Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2017

It’s that time of year again! Woo-hoo, awards!

As always, these are about my personal preferences and just for fun.

The Sorry, Television, This Year the Movies Kicked YOUR Butt Award

Wonder Woman, the No Man’s Land Sequence

Yep, the movies finally did it. After years of TV out-doing, out-creating, out-character-driving action sequences, this year’s Wonder Woman did more than vanquish the movie villain.

I’ll be honest—I’m not really that into comic book movies. I went to see Wonder Woman for two reasons: to support a female-driven action movie and a woman director. I was stunned by how much I loved it, even to the point of tears. I’ve been waiting for a movie like this my whole life.

The No Man’s Land sequence, with a woman not listening to a man, facing down the danger alone, doing it for no reason other than it was the right thing to do, was THE high point of movie-watching for me this year. It was spectacularly shot by director Patty Jenkins, and totally grounded in Diana’s character.

There’s always next year, TV.

The THIS is How You Pass the Bechdel Test Award

Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman

Another reason I love Wonder Woman is the way it aces the Bechdel Test (has to be at least one scene of two women talking about something other than a man). It’s a low bar to clear but both Wonder Woman and Star Wars: The Last Jedi took giant leaps over it.

I will be posting my full review of The Last Jedi in a few days, but one of my favorite things about it is the heroic women, including new characters Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and the briefly appearing but critical Paige Tico (Veronica Ngo), who joined General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). On top of that, it was an awesome farewell to Fisher. I’m sad she not going to be in Episode IX, but happy her final Star Wars appearance did so much justice to her character.

The A for Effort, D for Stale Comedy Award

The Orville

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed the first season of Seth MacFarlane’s TV parody of Star Trek, The Orville. Even more surprised to find that as a space opera, it’s remarkably thoughtful and has the optimism that defines the genre. Even though it doesn’t always hit the mark, it makes some serious attempts to tackle many social issues.

Unfortunately, the comedy part of the show is kind of blah and makes me wish that he had just decided to skip making a parody and make this a straight space opera. For one thing, much of the humor is based in present-day pop culture, which is like making a show that takes place today where many of the jokes refer to the 17th century.

Still, I believe this show has a ton of potential and look forward to Season 2.

The O.K., I Was Wrong, The Great British Bake-Off is Still Great Award

Channel Four’s Reboot of The Great British Bake-Off

Last year I was very upset to learn that judge Mary Berry and hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins would not migrate with the show from BBC to Channel Four.

Turns out, the show is still just fine without them. Yes, I miss them, but the replacement hosts, Sandi Toksvig and Neil Fielding are very good. (I also rather like that an older woman replaced a younger woman for a change.) I’m also warming up to Prue Leith as Paul Hollywood’s co-judge.

The fact is, it’s the show’s format that makes it the enjoyable watch and huge success that it is.

My bad.

The Stop Making Stars Too Vain to Wear Their Reading Glasses Presenters at the Oscars Award

Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway’s blunder when announcing the 2016 Best Picture winner.

What a horrible spectacle that was, watching Beatty and Dunaway erroneously announce La La Land had won Best Picture, then the mistake being discovered that Moonlight had actually won.

It was not only massively embarrassing, it wrecked what should have been a phenomenal moment in Oscar history, when the first film with an LGBT theme and predominately African-American cast won Best Picture.

There are big stars who can read the cards correctly. Use them next time.

The Margaret Atwood Adaptation That Won’t Get the Awards but Deserves All the Awards Award

Alias Grace

Phew! That was a mouthful.

Yes, yes, The Handmaid’s Tale is getting all the awards love. But this year’s other Margaret Atwood adaptation, Alias Grace, is also stellar, and is being almost completely ignored.

I will be posting a full review of the miniseries (available on Netflix as of this writing) in a few weeks, but let me just say if you haven’t seen it, see it. Based on a true crime that occurred during the 19th century Canada, it features what should be a star-making performance by Sarah Gadon (Belle, 11/22/63). The production is impeccable. It is absolutely gripping from beginning to end and deserves every award out there.

The Netflix, Please Don’t Misrepresent What Your Shows Are About Award

Godless

When I saw the trailer for Netflix’s new show Godless, I was ecstatic. It gave the impression it was an almost totally female-driven Western! Starring Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)! Sign me up!

Turns out, the show is actually centered on two male characters.

I mean, that’s fine, but trying to represent it as something it’s not? Not cool, Netflix.

The Winter is Here, But It’s Going to Last a Lot Longer Than We Thought Award

The confirmation there will be no final season of Game of Thrones until 2019.

Sob.

The Most Pedantic Explanation of Incorrect Science in a Fantasy Show Award

Neil deGrasse Tyson

After the final episode of Game of Thrones current season, astrophysicist Tyson took the time to do a tweet storm explaining why it’s not possible to drag a dragon out of the water with chains.

Dude. DRAGONS AREN’T REAL. NONE OF THIS IS REAL. NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO DRAG A ZOMBIE DRAGON OUT OF AN ICE LAKE WITH CHAINS IN REAL LIFE.

I love the guy, but I wish he would stick to science and lay off the pop culture critiques.

The Best Villain on TV Right Now Award

Prince Phillip, The Crown

Season 2 of The Crown, the biographical miniseries about Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), has been almost breathtaking in its frankness about the many skeletons in the royal family’s deluxe walk-in closet. Princess Margaret’s breakdown after she was forced to give up her one true love, her subsequent lover apparently single-handedly bringing about the Swinging 60s, the Duke of Windsor’s traitorous dealings with Nazis, Elizabeth’s jealousy of Jacqueline Kennedy (who doesn’t come off too great, either), and so on.

But it’s Prince Phillip, played by Matt Smith, who comes across as a bona fide bad guy. Not only cheating on the queen, but pretty much blackmailing her into giving him the title of prince as his price for not walking out on the marriage. He sends their son to a horrible school in Scotland where he is bullied for years because he went to the same school and is convinced it made a man of him. All the while acting so proper and princely and whining about his sister-in-law marrying someone beneath her. Smith does a fantastic job of underplaying the role while still making you hate the character.

The Stop Teasing Us About a Deadwood Movie Award

HBO

It’s been almost fourteen years since the HBO series Deadwood was cancelled and almost every year since, like clockwork, they announce we’re getting a movie to tie up all the loose end left by the show’s abrupt ending. Meanwhile, one of the show’s stars (Powers Booth) has passed away.

It’s got to be the longest tease in TV history. Poop or get off the pot, HBO.

The Hey for Once Being an Annoying Fandom Got Results Award

Sense8 Fandom

Kudos to the Sense8 fandom, who hounded Netflix unmercifully when they cancelled the show after only two seasons. We’re not getting more seasons, but they just wrapped on a movie that will tie up all the loose ends left by the show’s abrupt ending. I thought they were fools for even trying, and they proved me totally wrong. Maybe Deadwood fans should take notes.

For your viewing pleasure, I close out with this year’s Movie Trailer Mash-Up by Sleepy Skunk:

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Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2016

Yay, awards time! As always, these are about my personal preferences and just for fun.

