Friday, July 29, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: What Has Happened to Our Culture?

This question might come up several times when I write this weekly column.  But this week, I am referring to a specific subject matter.  One that I know is a blight on our society that is hard to stamp out no matter how many pre-movie/play announcements a theater makes.  My friends, I speak of the scourge that is: Cell Phone OVERUSE!  Now, the incident to which I am referring happened on Monday when my father and I went to see the last Harry Potter movie for the second time (I really do enjoy that film!).  We arrive at the theater and a man is sitting there talking on his cell phone.  Now, it is before the movie, so his talking (seemingly to himself, but that's another matter!) doesn't quite bother me...yet.  Our local movie theater is part of a chain (Century) that insists on doing these insipid commercials and featurettes (that's movie previews with cast interviews!) that bore my father to tears and so he pulls out his Droid device and begins fiddling with it (I know that sounds dirty, but only to those of you with filthy minds!).  Remember, this is all before the previews have begun and the lights have been dimmed, so it is still not bothering me...yet.

So, watching these inane ads for TV programs I don't care about and products I may use or never plan to use is wearing on me too; but as my father is otherwise engaged, I have to rely on the old standard habit of people-watching.  In front of me is the man who was talking on his cell the minute we walked in, only now he is not talking: he is playing games, checking text messages, using a search engine, mapping a location (WOW, what these damn phones can do now!).  He is doing everything with this phone except turning it off.  Which, at this moment, is not a problem.  But the little voice inside me is saying: "He is going to f--- with his device for the entire f---in' movie, isn't he?"  Experience (and therapy!) have taught me to ignore that little voice often.  Unfortunately, this time, the little voice was right.

As the lights dimmed, his phone didn't.  My dad's did.  I heard other people's phones turning off.  They were reading the big screen that said "Silence and Turn Off your Cell Phones!" and "Respect your fellow patrons."  Apparently these were concepts that were lost on our good buddy with the "I-can-do-everything-with-this-phone."  For the duration of the previews, the phone remained on and I could clearly see the light as I was right behind this inconsiderate doofus.  He was checking messages, playing Scrabble and probably ordering take-out for when he leaves the theater (Who knows? And more importantly, Who cares?).  As the movie began and we see Harry Potter and his friends come on the screen, his phone light went off...for a minute and a half.  I don't know what it was, but it seemed there was something in this man that he just couldn't turn off that phone.  It went on like this for the duration of the movie: Off...On...Off...On...MADE A PHONE CALL!!!!....Off...On...Off...On...Off...End of Movie and Lights return!  Oh, did I bury the lead there?  Yes, the man made a phone call during the movie!

What has happened to our culture?  Are we so obsessed with cell phones and internet usage and being "connected" that we cannot do others the common courtesy of shutting down for 1 or 2 or 3 hours and watch a movie or a play or a musical?  I remember when cell phones were just something you had in case of emergencies!  (And with that statement I officially sound like my late Grandmother!)  Did this man have some important job he should be doing or some emergency he was concerned about that kept his focus away from the world of Hogwarts?  And if so, WHY was he at the movie in the first place?  If I have a job to be at or had some emergency going on, the movie theater is the LAST place I would think I should be, right?  And why is it when other patrons speak up to these scatterbrained nincompoops or the theaters proceed to escort their butts out of the venue, that these people become defensive and angry?  It's like they feel entitled to act like spoiled brats who don't want their shiny toys taken away.  I seriously want to discuss this (from all angles, because the nincompoops have a right to be heard too!).

NOTE: I did not confront this man about his inconsiderate behavior as he was very large and seemed like the type who would fight to the death for the "free" use of his cell phone.  I don't know about you, but I didn't want my obituary reading: He died at a Harry Potter film!  But it's good to ask the question: Would you have said something?  Or would you, like me or the other patrons (including my father!), just let the a--hole have his precious phone?

What is it about our culture that has allowed this kind of behavior to fester (like a fungus!)?  I really want to know.

2ND NOTE: Even though I have allowed myself to break my own rule and use swear words (although censored!), I will delete any comments that cross the line and are just tirades filled with gratuitous language.  Let's keep it classy folks!

Friday, July 22, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: Gordon Ramsay Has Too Many Shows and the Real Housewives Need to Go Away!

