TV Review: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex

If you are a fan of television, then chances are you are aware this Sunday is the end of Breaking Bad. As great as the series has been in its final episodes, it’s still sad to see the story of Walter White come to an end. There would be a huge void left by Breaking Bad’s departure no matter what, but the lack of quality dramas in the networks’ fall schedule makes it even harder and sadder to say goodbye the show. With the show gone and at least five months until the return of Mad Men, it looked like I had some tv-drama-less months ahead of me. Sure, Homeland is coming back and your enthusiasm for its return may vary depending on how frustrated you were with the show’s issues towards the end of last season. In any case, this is all a long way of saying that I no longer wonder what show I will obsess over the next few months. My money for the best show of the fall is on Showtime’s Masters of Sex (of which I’ve seen two episodes). 

The show is written by Michelle Ashford and based on Thomas Maier’s homonymous biography of the human sexuality research team composed of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Michael Sheen stars as Masters, the head of obstetrics at Washington University in St. Louis, whose newest project consists on a study that will reveal the scientific specifics about human sexuality. Being 1956, this study, is not approved by the University and thus Masters has to spend his free time spying on and then discussing with prostitute Betty (Annaleigh Ashford) about her clients. In a very amusing scene, frustrated Betty tells the Doctor if he wants to really understand sex, then he should get a female partner. Enter Virginia Johnson (played by the wonderful Lizzy Caplan), an ex-singer and single mother currently working as a secretary at the hospital. Johnson has big professional aspirations and sees the position as Masters’s assistant as a perfect opportunity.

That’s pretty much how the team gets together and where the true “adventures” of undertaking such a project int he mid-fifties begin. If you are familiar with Sheen and Caplan, then you won’t be surprised to learn that they are nothing short of fantastic in their respective roles. These are interesting characters made all the more fascinating by the actors’ performances. Sheen seems like the perfect choice to play proud Masters. A man as interested in science as he is concerned about being in control of his own image and reputation. With Sheen’s talents it’s easy to get a feel for what goes through Masters’s mind without the feelings having to be telegraphed. With uptight Masters, the easy, and expected, personality for Johnson would be that of a free-spirited, liberated woman. Of course this show is better than that. Surely Johnson is looser and more knowledgeable of the practical aspects of sex than Masters, but she is also a deeply complicated character. There is no such thing as a liberated woman in the 1950s. At least not one accepted by society. Caplan turns out an amazing performance as Johnson, aided by writing that goes out of its way to find as many shades and aspects of this woman as it can. She feels like a real character. She’s not just a mother, a secretary, a liberated woman. She is all those things and more.

If there is something that bothers me about Masters of Sex, it’s some of its anachronistic characteristics. I don’t know if this is due to my understanding of mid-XX century America being now forever linked to Mad Men, but I was taken away from the show a couple of times when the characters used dialogue that seemed a little bit too contemporary. In the second episode, there’s also a comic-book that features very modern and alternative artwork for 1956. I was a little bothered by these details, but the more I think about it, the more I think of them as a decision on the shows’ part (even if it isn’t). It’s a way in which the show separates itself from other period pieces on television, especially Mad Men. You see, the show doesn’t feel like Mad Men and it wisely goes for a different tone, which is great not only to avoid comparisons but also for the show’s themes. This isn’t a show about the American dream in the 1960s, this is a show about Masters and Johnson and it wisely focuses on the characters and their personalities.

As with most art I like, Masters of Sex’s priorities lie on character development. This is why it (in its first two episodes) always strikes an appropriate tone for the material. The characters motivations are not always crystal clear, but the emotion and the intention is always palpable. This is never more apparent than in its numerous sex scenes. The thing I’m most impressed by with Masters of Sex is its depiction of sex. A show about sex researchers on Showtime sounded like a fancier excuse for seeing the kind of sex scenes we get from Game of Thrones and True Blood. However, Masters of Sex understands sex on so many levels. It doesn’t want to titillate us with it, but it also doesn’t have any kind of ironic distance from it. There are humorous moments, as well as sexy ones, but the way sex is presented always seems to come from the characters and the place they’re in. I’m very impressed with the promise shown in the first two episodes of Masters of Sex. I am looking forward to it being part of my weekly tv-watching.