The Television Episode that Kicked the Ass of Anything in Movies Award:

The Battle of the Bastards, Game of Thrones

Continue reading “Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2016”

Alan Rickman’s Absurd Lack of Oscar Nominations

This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of the other posts for Week 2: The Oscar Snubs.

I’m just going to throw this out there because I want to shut down, once and for all, the notion that Academy Award nominations have much to do with “merit”:

Sylvester Stallone has TWO Oscar nominations (in acting categories).

Alan Rickman died with ZERO Oscar nominations.

Continue reading “Alan Rickman’s Absurd Lack of Oscar Nominations”

Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2015

I’m a little late with my pop culture awards—computer problems over Christmas. But at last, at last, (I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting!) here they are!

As always, these are about my personal preferences and just for fun. Continue reading “Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2015”

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: Child Actor Nominees/Winners

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE to see more posts from Week 1: THE ACTORS.

I remember so clearly when Tatum O’Neal won Best Supporting Actress at the tender age of 10. I was around 12 years old at the time, had seen the film, LOVED it, loved her in it. (It remains one of my favorite movies and performances to this day.) My parents were very strict about sticking to my designated bed time when I was a kid, but for some reason were always lenient on Oscar night. I think they knew they were raising a budding cineaste.

I recall watching the ceremony on a little 9 inch black and white TV in my bedroom and jumping up and down on my twin bed when her name was announced.

She was a kid–like me! AND SHE WON A BIG AWARD! THE BIGGEST AWARD IN THE UNIVERSE! (I was probably not aware of the Nobel Prize at the time–or, at least, not cognizant of its importance relative to the Oscar.)

Continue reading “31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: Child Actor Nominees/Winners”

What The 2014 Emmy Nominations Got Wrong–and Right

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The Emmy nominations were announced this week. Some of my favorite shows got a boatload of nominations (Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, American Horror Story: Coven, to name a few.) So how come my main reaction was something like this:

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As I mentioned in my Pop Culture Awards post from last year, it must be rough to be an Emmy nomination judge, especially in the drama categories. There are so many quality dramas now, with so many quality actors giving amazing performances, it’s not at all odd that a lot of people get left out.

There were also surprises, many of them fabulous, but some of the snubs were mind-boggling.

Continue reading “What The 2014 Emmy Nominations Got Wrong–and Right”

The Versatile Blogger Award!

versatileFellow blogger Rachel Lynn Brody has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Here are the rules for winning the award:

Thank the person who gave you this award. THANK YOU RACHEL!

Include a link to their blog: I Wrote This

Nominate 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award and include a link to their site.

Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

I am thrilled to nominate the following terrific bloggers for the award: Continue reading “The Versatile Blogger Award!”

Go Home Oscar Nominations, You’re Drunk

Inside-Llewyn-Davis

Before I go off on a rant about this year’s Oscar nominations, let me say this:

2013 was a pretty good movie year. I went to the movies more often than in the previous few years, and left the theater smiling way more than scowling.

Good stuff from both mainstream Hollywood and independents. Some great performances that will probably stand the test of time. It was also an amazing year for movies with female leads, with movies such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Heat, Gravity and Frozen showing that stories focusing on female characters can really rake in the bucks. In fact, Catching Fire currently tops 2013 in domestic box office.

So an array of great movies and performances means that OF COURSE there were going to be some big Oscar snubs. But, boy, a few of them really got my goat.

Continue reading “Go Home Oscar Nominations, You’re Drunk”

Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2013, Part Two

Time for Part Two of this year’s pop culture awards! Last week I concentrated exclusively on television. This week, I deal with movies, books, music and other entertainment topics.

catchingfiregale
Hey, kids! Now you can experience your very own dystopian nightmare!

1. The Complete Failure To Get The Point Award: The anonymous clowns who have approached Lionsgate Films about building a theme park based on The Hunger Games—and Lionsgate, for seriously considering the offers.

No, they’re not kidding.

Sure, there are people defending the idea. I even get where they’re coming from. It’s what I call the Cinematic Conundrum. When you’re safe in your theater seat (or at your video console or reading your book) war can seem really cool and fun. So the notion of a theme park can also seem safe and cool and fun.

Some bring up Harry Potter World, because didn’t the Harry Potter series have a war and a lot of deaths, etc.?

Yes, it did.

Here’s the major difference, though:

The Harry Potter universe is set in a good if flawed society that the characters are trying to keep from turning into a nightmarish dystopia.

The Hunger Games universe is set in a nightmarish dystopia that the characters are trying to turn into a good if flawed society.­­

It’s just a rotten idea. Reenacting children killing children for show? Living in desperate poverty? Stuffing yourself and then throwing up at a Capitol party?

Oh, boy, let’s have some fun trying to outrun flaming tree limbs heartless gamemakers are hurling at us!

If they tone all that down—then what’s the point?

I went to Harry Potter World and thought the butterbeer was kind of disgusting, but I bet it will turn out to be ambrosia compared to Greasy Sae’s dog bone soup at Hunger Games World.

2. The Thanks For Reminding Me Why I Fell In Love With Movies Award: Alfonso Cuaron

The last few years I’ve been suffering from a massive case of blockbuster fatigue.

Don’t get me wrong. I love big movies. Have no snobbery about action movies or special effects. However, the past few years, they have become a case of too much noise and spectacle, not enough story, character and heart.

This year’s Man of Steel is a case in point. I SO wanted to love that movie. Was SO open to the idea of a darker, more mature Superman movie. Was SO psyched by the terrific actors cast in the iconic roles. And basically all I remember about it is Superman and Zod crashing through what seemed like 5,000 buildings. Even my nephew, who loves over-the-top action, muttered “Enough already!” during the building crash-fest.

Sure, when it comes to story and character, television has been filling the gap admirably. But there are certain things you can only experience in a movie theater.

So what a joy it was to experience the movie Gravity. THIS is the kind of movie that made me love movies in the first place.

Director Cuaron used 3D technology, not in a gimmicky way, but as a way to pull you into the story. The movie is probably the closest most of us will ever get to experience what it is like to be in outer space. There’s no way that can be replicated on television.

He also did something that nowadays seems almost radical—he made a movie that was only a shade over 90 minutes long and packed it with almost unbearable suspense from the first few moments until the end. I spent almost the entire movie looking like Macaulay Caulkin in Home Alone, my hands plastered to the side of my face, crying from the purely visceral experience.

I hope more filmmakers will take Cuaron’s lead and give us movies that take us places only movies can take us, while telling us heart-stopping stories about characters we care about. And cut down on pointless building-crashing stuff.

ginjosh3. The Thanks For Making Us Feel Like Fairy Tales Really Can Come True Award: Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas.

This is the absolute truth: when I was little my mom used to tell me that she and my dad used to be Snow White and Prince Charming.

When I heard Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, who play Snow White and Prince Charming on ABC’s Once Upon A Time, were getting married my first thought was, “They can tell their kids they were Snow White and Prince Charming—and it will be the TRUTH!”

Then soon after the engagement announcement came the announcement that this was going to happen a little bit faster, as Ginnifer is already expecting their first child.