This week's IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS is going to be a short "pontification," so to speak.  In recent years, I have noticed a massive decline in our culture.  Yes, I said it, a decline.  On almost every channel (broadcast and cable), network programmers are moving further and further away from the imaginative towards the "realistic."  Reality Television has wedged its way into our culture like a termite that just refuses to be exterminated.  And it is for a very good reason why this is so: It's cheaper.  With Reality TV, networks don't have to pay writers and actors (what networks consider) exorbitant salaries and union fees that most frequently cause producers problems.  Both the Screen Actor's Guild and the Writer's Guild have notably gone on strike or threatened to do so in recent years, becoming a major detriment to TV production in one way or another.  Reality TV is a producer's slap-in-the-face answer to a troublesome actor or writer who is not contributing to the commerce of a project.

But Reality TV has gone beyond a behind-the-scenes drama and the network politics in response to the nation's current financial state.  The multiplying amount of shows (either competition, pseudo-informational or just following around some celebrity or faux-celebrity) have gained their sufficient fanbases enough to guarantee them more than one season (or set) of episodes.  Which translates into no end in sight to the array of reality shows anytime soon and it makes the stakes that much higher for fictional programs (as far as ratings go!).  But with so many shows, the networks tend to sacrifice their (supposed) art in the name of commerce (meaning quantity wins over quality!).  I mean its a regular Baskin Robbins 31 flavors when it comes to the different types of reality shows on TV these days.  There are: shows dealing with people's disturbing addictions, shows dealing with weddings, shows dealing with fashion advice or style competitions, shows showcasing a business with a "quirky" staff, shows about spoiled 25 year-olds who have forgotten they are not in college anymore (that's assuming they ever were in college!), shows exploiting teenagers or children, shows with singing and dancing competitions, shows with cooking competitions and shows following people who are famous JUST for having money (or, as I like to call them, faux-celebrities!).  Jeez, just writing this list has made me tired, and I don't even think I've covered half of the reality shows out there.  (And by the way, it's up to you readers to figure out which particular reality shows I was referring to in the above list!)

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm guilty of it too.  I have found myself watching (and being fascinated by) some of these shows and I don't think I'm going to stop any time soon.  And I know by writing this measly little column, it isn't going to wake up some network executive and all Reality TV shows will soon be no more (despite what the title of the column says!).  I do, however, wish that we as a culture would "wake up" from our Reality TV "coma," and return to the type of shows that got us watching TV in the first place.  Already so many fictional programs (both Primetime and Daytime) have fallen victim to the Reality TV entrenchment.  Let's not lose too many more and inspire more writers to step forward with their creations, just like the TV writers of my generation have inspired me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

10 FAVORITES (40) - Just Wild About Harry - Part 2!!!

SPOILERS, SPOILERS and more SPOILERS lie within this post today people.  So if, for some reason, you were not one of the millions of people who saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 over the weekend or you, like some sort of hermit, avoided reading J. K. Rowling's phenomenal book, then I suggest you stop reading now.

After seeing the final film in what is the most successful film series in cinematic history, I found myself loving and remembering so many scenes within the movie that thrilled me, made me cry and just overall entertained me.  So for 10 FAVORITES this week, as a follow-up to last week's, I am going to discuss:


Meeting Aberforth Dumbledore
When our favorite trio make their way to Hogsmeade Village outside Hogwarts, the Death Eaters' alarms are set off.  They need a place to hide and are brought into the Hog's Head Pub by a crusty old man.  Hermione immediately recognizes him as Aberforth Dumbledore, Professor Dumbledore's older brother.  Aberforth (played perfectly by CiarĂ¡n Hinds) guards the only secret passage into Hogwarts that is not overrun with Death Eaters.  He tells the trio very little and questions if Harry truly understood the Albus Dumbledore that Aberforth knew.  After Harry pledges his loyalty to the Dumbledore he learned from, Aberforth reluctantly helps them get into Hogwarts.  The Battle is about to begin!

The Killing of Bellatrix Lestrange
I loved this moment, both in the book and now in the movie.  Crazy Bellatrix Lestrange (the delicious Helena Bonham-Carter) tries to curse Ginny Weasley...big mistake.  She's now angered the "Big Mama," Molly Weasley (the marvelous Julie Walters).  Molly proceeds to throw spell after spell at Bellatrix and suddenly Little Miss Loopy-Pants is no more.  Now Bonham-Carter has enchanted me playing high-born ladies and Queens of England (A Room With a View, The King's Speech), but its nice to see this crazy-ass woman (meaning Bellatrix) finally get what she deserves.  I know I was applauding, along with the rest of the audience at my screening, when Molly did what she had to do to protect her daughter.  Go Mama Weasley!  Curse that Bitch!

