Friday, July 21, 2017

LIZ SMITH: My Emmy Choices

The first Emmy Award winners in 1949.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

My Emmy Choices. (Don't Worry — They Don't Have to Be Yours!

“IT’S an honor just to be nominated,” says everyone who is nominated for an award, whether they win or go home drunk and determined to fire their agent, manager and significant other.

LIKE IT or not, the world is a competitive place.  Now, more than ever.  People like the validation of winning something.  If you are an actor, you can receive endless tribute from film festivals, lavish praise from esteemed critics, and gazzilion dollar salaries.  But there’s always that empty space in your heart — not to mention the bookshelf — if one doesn’t have at least a single statuette or plaque that says “Best.”

Awards rarely make sense. Five performances, five shows/movies, five writers/directors/editors, etc, out of all the work  delivered?  How to compare, realistically?  You can’t, naturally.  So a lot comes down to popularity, sentiment and the cultural zeitgeist.  

This today will be a “favorites” kind of thing today — who I like best, for reasons not always based on performance.  Just the way awards are given out, actually!

Best Comedy:  I chose Netflix’s “Masters of None” with “black-ish” as a near second.  (“Modern Family” has run its course much as “The Big Bang Theory” has. Most series should stick to the Mary Tyler Moore  seven year stretch.  That iconic sitcom went out at its pinnacle.)
Aziz Ansari in “Masters of None.”
Best Drama: “The Crown.” I adored every aspect of this show. I’m sure “The Handmaid’s Tale” is as brilliant as everyone says, but I don’t have Hulu.  (I am already over-served with Netflix. Amazon and On Demand.)  “This is Us” doesn’t move me as others insist it should. Haven’t watched “Better Call Saul” enough to accurately judge it. “House of Cards” is suffocating, mostly, and “Stranger Things” entertaining but no masterpiece.  Mainly I enjoyed the intense return of Winona Rider in that.
Claire Foy in “The Crown.” 
Best Limited Series:  HBO’s “The Night Of.”  Knocked my socks off.  Close is “Little Big Lies” another HBO  limited series. “Fargo” and “Genius” I have not seen, and “Feud: Bette and Joan” was highly entertaining (and wonderfully acted)  but too loose with facts for my taste.

Best Actress, Comedy:  Either Tracee Ellis Ross for “Black-ish” or Ellie Kempner, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”  Both are great on their respective shows and are up against multiple award winners — Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Allison Janney and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  For Tracee and/or Ellie, it’s their time.

Best Actor, Comedy:  I’m split on Aziz Ansari of “Master of None” and Anthony Anderson for ‘black-ish.”   I was unaware of Ansari before his series, but mighty impressed now.  Anderson I’ve adored for years, in various programs. 
Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross in" Black-ish."
Best Actress, Drama:  As dazzling as Claire Foy is in “The Crown,” I’d like to see this one go to Keri Russell for “The Americans” a dark, superb show that had a slow burn to recognition.  She has never won an Emmy.  (Well, neither has Elisabeth Moss, Evan Rachel Wood or even Robin Wright, the Lady Macbeth of “House of Cards.”  If not Russell, then Wright, who has been nominated four or five times.)

Best Actor, Drama: I’m going for Matthew Rhys for “The Americans,” although I believe Milo Ventimiglia (“This is Us”) is the favorite.
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in “The Americans."
Best Actress, Drama:  Yikes!  Big fans of everybody here, and this is a ripe category, pitting Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon against each other for “Feud” and Nicole Kidman vying with Reese Witherspoon (“Big Little Lies.”)  Felicity Huffman is up for “American Crime.” But I’m gonna root for Carrie Coon, nominated for “Fargo.”  And not so much for “Fargo” but for her shattering performance in “The Leftovers” which left us, this year.
Carrie Coon in “Fargo.”
Best Actor, Limited Series or TV Movie:  Hands down Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of” or John Turturro, in the same show. 
Riz Ahmed  and John Turturro in “The Night Of.” 
Supporting Actor, Drama:  John Lithgow, for his transformation into Winston Churchill for “The Crown.” 
Supporting Actress, Drama: Thandie Newton, the only character who kept me awake and fascinated in HBO’s “Westworld.” She is superb. 
Supporting Actor, Comedy: Matt Walsh of “Veep.”
Supporting Actress, Comedy: Kathryn Hahn.  She’s great in “Transparent” but I’d consider an for her Emmy as body-of-work recognition as well.
Supporting Actor, Limited Series of Movie:  I’d give it to Alexander Skarsgard in “Big Little Lies” because that role gave him a remarkable opportunity to stretch beyond his “True Blood” vampire fame. 
Supporting Actress, Limited Series or Movie:  Shailene Woodley in “Big Little Lies.”  I’d found her semi-unremarkable in most that I’d seen her in, especially the “Divergent” series of films.  But her work in “Big Little Lies” was a revelation to me.  Improvement should be encouraged.
Guest Actress, Drama: Either Laverne Cox — truly remarkable — for “Orange is the New Black” or the great veteran Ann Dowd, in “The Leftovers.” 
Guest Actor, Drama: Ben Mendelsohn, Netflix’s “Bloodline” or Hank Anzaria, on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.”
After that, we get into categories I haven’t seen (or recalled) or have no knowledge of — Reality Host ... scripting ... directing ... etc. 

Do these choices make “acting sense?”  Maybe not always.  But be honest, do awards in general make sense?  I’ve rarely thought so.  And my “choices” are simply my choices.  If I had my druthers, everybody would win — even all those worthy performances and shows which weren’t nominated.  (That would be two more columns!)

The Emmy Awards airs on CBS, September 17th, which seems a long way away, but July is almost over.  Stephen Colbert will host, and as much as I love him, I hope he — and all the winners and presenters — stick to show biz. I’d give what’s left of my soul not to hear one particular name uttered publicly just one night, on TV.  Colbert says that name, gives it importance, every evening on “The Late Show.” 

Be merciful Stephen; give us a break on September 17th.
Contact Liz here.