Is this the biggest AWWWWWWW moment of the year, or what?

Come on, you know it is, cynics.

4. The Maybe More Bands Should Record Albums While They’re Breaking Up Award: The Civil Wars

Nothing has pleased me more than the folk revival that has been going on the last few years. I’m not really a fan of mainstream country music (once it gets twangy, it loses me) but there have been so many amazing folk bands—both in North America and the British Isles—to emerge lately that I sometimes feel like I’m behind the curve. The Civil Wars was one act that I discovered a bit late, only hearing of them because they appeared on the soundtrack for the first Hunger Games movie. I really liked their first full-length album, Barton Hollow, but nothing prepared me for the stunning beauty of their self-named follow-up album.

Sadly, the duo—Joy Williams and John Paul White—were in the midst of a bitter professional break up while the album was being recorded. It was so bad, White refused to do any publicity at all for it after it was finished.

The mystery surrounding the bust-up has fueled a ton of gossipy speculation (both are married to other people) but more likely it was the reason cited by Williams, that they have differing levels of ambition.

Personally, I couldn’t care less why they broke up. I just hope they work it out someday. It would be CRIMINAL if they never got together again to create more music. The album has so many instant classics, sung with so much truth and passion. Even their cover of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm brings something new and haunting to a song that already has a creepy yet romantic edge to it.

As one commenter on YouTube said about one of their songs: “It’s so beautiful, it hurts.”

That pretty much sums up the entire album.

adam-levine5. The I Guess They Mean The Title Ironically Now Award: People Magazine, The Sexiest Man Alive

O.K., O.K., Adam Levine fans—cool your jets. This is NOT a hit piece against your guy. He’s tres sexy. To a lot of people and to you.

To others and to me—maybe not as much. Which is O.K., because sexiness is very subjective.

That’s kind of the point. It is WAY past time for People Magazine to retire this idiotic title. It was stupid back in 1985 and it’s stupid now. Even though there have been recipients chosen who I think are very sexy. Because the only way the title makes sense is if all the predecessors are DEAD.

Change it to what it actually is: The Guy People Magazine Thinks Deserves The Most Media Attention During The Coming Year.

There, I fixed it for you, People.

(On second thought, that might not work, either, because then they would have to give it to Pope Francis. I’ll get back to you, People.)

6. The We Really Will Watch Michael Shannon Read Anything Award: Michael Shannon’s Funny or Die Sorority Rant

Last April an expletive-filled email sent by a University of Maryland student to her chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority ended up on the Gawker website and itself became a bit of an internet sensation. Then actor Michael Shannon did a dramatic reading of the letter for Funny or Die, and it’s one of the most terrifying and hilarious things, um, well—ever.

The only sad part: he’s WAY more terrifying here than he was as General Zod in Man of Steel. Maybe he should have played Zod like a pissed-off sorority sister.

7. The Books That Made Me Laugh My Ass Off More Than Sitcoms Award: Redshirts by John Scalzi and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

When John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts won the Hugo Award this year, there was a bit of a controversy because some people thought it was too lightweight. Because, you know—funny can’t be, like, IMPORTANT, and stuff.

The truth is, comedy has one and only one obligation: to be funny. And anyone who thinks that’s easy to accomplish is not bright enough to decide what should and shouldn’t get an award.

Redshirts’ premise is based on something fans of Star Trek have noticed for decades: how come all those ensigns in the red shirts on away missions always seem to end up dead? The term redshirts has become a part of the lexicon now—the show Lost made references to Star Trek and fans referred to featured characters killed off on the show as “redshirts.”

Scalzi takes that seed of an idea and extrapolates it into a hilarious novel for everyone who loves space opera, spoofing not only that one trope, but the genre as a whole. I say set your lasers on stun for those who dare to put you down for liking this book.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is the latest essay collection by David Sedaris. I love listening to the audio versions of his books and often end up laughing hysterically at his stories about his childhood growing up in a big eccentric family in the South, or living with his partner in France or England, or any number of what for most of us would be mundane experiences but are gems to be mined for humor by Sedaris.

My favorite essay in this collection by far was “The Happy Place,” his recounting of a certain invasive medical test middle-aged people are hectored by their doctors into taking—as I was this past year. This may be a bit TMI, but believe me when I tell you that Sedaris’ story helped me get over my fears of going through with it.

Now go to your happy place and enjoy this book.

Paul-Walker-fast-and-furious-68. The Pop Culture Dunce of the Year Award: Me

Yep, I win this one.

When it was announced that actor Paul Walker was killed in an automobile accident, I had no idea who he was.

Seriously.

Not a clue. Pretty embarrassing to admit when I write a blog partially devoted to popular culture. And it’s not like he was so young that he was generationally off my radar. (Heck, I knew who Corey Monteith was.)

I was completely baffled by the outpour of emotion on social media, but was really stunned when the Twitter account for The Young and the Restless posted condolences and called him part of their extended family. I’ve watched the show fairly consistently over its 40 year run and still couldn’t place him. Me, the Queen of Soap Opera Trivia, who remembers Blair Underwood played a character named Bobby Blue on One Life to Live for three weeks over twenty years ago!

Not only was Walker clearly well-loved as an actor, it sounds as if he was one hell of a great human being. I’m truly sorry I wasn’t aware of him during his lifetime.

If anyone would care to make some movie recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

9. Same as last year, I’m ending things with 2013’s version of The Sleepy Skunk’s Movie Trailer Mash-Up. Sleepy Skunk gets better and better at this each year! Enjoy!

Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards Of 2013, Part One

alexandermasterchefIt’s awards season! Time for my second annual pop culture awards!

Same as last year, these are limited to my own personal preferences (as I’m not a professional critic) are just for fun and a place for me to laud what I loved and rant about what made me mad over the past year.

As I was composing this post, I noticed it was becoming very long, and also that it was being dominated by television categories, so I decided to split it into two posts. This week I’m concentrating on television only. Next week will be Part Two of the awards, which will cover movies, books, music, and other entertainment topics.

1. The Television Episode That Kicked The Ass Of Anything In The Movies Award:

Ozymandias, Breaking Bad

The other two contenders this year, The Rains of Castamere, Game of Thrones, and Goodbye Daddy Blues, Boardwalk Empire, are also exceptional episodes (and I’ll pay tribute to them in other categories). But Ozymandias blows them away, mainly because, beat for beat, it’s about as close to perfect as an episode of television gets.

The episode is bookended (sort of) by two phone calls by Walter to his wife. The first one is a flashback to that infamous first cook in the desert from the pilot episode. It’s the first time Walter lies to Skyler about cooking meth. Standing in the desert in his tidy-whities and lying to her about where he is, the call is mostly innocuous but the beginning of a year-and-a-half pattern. Then the episode returns to the present day where the shoot-out between Walter’s white supremacist cohorts and his DEA brother-in-law Hank and his partner Gomez is taking place.

