Saturday, June 27, 2009

Five Plus Five Still Equals One Winner

Much ado has been made the past few days of AMPAS' decision to up the number of films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar from five to ten. Many have discussed the possible benefit for films like The Dark Knight, Star Trek, WALL*E, and Up. Others worry about the economic toll it will take on studios forced to produce more For Your Consideration campaigns (though that's more needless whining than anything else). Some have even responded with little more than a shrug of the shoulders, seemingly indicating a "who cares?" attitude about the change.

Personally, I have two opinions.

The first comes from a desire to see Oscar recognize more than the standard awards-bait fare. Last year, deserving movies like Rachel Getting Married, Doubt, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the aforementioned WALL*E, and yes, even the dramatically overhyped Knight were passed over in favor of the Ron Howard halftruth-ridden Frost/Nixon, mediocre Holocaust flick The Reader, and the epic disaster that was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (Note that I left Milk out; though the movie wasn't my cup of tea, I do think it probably deserved its spot in the Top Five.) Yet Ron Howard, the Holocaust, and epics are standard-bearers for the Academy, and a shaky camera-filmed character portrait like Rachel, a play-on-screen like Doubt, or the equivalent of a comedic powder keg like Vicky.

Such ignorance isn't new, either. Two years ago, Juno was the only heartwarming movie in a batch of grim, dark pieces. The year before that, both Dreamgirls and The Devil Wears Prada were left out in the cold in favor of The Letters of Iwo Jima, a somewhat surprising fifth nominee. Still, boasting foreign film cred, plus the Eastwood factor, it really shouldn't have been much of a surprise.

With ten nominees, such films become harder to ignore. That's the advantage. Still, no matter how many movies you nominate, there can only be one winner. The other films, as Heidi Klum would say, will be "out." (They would leave the runway, but they're movies. They don't have legs.)

That's where the problem lies. Some would argue that by expanding the field, the Academy is simply making the voting process more difficult for an already-apathetic voting body. As such, they are more likely to vote for the biggest name on the ballot. The Hangover for Best Picture, anyone?

The point of this system should not be to help honor unworthy films given a chance by strange circumstance, but find the singular best movie and give it the highest distinction in the land of film. This move arguably doesn't do anything to help advance that cause, only hinder the process getting there.

In the end, five plus five still equals one winner.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pop Fiction

Two posts in one, folks. This week's deals with two events in pop culture that got a strong reaction from me, one positive, one not-so-positive.


I have never watched Jon and Kate Plus 8. True story, true story. No, I have never watched the bizarrely popular TLC show about the married couple with eight kids. Frankly, I can't understand why one would want to watch it. I work at Target. I see enough screaming kids every day.

Even though I don't watch the "show," the pop culture universe has been swirling with news about the titular couple, Jon and Kate Gosselin. Though I'm not sure of the details, I believe Jon cheated on Kate, then Kate cheated on Jon, and so on and so forth. (I'm not sure who the Plus 8 cheated on, but I'll research it and get back to y'all.) Anyway, after that little bit of Melrose Place-style infidelity, they decided to divorce, and their show is now going on hiatus until August.

"...Wait. I'm sorry, what? On hiatus? Not cancelled?" That's right, the show must go on, even if Jon and Kate aren't Jon and Kate anymore. (A new Bachelorette-style show for Kate, perhaps? Date her and her eight kids, make it through the date without pulling your hair out and you win?) The show's not ending any time soon, either; reports that the couple still have quite a few more episodes to produce this season.

I don't know why this story bugs me so much, but maybe it's because of that eternal question: "What About the Children?" These parents go on television with their eight kids and essentially pimp them out to make money for them. Yes, I understand that they need a lot of money to raise eight kids, but this is not the way to make it. This is Billy Ray Cyrus-style child abuse: riding your kid's coattails until you've made yourself a pretty penny; never mind the psychological damage to them. Why CPS hasn't swooped in and taken these kids away yet I don't quite know.

If Jon and Kate want to get divorced, that's their business. If they want to pimp their divorce on televison, that's their business. If they want to let their celebrity consume them, that's their business. Those kids, however? Shouldn't be anyone's business.


As an American Idol devotee, I would have pulled my hair out if Allison Iraheta, fourth-place finisher, had missed out on a record contract while third-place finisher Danny Gokey received one. Iraheta's treatment on the show was lukewarm at best, spiteful at worst. Judge Simon Cowell, who these days cares more about the personalities of contestants than their singing ability, was particularly harsh on the scarlet-haired rocker. I didn't think my fear was unfounded.

