sisters is involved with some sort of mafia member/pimp. Pasqualino’s decision to get involved with “rescuing” his sister from this situation (through an act of murder that is both sick and hilarious) sets off a series of bizarre events: we skip around in the timeline, seeing how Pasqualino’s odd journey takes him from prison, to a mental hospital, to the Italian army in WWII, to fleeing across the countryside, to a concentration camp. Sometimes we visit Pasqualino before any of this got started, flirting with absurdly young women in the street, or fixing his hair so that it is slicked back just right. He is vain, pompous, meddling, overly impulsive, and uneducated about his country’s politics or anything greater than his own immediate desires and opinions. Despite all this, somehow, the movie gets us to root for him—not just when he’s trying to survive, but also when he’s being truly awful.

There are some other very funny moments among these twisted adventures. Pasqualino, after escaping the army, comes across a kind of fairy tale image: a huge house in the woods, where a beautiful, scantily clad woman plays piano in a grand room, and a crone sits in the nearby kitchen, next to table covered in food. Both seem oblivious to Pasqualino’s presence as he blathers on and helps himself to their feast. But even without them ever noticing him, he manages to alert the enemy to his location all on his own, and we’re pulled out of this odd skit of a scene and back into the war.

This is the point at which we veer from the scattered, absurd black comedy we seem to be getting to something much too uncomfortable to be described in those terms. In the concentration camp, Pasqualino—with visions of his younger, dashing self, before jail and the asylum and the army—decides to try to seduce the commandant: a very large, very harsh, very stoic woman. His efforts succeed, in a way, and lead to the single most bizarre and disturbing sex scene I have ever seen. It is the least sexy thing ever put to film. And the movie gets darker from there, as the sadistic commandant sees how she can best torture Pasqualino further: by giving him a position of authority over his friends in the camp. I’m sure you can deduce that things don’t go well from there.

More than the dear-god-what’s-next storyline, or the scenes themselves, or the constantly fluctuating tone (always at its most detached when things get more serious), the thing that makes Seven Beauties the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen is the fact that I can’t figure out why Wertmüller made it. What is she trying to say? Pasqualino is awful. Awful things happen to him. But because of his circumstances—no one roots against someone who’s in a concentration camp!—we the viewers want things to work out for this lout, this brute, this man who relishes his own image as a murderer. Not the typical hero of a WWII film, to say the least. Is that what Wertmüller wants the audience to feel? Plain old confusion?

Well worth seeing and beautifully crafted in all its oddity, with a hell of a performance from Giancarlo Giannini, I’m sure I will revisit Seven Beauties after I seek out some Wermüller’s other work. I don’t believe the film will ever feel less weird, but I’m sure it will feel in some way different with every new perspective, which can be the mark of a great film.

P.S. I really do want to know the weirdest movie you’ve ever seen. Please let me know in the comments!

And a shout-out to Becca, who obtained the film from her local public library and invited me to watch it with her.

TCM, forgive me!

I’ve really dropped the ball, guys. It’s rolling away, already halfway down the hill. Because it’s 31 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies. And it started 12 days ago. And I haven’t said anything about it.

I have no good excuse. Let’s just forget it and get straight to my recommendations for the rest of the month, shall we?

Top Five Movies You Should Totally Record Because You Probably Haven’t Seen Them and They Are Awesome:

Jezebel (1938) Saturday the 13th at 12:15 PM

So, there’s this ball. And all the ladies are supposed to wear white gowns. It’s tradition.

But then there’s Julie. And Julie’s played by Bette Davis. And Julie doesn’t want to wear white. She wants to wear red.

In the 1850s.

Okay, there’s a lot more that goes on. But that scene….that’s where they get you. Directed by legit legend William Wyler and accompanied by Henry effin’ Fonda, Bette Davis won an Oscar for this role. Don’t disrespect. See the movie.

Blow-Up (1966) Sunday the 14th at 2:00 AM

Michelangelo Antonioni (who has one of the top ten best names ever, besides being a devastating filmmaker) directed and co-wrote this film that is sort of like a murder mystery, but sort of nothing like a murder mystery at the same time. A trendy photographer snaps some shots of a couple, far away from him in a park, maybe flirting, maybe arguing. When the pictures are developed…they might show something more. Plot-wise, you don’t need to know much. I could say a million things about Blow-Up because it leaves so much unsaid about itself. It’s a movie about wanting different things and feeling different ways depending on what you know and what is uncertain. It’s also about that feeling one gets when they feel a swell of inspiration in the craft they practice. And it’s also about sex.

I think. Whatever it is about, it’s brilliance.

Summertime (1955) Monday the 15th at 12:00 AM

This is a simple movie, a window in time about a brief love affair experienced by a middle-aged, never-married American woman as she vacations in Italy. There are two truly compelling reasons to give this movie a chance. One, it stars Katherine Hepburn, whom no one has ever not loved. Two, it was directed by David Lean. (DON’T tell me you don’t know who David Lean is. He only followed up Summertime with a little one-two punch of The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. Geez.)