From that moment on, Ozymandias chronicles the complete collapse of Walter White’s Heisenberg persona and empire. Everything we both feared and expected—including some things we didn’t expect—happens. Hank’s death. Walter cruelly confessing to Jesse the true circumstances of Jane’s death. Jesse’s capture and enslavement by Todd into cooking meth. Walter, Jr. finally finding out the truth about his father. Skyler making a final break with Walt that devolves into shattering violence. Walt’s desperate escape with his baby daughter Holly. When the child calls for her mother (it is now part of the show’s legend that the child actress did this unscripted) Walt decides to call Skyler.

That second phone call and Walt’s intent will be debated by viewers for a long time to come. He probably knew Skyler had the FBI at the house and that they were listening in. His monomaniacal rant against Skyler could have been lifted off Breaking Bad message boards. (I’m convinced that was partially intentional; a slap at the misogynist Skyler-haters.) Was he giving her an alibi? Taunting the cops? Showing her his inner Heisenberg? Trying to justify his actions to himself? Probably a bit of all those things and much more.

There have been other great episodes of television this year—and I’m sure people can make valid arguments for their favorite choices—but Ozymandias really does stand head and shoulders above everything else. So much so that some viewers argued it should have been the last episode of the series. This isn’t just the best of this year—it’s one of the best episodes of television of any year, and we’re unlikely to see anything surpass for quite some time.

SIDE NOTE: As I was writing this up, the Writer’s Guild Awards were announced, and although Breaking Bad received four nominations, Ozymandias was NOT among the nominated episodes. Which inspired me to create a whole new category:

1a. The Writers Guild Awards Suck Award: The Writers Guild

Clearly, someone at the WGA found a stash of Walter’s meth and then forgot to nominate the best written episode of the year.

michelle-fairley2. The Emmys TOTALLY Robbed You Award: Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark, Game of Thrones

It must be tough to be on the committees that decide Emmy nominations these days. The drama categories in particular are incredibly competitive. Not only are there great dramas on the major networks and premium cable stations, you’ve got original programming coming from basic cable, foreign countries, services like Netflix and Amazon, and probably someday soon your Aunt Mabel and Uncle Fritz’s garage (no, not THAT kind of programming).

So it’s not unusual for many deserving actors to get snubbed every year. But this year, it was absolutely absurd that Michelle Fairley was not nominated for The Rains of Castamere. Especially considering that her cast-mate Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) was nominated.

This is not a slap at Natalie—she’s great. But it can’t be overstated how much was riding on Michelle’s performance in those scenes. Almost everything was done in her point of view, which meant she became the surrogate for the audience. Even more difficult to pull off considering she was playing a character most audience members disliked intensely.

She not only pulled it off, she made you feel every bit of Catelyn’s fear, desperation, anger, grief and ultimate acceptance of her fate. She is a big part of the reason viewers ended up crawling on the floor in agony.

Emmys, you messed up. Maybe Lady Stoneheart needs to pay you a visit. (She can go visit the Writers Guild while she’s at it, because The Rains of Castamere wasn’t nominated by them, either.)

3. The Best Character Send-Off Award: Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire, Farewell Daddy Blues

I wrote extensively about the episode here, so I’ll just say that Richard Harrow’s final scenes in Farewell Daddy Blues were like his face: at once horrifying and achingly beautiful. After the episode ended, I wrote on Twitter that I felt like the show had cut out my heart with a rusty spoon. Which is as it should be, because from the first moment we met him, he was a great tragic figure. They broke our hearts, but did the character justice. It’s the most we could ask for.

4. The Actor Least Likely To Be Snubbed By The Emmys Next Year Award: Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

For my money, Orphan Black is the best new show of 2013. Ever since it first aired it has continued growing its reputation. Some critics and celebrities, such as Patton Oswalt, even campaigned this year to get lead actress Tatiana Maslany an Emmy nomination. When she was not nominated for her multiple role tour-de-force performance, many people were incensed.

Unlike the case with Michelle Fairley, the snub is slightly more understandable. Orphan Black airs on BBC America, which is not a premium cable station, so it doesn’t have a behemoth like HBO behind it to toot Maslany’s horn to Emmy voters. Also, it’s not unusual for new shows and previously-unknown actors to be skipped over. (Besides, Maslany is Canadian, so, there’s THAT. Maybe if she was British…)

She’s picked up a couple of other awards since then, so it’s going to be difficult for the Emmys to ignore her next year. Even if they do, her star is definitely on the rise. We Clone Clubbers can’t wait to see what she’s going to do next, both on Orphan Black and in other projects.

thereturned5. The Americans Really Need To Get Over Their Aversion To Subtitles Award: The Returned (Les Revenants)

This French horror TV series has been running on The Sundance Channel and if you haven’t seen it, you are really missing out.

Some are calling it the “Anti-Walking Dead” but that’s not an apt comparison at all. It’s not even in the same genre. The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic story where the world as we know it has completely collapsed because of zombies. The Returned takes place in one small French town where only a handful of dead people suddenly return one day. They’re hungry all right, but they don’t want to eat people (well, except for the one guy who was a cannibalistic serial killer when he was alive) they just want to eat a lot of sandwiches. They don’t remember how they died and at first don’t even realize they’re dead. They go looking for their loved ones and try to resume the lives they were leading before they died.

Not surprisingly, their returns upset the lives of the people closest to them. One guy ties up his wife, burns down their house and jumps off a dam in response to her return from the dead. Relationships are tested, people are forced to face things about their past they thought were long buried. Others begin to wonder if they are dead, too. The creepy factor is very subtle at first, and then increases with each episode. The mystery increases as well, and you begin to wonder if this phenomenon is limited to the one town or is happening everywhere.

As good as some American scripted television dramas have been the past few years, it’s great to see something that takes a familiar genre in a different direction. It’s well worth putting up with subtitles, I promise you.

If you get The Sundance Channel on your cable or satellite service, they do marathons of previously broadcast episodes every now and then, so check your listings. If not, episodes of the show are available for download on iTunes.

6. The Sometimes It Pays To Be The Nice Guy In Reality TV Award: Luca Manfè, MasterChef; Tate Steinsiek, Face-Off; Alexander Weiss, MasterChef Junior

Reality shows have long had a reputation for showing the worst of human nature, and this year Big Brother in particular got super-ugly, with some contestants not bothering to hide their racism. Even the competition shows can get mean on occasion, with bullying and a lack of sportsmanship rearing their ugly heads more often than they should.

This year, three contestants went against the grain and proved that you can be a good person, a good sport and even a winner. Luca Manfè, who had failed to make it into a previous season of MasterChef, qualified this year and won over viewers with his sweetness and kindness. More than once when a competitor lacked a critical ingredient—including in the finale—he shared it with them. And he still won the title.

Tate Steinsiek didn’t win this season of Face-Off, he came in second, but not because he was a nice guy. He was defeated only because winner Laura Tyler was a little bit better in the final challenge. But several times over the season he took time to help his competitors out of difficulties—something other competitors criticized him for. He refused to listen to them and he still made it into the finale. I think Laura more than deserved her win, but wish Tate could have won something, too.

