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Reminiscing on Movie Soundtracks

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

It’s only been a little over a week since I saw the latest iteration of “A Star Is Born,” but I am already well on my way to knowing nearly every song on the film’s soundtrack by heart.

 

One of the many things that made this movie so great (and there were a lot) is that the songs made for the fictional musicians the movie focuses on are actually good! I feel like that can often be a problem with movies and TV shows centered on musicians and artists. The songs manufactured for the artists on the show or in the movies sound exactly that: manufactured. (*cough* “Empire” save for like two or three songs *cough*) There’s something that seems to get lost when the songwriting isn’t coming from a genuine place. That doesn’t feel like the case with “A Star Is Born” though. Even the songs on the soundtrack that are supposed to be not that good are mad catchy! It’s great.

 

Listening to the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack got me thinking of the movie soundtracks I loved growing up. Not necessarily soundtracks of entirely original songs, as was the case with “A Star Is Born,” but just soundtracks that compiled songs both original and pre-existing that were either featured in the movie or helped to capture the movie’s mood.

 

The biggest one I can think of from my youth was the soundtrack for what I still consider to be one of the best comedies of the last twenty years, “School of Rock.” That soundtrack was my jam. It introduced me to one of my favorite bands (The Black Keys) and had so many classic rock hits from all over the genre that kept things interesting and reminded me of my favorite parts of the film. It also featured the original song from the film, which, like “A Star Is Born,” is actually good and fun! On the days that my mom would drive me to school I would always want something “cool” (or, at least “cool” by my standards) playing when I opened the car door in case a nearby kid could hear, and for the longest time that was definitely the “School of Rock” soundtrack.

 

As I got older it was always the soundtracks from the latest tween or teen movie I was obsessed with that got me going. Notable soundtracks included the ones for “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,” which featured Lindsay Lohan singing David Bowie for an in-movie musical adaptation of “Pygmalion,” and “A Cinderella Story,” which featured a lot of Hillary Duff, my queen at the time. Not exactly the most artful of selections, but I remember fondly the hours I spent listening to them and forcing others to do the same.

 

Most recently the best soundtrack that comes to mind is the Kendrick Lamar-produced album for “Black Panther.” It’s full of all star-filled, expertly produced tracks that so perfectly convey the mood and style of the movie. It goes a long way to making me want to watch it again and again.

 

Given the quality and popularity of the “Black Panther” and “A Star Is Born” soundtracks, it seems very likely that Lamar and his crew will be going up against Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the original song category at the Oscars this year. I truly cannot wait to see how that plays out.

 

What do you think? Do you have some movie soundtracks you especially love? Are you both very excited and mildly concerned by the prospect of Tyler the Creator doing his own version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” for the newest animated Grinch movie? Hard same. Share your thoughts in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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Am I Supposed to Like the Characters on ‘This Is Us’?

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Image courtesy of YouTube video. Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

When I chatted with Demi and Kevin from the “Gilmore Guys” podcast, I asked them what they would ask “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino if they only had time for one question. After joking about the whereabouts of Mr. Kim, a question that still plagues “Gilmore Girls” viewers to this day, Kevin said he would ask ASP if Lorelei and Rory were supposed to be likable characters. They did so many things that could be considered unlikable, so were we supposed to find them irritating? Or were those unlikable things supposed to just be a regular part of being a normal, imperfect but overall likable person? It’s definitely a question worth asking.

 

I bring this up now because I would love to ask the same question to the creators of “This Is Us,” a show that I still watch despite how much rage it fills me with. It’s clear that characters like Randall, William and Jack (even Beth and the kids) are supposed to be likable. They do heroic, considerate things and make sacrifices for the greater good. They’re portrayed as shining figures to be looked upon and appreciated. But are we supposed to feel that way about everyone else? Are the other Pearsons supposed to be equally likable? To me, it’s very unclear.

 

Let’s take Kate, for example. I find her to be the most unlikable of them all, and I can’t tell if that’s intentional or not. I find her to be aggressively self centered, only focusing on how things effect her and not anyone else. To be fair, she has had her fair share of tragedies in her life. But so have her siblings, and they seemed to be much more well-rounded, pleasant people. While other characters, like Kevin or Rebecca, can also have their highly unlikable moments (and trust me, they often do) they seem to have (rare) moments of redemption that Kate never does.

 

If Kate had these unpleasant qualities but had more redeeming ones as well, I feel like I would be able to get past this. I’ve certainly liked characters on other shows that had very little when it came to redeeming qualities. I think the biggest difference there is that even if those characters were largely rude and constantly made reprehensible decisions, they were at least fun. Kate isn’t fun. She’s just annoying.

 

The biggest issue that I see is that I’m not sure the people behind “This Is Us” are fully aware of how Kate comes off. I feel like they see her as someone who’s imperfect, like everyone, but she’s trying her best and that’s what counts. But the way she’s written and the situations she’s put into and how she reacts to said situations do not convey that at all, at least not to me. I feel like we very rarely, if ever, see her trying her best. I feel like she’s often doing the bare minimum and expects to be praised for that.

 

And she’s not the only one. As I mentioned earlier, Kevin and Rebecca also share that deeply unpleasant self-centered quality, both in the past and present of the show. I often see the three of them as the antagonists of the show, with Randall and his family on the protagonist side of things. If the show was intended to be like that, with Randall versus the white-privileged and inconsiderate family that he was adopted into, then these characterizations would made much more sense. But it doesn’t seem that way. The show seems to see Kate and others as sympathetic, relatable figures, and that’s what confuses me.