Ron & Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets
This was the scene everybody was waiting for and talking about.  It was also the toughest for stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson to film as it features the all-important snogging (you know, kissing!).  During the Battle of Hogwarts, Ron and Hermione take the Hufflepuff cup (a Horcrux) to the Chamber of Secrets to obtain a fang of the long dead Basilisk (which helped destroy the first Horcrux back in the 2nd book/film, The Chamber of Secrets).  After Hermione stabs the cup with the fang, that part of Voldemort's soul is destroyed and water washes over the two heroes.  In celebration, Hermione grabs Ron and kisses him passionately.  Let the "Woo-hoos!" commence.

Chatting with Helena Ravenclaw
On the heels of her well-deserved Emmy nomination for HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Kelly MacDonald has an integral part of the Summer's biggest movie as the Ravenclaw House ghost, Helena Ravenclaw (daughter of House founder Rowena Ravenclaw and more commonly called The Grey Lady).  Harry is convinced that Rowena Ravenclaw's lost diadem (a type of crown) is a Horcrux and he must speak to Helena to find it.  In this scene, MacDonald gives an enigmatic and ethereal portrayal of a very damaged woman.  After some coaxing, Helena reveals to Harry that the diadem is in the massive Room of Requirement.  She wishes the diadem destroyed as Voldemort tainted it with "dark magic" and Harry promises to see it destroyed.

Hermione Plays Bellatrix
To get into Gringott's Bank and to see what else in inside Bellatrix Lestrange's vault, Hermione must take some Polyjuice Potion and become the crazed Death Eater.  It is a delightful moment (before the excitement of the Gringotts vaults!) where we get to see Helena Bonham-Carter flex her acting chops as she plays Hermione playing Bellatrix.  It is a testament to her versatility as an actress.

Snape Finally Reveals His Truth
Too many, this was the most powerful scene in the film; and while I don't necessarily agree with them, I will not deny its emotional relevance.  After a bloody and brutal death at the hands of Voldemort (and Nagini), Snape allows Harry to take his memories to the Pensieve.  It is in this scene where audiences finally understand what this man was truly all about.  We see Snape's life as an outcast child, his close friendship with Harry's mother, his jealousy of Harry's father, his willingness to turn against Voldemort, the murder of Lily and James Potter, his vow to protect Harry, his arguments with Dumbledore and his unrequited love for Lily.  All this within a matter of seconds (and the truly powerful performance of Alan Rickman!) make this a masterful sequence and has us rethinking our judgement of the Professor we loved to hate.

Dumbledore Visits King's Cross
When it seems like Voldemort has placed his final killing curse on Harry, we (the audience) are transported out of the Forbidden Forest and into a white-washed and Heaven-like version of King's Cross Station in London (which is a fascinating accomplishment to anyone who has ever actually been in King's Cross Station!).  Here, Harry meets with his mentor Professor Dumbledore (the perfect Michael Gambon) and we get a little much-needed exposition.  It turns out only a part of Harry needed to die, the part of Harry that was Voldemort's accidental Horcrux.  That part lies under bench in King's Cross now and is all fetus-y and gross...and dying.  Dumbledore also reveals to Harry that he can "choose" to go back if he wishes.  Above, is a storyboard sketch of the King's Cross scene for the film as Warner Bros. is not revealing any pictures of the scene for promotional purposes.

Neville Comes into His Own
This was the scene I was praying would not be cut as it is such a joyful moment for anyone who loves a story about a so-called "underdog."  And thank the movie gods that it wasn't.  After an impassioned speech to Voldemort and his cackling Death Eaters over Potter's (seemingly) dead body, Neville takes the coveted Sword of Godric Gryffindor and puts it to fantastic use.  He sees Ron and Hermione tirelessly trying to kill Voldemort's frighteningly large snake, Nagini (which turns out to be the final Horcrux), and his one swing of the sword slices the villainous reptile in half.  The audience at my screening cheered (so did I!).

Harry (and Professor McGonagall!) Confront Snape
Under Voldemort's rule, Snape is running Hogwarts like it is Nazi camp.  When word that Harry is near, Snape files the students into the Great Hall to threaten and force them to reveal his whereabouts.  Harry comes forth and gives a grand "How Dare You..." speech to Snape regarding taking Dumbledore's place.  The Order of the Phoenix (The Weasleys, The Lupins, Shacklebolt et al) enter to back him up and before Snape can put his hands on Harry, McGonagall steps forward.  And what results is ALL KINDS of AWESOME!!!!