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Disney Canon: ‘The Fox and the Hound’ (1981)

A Fox and a Hound

The best way to understand how I feel about The Fox and the Hound is to take a look at one of its musical sequences. I remember having watched The Fox and the Hound on VHS when I was a kid, but not many times, since I was very unfamiliar with a lot of what I saw a couple days ago when I re-watched the film. What I did remember very clearly from having seen a lot of times was the “Best of Friends” sequence, which featured in one of Disney’s sing-a-long videos. The sequence comes relatively early in the film, when the titular characters Tod and Copper first meet each other. Becuase they’re kids, they immediately become friends despite the fact that hounds and foxes are very close to an animal kingdom version of montagues and capulets. I remember the sequence very well from when I was a child. There is something very child-like in the idea of becoming best friends in a matter of seconds and very relatable in the idea of knowing these two probably wouldn’t stay friends for too long. The animation is very pretty, the two characters are very cutely designed and the music is fittingly nostalgic. That scene had remained in my memory not only because I watched it so many times, but because it does have a quality that connected with me. However, watching the sequence again, I was sadly disappointed in discovering how atrociously literal and spoon-fed the lyrics to the song are.

Despite the talent involved in crafting the sequence (and you can see the talent), the ham-fisted lyrics turn what is a very powerful moment in a child’s eyes into a groan-inducing syrupy scene. It’s just that one detail that keeps “Best of Friends” from being a childhood memory that holds up. And it’s countless such details that keep The Fox and the Hound from being a good movie. There’s no reason why the story per-se shouldn’t work. I am not a big fan of Bambi, but it’s so obvious that the Fox and the Hound wants to be the spiritual descendant of that movie that it can’t be its own thing. You can see the strings all over Fox and the Hound. It’s a little surprising that after The Rescuers, a film that tried to break the mold of what a Disney movie was, comes a movie in which all the decisions seem to come out of a manual. Still, cookie-cutter movies, if not always transcendent, can be entertaining. The bad news is execution in The Fox and the Hound is so lacking, it rarely works.

The easiest, and cruelest, way to review The Fox and the Hound would be to list all the bad decisions that make the movie feel so insincere. At the center of the film is a rather dull tone that focuses on the cuteness of its lead characters, but all around them everything seems to be off. The attempts at comedic moments are all awkward and lacking. It doesn’t help that someone decided to cast Paul Winchell and Pat Buttram but still have them perform in the voice of their most famous creations, that’s how we end up with a bird that sounds just like Tigger and a dog that sounds like the Sheriff of Nottingham. There’s also a bizarre running gag in which two birds (that serve  as comic relieve and I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to sympathize with) try to capture and eat a worm (who we’re also supposed to sympathize with!). It’s a discomforting and unfunny subplot that feels like it’s there just because there’s been similar supporting characters in previous Disney movies. The dynamic is not different to what we saw between the mice and Lucifer in Cinderella, only there we knew who to root for. I think it’s suffice to say that most other aspects of the film feel as half-assed as the bird-worm subplot. You can easily find the previous films where the idea came from and see how there’s a little detail that makes it not quite work this time around. 

From the data I can garner, the movie did all right upon release (both critically and financially), but this was undoubtedly a dark moment for Disney. One of the reasons why the movie came out so long after The Rescuers, and presumably why it is so lacking is the fact that mid-way through the production one of Disney’s animator, by the name of Don Bluth, decided to leave the studio. Bluth had grown frustrated with the way things were going at the studio. He wanted to make movies that embraced the Disney classics and so he went and created his own Animation Studios, taking a lot of Disney’s working animators with him. The lack of manpower explains the delayed in The Fox and the Hound‘s production, but the final result is also a clear indicator of why this exodus might have happened. Bluth went on to direct many successful animated movies like An American Tail, The Land Before Time and Anastasia. By the end of the decade, Disney would go on to experience a creative renaissance, making some of its most successful movies ever; but in 1981, the future of the studio seemed gloomy to say the least.

Next Time: I’ll take a look at one of Disney’s most infamous failures; The Black Cauldron.

‘Rush’ (Review)

rush

Rush is the story of the rivalry between two formula-1 racers going into the 1976 season. Nikki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) is a precise austrian, fully dedicated to the mechanics of racing. On the other hand, englishman James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a sexy partyboy as in love with the benefits of being a popular driver than he is of racing itself. As you can see, this story features cars, racing, violence and sex. If you say the first name that came to your mind for directing such a movie was Ron Howard, well, then you’d be lying.