 

It’s certainly possible that the unlikable factors in these characters are intentional, and it’s all part of a bigger plan for redemption arcs that will take seasons of television to develop. It’s also possible that the creators of the show don’t see these characterizations as unlikeable and I’m just being too sensitive. I just don’t know if I can wait that long to figure it out if they’re going to be so obnoxious along the way.

 

What do you think? Do you have issues with the characters on “This Is Us”? Did you also have to hold in a silent scream of joy for the entire two hours and 15 minutes you spent watching “A Star is Born“? It’s soooo good. Let me know in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

‘SNL’s’ New Celebrity Problem

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Screenshot from YouTube by Jenn Murphy

“Saturday Night Live” had its season premiere this past weekend, featuring host Adam Driver and musical guest a Perrier bottle with very questionable taste in hats and politicians. The episode opened with an oh-so-topical take on the recent hearings for Supreme Court Justice candidate and guy who really likes beer and wants to scream it at you, Brett Kavanaugh.

 

In the same vein of just about every key member of the current president’s administration that has been portrayed on the show, Kavanaugh was played not by an “SNL” cast member. Rather, he was played by Matt Damon of “Good Will Hunting,” “The Bourne Identity” and not being great discussing diversity in filmmaking fame. While Matt Damon did a good job recreating Kavanaugh’s sniveling, aggressive and generally pathetic opening statement, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the role was being played by someone outside of “SNL’s” main cast.

 

It seems like ever since the early success of Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of the president (which seems to have dwindled as of late), the show has decided that all big figures in the news need to be played by other big figures in the news, namely A-list celebrities who have a passing resemblance to the latest dastardly imbecile making headlines. From Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer to John Goodman as, wow, I can’t even remember the first Secretary of State’s name. Rex Tillerson! It was Rex Tillerson. Anyway, from Melissa McCarthy to John Goodman and beyond, nearly every big name in the current fever dream in DC has been played by a celebrity, other than the handful played by Kate McKinnon.

 

It is, of course, understandable that “SNL” would choose to go this route. The excitement of trying to figure out who they will get to play a certain figure is palpable almost the instant that figure finds themselves in the news. It’s given them a boost in ratings and a buzz that was absent right up until the onslaught of the 2016 presidential campaign. But it also takes away from the opportunities for the very talented and capable cast members that the show hired to perform.

 

Scoring the role of a key figure in politics used to be a huge get for an “SNL” cast member. It was job security for as long as that person was in office, and a calling card that could be used for years to come, as evidenced by Will Ferrell’s Broadway run as former president George W. Bush. Outsourcing these gigs to big name celebrities who can’t even consistently be there on a weekly basis eliminates that possibility and keeps the “SNL” cast members, the people I actually tune in to see, off the screen or in small supporting roles that leave little room for creativity.

 

It seems like “SNL” will continue in this way as long as it’s successful for them and as long as they have celebs that are interested, but I hope they’ll also throw a couple key roles to cast members. For every great McCarthy or Goodman turn, there’s an equally great showing from Aidy Bryant as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Leslie Jones as Omarosa. The cast is there. Use them!

 

What do you think? Are you also a little tired of A-list stars taking roles from “SNL” cast members? Am I concerned that my naming of many political figures in this post could possibly draw the wrong crowd to my blog? Possibly! Let me know your thoughts (on “SNL,” not the current political landscape) in the comments. And, as always, please

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

The 2018 Emmy Awards in Review: I Don’t Know Aaaaanything

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My Emmy’s prediction ballot. Green was what I wanted to win, pink was what I thought would actually win and black is the stark reality that I was very wrong. Photo by Jenn Murphy

If you read my post last week then you saw my predictions for who and what would be taking home Emmy awards that evening. If you watched the actual Emmy Awards telecast that night, you would know that I was very very very wrong. Like eight out of my 26 predictions were correct kind of wrong. And the things that did win were mostly things I had never seen. I guess that’s the universe telling me that I need to get past my petty interest in “saving money for my future” and invest in Amazon Prime and HBO Go subscriptions. Whether I’ll actually do that or not remains to be seen.

 

Anyway, back to the show. The whole ceremony felt a bit off. Hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost were just as underwhelming as I imagined they would be. Their monologue was weirdly paced and low-energy, and it felt like it could have come from anyone. There were also a lot of awkward pauses that felt like they were waiting for applause or laughter that never really came. In addition to the lackluster hosting presence, they were also presenting the awards in a very strange way, where the nominees would be announced before the award’s presenters even came out on stage. If that was an attempt to switch things up and keep the show fresh, it didn’t work. All it did was annoy me and make me wish for the ways when we didn’t care about making our award shows flashier to attract a wider audience. Just make them for the people you know watch them! It’s just one night, the ratings don’t need to be stellar! Network TV ratings are rarely stellar anymore anyway!

 

The most exciting moment of the night was completely unplanned, and it came when the winner of Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special, Glenn Weiss, decided to take his moment in the spotlight to propose to his girlfriend. (Luckily, she said yes.) If the producers of the Oscars needed more evidence that they should scrap their plan of moving “lesser” awards to the commercial breaks, that should be it. It was the only moment of the night that anyone was talking about the next day and it didn’t involve a single big-name celebrity.