Harry Uses the Resurrection Stone
This is the scene that practically wrecked me emotionally.  I knew it was coming.  I had read the book, but there is something about seeing it dramatically represented before you (whether its in the way you pictured or not!) that just tugs at your spirit.  As Harry is entering the Forbidden Forest to face his fate against the Dark Lord, he opens his Golden Snitch and out pops the Resurrection Stone (the final Deathly Hallow).  As he stares at his parents, his godfather and his favorite teacher, he begs them to be with him and they assure him that they "Always will."  And every shot of his mother's face in this scene (the charming character actress Geraldine Somerville), just had me bawling like a baby.  My brother now says that he can't take me anywhere.

The series has come to an emotional and highly profitable end.  Many Harry Potter fans will be seeing the film again and again over the next month (I might include myself in that group!).  We will likely not hear from the Wizarding World again until the DVD comes out (So for all those wishing the Potter franchise to just go away, you'll have to wait at least another six months!).  To all my fellow witches, wizards, squibs and muggles alike: Harry, you made us believe in magic and your world will live on in all of us.  Thank you J.K., for all you have given the universe.  Your creation shall live forever!

Friday, July 15, 2011

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: The 2011 Emmy Nominations

Welcome to my new weekly column: IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS!  Each week, I want to share my thoughts and opinions on the things happening in Pop Culture and the Media.

Yesterday morning, the world of Primetime Television held its breath while Melissa McCarthy (of Mike & Molly) and Joshua Jackson (of Fringe) announced the 2011 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations.  There were several surprises, several disappointments and a long list of "the usual suspects."  So for this week's inaugural column, I am fortunate enough that it coincides with this joyous (and nail-biting) time for the TV world.  I want to talk about each of the 10 major categories (the 5 Drama categories and the 5 Comedy categories), what show or performer got the honor of a nomination and what show or performer will have to settle for cheering on colleagues at the Emmy Award ceremony on Sunday, September 18, when it will air on FOX with Glee's Emmy-winner Jane Lynch serving as hostess.

Let us begin with the Drama categories:
Boardwalk EmpireDexterFriday Night LightsGame of ThronesThe Good WifeMad Men
  • Expected: It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Golden Globe winner Boardwalk Empire and 3-time Emmy champ Mad Men would make it's way into the mix.  And even though cable networks tend to dominate the category recently, CBS was not to be denied with its powerhouse legal drama The Good Wife (quite frankly the best show on Television, but I don't wish to sound biased!).  And while those three were most definite locks in the category, Showtime's gory and lauded Dexter was the most likely candidate for the fourth slot.
  • Surprises: In recent years, it has been very rare that a network (Broadcast OR Cable!) can get two of its acclaimed shows into this category.  So HBO was doubly thrilled to see its genre-defying costume epic Game of Thrones alongside Boardwalk Empire among the contenders yesterday morning.  And many were pleasantly surprised to see that the NBC/DirectTV critical delight Friday Night Lights finally get some recognition in this category, albeit for its fifth (and final!) season.
  • Snubs: There are just so many shows vying for six spots!  Apparently AMC could not pull off what HBO was able to as its two critically-acclaimed new shows The Killing and The Walking Dead did not join Mad Men on the list.  And three of the critics' favorite Dramas were not listed as FX's Justified, Showtime's Shameless and NBC's Parenthood were each nudged out of contention by more press-worthy fair (i.e. Good Wife or Bordwalk).  Also, it seems Game of Thrones is the only real genre-specific fan favorite that made its way into the mix as once again Fringe, Sons of Anarchy and True Blood were all denied a spot.  Then there are the categories previous nominees that have now (in one way or another) become virtual "also-rans:" In Treatment, Big Love, Rescue Me, House and Grey's Anatomy.  Plus, let's not forget the high-rated "Police Procedurals" (like NCIS, Criminal Minds, Blue BloodsBones, CSI and The Mentalist), which never really had a chance anyway!
Kathy Bates, Harry’s LawConnie Britton, Friday Night LightsMireille Enos, The KillingMariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVUJulianna Margulies, The Good WifeElisabeth Moss, Mad Men
  • Expected: The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies won every pre-Emmy Award...last year.  At last year's Emmys, she was denied the prize by a sympathy bid for 5-time nominee Kyra Sedgwick (of The Closer).  So, Margulies "stepped up her game," so to speak and was assured a nod for the show's stellar second season.  And Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss was given more to do by the show's writers (therefore bumping her up from Supporting Actress to Lead!) and her powerful work in the episode "The Suitcase" (which is for sure to be her episode submission!) might just make her the one to beat (sorry Julianna!).  And Connie Britton, who was a surprise nominee last year, was a favorite to garner a second nod for FNL's poignant final season.
  • Surprises: Even though she is Kathy Bates, her show was not universally loved.  So her inclusion is mostly a surprise.  And Mireille Enos' work on AMC's The Killing was much lauded, but it was not clear whether the category's tough competition would ace her out of a nod.  And previous winner Mariska Hargitay, while one of the best things about NBC's 12 year-old "procedural," was not on every pundits' short list for yet another nomination.
  • Snubs: It is rare that the category's previous winner is not included among the next year's nominees (usually only when the previous winner was on a show that ended the year before!).  So Kyra Sedgwick's lack of a nomination is pretty much confirmation that her win last year was sympathy for not winning in prior years.  And for some reason, Emmy voters just have not taken to FX's gritty Sons of Anarchy and therefore refuse to reward this year's Golden Globe winner Katey Sagal with a nod.  There were also critical favorites like Emmy Rossum (of Showtime's Shameless) and Lauren Graham (from NBC's Parenthood) left out of the running.  And, not to mention, definite fan favorites (both named Anna, by the way) True Blood's Anna Paquin and Fringe's Anna Torv, both denied a shot.  And I'm not gonna discuss Mad Men's January Jones' almost laughable mistake in submitting herself in this category (it's called LEAD Actress, January!).

Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk EmpireKyle Chandler, Friday Night LightsMichael C. Hall, DexterJon Hamm, Mad MenHugh Laurie, HouseTimothy Olyphant, Justified
  • Expected: With Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston ineligible this year, this award is now John Hamm's to lose.  The Mad Men star faces tough competition from previous nominee Michael C. Hall (who won last year's Golden Globe for his work on Dexter) and category newcomer Steve Buscemi (who won this year's Golden Globe for Boardwalk Empire).  And previous nominees Kyle Chandler and Hugh Laurie were both definite contenders to get in again.
  • Surprise: The critics love Timothy Olyphant's work on FX's Justified, so his inclusion was most welcome.
  • Snubs: Though Game of Thrones got a nod in the top category, Emmy voters failed to recognize the show's main star Sean Bean (maybe they saw the costume and thought it was another Lord of the Rings movie!).  Also, Shameless star (and Awards favorite) William H. Macy was excluded along with critical dynamo Peter Krause (of Parenthood).  Then there are previous nominees like Simon Baker (The Mentalist), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment), Bill Paxton (Big Love) and Denis Leary (Rescue Me), all of whom were left off the list once again.
Christine Baranski, The Good WifeMichelle Forbes, The KillingChristina Hendricks, Mad MenKelly MacDonald, Boardwalk EmpireMargo Martindale, JustifiedArchie Panjabi, The Good Wife
  • Expected: Previous winner Archie Panjabi and her Good Wife co-star Christine Baranski were definite locks to get nominated again.  And Mad Men's Christina Hendricks is still glowing in her "It Girl" status from last year, so her nod was for sure.  Then there is Kelly MacDonald who is the most critically lauded performer on the HBO ensemble hit (she also scored a Golden Globe nod!) and she is a serious contender to challenge Panjabi's second bid for a win.
  • Surprises: Both The Killing's Michelle Forbes and Justified's Margo Martindale are very respected character actresses (I still remember Forbes' thrilling role on Star Trek: TNG as Ensign Ro!), so their respective nominations are making the critics smile from ear to ear.  Plus, a win for Martindale would probably make them do cartwheels!
  • Snubs: HBO's trio: Debra Winger (In Treatment), Chloe Sevigny (Big Love) and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) were each on some pundits short list (at one time or another) yet failed to garner nominations.  And critical favorites like Monica Potter (Parenthood), Regina King (Southland) and Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) were edged out of contention.  Plus, there were fan favorites (and long shots) like Lisa Edelstein (for her last season on House) or Sara Ramirez (for the much-hyped musical episode of Grey's Anatomy) or Sharon Gless (who was nominated last year for USA powerhouse Burn Notice), all of whom were overlooked.

Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain AgeJosh Charles, The Good WifeAlan Cumming, The Good WifePeter Dinklage, Game of ThronesWalton Goggins, JustifiedJohn Slattery, Mad Men
  • Expected: Mad Men's John Slattery (who has been nominated 3 times before) has been the clear frontrunner for months now.  Andre Braugher (who has won 2 Emmys and garnered a nod last year for the TNT dramedy) is a definite favorite with critics (and quite possibly voters!).  Plus, The Good Wife has several contenders in this category, so getting two of its actors nominated (Josh Charles & Alan Cumming) was not a shock.
  • Surprises: Justified is beloved by many critics and Walton Goggins could challenge Slattery for a win in the category.  And several fans were pleased to see the very respected character actor (and only American cast member of Game of Thrones!) Peter Dinklage in the mix.
  • Snubs: The most notable omission (to fans and critics alike!) is Fringe's John Noble.  And while Good Wife garnered two nods, both Chris Noth and Matt Czuchry were left out in the cold, so to speak.  Hawaii Five-O's Scott Caan garnered a Golden Globe nomination, but he was considered a long-shot for an Emmy nod.  And it seems all of Boardwalk Empire's male ensemble have cancelled each other out and none of them got a nod (sorry in particular to Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg!)