The history of talented Idol finalists to not get record contracts with 19E is a sad one. Finalists Tamyra Gray, Elliott Yamin, Melinda Doolittle, and Carly Smithson all had to venture to other labels to get signed, and Vonzell Solomon and Syesha Mercado remain unsigned to this day (those last two particularly piss me off). Iraheta's snub seemed to not be far behind.

Yet my worry was unfounded, as Iraheta received her record deal two days after Kris Allen did, and the day after "big brother" Adam Lambert did. As for Gokey? He's still languishing without one, which is where he will hopefully stay.

Finally, a snub I can get behind.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Now Stop; Emmy Time.

Ah, the Emmy Awards. The ugly duckling of awards shows. What are supposed to be the television equivalent of the Oscars are so often left alone, stranded outside of awards season with few viewers. Yet they are still the television industry's highest honor, and are just as subject to intense journalistic and Internet scrutiny.

Here's the problem with all that- while there are a limited amount of viable options at the Oscars for nominations, at the Emmys, the options are seemingly limitless. Even with the expanded number of nominations in each field (6, up from 5), it still makes predicting nominees a fool's game. So, unlike what I did with the Oscars, I'll simply be highlighting actors, actresses, and programs worthy of Emmy attention come nomination time. (Names in bold are my recommended nominees for each category.)

And away we go!

Best Comedy Series
This one's no contest. I'm sorry, Office fans, but the Emmys just aren't that into your show anymore. It's 30 Rock all the way, though I'd like to see a nod for a strongly-resurging Scrubs or the sadly-cancelled Samantha Who?.

Best Drama Series
Mad Men won this award last year, and considering how stellar their second season was, I see no reason why they won't repeat. However, I would also urge consideration for Damages, easily television's best thrill ride, and the criminally underrated In Treatment. What shouldn't be nominated that will be? Boston Legal is the biggest example, especially considering the fact that the Emmy favorite went off the air in December, but I'd also strongly warn against nominating True Blood. Bizarrely, the show is riding a tidal wave of good buzz right now, despite a weak first season, so a nomination is likely.

Best Reality Competition Series
The award's gonna go to The Amazing Race anyway, so why not throw in a few fun nominations along the way? Must-recognize shows include So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef, and the brilliantProject Runway, but I would love for Bravo's other awesome reality competition, Make Me a Supermodel, to see a little Emmy love.

Best Variety Series
Saturday Night Live came off a brilliant season, so it should see a nod. After years of Daily Show dominance, it would be nice to see compatriot show The Colbert Report get recognized. I beg Emmy voters to ignore the idiocy of Jay Leno, and since he didn't really leave television, maybe the sentimental factor won't come into play. My big appeal is for the comically brilliant Chelsea Lately to get a nod. The E! show is finally getting its due from critics, and I'm hoping it will see some Emmy love. It's not probable, but I'm hopeful.

Best Actor, Comedy Series
There's a lot of love for Jim Parsons, but I'm not a huge Big Bang Theory fan. I'll stick with what works and throw my support behind Alec Baldwin.

Best Actress, Comedy Series
As far as Tina Fey is concerned, though I love her work on 30 Rock, I don't think she deserves this award again. I'd recommend JoAnna Garcia from the underrated Privileged and Judy Reyes of Scrubs. To me, however, it belongs to Christina Applegate for her brilliant Samantha Newly.

Best Actor, Drama Series
Jon Hamm is in a class of his own on Mad Men, and probably deserved this award last year, though I was thrilled that Bryan Cranston got the Emmy. Still, let's not kid ourselves. The fact that Hugh Laurie has never won this award is criminal. He's a perennial nominee, and should win posthaste. (Yeah, I said posthaste.)

Best Actress, Drama Series
You gotta love the ladies of cable. January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Glenn Close, and Kyra Sedgwick are all award-worthy, but Moss is the true wonder. Her work on Mad Men is so subtly emotional that she can make even the staunchest detractors swoon. That's what happened with me, anyway.

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy Series
Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, and Scott Adsit are all worthy for their work on 30 Rock, as is B.J. Novak, a standout in an uneven season of The Office. It seems silly to campaign for the oft-recognized Neil Patrick Harris, but that doesn't make him any less award-worthy. One request, though: don't nominate Jeremy Piven!

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy Series
I have but one nominee in mind: Jane Krakowski, brilliant as Jenna on 30 Rock. I wouldn't be mad at Emmy voters if they awarded last year's winner, Jean Smart, or her co-stars Jennifer Esposito and Melissa McCarthy. Voters would be wise to recognize SNL's funny ladies, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig.