Most impressive of all was 13 year old Alexander Weiss, who competed in the first MasterChef Junior season. All the kids who competed – aged 8 to 13 years old – were amazing, not only for their astonishing skills in the kitchen (judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich spent most of the season looking like someone hit them on the side of their heads with a pasta machine) but for their exceptional attitudes and good natures. This is especially remarkable when you consider that they did many challenges that were identical to those done in the adult version of MasterChef.

During the finale, Alexander’s competitor Dara Yu began hyperventilating. Alexander stopped cooking, went over to her and rubbed her back to help calm her down. He waited with her while she drank water (he drank some, too) and didn’t start cooking again until she was ready to cook.

I tear up just thinking about it. Alexander won his title and a place in the hearts of the viewers. When I hear people bemoan the state of the world and kids today, I think about those kids on MasterChef Junior. Maybe the future won’t be quite as bleak as we fear.

sharknado27. The Most Unabashedly Entertaining Two Hours Of 2013 Award: Live-tweeting Sharknado

Listen, Judgy Judgersons, before you get all JUDGY:

I know, I know, here I am scolding people for not wanting to watch shows with subtitles. And, YES, when I accidentally bumped into the initial broadcast of Sharknado on Syfy while channel surfing, I was all like, WTF, just like everybody else. And, WHAT is going on with Syfy, has it become the receptacle for space refuse? And, maybe I should sit down and write a 90 page piece of garbage script and submit it to them, because, clearly, they will put anything wrapped around a rock and thrown through their window into production.

Then I went on Twitter and checked out the #Sharknado hashtag.

And I couldn’t stop laughing.

I mean, deep, deep belly laughs.

I wanted in on that.

So when the movie was rebroadcast, I was ready at the computer.

Oh, man, I was on FIRE. My wit was rarely this razor sharp. I was getting a lot of favorites and retweets for my caustic commentary on all the Sharknado doings.

Then a REALLY funny thing happened.

I “got” Sharknado.

No, there’s nothing deep about the movie. But on the other hand, no one made it thinking it was really possible that sharks could be sucked up from the ocean by tornados and attack people on dry land.

What we were watching was a parody of Speilberg’s Jaws. My favorite ding was the one against Quint’s famous U.S.S. Indianapolis monologue (the heroine hates sharks because they killed her parents, of course).

I always appreciate balls to the wall storytelling, even when it’s to the point of nonsensical ridiculousness. At least this is someone going for it, rather than shooting for the middle with stale mediocrity. I’ll take bad over that any day, even when it’s totally, completely, someone-get-the-net insane.

Imagine the writer’s room conversation for the most notorious scene in the movie:

“Hey, how about we do THIS: let’s have the hero deliberately jump INTO one of the sharks!”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s good, but check this out: how about if he has a CHAINSAW when he does it?”

“YEAH! And while he’s INSIDE THE SHARK, HE CHAINSAWS HIS WAY OUT!”

“That would be super-awesome! Hey, I’ve got an even better idea!”

“Yeah?”

“When he chainsaws his way out, the chick who fell into a shark from a helicopter happens to be IN THAT SAME SHARK and he rescues her!”

“That’s totally sick! Let’s do that!”

Let’s be honest. Is that scene THAT much more absurd than Brody blowing up the shark and Hooper popping up alive at the end of Jaws?

Well played, Sharknado-writers.

Pop Culture Roundup September 2013

sleepyhollow1. New hits are already emerging from the Fall TV season. Sleepy Hollow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Blacklist and The Crazy Ones were the first of the new series to break from the pack. Sleepy Hollow has already been renewed for a second season and The Blacklist has a full season order. And several shows haven’t even premiered yet!

2. Harry Potter is back! Without Harry Potter! It was announced that JK Rowling is writing a series of screenplay adaptations of her Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It will return to the Harry Potter universe, reportedly 70 years before the action of the original books. Nice to see my Twitter feed light up with JOY instead of ire for a change.

3. #DiversityInSFF Twitter hashtag takes off. Author Jim C. Hines started a Twitter hashtag to discuss diversity in science fiction and fantasy. Subjects as, well, diverse as panel parity and accessibility issues at conventions, creating believable alien cultures in science fiction, racial and gender stereotyping, fantasy books not based on European culture and history, and book recommendations are only a small sampling of what was covered. The conversation was fascinating and caught the attention of some news outlets, including The Nation and the U.K.’s The Guardian. Because of the Twitter discussion, Tor Publications updated their guidelines to emphasize they are interested in submissions with more diversity. The hashtag is still in use, do go check it out (and contribute!), as well as #DiversityInYA, which discusses diversity in young adult fiction.

mahershalali4. Speaking of diversity in young adult fiction: hooray for those making the casting decisions for the final two Hunger Games movies, Mockingjay 1 & 2! It is shaping up to be an even more diverse cast than the books. Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, The 4400) was cast as fan-favorite Boggs, and Patina Miller as Commander Payler. Boggs casting was the subject of MUCH fan speculation and several African American and Latino actors were suggested, including Terrence Howard and Esai Morales. Although Ali wasn’t on most fans’ radars, many welcomed the choice. When the fantabulous Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) was cast as Commander Lyme, many speculated they would combine her character with that of Commander Payler. Instead they cast relative unknown Miller. Along with the news that Julianne Moore was cast as President Coin, it made September a great month for the fandom.

5. Um, except for the crappy stunt E! News pulled on us. The E! Network announced on Twitter they would be showing NEW footage from Catching Fire that night. And . . . they lied. They forced Hunger Games fans to sit through 1 ½ hours of Kardashian, Miley Cyrus and Fashion Week news as it slowly dawned on us that all they had was an old interview of Sam Claflin everyone had already seen on the internet. Hey, news outlets: don’t piss off fandoms. Let’s just say if they ever institute giving cable and satellite subscribers a choice of channels, E! is the first one Hunger Games fans will drop.

breakingbadfinale6. The finale of Breaking Bad broke records. I will write a separate post about my thoughts on the final season of Breaking Bad, but the ratings for the finale are notable because they increased over 400% from the finale of Season 4. It was over 10 million viewers compared to 1.9 million. That’s freakin’ AMAZING. And it was due almost entirely to people getting up to speed with Netflix binge-watching. Emphasizing how we watch television is undergoing a significant revolution and will probably impact network decisions on how long to give a series a chance to find its audience.

7. Dear Food Network: maybe Cupcake Wars has seen its best days. I like the show, it’s a fun competition, with four teams of cupcake bakers vying to serve their product at an important media event. However, this season has seen so many repeat contestants from the past it’s starting to look slightly hilarious. One team of bakers was on for the FOURTH time (and, surprise!—they lost AGAIN). Obviously, there’s a finite number of cupcake bakers in this land. Time for Pie Wars, maybe?