And now, on with the Comedy: 

The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Recreation30 Rock
  • Expected: As I said in a previous post, Glee, Modern Family and 30 Rock were each almost assured a nomination in this extremely competitive (and wide-ranging!) category (despite the first two had "Sophomore Slump" seasons and the latter is beginning to show its age!).  While I didn't include it in "the locks," The Office was a definite contender (particularly since it was Steve Carell's departing season!).  And out of all the other Comedy choices, CBS' The Big Bang Theory, was the definite front-runner for that fifth slot.
  • Surprises: NBC pulled off a rare hat-trick and got a third nomination in the category for the very much liked Parks and Recreation.  Also, with NBC garnering 3 spots and ABC, FOX and CBS each getting one of their lauded shows in the mix, cable networks (i.e. Showtime) were knocked out of contention (more on that below!).
  • Snubs: Showtime faves Nurse Jackie (nominated last year) and The Big C (which garnered a Golden Globe nod) were knocked out of contention in this seemingly anti-cable/pro-network Comedy category.  Another cable contender (that put on an aggressive Emmy campaign!) was TV Land's Hot In Cleveland (but maybe the campaign was too aggressive!).  FOX newcomer Raising Hope was also denied a spot (the spot that probably went to its powerhouse lead-in, Glee!).  And once again, NBC's Community and ABC's Cougar Town were not nominated and the critics (and fans!) are left scratching their heads.

Edie Falco, Nurse JackieTina Fey, 30 RockLaura Linney, The Big CMelissa McCarthy, Mike & MollyMartha Plimpton, Raising HopeAmy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
  • Expected: It was most assured that Edie Falco (last year's winner) and Laura Linney (the Golden Globe champ) would get nominations for their respective Showtime dramedies.  And former SNL-turned-sitcom stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are beloved by many, so their nominations were pretty much locks.
  • Surprises: Newcomers Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) and Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope) are favorites of the critics and the fans.  Plus, McCarthy is enjoying many laurels for her scene-stealing role in the sleeper Summer Comedy hit Bridesmaids.  And Plimpton is a much respected actress dating back to her child/teen acting days in films like The Goonies and Parenthood.
  • Snubs: Toni Collette won this category back in 2009 (for her stellar work on Showtime's United States of Tara), but the news of her show's cancellation must have aced her out of a nod this time around.  And Glee's Lea Michele (probably the most talented performer on Television!) was denied a second nomination despite being on the year's most popular show.  The Middle's Patricia Heaton (who won twice in the past for Everybody Loves Raymond) and The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco were edged out of contention.  And what does Courtney Cox have to do to get an Emmy nomination?  She NEVER got nominated during 10 years of Friends and was denied a nomination last year for Cougar Town.  Looks like history is destined to keep repeating itself.  Plus, previous nominees Mary-Louise Parker (of Weeds) and ALL of the Desperate Housewives (Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria and past winner Felicity Huffman) are once again off the list of nominees.

Alec Baldwin, 30 RockLouis C.K., LouieSteve Carell, The OfficeJohnny Galecki, The Big Bang TheoryMatt LeBlanc, EpisodesJim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
  • Expected: Last year's winner Jim Parsons and previous winner Alec Baldwin were definite locks in this category, as was Steve Carell, who is the one to beat for his final season on The Office (considering he has never won!).
  • Surprises: Johnny Galecki is used to playing "the straight man" to Parsons and was finally rewarded with a nomination. Matt LeBlanc, who pretty much plays himself on Episodes, is a veteran of the category (having been nominated previously for HIS work on Friends!).  And stand-up Louis C.K. is a favorite with many critics and is considered very deserving of this recognition.
  • Snubs: Glee's Matthew Morrison got nominated last year, but its possible that the scaling down of his character (there were some episodes where he pretty much only had one scene!) hurt his chances for a Lead nomination.  Critical Cable favorites Thomas Jane (of HBO's Hung) and David Duchovny (of Showtime's Californication) were once again denied a chance for the trophy.  And there is a long list of fan favorites that were left off the list this year: Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), Joel McHale (Community), Zachary Levi (Chuck), Lucas Neff (Raising Hope), Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death) and Rob Lowe (who might have submitted himself in the wrong category for his work on Parks and Recreation).