Best Supporting Actor, Drama Series
I'd love to see Robert Sean Leonard recognized for his work on House, J.K. Simmons of The Closer, or either John Slattery or Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men, but more than anyone else, I want to see David Costabile, the creepy bearded man from Damages, recognized. They gave it to Zeljko last year, let's see another Damaged man get it this year.

Best Supporting Actress, Drama Series
Lots of choices here. Rose Byrne and Marcia Gay Harden are both worthy for Damages, Lisa Edelstein was especially brilliant this season on House, CCH Pounder gave a brilliant flair to the final act of The Shield, Allison Pill, Hope Davis, and Dianne Wiest were all genius on In Treatment, Cherry Jones made for 24's best President ever, and Stephanie March was a welcome return to Law and Order: SVU. Still, there's one fiery redhead whose flawless acting and bombshell style has made one hit show even more phenomenal: the incomparable Christina Hendricks. If she submits the episodes "A Night to Remember" and "The Mountain King," she's won, no doubt. If not, she still deserves the win, but as you can tell, the competition here is stiff, possibly the stiffest of the whole lot. But Hendricks is a revelation, and it would be a shame if her work went unrecognized.

So, to recap, my picks are:

Best Comedy Series: 30 Rock
Best Drama Series: Mad Men
Best Reality Series: Top Chef
Best Variety Series: Chelsea Lately
Best Actor, Comedy: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Best Actress, Comedy: Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Best Actor, Drama: Hugh Laurie, House
Best Actress, Drama: Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Best Supporting Actor, Comedy: B.J. Novak, The Office
Best Supporting Actress, Comedy: Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Best Supporting Actor, Drama: David Costabile, Damages
Best Supporting Actress, Drama: Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Of these, I'd say four are likely, four are within the realm of possiblity, and four are pipe dreams. Care to guess which are which? Head to the comments section, and respond to my picks! Did I snub worthy performances and series? Which of my picks are crazy? What chance in hell does David Costabile have of winning an Emmy? Sound off!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

That Bitter Struggle for Independence

As I mulled in an earlier post, 17 is a weird age. You don't get a whole lot of new privileges (though that blood donor thing is pretty damn exciting, lemme tell you), but you're still stuck in this awkward stage between teenagerdom and adulthood. One of the big pains that comes with that is the battle for independence.

Seriously, this one rivals that whole "Revolutionary War" skirmish everybody gets all in a tizzy about. What I'm talking about is the bloody, impassioned, no-holds-barred struggle between parents and teenagers for their independence. At 17, that battle gets so much more complicated.

In just a little over 400 days, I will be off to college (please NYU or UCLA), and because of this, my parents have hit the stage of parenthood I like to call "MY BABY'S LEAVING!!!" In this stage, commonly rational parents have the tendency to, simply, lose it. Not their fault. They're faced with the idea of losing their flesh and blood to a harsh, cruel world that they seemingly haven't prepared their progenee for. To be sure, my parents have done a wonderful job of raising me, avoiding almost every pratfall parents are destined to hit. They've raised me to be an adult. Yet even with this in mind, facing this change, all rationale goes "Bye Bye, Birdie."

I, as a teenager, am also locked in a stage I have termed "Get Out My Face," in which I want to do my own thing, have my cake and eat it too, and cry at my party if I want to. I know that my parents are doing for me exactly what they should be doing with their sole motivation being their undying love and devotion to me, but even still, I'm just being a brat.

These two stages, when mixed, have a deadly reaction I call "Vesuvius II." Simply because the two states are so highly dangerous when combined, the reaction formed is poisonous and can kill an otherwise healthy parent/child relationship. Though everyone involved has the same basic goal, our methods differ, and our bond suffers for it.

...what? You were expecting some solution here? Oh, God, you can't really expect me to come up with the solution to Vesuvius II on a BLOG? *Sigh* Okay, here's what I got. Understanding each others' motives is Step One. Truthfully, when you know that the other person is really not in it to win it, but simply to do what's best for you, it's a lot easier to get along. Also, try to negotiate a middle ground. Parents should still have a say in what their kids do, but make sure they know you need to take control of your life. say that didn't work? Hey, I'm not God. Your results may vary. And sometimes, the struggle is vastly different. But the fundamental rules apply. Your parents, for better or worse, are two (+/-, not trying to be insensitive) of the best friends you've got. Plus, they put up with a lot. Don't take them for granted, and don't lose them to Vesuvius II. Because, as my mom so aptly put it when I was four days old, "My baby's gonna leave!" And as my dad even more succintly put it, "Not tomorrow."

No, not tomorrow, Dad. But the tomorrows are running out.