 

It also certainly didn’t help that the night opened with a number celebrating the diversity of the night’s nominees only to have the first 10 or so awards be won by white people. In the acting categories, only three of the awards went to non-white actors and the results were even more dismal everywhere else. On the Comedy side, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” nearly swept, taking home Comedy Series, Lead Actress for Rachel Brosnahan and Supporting Actress for Alex Borstein, as well as both Writing and Directing for Amy Sherman-Palladino. Given the content of the show and the likely average age of the Emmy voter, the wins weren’t all that surprising, and my inner “Gilmore Girls” lover was a little pleased to see ASP getting some Emmy love. But my outer “Atlanta” fan was disgusted to see Hiro Murai‘s brilliant directing work on the “Teddy Perkins” episode go home empty-handed, especially when Teddy himself was somehow, inexplicably sitting front row. The two other Comedy categories, Lead and Supporting Actor, went to Bill Hader and Henry Winkler respectively, both from HBO’s “Barry.” I guess it was nice to see Henry Winkler win his first Emmy after all these years, but Kenan Thompson‘s win seemed written in the stars, so much so that they clearly positioned him to present the final award of the night assuming he would have been the first winner.  

 

The Drama side was much less monopolized by one or two shows, with awards being given to “Game of Thrones” (for Drama Series and Supporting Actor Peter Dinklage), “The Americans” (for Lead Actor Matthew Rhys and Writing for Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg), “The Crown” (for Lead Actress Claire Foy and Directing for Stephen Daldry) and “Westworld” (for Supporting Actress Thandie Newton). Sandra Oh, whose win in Lead Actress in a Drama Series for “Killing Eve” seemed all but wonderfully inevitable, went home empty handed yet again. I think of all the disappointing moments that night, her loss was the most disappointing. It even seemed like Claire Foy herself knew her award belonged to Oh. As if we needed another British white lady winning an award truly destined for a woman of color.

 

Limited Series/TV Movie also cast as slightly wider net. “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” won three awards, Limited Series, Lead Actor for Darren Criss, and Directing for Ryan Murphy. Writing went to the “USS Callister” episode of “Black Mirror,” Lead Actress went to Regina King for “Seven Seconds,” and Supporting Actor and Actress went to Jeff Daniels and Merritt Wever, both from “Godless.” As for the other awards of the night, Variety Talk Series went to “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” Variety Sketch Series went to “Saturday Night Live,” Reality TV Competition went to “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and Writing for a Variety Special went to my forever fave John Mulaney for “Kid Gorgeous at Radio City.” That, along with Regina King’s win were the two highlights of the night for me.

 

All in all, the night felt full of potential that didn’t pay off. The reviews and the ratings of the show have not been too kind, so hopefully the Emmy producers and its voting body will take note of their many egregious errors for next year. If anything, they learned to never count out a non-celebrity’s ability to create a viral moment.

 

What did you think? Were you happy with the Emmys and the people who won them? Are you also enjoying the new season of “American Horror Story“? I am loooving Apocalypse. Share your thoughts in the comments, of course. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

My Foolish Wishes and Realistic Predictions for the 2018 Emmy Awards

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Ad for the 2018 Emmys from Entertainment Weekly. Photo by Jenn Murphy

If you’re reading this on Monday, September 17, then that means tonight is the 2018 Emmy Awards, a night to celebrate the best in TV. (Or, at least, the best in TV according to a group of people who gave “Modern Family” Outstanding Comedy Series five years in a row.) The show can often be a bit predictable, with actors and shows accumulating back to back to back wins for several years, but at least one of the those perennial winners, “Veep,” is out of the running this year. That means opportunities for surprises and new winners, an exciting prospect. I certainly have my hopes for who could win, but I know that many of my wishes will likely not be granted tonight. So here are my thoughts on who will win (and who actually should) in tonight’s biggest categories.


Outstanding Drama Series

The Americans

The Crown

Game of Thrones

The Handmaid’s Tale

Stranger Things

This Is Us

Westworld

 

Should Win: “The Americans”

I’ve only seen the first season of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” I can’t in good conscience give “This Is Us” an award for quality as a whole and I haven’t really seen any of the other nominated series so I’m personally rooting for my mom’s favorite shows in recent years, “The Americans.” While I found the pacing to be way too slow for my tastes, it certainly built up drama and tension well and featured great performances from just about everyone in it’s cast. It’s one of those series like “The Wire” that people will look back on as one of the greats and deserves to be recognized in the way that “The Wire” sadly never was.

 

Will Win: “Game of Thrones”

Right? This show seems like the juggernaut that will never end. (Except it is. Soon-ish.) With the most nominations of any show this year at 22, and seven of those noms were already converted into wins for “Thrones” at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, this win feels inevitable. It’s possible that voters will want to continue the love for “The Handmaid’s Tale” despite it’s not-as-well-received second season or give “The Americans” some last chance love, but let’s be real: it’s (probably) “Game of Thrones” all the way.

 

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black

Keri Russell, “The Americans”

Claire Foy, “The Crown”

Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”

 

Should Win: Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”

Oh should already have a shelf full of Emmys for her run as Christina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but she doesn’t. Not only is “Killing Eve” a great show overall (and should have been nominated in the drama category) but Oh is also absolutely excellent on it. It’s a perfect mix of everything she does so well, so why not give her an Emmy for it. With her nomination she became the first Asian woman to be nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama, let’s make her the first winner too.