Julie Bowen, Modern FamilyJane Krakowski, 30 RockJane Lynch, GleeSofia Vergara, Modern FamilyBetty White, Hot In ClevelandKristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
  • Expected: All the nominees in this category are EXACTLY what was EXPECTED!  Last year's winner (and this year's hostess!) Jane Lynch of Glee was guaranteed a return to the list.  Modern Family's Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara were also each assured a second nod.  Both Jane Krakowski and Kristen Wiig (each previous nominees) are beloved in this category.  And to talk about beloved, there's Betty White!
  • Snubs: Previous nominees Holland Taylor (of Two and a Half Men, don't get me started!) and Jenna Fischer (of The Office) are left off the list.  Hot In Cleveland's other top contender Wendie Malick (who could have easily submitted in Lead) lost her spot to co-star Betty White.  Critical favorites like Jane Adams (of Hung) and Busy Phillips (of Cougar Town) are once again denied their chances.  Both Merritt Weaver (Nurse Jackie) and Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) were also considered strong contenders, but alas its not to be.  And with Jane Lynch getting a nod, it was unlikely that either Heather Morris or Naya Rivera would enjoy a nomination for their work on FOX's musical hit.  And let's not forget the three hilarious ladies (Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown) from NBC's Community.  Surely, one of them deserved a nomination!

Ty Burrell, Modern Family; Chris Colfer, Glee; Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men; Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family; Ed O'Neill, Modern Family; Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
  • Expected: Chris Colfer, whose work on Glee this year was considered by many fans to be Leading work, was assuredly going to enjoy his second Emmy nod (to go with his Golden Globe win!).  And it was a foregone conclusion that at least two of the worthy Modern Family actors (Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill and last year's winner Eric Stonestreet) would get nominations.
  • Surprises: Though he won in 2009, Jon Cryer's chances to get nominated again have been dwindling (and the publicity his former co-star garnered the show this year was not helping), yet here he is nominated again (Maybe the voters are feeling sorry for him!).  And, seriously, ALL the Modern Family actors.  I mean, I like them all for different reasons and any two of them would have been welcomed, but all four is just too much.  It squeezes out anyone else who was very deserving (see below!).
  • Snubs: There are two big ones: How I Met Your Mother's Neil Patrick Harris (who had been nominated several times before!) and Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman (who is absolutely beloved by the critics and fans...seriously, they are crying "FOUL!").  The Modern Family domination certainly has robbed these two comedic talents of gaining recognition in the category.  Also, Community's Danny Pudi is a fan favorite who would have been extremely welcomed by many (myself included!).  With Chris Colfer's nod, Mike O'Malley (who does awesome work as his father) was aced out.  Garrett Dillahunt (of Raising Hope) and Oliver Platt (of The Big C) are both very respected by their fellow actors, but apparently not enough.  And both The Office and 30 Rock each had at least two possible contenders that were edged out by Modern Family (Rainn Wilson and Ed Helms of The Office and Jack McBrayer and Tracy Morgan of 30 Rock).

What does this all mean?
Well, to put it bluntly, Awards are completely subjective.  Half the time, the voters are very predictable (Mad Men!).  And the other half, they throw the pundits a most surprising curve ball (ALL the Modern Family men, really?!?).  And when you have to whittle down a large list of acclaimed contenders for each category down to just six spots, you are bound to make some enemies (fans of Nick Offerman, for sure!).  In a few weeks (as we get closer to ceremony time!), I will give you my predictions as to who will win come September 18.  And who knows?  I may be right OR I may get it ALL wrong.  But either way, I'm gonna enjoy doing it because, let's face it, it's the little things like this that keep our Culture spinning.  And I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

10 FAVORITES (39) - Just Wild About Harry!!!!

"It All Ends."  That is the statement that reads along the bottom of every poster for what is anticipated to be one of the biggest movies of the year: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2.  Yes, the final installment of the Harry Potter film series is set to thrill and chill audiences this weekend as it opens on Friday July 15th.  It is a film that has been considered almost 15 years in the making since the first of J. K. Rowling's enigmatic novels took the world by storm back in 1997.  To some, it is almost the end of an era, as many of the younger generation feel they have grown up with the boy wizard (and his film counterpart, Daniel Radcliffe).  But what is it that has made this "Wizarding World" so fascinating to millions and millions of readers, viewers, geeks and nerds alike?  This week's 10 FAVORITES (in no particular order) is devoted to the reasons why the Harry Potter phenomenon has amassed such numbers over the past decade and how it will influence the culture for years to come.  And yes, I am aware that several media critics have discussed this topic ad nauseum already, but I feel it is fitting for this blog to address this overwhelming phenomenon as it comes to end (sort of...depending on Ms. Rowling's future plans!).