Howard is most well known for being the director behind such middle-brow, by-the-numbers movies as A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man or The Da Vinci Code. Even when he makes good movies, like Frost/Nixon or Apollo 13, they’re far from edgy or sexy. On paper, Rush feels like a desperate attempt from Howard’s part to still be considered a relevant voice in today’s very youth-oriented cinematic landscape. A traditionally “square” director trying to be edgy is usually nothing but a recipe for disaster. What I was expecting from Rush was a movie hilariously unaware of how ridiculous its attempt at being cool were (like that time on Mad Men when Betty visited the Village, but in the 1970s). In many aspects, Rush does go for the obvious and expected choices for a movie about male rivalry and it portrays the 70s in not-so-imaginative ways (like its instagram-influenced cinematography). But the truth is that Ron Howard actually manages to embrace the playful sexiness and the raw danger of racing cars. It’s not so much that the director has proven to be sexy and edgy himself, but that he has demonstrated something I actually had been suspecting for a long time. If Ron Howard isn’t exactly an “auteur”, he is certainly a more classical type of technically efficient and serviceable director. Even if the result isn’t always good, he fully commits to the appropriate tone to the material he is working with. It just so happens that his material tends to not be very good.

This time, the material comes not only from a historical source, but from screenwriter Peter Morgan, who is certainly familiar with this type of power rivalries having written such films as The Special Relationship, The Damned United and the Howard-directed Frost/Nixon. I’m not a fan of formula one racing. I’m actually not a big fan of sports overall, but there is no denying that there are certain narratives that arise with every sporting season of tournament. I’m always swept up by the fever that comes from the FIFA World Cup every four years, for example. The narrative around the 1979 Grand Prix, in which Richard Hunt was looking to win his first cup agains defending champion Lauda, is undoubtedly an interesting story. It isn’t much a problem, then, that Morgan has written a very familiar screenplay. It hits most of the notes you’d expect from a movie in this genre. And it features a completely unnecessary narration, which is the one movie trope that annoys me more than any other. Aside of the certainly expensive racing sequences (which are very well realized, always tense when needed), the movie feels very much like the typical HBO original movie.

 That’s not to say the movie isn’t good. Quite the contrary; those movies, even if a little too familiar, tend to be very solid. And there is credit to be had by both Morgan and Howard in knowing how to milk the most tension and power out of the key scenes in the story. The true guys in charge of elevating the movie into something more than your average movie, though, are the two lead stars. Chris Hemsworth is a huge factory of charisma. At many times during the movie, James Hunt comes off as a huge asshole. His motivations are often not as clear and noble as Lauda’s (especially towards the second half), but Hemsworth knows how to play him. Even when the script goes into broader more cliched characterizations, Hemsworth knows how to make Hunt feel like a full-fledged human being. On the other hand, Daniel Brühl has pretty much the opposite task as Hemsworth. Nikki Lauda has clear motivations and towards the end a very emotional and sympathetic struggle between life as a racer and as a husband, but is such a cold and pragmatic character that it’s hard to care for him at first. Brühl, however, nails the obsessiveness and the awkwardness of the character while still managing to show the humanity within. After his amazing work in Goodbye Lenin, Inglourious Basterds and now this, I hope Brühl keeps getting great roles in the future.

More than anything, Rush is a crowd-pleaser. It’s good to go in not expecting much more than a good time at the movies. It may not be one of the year’s most profound or original films, but it’s a well-crafted film with two great performances at its center.