 

Will Win: Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”

I’m going out on a limb here because I feel so strongly that Oh’s performance is unparalleled. It’s certainly possible that they’ll decide to award Moss again, or recognize Russell’s star run on “The Americans,” but I just feel in my heart that this is Oh’s award to lose. I wouldn’t be mad if Tatiana Maslany won though. Just saying.

 

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, “Ozark

Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”

Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Milo Ventimiglia, “This Is Us”

Ed Harris, “Westworld”

Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”

 

Should Win: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Brown continues to be a ray of light in an otherwise dim show. While he certainly didn’t have as much of the emotional heft in the show’s second season, he still gave a charming, thoughtful, nuanced performance that made all of the other nonsense you have to get through to see his scenes worth it. Plus, Sterling K. Brown at an award show is a treat and award shows are always looking for some sort of pull to entice viewers. The smart decision from a ratings standpoint would be to give the award to him.

 

Will Win: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

I’m going to hold steady with Brown, even though I haven’t seen any of “Westworld” and can’t know if Harris or Wright are really knocking it out of the park. Rhys is a possibility, given that this will be his last chance for his great performance in this role, and even Ventimiglia is possible if voters were also sucked into the national obsession with Jack Pearson. But Brown is just so good and so charming and already won once for this role. It seems very likely he’ll win again.

 

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”

Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”

Vanessa Kirby, “The Crown”

Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Yvonne Stahovski, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Alexis Bledel, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Thandie Newton, “Westworld”

 

Should Win: Alexis Bledel, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Hi again, it’s me, the person who has yet to watch the second season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I’m again going off the first season with this one, where Bledel blew me away in her brief turn, making me completely forget that Rory Gilmore ever existed. The fact that she’s in supporting this year must mean that her role is expanded in the second season and I’m sure she’s excellent. To be honest though, the winner in this category should be Jodie Comer from “Killing Eve,” but she wasn’t even nominated, which is a crime.

 

Will Win: Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”

It seems near impossible to beat “The Handmaid’s Tale” in a category where three of its actresses are nominated, but if any show is going to do it, it’s likely “Game of Thrones.”

 

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”

Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”

Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland

David Harbour, “Stranger Things”

Matt Smith, “The Crown”

Joseph Fiennes, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

 

Should Win: Joseph Fiennes, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

This is the only show I’ve seen in this category, and I’ve only seen the first season (I know, I’m really bad at keeping up with popular dramas) but Fiennes was great in the first season so I can’t imagine his quality would drop off in the second.

 

Will Win: On of the guys from “Game of Thrones,” probably

They’re interchangeable to me, but I bet one of them is going to win.

 

Outstanding Comedy Series

Atlanta

Barry

Black-ish

Curb Your Enthusiasm

GLOW

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Silicon Valley

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

 

Should Win: “Atlanta”

While you could convincingly argue that “Atlanta” isn’t necessarily a comedy in the most traditional sense, it’s running in that category and should win in nearly any and every category it’s nominated in. The show’s second season was brilliant, each episode better than the last. This is a chance for the Emmys to go out on a limb and recognize a show that’s more than a little non-traditional, and I really hope they do it.

 

Will Win: “Atlanta”

My brain says that a lot of older voters will likely have difficult time classifying this show as a comedy, and new series like “Barry” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are coming in with a lot of momentum from their highly likable debut seasons. But my heart is saying that “Atlanta” is something truly special, and I think enough Emmy voters will (hopefully) recognize that.

 

Lead Actress in  Comedy Series

Pamela Adlon, “Better Things

Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Allison Janney, “Mom

Issa Rae, “Insecure

Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie

 

Should Win: Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”

“Better Things” continues to be an under appreciated gem, and Pamela Adlon, the star and brains behind the show, is a highlight of it. It’s a study in motherhood and how the quieter moments in life can mean so much and it deserves more attention. An Emmy win could certainly help with that.

 

Will Win: Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”

This could really go one of three ways: Allison Janney could win (again) for “Mom,” this time in a new category, Rachel Bronahan could win for “Maisel,” which would likely signal an inevitable win for the show as a whole in Comedy Series, or Tracee Ellis Ross could win for her consistently great run on “Black-ish.” Ross already won a Golden Globe for the role in the last couple of years, so it’s possible that the Emmys would chose to recognize her as well. (Can I just say that is so rude to move Janney to lead actress? Why did they do that? Did they decide she had enough supporting actress awards for the show? Do they think Kate McKinnon is going to win again so they might as well move her so she can have a better chance? She already has so many Emmys for “Mom”! Give someone else a chance!)

 

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”

Ted Danson, “The Good Place

Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Donald Glover, “Atlanta”

Bill Hader, “Barry”

William H. Macy, “Shameless

 

Should Win: Ted Danson, “The Good Place”

“The Good Place” is a wonderful show that should be getting a lot more Emmy love so I’m going to root for Danson. The new information we got about his character at the end of the first season made his performance all the more impressive and that skill continued on in the second season. He’s just so good!

 

Will Win: Donald Glover, “Atlanta”

But then again, Teddy Perkins. So yeah, Glover’s gonna win.