8. The Emmy Awards really dropped the ball on their memorial tributes. Yes, I know—it’s not possible to give a special tribute to ALL who passed away over the past year. But it was stunning that they left out a special tribute to Larry Hagman, who played one of the most iconic characters on television, J.R. Ewing. They didn’t even have the excuse that a new generation was unaware of him, since the Dallas reboot is recent, ongoing, and successful. There was also complaining over the omission of Jack Klugman. Some were also incensed that Cory Monteith was included, considering he was so young and died from a drug overdose. It’s a difficult call, no question, but if you’re going to do it, find a way to do it right.

gravity-sandra-bullock9. The Toronto Film Festival debuted several supposed Oscar contenders—and some actually sound like they are amazing. In fact, I saw one today—Gravity—and it IS amazing, on every level. (See it and see it in 3D—yes, it’s worth it and no, the 3D is not a gimmick.) Others possible Best Picture contenders are 12 Years a Slave, August: Osage County, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Dallas Buyers Club. There’s buzz that James Gandolfini may be nominated posthumously for Enough Said, and that the Best Actor category may have more African-American actors in contention than any other year in Oscar history. Best Actress is also shaping up to be an incredibly competitive category, with Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench (for Philomena) looking like shoe-ins. This may be one year “Oscar-bait” movies turn out to be just plain “must-see” movies.

10. Technically, this is October news, but I feel the need to acknowledge the passing of author Tom Clancy. Espionage thrillers are not my personal cup of tea, but there’s no question Tom Clancy left a huge impact on both the publishing and movie worlds. (I actually quite like the movie version of The Hunt for Red October.) For writers, he’s a huge inspiration because he was rejected 50 times before the Navy published his first book. A sad loss, and one that happened much too soon.

The Best Shows Left Off The WGA 101 Best-Written TV Series List

?????????????????????????????????????????????The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has revealed their list of the 101 best-written television series.

First, let me say that in general, I’m not fond of lists. Rankings and what gets included can seem very arbitrary, and certain things like “recency-bias” (bias in favor of recently-made shows) and personal preference can skew the results.

That said: it’s a pretty good list.

Here it is:

1. “The Sopranos”
2. “Seinfeld”
3. “The Twilight Zone” (1959)
4. “All in the Family”
5. “M*A*S*H”
6. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7. “Mad Men”
8. “Cheers”
9. “The Wire”
10. “The West Wing”
11. “The Simpsons”
12. “I Love Lucy”
13. “Breaking Bad”
14. “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
15. “Hill Street Blues”
16. “Arrested Development
17. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
18. “Six Feet Under”
19. “Taxi”
20. “The Larry Sanders Show”
21. “30 Rock”
22. “Friday Night Lights”
23. “Frasier”
24. “Friends”
25. “Saturday Night Live”
26. “The X-Files”
27. “Lost”
28. “ER”
29. “The Cosby Show”
30. “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
31. “The Honeymooners”
32. “Deadwood”
33. “Star Trek”
34. “Modern Family”
35. “Twin Peaks”
36. “NYPD Blue”
37. “The Carol Burnett Show”
38. “Battlestar Galactica” (2005)
39. “Sex & The City”
40. “Game of Thrones”
41. (tie) “The Bob Newhart Show”; “Your Show of Shows”
43. (tie) “Downton Abbey“; “Law & Order”; “Thirtysomething”
46. (tie) “Homicide: Life on the Street”; “St. Elsewhere”
48. “Homeland”
49. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
50. (tie) “The Colbert Report”; “The Good Wife”; “The Office” (UK)
53. “Northern Exposure”
54. “The Wonder Years”
55. “L.A. Law”
56. “Sesame Street”
57. “Columbo”
58. (tie) “Fawlty Towers”; “The Rockford Files”
60. (tie) “Freaks and Geeks”; “Moonlighting”
62. “Roots”
63. (tie) “Everybody Loves Raymond”; “South Park”
65. “Playhouse 90”
66. (tie) “Dexter”; “The Office” (US)
68. “My So-Called Life”
69. “Golden Girls”
70. “The Andy Griffith Show”
71. (tie) “24”; “Roseanne”; “The Shield”
74. (tie) “House”; “Murphy Brown”
76. (tie) “Barney Miller”; “I, Claudius”
78. “The Odd Couple”
79. (tie) “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”; “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”; “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; “Upstairs, Downstairs”
83. “Get Smart”
84. (tie) “The Defenders”; “Gunsmoke”
86. (tie) “Justified”; “Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show)”
88. “Band of Brothers”
89. “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”
90. “The Prisoner”
91. (tie) “Absolutely Fabulous” (UK); “The Muppet Show”
93. “Boardwalk Empire”
94. “Will & Grace”
95. “Family Ties”
96. (tie) “Lonesome Dove”; “Soap”
98. (tie) “The Fugitive”; “Late Night with David Letterman”; “Louie”
101. “Oz”

My one major quibble?

The high ranking for Downton Abbey over several far superior British shows. This is the most blatant example of recency-bias. Downton Abbey is an entertaining show, but is it particularly WELL-WRITTEN?  Especially compared to I, Claudius or Fawlty Towers?

I don’t think so, but that may be an example of my own personal bias.

Still, like I said, it’s a pretty good list.

Oh, there are a few shows included that I never saw what everyone else saw in them. But I’m thrilled to see recognition for Soap and The Odd Couple, two of my all-time favorite sitcoms.

Of course, there’s always going to be something that seems unfairly left out of these types of lists. Here are a few that I feel deserve at least an honorable mention:

1. WKRP In Cincinatti: this omission is the biggest shock. WKRP belongs right up there with the best of the best work-place comedies, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi. The writing was phenomenal. It brought together a brilliant mish-mash of characters and made them a cohesive ensemble. It has one of the classic holiday-themed sitcom episodes of all time, Turkeys Away. It totally deserves to be in the top 101.

2. The Practice or Boston Legal: this is another shock—L.A. Law was the only David E. Kelley show (and he didn’t even create it, he was only the showrunner) to make it into the list. Some might vote for Ally McBeal, but in my opinion, these two were his finest legal shows, and at least one of them should have been included. Kelley created some indelible (as well as problematic) characters, and his shows grappled with many cutting-edge issues.

3. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show: when I was a kid, they used to show Rocky and Bullwinkle on Saturday morning because it was an animated show. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really got the humor. In fact, it was a brilliant satire of the Cold War era. It also had other ingenious segments like Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody’s Improbable History (about a talking dog and his “pet boy” Sherman traveling through time) and, of course, Dudley Do-Right. Current animated shows like The Simpsons owe a lot to Rocky and Bullwinkle, and it should be on the list.

4. The Monkees: this show may seem to belong entirely to its own time, but when MTV reran it in 1986 it still held up and I think it would today, too. The show was almost experimental, influenced by the “new wave” of foreign films during the 1960s. There were a lot of complaints at the time that it was just piggy-backing on the massive popularity of The Beatles (it was) but it introduced entirely new storytelling techniques to the sitcom genre. And the music still holds up pretty well, too!

5. Brideshead Revisited:  Adapted from Evelyn Waugh’s novel, and starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews, it chronicles the friendship of middle-class Charles Ryder and his aristocratic friend Sebastian Flyte during the period between the two world wars. Charles becomes fascinated not only by Sebastian, but by the entire Flyte family, who also happen to be Catholic. Yeah, they’re a bunch of snot-heads and their attitude towards anyone not like them is kind of abominable, but it’s O.K. because they suffer a lot. In spite of that last assessment, it’s actually far less soapy than Downton Abbey, and based on the quality of the writing is far more deserving of a spot on the list.