It has always intrigued me that several religious notables vocalized criticism of Rowling and her canon because of its use of magic and witchcraft, calling it "Devil's work" and "Unfit for children."  But the famed author espouses a moral code within the series to which even fundamentalist Christians have aspired.  The moral of the tale (to paraphrase Ms. Rowling): Love is the Ultimate Power and it is the Choices we make that define our destiny.

Who wouldn't want to go to a school like Hogwarts?  Sure, it has its typical classroom fare like History (History of Magic), Life Sciences (Herbology) and Chemistry (Potions).  But it also includes a plethora of exciting courses that anyone would be delighted to take like Transfigurations, Charms, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures and (lest we forget!) Defense Against the Dark Arts.  Why weren't my schools like this?!?

No film franchise has ever had a cast like this.  Not only are they great characters, but the producers got some of the best character actors to fill these roles.  And how can you NOT have a great ensemble when you are picking from the best and brightest of the British stage and screen.  I mean, look at this list of actors and tell me you don't respect at least ONE of these names: Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson and need I go on?!?!?

I know what you're thinking: What in the heck is "a wubby?"  "A Wubby" is a type of character that appears in a story or movie (or TV show) that audiences often have a distaste for, but will occasionally surprise audiences (and other characters!) with random acts of kindness or chivalry or just plain nice behavior.  In the Harry Potter series, we have a clear "wubby," and that is Professor Severus Snape.  Snape is Harry's Potions master and seems to hate everything about Harry without even saying five words to him.  As the series progresses, we discover Snape's true motives and where his loyalty (and his heart!) in fact lie. (No SPOILERS people, READ THE BOOKS...or Watch the films!)

Okay, I'm gonna gush for a few minutes.  Rowling is a brilliant writer, plain and simple.  And a brilliant writer is just like a brilliant chef: knowing the ingredients, the measurements and how to combine it all to make a perfect dish.  Rowling, in her novels, utilizes the right elements of a multitude of genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery, Horror, Romance, Drama and even Comedy!  Not only does the story appeal on so many levels, but Rowling has matched herself up with a crack marketing team.  They have managed to stamp Harry Potter on every type of media, even getting on "the ground floor" of newer technologies.  This is the kind of empire we writers dream of creating.

We all learn from people, but there is always that one person who gives us our most valuable lessons.  In Harry's case, he has one of the best.  Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore (seriously, "Brian?") seems to be leagues ahead of everyone even before he opens his mouth.  He definitely takes to Harry like a father-figure.  And on top of all that, like Obi-Wan Kenobi or Gandalf the Grey, he makes a sacrifice that most of Pop Culture's best mentors make.

Do I really need to explain the Power of Magic to you all?  If I do, stop reading now!

You gotta love a villain whose very name sparks fear within the people of the very world he wishes to control.  Lord Voldemort (or Tom Riddle, depending on what you wish to call him!) is a baddie through and through.  He yearns to rid the Magical world of Muggle-born Witches and Wizards (even though he, himself is Muggle-born!).  And he is so frightening that is very reappearance in the fourth novel/film made readers/audiences squeamish.  Plus, who tries to kill a baby? REALLY, A BABY?!?!?

One of my favorite things in any book, film, TV show, stage production, etc. I have enjoyed is the core relationship of the story.  And in Harry Potter, we have one of the most enduring and fascinating friendships we have ever seen.  From the minute the trio meet to final sentences of The Deathly Hallows, Ron and Hermione are the truest friends to Harry and he certainly never forgets it.  They are a family in every sense of the word from the very beginning.

His destiny is foretold even before he takes his first steps or speaks his first words.  His background is one of isolation and neglect.  As unlikely (and, at times, unwilling) a hero he may be, Harry Potter grows from a wide-eyed 11 year-old to a courageous and intelligent leader.  He is willing to risk everything he holds dear to defeat the very evil that has tried to destroy him since his birth.  If that's not a hero, I don't know what is!!!

As the Harry Potter film series comes to a close, I hope all of you will think of the things you like about the world that J.K. Rowling created.  And I hope to see you all at the Movies this weekend!!!

Coming to Broadway Baby of CA this week:
It will discuss the various happenings in the world of Pop Culture, Entertainment and the Media.
First up, The 2011 Emmy Nominations: Who Got a Nod and Who Got Snubbed!
Look for that in the coming days.