 

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Zazie Beetz, “Atlanta”

Laurie Metcalf, “Roseanne

Betty Gilpin, “GLOW”

Aidy Bryant, “Saturday Night Live

Leslie Jones, “Saturday Night Live”

Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”

Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Megan Mullally, “Will & Grace

 

Should Win: Zazie Beetz, “Atlanta”

I just want “Atlanta” to win a bunch of awards and Beetz is one of the many things that make “Atlanta” so special. Her subtle performance makes you stop and pay attention. She doesn’t need bombast or obvious jokes thrown in. She’s just naturally good.

 

Will Win: Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”

It seems highly unlikely that McKinnon won’t walk away with this prize again and who can blame them: she continues to be one of the MVPs at “SNL” in it’s current iteration. It will be a serious loss if and when she decides to leave.

 

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Bryan Tyree Henry, “Atlanta”

Henry Winkler, “Barry”

Louie Anderson, “Baskets

Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live”

Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”

Tony Shalhoub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

 

Should Win: Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”

If Kate McKinnon is the female MVP of “SNL,” Thompson is definitely the male MVP. The longest-running cast member in the history of the show, I’ve read that sketch writers on the show will just put “Kenan reacts” in their sketches, because they know that whatever he does will be hilarious. It’s crazy that this is only his first Emmy nomination and it will be crazy if he loses. Although to be fair, I would not be entirely upset if it was a tie with Bryan Tyree Henry.

 

Will Win: Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”

He has so much momentum going into this year that it seems wonderfully inevitable that he will win. Just please, dear god, don’t let it be Alec Baldwin. I will accept anyone but Baldwin.

 

Outstanding Limited Series

The Alienist

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Genius: Picasso

Godless

Patrick Melrose

 

Should Win:  “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

This was some of the best TV this year. Flashy but not too flashy, a rare feat for a Ryan Murphy production, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” was deeply disturbing and engrossing. It kept you watching right up to the end with star turns from whole host of new and surprising performers. An excellent series all around.

 

Will Win: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Much like “Game of Thrones,” this show has already walked away with several Creative Arts Emmys. This win is undeniable in the best way possible.

 

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Jessica Biel, “The Sinner

Laura Dern, “The Tale

Michelle Dockery, “Godless”

Edie Falco, “Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders

Regina King, “Seven Seconds

Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Cult

 

Should Win: Regina King, “Seven Seconds”

While Jessica Biel gave a surprisingly great performance on “The Sinner,” I just love Regina King and want her to win everything she’s nominated for. So Regina King, here’s another one. Love you.

 

Will Win: Laura Dern, “The Tale”

Sarah Paulson has history in this category, but Laura Dern is often too great to be ignored. She also won last year for “Big Little Lies,” so her skills are likely still fresh in the minds of Emmy voters.

 

Lead Actor in a Limited Series of Movie

Antonio Banderas, “Genius: Picasso”

Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Benedict Cumberbatch, “Patrick Melrose”

Jeff Daniels, “The Looming Tower

John Legend, “Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesse Plemmons, “Black Mirror: USS Callister”

 

Should Win: Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but give Darren Criss an Emmy. His performance as the devious and disturbed Andrew Cunanan was revelatory and transcendent and completely unexpected given his previous work. He truly deserves this Emmy win.

 

Will Win: Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

I can’t see any scenario where he doesn’t win this. This is one of the few categories of the night that truly seems like a done deal.

 

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Sara Barellis, “Jesus Christ Superstar:

Penelope Cruz, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Judith Light, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Adina Porter, “American Horror Story: Cult”

Merritt Weaver, “Godless”

Letitia Wright, “Black Mirror: Black Museum”

 

Should Win: Judith Light, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

She only appeared in maybe one or two episodes of the series, but Light’s portrayal of one of Cunanan’s victim’s wives was powerful and unforgettable. It’s not surprising from an actress of Light’s caliber, but it really made her stand out.

 

Will Win: Judith Light, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace, American Crime Story”

It’s possible that the voters will go for the flashier “Versace” performance with Cruz, but I really think Light’s gonna win this one.

 

Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie 

Jeff Daniels, “Godless”

Brandon Victor Dixon, “Jesus Christ Superstar”

John Leguizamo, “Waco

Ricky Martin, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Edgar Ramirez, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Michael Stuhlbarg, “The Looming Tower”

Finn Wittrock, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

 

Should Win: Brandon Victor Dixon, “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Dixon was the breakout star of the latest live televised musical, and deserves to be recognized for his excellent work. He was also the actor that had to read that cast note to Pence at “Hamilton.” Just a fun fact.

 

Will Win: Edgar Ramirez, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

It seems likely that the titular Gianni Versace will win here, although Wittrock’s performance could also get some love. Who should have really been nominated is Cody Fern for “Versace” but I guess for some reason they gave his spot to Ricky Martin. Whatever.

 

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

At Home with Amy Sedaris

Drunk History

I Love You America with Sarah Silverman

Portlandia

“Saturday Night Live”

Tracey Ullman’s Show

 

Should Win: “Drunk History”

“Drunk History” is always a delight and I’m constantly impressed with the way they put it all together. It feels like a bit of an underdog, but it would be so great if it won.

 

Will Win: “Saturday Night Live”

Come on. Is there really a chance “SNL” won’t win? I’m going to say no.