Grade: 7/10

2013 Emmy Award Predictions (Part Two)

louie

Here’s the continuation of my predictions for this year’s Emmy Awards. In case you’re interested, part one of the predictions is HERE. And in case you were wondering, this year’s Emmys seem to be more boring than usual. It seems like last year’s winners are front-runners in most categories. There are always surprises at the Emmys, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for some crazy stuff to happen on Sunday night.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
The Nominees: Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Adam Driver (Girls), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live), Tony Hale (Veep), Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
If you ask me, by far the most deserving performance out of these six nominees is Adam Driver in Girls. His character is an incredibly weird, complex and original creation, but Lena Dunham and the writers of the show manage to get away with a lot of stuff thanks to Driver’s performance. The problem of course is that in order to truly appreciate the performance, you’d probably have to watch the whole season. The other problem is that the best Adam moments tend to be incredibly weird or incredibly unsettling. His submission (“It’s Back”) features him going to an A.A. meeting and a blind date. It shows a very sweet and relatable side to Adam, but I’m afraid it won’t impress Emmy voters. He’s probably the least likely of these nominees to win.
Why did I go on for so long about someone I think won’t win? Well, because this category’s really boring. It’s probably going to one of the Modern Family guys, since people who vote in award shows don’t seem to get tired of it. Considering the tapes they submitted, I give the edge to Ty Burrell, but the race is pretty close. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of his co-stars managed to win. Or if Tony Hale managed a surprise victory, for that matter. His tape features a rather sweet and poignant moment amongst his constantly being bullied by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Will Win: Ty Burrell
Should Win: Adam Driver

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
The Nominees: Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Anna Chlumsky (Veep), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Jane Lynch (Glee), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Merrit Wever (Nurse Jackie)
Talk about a boring category… Actually, there are a couple of very good performances in this list, the thing is that they don’t have much of a shot at winning the award. Merrit Wever, who is brilliant in Nurse Jackie and Anna Chlusky who has really come into her own in the second season of Veep are the least likely nominees to win (except, I hope, for Jane Lynch). The most probable winners are, again, the women from Modern Family. A year ago, when it was revealed Sofia Vergara’s character would be pregnant this season, it seemed like she had the Emmy in the bag. Many actresses, including Helen Hunt and Jennifer Aniston, have won for episodes in which her characters gave birth. Vergara, however, has a reputation at being particularly terrible at picking what episode to submit to Emmy voters. So, instead of going with the birth episode, she chose one in which she is revealed to have been a ventriloquist. There are funny moments for her in that episode, but really, Sofia has cleared the way for another Julie Bowen win…
Except, and this is a big exception, maybe Jane Krakowski manages to win for her last season on 30 Rock. Her character might not have been the strongest, but her commitment to the performance could be described as nothing else but excellent comedic work.
Will Win: Julie Bowen
Should Win: I’m fine with Wever, Chlusmky or Krakowski. Gun to my head, I’d vote Wever.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
The Nominees: Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
The first half of Breaking Bad’s last season wasn’t exactly the show’s strongest moment, but Jonathan Banks gave a wonderful performance making the most out of a character arch that could have felt a little too rushed due to a shortened season. However, the last two times he’s been nomianted, co-star Aaron Paul has walked away with the Emmy. Voters seem to be more than impressed with his performance as Jesse Pinkman, and really, who can blame them? I think he’s even the front-runner to win next year. I guess if someone from Breaking Bad is going to win, it’s Paul. Still, I can’t bring myself to predict him, so I’m going with Mandy Patinkin, who is both great in Homeland, a very well-respected screen and stage actor and a previous Emmy winner.
Will Win: Mandy Patinkin
Should Win
: Jonathan Banks

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
The Nominees: Morena Baccarin (Homeland), Christina Baranski (The Good Wife), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Why, Maggie Smith? Why do you have to be so funny and quippy and lovable as the Dowager Countess. It was really fun watching you (especially in the first good season of your show), but it’s also kind of irritating that awards bodies can’t resist but shower you with trophies while neglectic more, let’s say, interesting work. It’s very possible you will win this award once again, but by God, was the third season of Downton Abbey nothing but atrocious. Thankfully, I can’t picture a voter popping in Anna Gunn’s episode (“Fifty-One”, the one in which Skyler dives into the pool) and not voting for her.
Will Win: Anna Gunn
Should Wind: Anna Gunn