6. Ballykissangel: so you think the ninth episode of each season of Game of Thrones is brutal? Watch Season 1 of Ballykissangel, a dramedy set in a small Irish town. While it’s utterly charming and often very funny (and speaking of Game of Thrones, Lena Heady guest-stars in one  episode) it could also gut-punch you with unexpected tragedy. Oh, and this has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, but a very young Colin Farrell was a regular during one of the later seasons. So there’s THAT.

7. Kids In The Hall: This Canadian sketch show ran from 1988 – 1994  and starred young up-and-coming comics (including Dave Foley of NewsRadio—another great work-place comedy). It holds up next to SCTV and Saturday Night Live, in fact, I think it was far more consistent than the latter. It featured one of my all-time favorite skits, “Girl Drink Drunk,” about a guy who becomes addicted to “girl drinks” and ends up blending pina coladas in the supply room at work.

Were any of your favorites left off the list? Are there some on the list that you don’t feel belong on it? Let us know in the comments section!

Oscars, I Can’t Quit You

Oscar-2013Another year, another Oscars show. (Did you notice we’re not calling it “The Academy Awards” anymore?  I think probably because some focus group told them it made the show sound like it’s for old people.)

Yay for Argo—I watched the movie for the first time just before the Oscars aired and LOVED it. Of course, this made me even madder that Ben Affleck was snubbed in the directing category. I was also thrilled to see Jennifer Lawrence win, even though I am no fan of The Silver Linings Playbook.

But, boy, did we all have to slog through a lot of tedious crap to get to most of the good stuff.

Clearly, the choice of Seth MacFarlane as host was yet another attempt to capture a younger demographic. But as with other hosts culled from the supposedly cooler strata of pop culture—i.e, Dave Letterman, Jon Stewart, Anne Hathaway and James Franco (?), the show has a way of sucking the coolness right out of them.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon, really.

I enjoy MacFarlane a great deal in other contexts. But in the context of the Oscars, he deflated. I’m not even going to get into the supposed offensiveness of the jokes he told, because, come on, you had to know going in that those were the kind of jokes he was going to tell. But funny or not, offensive or not, many of them just kind of . . . died. The opening did have its moments—I loved the sock puppets—but mostly the jokes were sort of meh.

I think context is the key. When you stick a youngish, edgy host in the middle of an old, stodgy format that had hair growing on it back in the 1960s, it’s not going to do much besides emphasize the weaknesses of both the host and the format.

I stayed and watched to the bitter end, as hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide did.

That’s the real problem with the Oscars. Though they lust after younger demos, they know they have a ginormous audience that will sit through every tedious monologue, every absurd dance number, every lame bantering joke by presenters, every boring speech by technicians nobody ever heard of. (They did try to curtail this by playing the theme from Jaws whenever anyone went over time—which seemed a tad boorish, putting the audience on the side of the boring speechmakers for a change.)

We keep watching because we want to know who won. (Admit it, we also want to be there in case someone falls down on the way to the podium. This happened this year to Jennifer Lawrence, who recovered from her stumble with remarkable grace and humor.) So they know we just can’t quit the Oscars. This gives them absolutely no incentive to fundamentally change.

Let’s say they were open to change. Let’s say they might ask me for advice. (Stop laughing.) Here are a few thoughts on how they could vastly improve the Oscars telecast:

1.  Broadcast it from New York City. I know what you’re thinking: how could Hollywood have their biggest night of the year anywhere but Hollywood? But there’s a method to my madness. I guarantee you a big reason why the show rambles on for close to four hours every year is because they’re on West Coast time. This means they get out of there at 9:30 PM, which is still kind of early to start the partying. While those of us on the East Coast have to limp into bed at 12:30 AM or later with our alarm clocks set for 5:30 AM to get to work the next day.

It doesn’t have to be from New York. Anywhere on the East Coast would work. I’ll bet anything they would find a way to get out of there in less than three hours so they would have enough time to hit all the after-parties.

2. GET RID OF THE FRICKIN’ SONG AND DANCE NUMBERS! Yes, I AGREE—the performances this year by Shirley Bassey, Jennifer Hudson, the casts of Chicago and Les Miserables, Barbra Streisand and Adele were all phenomenal. But they were a big reason the show went on and on and on . . . this isn’t the Grammys or the Tonys. (Both of those shows still manage to move faster than the Oscars.)  Worse, because they spent so much time with OTHER musical numbers, two of the nominated songs didn’t get a live performance.

Did you notice they cut the Honorary Oscars segment? And yet the show still ran way too long. It’s the song and dance numbers that are to blame. And also . . .

3. GET RID OF THE FRICKIN’ TRIBUTE VIDEOS . . . except for the in memoriam tribute.  Besides the memorial for those who died over the past year the tributes generally stink. The tribute to James Bond movies was a case in point, except for the aforementioned performance by Bassey. Not ONE line of dialogue? Really?

I love classic movies and can understand wanting to give a young audience some exposure to them. But the tributes take up a lot of time and they are almost always poorly done. Get rid of them.

4. Move some of the smaller awards to a different ceremony. I know the sound technicians and filmmakers of short films will hate me for saying this, but besides their family members and those who have entered an Oscar pool, no one cares. These are the people who are also most likely to go over time giving thank you speeches to everyone they ever met, starting with the doctor who delivered them.

5. The fewer presenters per award, the better. Having more presenters means more asinine banter. The Avengers and the Chicago cast were a bit painful to watch. I get that they have to cram in as many stars as they can over the evening, but keep it down to two per award. One is even better.

(BTW, isn’t Scarlett Johansson one of the Avengers? Please tell me she was left out because she was engaged elsewhere, and not because she’s, um, a girl.)

6. Hollywood, make more great movies that appeal to wider audiences. You can do it, Hollywood. You used to on a regular basis. Remember, Star Wars, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark all were nominated for Best Picture. Even with nine Best Picture nominations, many people under the age of 50 hadn’t seen most of them—some hadn’t even see any of them. Popular movies with major nominations mean a bigger and younger viewing audience.

7. Seriously, make better movies.

The Oscar Nominations – Snubs & Flubs

ben-affleck-argo-director-600x400Sometimes, the Oscar nominations depress me. Well, it’s not just Oscar nominations, but the state of the movie industry in general, which I addressed in a recent post. And what better reflection of this state than the Oscars nominations, which were announced this morning?

Don’t get me wrong–a lot of fine films, filmmakers, actors and technicians were nominated. But certain things made me want to scream. (Which I almost did in my cubicle at work as I watched the nominations streaming on my phone.)

First, the snubs:

Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck: The way the nominations are set up now, snubs in the directing category are a yearly event because there are more Best Picture nominations (up to ten) than Best Director nominations (only five), but I can’t recall two more absurd snubs.

Kathryn Bigelow directed Zero Dark Thirty and was the first woman to ever win Best Director (for The Hurt Locker). Either the academy feels like they gave her one so she’s done, or some of the political fall-out concerning the film impacted her negatively. However, the political issue didn’t prevent the film from being nominated in several other categories.

