Friday, July 15, 2016

Image = Kate the Great McKinnon

I have a major pet peeve.  I hate when people say that Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny since the original cast.  This is a bandwagon people jump on just to sound cool even if they haven’t watched the show in years.  To them I say, first of all – watch the first episode ever.  It’s not that funny.  It’s slow and actually very weird.  SNL was a crazy experiment and it is an inimitable accomplishment that it’s been on the air for pver 40 years.  Second – yes, every single sketch is not a home run, but every single cast (after the original) has had brilliant members with indelible characters and sketches.

Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Nora Dunn, Jan Hooks, Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon, Phil Hartman, Martin Short, Will Ferrell, Bill Hader, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, just to name a few…

I am a devotee of SNL and as such, I slog through the inferior sketches for those moments of gold - and there are many.  In the past 2 seasons this current class has delivered some of the most clever and salient work on the show in years.  (Honorable mention goes to the music videos and Weekend Update with Michael Che & Colin Jost skewering Trump last season after he hosted).  SNL provides scathing social satire on the American condition and is a barometer on current events.  Even though SNL has an ensemble cast, there are always cast members who stand out.  Right now, the “stars” of the show are Taran Killam and Kate McKinnon.  And although they are not household names, they are kicking ass on SNL and I predict that Kate is going to be a huge star after this weekend.  Ghostbusters opens today and it is going to be gi-normous and make her a huge star.

I knew McKinnon was special since The Big Gay Sketch Show (2006-2010).  She played an aristocratic British boy named Fitzwilliam who could have anything in the world but all he wanted was a vagina.  This was at a time before there was a transgender character on every other show on television.  It was brave and bold and a little heartbreaking.  Watch here to see a taste of Fitzwilliam and other characters Kate did on TBGSS.  

On SNL, Kate moves seamlessly from a dead on Hillary Clinton to Justin Beiber to Ellen Degeneres.  Her character last season who was abducted by aliens was so funny that every other cast member in the scene broke into laughter, including host Ryan Gosling.  She also, with Kumail Nanjiani, was a better host of the Independent Spirits than Chris Rock was of the Oscars.  McKinnon is fearless in her work and that’s what makes her so engaging.  I’m guessing that comes from how she lives her life, being the first openly gay cast member in SNL history.  Like I said, if you don’t know her name right now, you will after this weekend.  Whether this Ghostbusters is a good movie is beside the point.  It's a watershed moment that a big summer blockbuster stars 4 women with 2 relatively unknown.  Thanks to Paul Feig for that.  I hope this is the beginning of a trend - in casting, in the world and whatever it takes to get many more Kate McKinnon projects made. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Image = Awards Season 2016

Tonight’s Golden Globes marks the official start of Awards Season and I’d like to talk a little about that.  I am not going to discuss every single nomination so far, but just some that I feel require discussion…

The nominations for the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Independent Spirits are ALL over the place and this is VERY unusual.  It’s crazy and disconcerting but it’s also exciting.  There is no one big favorite movie this year and so… anything can happen.  As I said in my last blogpost, I am championing Spotlight for many reasons.  I have to have a favorite and there it is.  Room and The Big Short are my silver and bronze winners, and actually I would be happy if any of them won Best Picture because they are all so damn good.  

Even though the Academy Award nominations have not been announced yet, I am going to make some very early Oscar predictions.
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Because it is such a wide open field this year and he already has noms for every award… I am predicting that Eddie Redmayne may very well win back to back Oscars.  The movie The Danish Girl is flawed but his performance (and how AMAZING he looks in drag) is NOT!

I had to literally watch it through my fingers because it is riddled with graphic violence but I think Johnny Depp deserves a nom for Black Mass and Will Smith is back to his serious acting roots in Concussion and merits major consideration.  Bryan Cranston is also spot-on in Trumbo and has been on a roll of late winning Emmys and a Tony and everyone in the industry loves him, so he could steal the Oscar this year.  I am not going to see The Revenant and as much as I think he is way overdue, I would hate to see Leo win his Oscar for it because he almost died in the treacherous terrain and sub zero temps where they were shooting.  I also hate when the Academy gives people owed awards.  Matt Damon does not exactly re-invent the art of acting in The Martian but he expertly displays his mastery at being a charismatic movie star, reminiscent of Cary Grant and Clark Gable.

The real truth is that the finest performance of the year came from young Jacob Tremblay in Room and if he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, there is no justice in the world.  I don’t understand both why The Globes overlooked him completely and why The SAGs think he is a supporting actor.  He is in every shot of Room and utterly captivating in every moment.

One side note about Best Supporting Actor – since the world is enamored with Amy Schumer and Trainwreck has garnered many noms so far, let’s also recognize Colin Quinn.  It’s a GREAT performance.   
Lily Tomlin
I think Grandma is a perfect film and that Lily Tomlin was pitch perfect helming it.  It’s great that she got a Globe nom but I am totally shocked that she is not nominated for an Indie Spirit.  I thought that was a lock – and not even a nomination!  This makes no sense to me at all.  At 75 and having one of the greatest years of her career, I think it’s time Lily became an EGOT.

I’ve already said that I was underwhelmed by Carol and that I think Cate Blanchett should be nominated for Truth instead. 

There was a ton of Oscar buzz for Blythe Danner early in the year for her first starring role of her career for I’ll See you in My Dreams and so far – nothing.

Saoirse Ronan, Charlotte Rampling and Alicia Vikander all deserve recognition but I don’t agree with all the praise for Brie Larson.  She is a very natural actress and Room is a sensational film, but her performance was a bit one-note to be THE best of the year.

Since The Globes honor both film and television, let’s talk about TV.  An unfortunate side-effect of what critics have dubbed “too much television” is that many actors get snubbed.  Here are a few actors who are doing amazing work but never get acknowledged: 
Danielle Brooks
Hayden Panettiere on Nashville
Wendy McLendon-Covey on The Goldbergs
Danielle Brooks and Kate Mulgrew from Orange is the New Black
Anna Faris on Mom 
Tim Robbins on The Brink 
Will Chase on Nashville

There is also a big problem tonight with categorizing many shows that are quite un-categorizable.  Is Orange is the New Black a comedy or drama?  What about Transparent?  And - The Martian – about an astronaut left on Mars is not exactly a laugh riot but it’s in the Musical/Comedy category.  I think that we need a Dramedy category.  We can name it The Wonder Years Award.

Maybe since there is “too much TV” we need more nominations.  Or, split the nominations between network and cable & streaming.  I’m not sure what the answer is, but in the words of the legendary Nancy Meyers - something’s gotta give.