Comedy Series
The Nominees: 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Girls, Louie, Modern Family, Veep
Listen, I know all logical signs point at yet another win for Modern Family, but if the show had already gotten boring, this year it got actually bad. Emmy voters don’t seem to mind, but I can’t possibly fashion the idea of Modern Family winning Comedy Series four times. Four times! That’s the same as All in the Family and Cheers, and you don’t need me to tell you Modern Family ain’t no Cheers. I’m hoping this is the year we finally end the show’s winning streak, but what could win instead?
The Big Bang Theory is the most popular sitcom on the air, but it just doesn’t seem like the kind of show that wins this award. Veep is a much more highbrow show, but it’s also little seen and talked-about. It also wasn’t nominated for either writing or directing. I guess it could go to Louie. I mean, Louis C.K. is kind of the coolest guy in show-business right now. It would be awesome if it did win, but the show might be too weird and not “sitcomy” enough. So, the other possibility is a goodbye win for 30 Rock, which had a pretty terrific final season. Sentimentality sometimes plays a role in this category (as when Everybody Loves Raymond won for its final season). I expect Louie to win Best Directing (for “New Year’s Eve”) and 30 Rock to get the writing award (for the finale, “Last Lunch”), so I guess either one of those could get the big one. 
Will Win: What the hell, let’s just say Louie!
Should Win: Louie

Drama Series
The Nominees: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, Mad Men
I might be wrong here, and I have believed for the longest time that Breaking Bad was just not the kind of show that would win for Drama Series. But with its final episodes airing right now, suddenly it seems like everything is about Breaking Bad all the time. Everyone’s talking about it, everyone’s watching it (the ratings have been huge) and like that year when The Sopranos finally won, it just seems like it’s time. I am not confident about this pick, there’s a big chance Homeland repeats or, God forbid, House of Cards manages to win based on pedigree alone.
Will Win: Breaking Bad
Should Win: I loved this season of Mad Men, but the show’s won before and I thought Game of Thrones had its best season so far. So I’ll go with the latter.

Disney Canon: The Rescuers (1977)

The Rescuers

The biggest reason why I was so hesitant to move the blog to a new website, even if the old one had become a technical nightmare, was that I didn’t want all those posts about the Disney Canon to be lost. Of course, the easy answer to all my worries was that as long as they’re on the internet, those posts probably wouldn’t get lost. I’ve created a page on this blog where you’ll find links to all the posts so far in this series, so you can look at those as I continue my journey through Walt Disney Animation’s official canon.

I’ve always felt like The Rescuers was a transitional film for Disney, and looking deeper into the company’s history, it actually is. In many ways, it is the end of the post-Walt era of Disney animation. This was the last film in which the animators who had previously worked with Walt Disney had major involvement in. It was also the last movie directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, who was in charge of pretty much every feature since One Hundred and One Dalmatians. At the same time, it was the first movie in what feels like a new era of Disney Animation. Most of the people working on The Rescuers were young animators trained by Eric Larson. Many of whom would be at the center of the Disney Renaissance that started in 1989.

It is apparent that the animators involved in The Rescuers (both young and old) wanted to finally break free from the trappings of what was thought of as a Disney Movie. The movie has a very distinctive feel and breaks many of the conventions associated with the studio’s previous output. It is by far the movie produced during this period that feels the most like a 70s movie (and not only because of its contemporary setting). For example, the songs are by and large used to establish mood and tone instead of being sung by the protagonists and the composition of the shots feel far less stagy than any of the previous films. The scene in which our heroes fly through New York is the most cinematic thing Disney had done since Sleeping Beauty (almost two decades earlier). It is probably the most elegantly animated of the 70s movies, and was the biggest success the studio have had since the days when Walt Disney was still alive. In fact, many of the old animators regarded the movie as the only satisfying production since Walt’s death. But is it really? (spoiler, I don’t think so).

There are many reasons why I don’t think so highly of The Rescuers. The first is that the best movie Disney released in the 70s is obviously The Many Adventures of Winnie the Poohbut saying that is tricky since Pooh was a feature composed out of three shorts (some of which were produced during Disney’s lifetime). If you don’t count Pooh, then I’m also a big fan of Robin Hood. And still, it’s not that I don’t think The Rescuers is the best film of the period, it’s that I don’t think it is a very good film.

My biggest problem with the movie is its excessive amount of sentimentality. I don’t remember The Rescuers being on my VHS collection when I was a child, but I sure as hell remember a scene in particular. It involves little kidnapped orphan girl Penny as she looks sadly into the distance, wishes for someone to come safe and a song called “Someone’s Waiting for You” plays in the background. When I was a kid, this scene never failed to bum me out and often make me cry. So much so that I once pictured the scene when I had to cry during a theater class. I was ten, and let me tell you, my ten-year-old self didn’t know much about subtlety; because watching the movie as an adult I can see how ham-fisted, broad and shamelessly emotional the more “sentimental” scenes are. Everything involving Penny pretty is shouting out you to feel something.