 

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Jimmy Kimmel Live

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

The Late Late Show with James Corden

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

 

Should Win: “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Colbert has continued to be great in the face of absurdity (aka our current president). Not only are his monologues laser-focused and sharp, but his interviews are often charming and thoughtful. He’s a quintessentially great talk show host, and the quality of this show reflects that.

 

Will Win: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”

They already won for writing, so this seems very likely. They deserve it for their impressive deep dives.


So there are my predictions. My hands are tired from all the typing. Can’t wait to see what happens tonight!

 

What do you think? Who are you hoping will take home an Emmy tonight? Have you seen “A Simple Favor“? I thought it was just fine. Let me know what you think in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

A Look at the 2018 Creative Arts Emmys

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Image via Google Images. Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

We’re a week away from the Primetime Emmys and while this would normally be the week I’d write about my predictions and hopes for the night’s winners, the show actually airs on a Monday this year, so I’m just going to write that post the day of.

 

Why it’s airing on a Monday, I have no clue. It probably has to do with football. Ugh, I hate football. Baseball is 10 times better, and this is coming from someone whose favorite team is currently the worst in the league. I’d rather watch my baseball team lose again and again than watch a bunch of adult men ruin their brains for an organization that clearly doesn’t care about them or their freedom of speech. But this isn’t a sports blog, so I’m going to let my (clearly very strong) opinions on that subject go. For now, at least.

 

In the meantime, I thought it would be valuable to look at what happened at the Creative Arts Emmys, which went down this past weekend. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gives out a ton of primetime Emmy Awards. So many that they have to have two whole nights of awards before the main show even airs. A lot of it is technical stuff that I’m sure is very impressive but goes way over my head, so I’m going to focus on the awards that are a bit more relatable to the average viewer.

 

There were several exciting highlights and milestones over the course of the two days, and one grave disappointment. Let’s look at the highlights first. For the first time in Emmy history, the Guest Actor winners in both Comedy and Drama were all black actors. In Comedy the winners were Tiffany Haddish for her gig hosting “Saturday Night Live” (which was great, but I was really hoping my queen Maya Rudolph would win for her wonderful turn on “The Good Place.”) and Katt Williams for his truly hilarious performance on this season of “Atlanta.” On the drama side the winners were Ron Cephas Jones for “This Is Us” (which seems like it was more for his work on the first season than his much more limited, but still great, work on the second.) and Samira Wiley for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” All four will likely make an appearance on the telecast on Monday, as the Guest Actor winners often present during the main show.

 

Three different people obtained EGOT status (a.k.a. the rare distinction of winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award over the course of their career) thanks to 2018 Emmy wins: musical theatre icons Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and John Legend, who became the youngest person ever to do so. They all won for NBC’s live “Jesus Christ Superstar,” so clearly those live musicals aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Fine by me.

 

Some other notable prizes included The “USS Callister” episode of “Black Mirror,” which won for Outstanding TV movie and reminded me that I really need to catch up on “Black Mirror.” Unstructured Reality program went to “The United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell” and Structured Reality went to the new “Queer Eye.” Documentary or non-fiction series went to Netflix’s “Wild Wild Country,” and Documentary or non-fiction special went to “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.” Writing for a Variety series went to “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” again and writing for a non-fiction program went posthumously to Anthony Bourdain for “No Reservations.” And RuPaul won, of course, for hosting “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

 

Looking to this Monday, the shows that seem to have the most momentum from this weekend’s wins include “Game of Thrones,” which walked away with seven awards, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” which walked away with four, and “Saturday Night Live,” which has already collected seven as well.

 

The one great tragedy of the 2018 Creative Arts Emmys is that “An Emmy for Megan,” the heart-warming and moving tale of one woman’s journey to try and win an Emmy for short-form comedy or drama series, went home empty-handed. That award went to some James Corden nonsense. Of all the inevitable losses that will come next week, this one will likely still sting the most.

 

So there’s just a taste of all the shiny trophies given out this past weekend. There will be plenty more shiny trophies to talk about in the weeks to come!

 

What do you think? Were you pleased with the Emmy winners so far? Are you also wishing that they could swap out the Emmy’s hosts at the last minute with a more charming duo, like say the 2 Dope Queens? Let me know in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

What Are You Looking Forward To in New Fall TV?

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TV Guide Magazine’s Fall TV Premiere Date List a.k.a. nothing to be too jazzed about. Photo by Jenn Murphy

Like the stranger who decides to sit right next to you in an empty movie theater, the Fall 2018 TV season is uncomfortably close. It’s really only a matter of days before the big TV machine really starts up again and I have to say, I’m feeling a bit unenthused.

 

This isn’t to say I don’t have things to look forward to. I’m excited to (eventually, since it’s set for a likely mid-season premiere) be able to watch my beloved “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” on the same night and channel as my also-beloved “The Good Place” and “Superstore.” I’m highly anticipating “American Horror Story‘s” trip back to the murder house (a.k.a. the only season of “American Horror Story” really worth watching, if you ask me). And I’ll be sad to see the always great and under-appreciated “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” go, but I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up. I’m just not too psyched about any of the new stuff.