Key Largo (1948) Tuesday the 16th at 10:15 AM

A gangster movie and a hostage pic all wrapped up in one! Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, and Edward G. Robinson; directed by John Huston. Oh my. But really, for my money, the show is stolen by now-little-known actress Claire Trevor, as the emotionally abused girlfriend of Robinson’s gang boss. The Academy agreed: she won Best Supporting Actress.

The Crowd (1928) Thursday the 18th at 8:00 PM

The story of a man and a woman just trying to make it in this crazy modern world. Yep, it’s silent. And it’s overly dramatic, heavy-handed, and predictable. And it will make you want to watch every other movie King Vidor ever directed, because it’s also wrenching and visually stunning. Silent films, seriously. So beautiful.

At the time, The Crowd’s theme of battling to try to succeed in an extraordinary way—when you yourself are simply ordinary—was definitely not typical. Maybe it seems cliché now, but at the time, Vidor was in a class of his own when it came to seeing what movies could represent.

And what will I be recording for my own first-time viewing pleasure? I’m eyeing They Were Expendable, In Cold Blood, The Night of the Iguana, Indiscretion of an American Wife, and The Nun’s Story. I’ll keep y’all posted.

Happy Oscar countdown!

(P.S. All times are Eastern because even though I’m a Pacific girl, I’ve got that whole satellite thing going on with the cable channels. You understand.)

The two things we’re allowed to discuss today.

LOST‘s final season premiere and Oscar nominations on the same day?! Thank god I’m going into work late today and I have time to blog.

Regarding LOST: I could not care less what the smoke monster is. I am unconcerned with any logistical contradictions in last year’s time traveling escapades. And I really think you’re missing the point if you still want to know “what the numbers mean.” The only mysteries I’m interested in are the character-based ones: the ultimate connection between Locke and Jacob, the whereabouts of poor Claire, the true relationship between Ben, Widmore and the island itself. Stuff like that. Emotional satisfaction, not nuts and bolts. I want all the time I can get with my beloved characters, not with ‘ol Smokey. And please, please let one of those characters be Daniel FaradayI need him back!!

I’m comforted by the fact that the writers of LOST are very much on the same page as me, according to this epic, entertaining, spoiler-free interview with Cuse & Lindelof, by the Chicago Tribune’s great TV critic Maureen Ryan. Read it to get even more excited for tonight!! Eeek!!

Okay: Oscars, and all ten of those Best Picture nominees. All it took for me to get on board with expanding the field was to see that it helped Up make the cut. Up is a wonder, as are most Pixar films, and absolutely deserves to be put up against the entire field, not just other animated films.

Other good: Kathryn Bigelow for directing The Hurt Locker, obvs. With her DGA award she is officially the favorite to win (the oft-cited trivia fact is that the DGA and the Academy have only voted differently on Best Director 6 times since 1948). One only needs to take a look at Bigelow’s diverse-yet-action-centric filmography to realize that the perpetual discussion of her as a female filmmaker is sort of sillynot that the emphatic categorization isn’t an eye-roller for any woman who happens to make films, but for her it seems particularly maddening. Yet, the fact is that her gender is significant, because this is Hollywood, Crown Prince of Boys Clubs we’re talking about. They were making jokes about her great legs at the DGA awards, for cripes sake. She needs that statue just to have a tool for bludgeoning once the champagne starts flowing on Oscar night.

Also nice to see: the ladies of Up in the Air getting acting noms, District 9 for best pic (doesn’t deserve to win, but so nice to see something very outside-the-box on that list), recognition for The Hurt Locker’s screenwriter Mark Boal, who is a little lost in the Bigelow-madness, and that the rumors that The Hangover might sneak in for best pic were thankfully untrue.

Not nice to see: no Zoe Saldana. I don’t know who I would kick out of the best supporting actress category for her, but still. I was also hanging on to a shred of hope that we’d see some significant nominations for Bright Star, but really the buzz didn’t last long enough, and it only squeaked in for costume design. A phenomenal film, though, and we will see Abbie Cornish on an Oscar list someday soon.

Hmm, no other egregious snubs are coming to mind for me. Anyone else mad about something?

Enjoy LOST tonight and the countdown to Oscars on March 7!

Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

I love Twitter.

  • RT @brinsonian: One of the reasons AD meant so much to me was the self-aware older ladies in on the joke and not having to play the straigh… 5 hours ago
  • RT @emtothea: I have NEVER met someone in this business so extraordinary at their job that I'd put up with them screaming in my face or har… 10 hours ago
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine is such a gift. That would have been a wonderful last episode, but I'm sooooo happy it wasn't. 3 days ago