There have been many attempts during Disney’s history (and that of animation as a whole) in which the studios have shamelessly pandered to young audiences. Tim Brayton, from the brilliant blog Antagony & Ecstasy, would cite Disney’s Robin Hood and its decision to recast the characters as animals as such an example. I personally can’t find something as evidently manufactured as The Rescuers’ attempts at exploiting the emotional side of its story. While there have been intensely emotional and unapologetically unsubtle moments in Disney’s past, like the scene in Dumbo in which the little elephant visits his mother’s cage, they felt earned and consistent to the character’s journey. By the time we see Dumbo meet with his Mom and “Baby Mine” plays in the soundtrack, tears pour down my face because I’ve seen Dumbo go through so much stuff and more importantly, go through many different kinds of stuff. The Rescuers not only opens with an incredibly sentimental scene about Penny trying to escape from evil Madame Medusa, but it also only ever presents Penny as the little orphan girl you should feel sorry and sad about. To me, it just feels icky.

This is not to say that there aren’t things I appreciate about The Rescuers. For starters, we have the main characters, mice Bernard and Miss Bianca. They’re voiced by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor respectively, and their performances surely get to a point of earnest and natural sentimentality in the characters’ relationship that the movies more emotional scenes lack completely. Bernard and Miss Bianca work incredibly well as characters, they’re a typical mis-matched romantic adventure duo that feels fun and natural. Newhart and Gabor create such a lovely communication between the two mice that many of their best scenes don’t even have music playing behind them. It’s a pity that the movie’s script doesn’t really provide as funny or suspenseful scenes for them to play with as the somewhat similar One Hundred and One Dalmatians, but the character work is so good I don’t have any doubt why Disney would go back to these characters a decade later when they released their only theatrical within-canon sequel: The Rescuers Down Under. 

Talking about sequels, the other fascinating, if not entirely great thing about The Rescuers, is it’s villain. Initially, the antagonist was supposed to be Cruela De Vil, making this a sort-of-sequel to Dalmatians. Something obviously made the creative team change their minds (it might have had something to do with the fact that Cruela is nowhere to be found in the books by Margery Sharp, upon which the movie is based). However, taking a quick glimpse at the way Madame Medusa (voiced by Geraldine Page) talks and moves, it’s easy to see her as a not-quite-as-british version of Cruela. What is interesting about Madame Medusa, though, is that she clearly was a big influence in the creation and animation of Ursula, who is not only the evil sea-witch from The Little Mermaid, but arguably the very best Disney villains of all-time. We will talk more about Ursula when we get to that filmbut for now, take a look at the beautiful animation utilized on Medusa.

So, Medusa is quite a character and Bernard and Miss Bianca are very sweet together, are then the Penny scenes enough to sink the whole movie for me? Well, yes and no. They are certainly the biggest impediment in me liking the movie, but truth be told, good characters, although they certainly help, don’t always make good films. Like I mentioned when I talked about the two mice, the script is just so weak that I just can’t get over it. I enjoy watching Bernard, Miss Bianca and Madame Medusa on a certain level, but when they aren’t dropped in the middle of an interesting story, well, fun animation and good voice work will only get you so far.

Next Time: I’ll take a hesitant look at The Fox and the Hound a movie with a very poor reputation that I haven’t seen since I was a child.