 

Let’s look at the major networks, who tend to use this season more than any other to debut their latest crop of shows. Fox, after canceling every single one of their great, non-animated comedies last season, has decided to hitch their ride almost exclusively to stale-looking multi-cam sitcoms, conservative-leaning has-beens, and football. Other than “Empire,” no thank you. NBC has yet another high-concept show that will probably never pay off in the way people hope, and another medical drama. The Amy Poehler-produced “I Feel Bad” has some potential, but it kind of looks to me like a more subdued (and more diverse, tbh) family-friendly network version of FX’s excellent “Better Things.” (Which to be fair, is great. I would love for there to be more women-led shows that feel reminiscent of other women-led shows than the opposite. Yay for progress!) I’ve finally decided to give up on “Supergirl,” so other than the aforementioned “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” The CW isn’t giving me much. CBS is basically reboot city, with both “Murphy Brown” and “Magnum P.I.” coming back in some form or another. And then we have ABC, who amongst even more big family-focused comedies and a show about an old rookie cop (???) finally found their own “This Is Us” in “A Million Little Things.” If I see one more ad for that show while I’m trying to watch something I actually care about I will throw my remote through my TV.

 

It all just has me feeling a little bit meh. I feel like before there was always at least one thing coming from the major networks that had me excited. Are they just not feeling as adventurous or creative? Did the irritating success (and inevitable tumble) of the “Roseanne” revival really have this much of an impact on everything? The only new thing that has me even remotely curious is Lifetime’s “You,” an adaptation of the novel by Caroline Kepnes. I recently read her other book, “Providence,” and while I had some serious issues with the roles of her female characters in the story, I was still entertained. They got me with “UnREAL,” (or, at least, the first season of “UnREAL”) so maybe they can get me with “You.”

 

I don’t know. Am I missing something great? Some sort of hidden gem that will end up being all everyone is talking about by Christmastime? Or am I right in thinking that the new Fall line-up is more than a bit underwhelming?

 

What do you think? What new stuff is on your fall TV radar? Are you also watching “The Sinner” and growing increasingly tired of Detective Ambrose’s whole “I’m a middle-aged white man with mommy issues” thing? We. Have. Seen. This. Before. Let’s do something new! Share your thoughts in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Get Your Movie Commentary Fix With This ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Clip

I mentioned at the end of last week’s post how much I loved “Crazy Rich Asians” (and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” but if I wrote about that it would just be one long all caps post about how adorable and perfect it was), and it definitely seems like I’m not the only one. The movie has steadily held its number one spot at the box office since its opening weekend and that hold doesn’t seem like it’ll fade away any time soon. Some of that could be attributed to the end of summer and the lack of other exciting movies making their debut, but I like to think it’s because of how wonderful the film is and how much detail and planning went into making it so spectacular.

 

If you want a closer look into all that detail and planning, I would highly suggest you check out the above clip from Vanity Fair. In it, the director of the film, Jon M. Chu (whose next big project is the film adaptation of my favorite stage musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” nbd) breaks down a key scene in the film. He provides insight into how he made things look so opulent (spoiler alert: a lot of CG effects) and offers fun, behind-the-scenes facts. The video is part of a greater series from Vanity Fair called “Notes On a Scene,” where creatives from behind the scenes of movie- and TV-making break down scenes from their respective projects in great detail. If you want to watch more, I’d highly recommend director Hiro Murai’s breakdown of the “Teddy Perkins” episode of “Atlanta,” or either of the “Black Panther” ones featuring the costume designer, Ruth Carter and the director, Ryan Coogler, respectively.

 

They feel very reminiscent of the commentary tracks that used to be prevalent on just about every DVD, wherein you could re-watch the movie with an additional audio track of often the director, writer and several actors sharing behind-the-scenes facts and stories about the process of making the film. A favorite of mine growing up was the “Kids Commentary” wherein the child starts of one of the greatest films of our time, “School of Rock,” gave their own take on the commentary craze. I still share some of the fun facts I learned from watching that commentary repeatedly with people whenever I watch the movie now. Do people like that I do that? Debatable. But do I do it all the same? Absolutely.

 

Now that most people choose to watch their movies via various streaming services, the art of the DVD commentary has been all but forgotten. It’s nice to see that these “Notes on a Scene” clips are doing their part to keep that art alive.

 

What do you think? Did you have a favorite DVD commentary track growing up? Are you still reeling from the “Sharp Objects” finale? I read the book years ago, so I was fully aware of what was going to happen. Still very creepy though! Let me know in the comments! And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Dear Oscars, You’re Crazy For This One

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

By now you’ve probably heard about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ plans to make the Academy Awards a.k.a. The Oscars more…approachable? Relatable? Popular? Whatever they’re trying to accomplish, they plan to do it with three key changes: moving the air date of the ceremony to the beginning of February instead of the end starting in 2020 (not that big of a deal), cutting the length of the televised ceremony to three hours instead of the typical four (infuriating, but we’ll get to that later) and adding a new category celebrating “popular” film (what does that even mean??).

 

Two of these changes, the shortening of the ceremony and the adding of a new category, have received an understandable amount of response, both positive and negative (mostly negative), from both the people who partake in the ceremony and the people who watch it at home. The goal of the changes seems to be focused around the Oscars’ dip in ratings in recent years, and the concern that has posed for ABC, the network that airs it. (The Oscars are still one of the most watched annual live events on TV, second only to the SuperBowl, but okay.) They seem to believe that highlighting more “popular” films and making the telecast shorter will pull in new viewers and bring back people who chose to turn away from the show in recent years. I find that to be laughable.

 

Let’s look first at the new “popular” film category. To be fair, the Academy has yet to really go into detail on what this new category will entail or what kind of criteria will make a film eligible for this category. All they’ve said is that it will celebrate achievement in “popular” film and that films nominated in that category can also be nominated for Best Picture. It seems to many that the category is intended to pull in more of the films that make the biggest box office bang in any given year. Many of the Oscar nominated-films and winners of recent years have been much smaller, both in their distribution and their viewership. The biggest films of the year in terms of box office numbers and overall “popularity,” the superhero films and franchises that populate the larger theater chains, get shut out of Oscar contention in favor of these smaller films.

 

The Academy tried to deal with this back in 2009 when they expanded the number of Best Picture nominees from five to 10. The hope was that this would open the door for larger films that were actually good (like Christopher Nolan’s 2008 Batman masterpiece “The Dark Knight“) to get in the Oscar race. More often than not though, it simply opened the door for even more smaller, artsy-er films to get nominated, defeating the purpose entirely. It’s often been a joke, one even told by Oscar hosts like Chris Rock, that the Oscars do not recognize the films that the general population is actually seeing. And while this may be true, adding a category intended to focus solely on “popular” films doesn’t seem like it will really do anything to help rid the distinction between what the most people are seeing and what people think is actually quality work.

 

Let’s be honest: a lot of films that are “popular” in the traditional sense aren’t that good. Are they full of impressive special effects and spectacle? Absolutely, and those films often get recognized for those feats in the more technical categories at the Oscars. But do they resonate with the viewers or stick with them long after they’ve left the theater? Are every facet of those films, from writing to direction to acting, great? Not often. There are, of course, exceptions to this, like last year’s somewhat surprise hit “Get Out” (which won Jordan Peele the much-deserved Best Original Screenplay Oscar) and this year’s “Black Panther,” the brilliant, record- and ground-breaking Marvel film that seemed poised to be the first of it’s kind in Oscar contention. This new “popular” film category could actually hurt “Black Panther’s” chances of taking home the biggest prize of the night. If voters can give “Black Panther” the “popular” film Oscar, a place where it will likely fit in perfectly, wouldn’t it seem likely that they would then give Best Picture to a different film, one that was equal in quality but not in tickets sold? Will the “popular” category be considered as legitimate as Best Picture, if it’s seen as a way to give films perceived as not having a chance in that category a pat on the back?

 

Again, it’s hard to have a fully formed opinion without the full facts of how this new category will work. It seems like the Academy should have waited on this announcement, given that the mystery of it is only creating more controversy.

 

On to the other big change, one that could end up being much more controversial in the long run: the choice to cut the length of the televised ceremony to three hours. You may be wondering how the Academy plans to achieve this, given that the ceremony as it is always seems to bleed past its four hours anyway. Will they cut back on random montages celebrating film? (To be honest, I actually love those.) Will they eliminate the unnecessary attempts at “viral” moments that have been prevalent ever since Ellen DeGeneres bought pizza and took a selfie? No.

 

Instead, they will be eliminating actual awards from the telecast, giving them out during commercial breaks and putting them all together into a shorter clip package later in the night. (The Tony Awards already do this, much to the chagrin of many in the theatre community.) The awards being cut from the show have yet to be decided, but I highly doubt Best Actor or Actress will be getting the axe. It’s likely that the technical categories, the unsung heroes of moviemaking, will get their one moment in the spotlight relegated to a clip package at a time when people are already waiting for the night to wind down. While this plan was endorsed by the Academy’s Board of Governors, I can’t possibly imagine it going over well for the larger groups within the industry that it will overlook.

 

It’s important to publicly recognize the sound mixers, editors, cinematographers and the like because they do so much to make the movies that we love what they are. While their contributions don’t get the same level of celebration as the writers, directors and actors, they play vital roles in creating movie magic. All but eliminating their categories from the televised ceremony is a slap in the face. It also diminishes the role of the Oscars and the fact that it’s the one televised ceremony that recognizes all facets of filmmaking. If you want to just see the shiny people get awards, there are at least five other award shows I can point you in the direction of. The Oscars have (or, at least, have had) a certain level of integrity that I worry will disappear if they try to conform to the norms of other award shows. That may sound snooty, but I don’t really care. People who prefer more “popular” film and shorter run times have so many things tailor made for them. Let snooty people like me have this!

 

That leads back to the reason why all of this is being done in the first place. Will these changes be what it takes to get more people watching The Oscars? Absolutely not! If people aren’t watching the Oscars now, adding one category of movies they like and shortening the show by one hour isn’t suddenly going to convince them to change their mind. There’s already a rabid audience for the Oscars, they’ve been there since day one and they’re there every year. Instead of trying to impress some audience that doesn’t care anyway, why not just focus on the one that does? Instead of adding a category celebrating “popular” film, why not add one that celebrates stunt coordinating or casting or ensemble acting, things that people have been asking about for years? Instead of shortening the show by an hour, why not make it four hours longer? (That might just be a “me” thing. I never want the Oscars to end!) There are plenty of changes the Oscars could make to improve. It’s just not the changes they’ve chosen to make.

 

What do you think? Do you like the Oscars latest changes? Are you still floating on a high from watching “Crazy Rich Asians” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” in one weekend? The rom-com is back and it feels so good! Share your thoughts in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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