2013 Emmy Award Predictions (Part One)

Claire Danes and Damian Lewis in Showtime's Homeland

In case you didn’t know, which is very possible considering not many people have as much enthusiasm for meaningless awards as much as I do, the Emmys will take place this sunday night. As is the norm every time a big awards show is coming up, I can’t help but wonder who will win trophies and who will go home empty-handed. I just love predicting these things, so here’s part one of who I think will win the Emmys.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
The Nominees: 
Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Damian Lewis (Homeland), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
When you get nominated for an Emmy, you submit a specific episode of the series you’re in for Emmy voters to watch as an example of your work throughout the season. More often than not, people with the best tape win. With that in mind, it’s easy to think this race boils down to a two horse race between Bryan Cranston and Damian Lewis. Crasnton has “Say My Name”, which is a pretty good tape and also has the advantage that comes from having the very last episodes of Breaking Bad on the air right now. On the other hand, Damian Lewis’ submission tape is “Q&A” which is not only the very best episode Homeland‘s ever done, but one of the very best of the whole season.
I would be fine with any of them winning, since they’re both terrific in their shows, but if you’d ask me for me personal preference, then I’d say Jon Hamm’s had his best year so far on Mad Men and the fact that he has never won (and probably never will) for playing Don Draper is ridiculous. Anyway, my real fear in this category is the possibility of either Jeff Daniels or Kevin Spacey winning this award. And it’s a realistic possibility. Daniels has that baity monologue he gives in his submission tape and Kevin Spacey is a movie star, something that Emmy voters tend to think means you’re automatically better than any tv actor.
Will Win: Damian Lewis
Should Win: Jon Hamm

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
The Nominees: Connie Britton (Nashville), Claire Danes (Homeland), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Robin Wright (House of Cards)
In the BBC America series Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany played something like fifteen different characters. If you haven’t seen the show, then I can only recommend it to you and say that the only way I’d discribe her performance is as a masterclass on creating character through acting. Hers was without a doubt the very best performance on televsion this season, and alas, she wasn’t nominated by the Emmys. Partially because her show isn’t very popular, partially because it’s a sci-fi show. In any case, she will not win the Emmy (at least not this year). Instead, we’ll have a repeat win from Claire Danes, and you know what, even if there were many problems with Homeland‘s second season, she is pretty amazing in that show.
The question is whether or not there is someone other than Danes who could win. The answer is maybe. Scandal has become one of the most popular shows on television thanks to its Twitter presence and the incredibly talented Kerry Washington is front and center in that show. The other possibility is Vera Farmiga, who is not only an Oscar nominee, but who has a pretty good submission tape. It’s just that when you’re competing with Claire Danes in “Q&A”, then I don’t know how you could beat her.
Will Win: Claire Danes
Should Win: Claire Danes, but seriously, in a just world there’s no way Tatiana Maslany wouldn’t have won this Emmy.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
The Nominees: 
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Jason Bateman (Arrrested Development), Don Cheadle (House of Cards), Louis C.K. (Louie), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes),  Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
I was pretty sure Alec Baldwin would win one final Emmy for the final season of 30 Rock. That is until I saw what he submitted for Emmy consideration. “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” is an ok submission, but nothing as powerful as to secure him the Emmy, and boy did Baldwin have some amazing episodes to choose from this season. His speech at Don Geiss’ funeral at the end of “My Whole Life is Thunder”, for example, would have guaranteed a third win. In any case, I don’t see Baldwin winning this award.
So, if not Baldwin, then who? My heart wants to say Louis C.K. because he is awesome. Season three of Louie showed him doing his best acting yet, but it was unconveniently in two or three part episodes that I guess couldn’t be submitted as one big package for consideration. He ended up submitting the first part of “Daddy’s Girlfriend”, a pretty funny episode, but one that isn’t brilliant unless you have seen the second part. I’ll be crossing my fingers for C.K., but really, all things considered, this one will probably be Sheldon Cooper’s third Emmy.
Will Win: Jim Parsons
Should Win: Louis C.K.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
The Nominees: Laura Dern (Enlightened), Lena Dunham (Girls), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
For the first time in many years, the Lead Actress in a Comedy category is way more popular and full of talent than the Actor’s. I can say this is a pretty terrific lineup, even if the Emmys didn’t find room for such great performances as Zooey Deschanel in New Girl, Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope, Dakota Johnson in Ben and Kate and, above all, Sutton Foster in the sadly departed Bunheads. 
I could, in all frankness, see any of these ladies taking the award (except maybe Edie Falco). Tina Fey could win final award for all her work all these years on 30 Rock. Amy Poehler could finally win the elusive Emmy she so ridiculously deserves now that she has a one-hour-long submission tape. Or it could go to Laura Dern, whose performance may be more dramatic than comedic, but is also one of the finest work done on television this year.
If my predictions come true, they will make for a very repetitive Emmys; but if you know anything about the Emmys, then you know they love awarding their favorite performers over and over again. With that in mind, and a more popular second season of Veep, I don’t see why Julia Louis-Dreyfus wouldn’t win again.
Will Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Should Win: Laura Dern