It would be tempting to blame the fact that Affleck is an actor for his snub, except that many actors have not only been nominated, but won in the Best Director category in the past, including Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson.

What gives, Hollywood? Affleck has directed other films that were also received positively by the critics (Gone Baby Gone and The Town) and he’s already an Oscar winner as a screenwriter (for Good Will Hunting). It can’t be that you still haven’t forgiven him for Gigli, can it?

I don’t begrudge the lesser-known directors their nods (Michael Haneke for Amour and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild). In my opinion, they should also expand the directing category to up to 10 nominations. It’s hard to make the argument that a movie is among the best of the year if the director does not also get recognition for his or her work. (Same goes for the writers.)

Other snubs that bug me:

How come Leonardo DiCaprio is a shoe-in for a nomination every time he makes a stuffy biopic, but he gets snubbed for a deliciously villainous role like the one he played in Django Unchained?

Was hoping John Hawkes would grab a nod for The Sessions. Have adored John since he played Sol Starr in the HBO show Deadwood. He’s one of the best character actors in Hollywood right now. I hope he gets recognition for that soon.

Cloud Atlas. Yes, I know it had zero chance for a major nomination, but it was absolutely robbed by being shut out of the technical awards, especially make-up and special effects.

Same for The Hunger Games–zero chance for a major nomination, and while the special effects were disappointing (they didn’t budget enough for them) it certainly deserved one for Ve Neill’s fantastic make-up, including the now-iconic beard she created for the character of Seneca Crane.

Nominations that made me go, wha—?

So many for The Silver Linings Playbook. I recently wrote a review about why I didn’t like it. However, the acting WAS uniformly terrific, and I kind of love that little-known Australian actress Jacki Weaver was nominated.

If Bigelow and Affleck hadn’t been snubbed, I might have been able to bear that David O. Russell got a nod, even though the direction was just O.K.

Here’s my big problem with all the nominations it received: it has the Weinstein Oscar machine behind it, which means it may waltz away with a Best Picture win, whether it truly deserves it or not. The Weinstein Company has managed to score a lot of Best Picture wins for their films, including Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and The Artist. I wish the Academy could find a way to rein in the Weinsteins, because though I love many of their movies, their Oscar campaigns often result in better films losing out.

Not to pick on little kids, but I kind of wish Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) had not been nominated. When I was ten years old I thought it was awesome that Tatum O’Neal won for Paper Moon, but now I don’t like it when kids that young get nominated. It’s tough enough for adults to handle all the Oscar media madness.

Don’t get the Best Picture nomination for Les Miserables, considering it did not receive directing or writing nods. How can it be a best picture if the director and screenwriters are not among the best in their categories?

So what did I like?

The acting nods all seem deserved.

It will be fun to see if Joaquin Phoenix shows up the night of the awards, after bad-mouthing them.

Seth McFarlane and Emma Stone’s announcement of the nominations was great–they were both funny and breathed a little life into a usually staid occasion. It bodes well for the Oscar telecast, which may actually be watchable this year.

It’s nice that several movies nominated were movies people actually went to see. Or movies people have at least heard of. That’s a small step in the right direction.

Debbie’s Totally Random And Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards Of 2012

lilyrabeIt’s that time of year, folks–AWARDS! BEST LISTS! WORST LISTS!

Everybody’s doing it. I thought I would get in on the act, too.

Here’s the thing, though: I haven’t seen every movie, TV show, read every book, listened to every album, or even followed the gossip about every celebrity. I’m also not fond of “best” and “worst” lists on principle, because very few critics, professional or amateur, seem to use objective criteria when assembling their lists.

So I’m making up my own categories, to recognize what enthralled me and what repelled me in pop culture this past year:

1. The Most Inexplicable Choice For Worst Movie Award: Mary Pols, Time Magazine, for choosing Cloud Atlas as worst movie of 2012.

First of all, let me just say that I can understand someone not liking the movie Cloud Atlas. Followers of this blog know that I adored the movie, but I can totally see how it would not be everyone’s cup of tea. That is not my gripe.

But WORST movie of the year?

By what criteria?

The acting was phenomenal. The direction and cinematography were stunning. It was a faithful adaptation of an award-winning book. It has its flaws, sure, but, if nothing else, at least it TRIED to be something more than most blockbuster movies and do something other than a reboot or continuation of a previous movie.

In spite of Ms. Pols’ explanation for why she didn’t like the movie (it sounds like it merely wasn’t her cup of tea) I suspect she thought Cloud Atlas was easy pickings because it did so poorly at the box office. She picked John Carter as second worst movie, and it also made a poor showing at the box office.

Well, I watched some of John Carter on cable the other day, and while I wouldn’t say it’s a good movie, it’s also not the worst I’ve ever seen.

Box office is not an indicator of quality or lack of quality of a film. Many movies that did disappointing business in their initial theatrical release–and these include classics such as The Wizard of Oz and It’s A Wonderful Life, as well as more recent films like The Shawshank Redemption and Blade Runner–often find their audiences in their afterlife on DVD, cable and so on.

Something I’m quite confident will happen eventually with Cloud Atlas.

2. The Television Episode That Kicked The Ass Of Anything In Movies Award:

Three-way tie:

Dead Freight, Breaking Bad – in this taught and unbearably suspenseful episode, an entire shipment of methylamine is drained and stolen from a freight tank on a train by protagonist Walter White and his henchmen Jesse, Mike and Todd. The daring robbery is executed successfully, but not without a few hitches–and one tragic outcome. When you watch this you will bite off every bit of every nail on both your hands, it’s that tense.

Blackwater, Game Of Thrones – the producers of Game Of Thrones fought for more blackwatermoney from HBO so they could do justice to one of the biggest battle scenes in the books, and they got it. Every penny showed on screen. Up to then, they managed to get away with merely suggesting the carnage. Here, they showed it all, and cleverly intercut the battle scenes with those of the women barricaded in the royal keep, waiting to find out if they would become the spoils of war. It is not hyperbole to say this set a whole new standard for what is possible with the medium of television.

Margate Sands, Boardwalk Empire – there had been some complaining by fans early on during Season 3 that the show was moving too slowly. There was a method to the creators’ madness, as they built up to a stunning bloodbath in the finale. The central moment–Richard Harrow storming a whorehouse alone to rescue the young son of his late friends Jimmy and Angela–is a tour de force by actor Jack Huston and director Timothy Van Patten. Most who doubted they could come back after killing off one of their most popular characters last season became a believer at that moment.

3. The I Love Your New Album But Get Rid Of The Banjo Award: Mumford & Sons.

I love, love, love Mumford & Sons’ new album Babel, but, dudes, what’s with the banjo? It’s fine to have a signature sound, but you’re overdoing it. So much so that you were nominated for the Best AMERICANA Album Grammy when you’re a BRITISH band.

A little less banjo, a little more cowbell next time, please.

4. The Why Do Little Girls Aspire To Be Princesses, Anyway? Award: Kate Middleton.

For getting the media to stop obsessing over her boobs by forcing them to start obsessing over her uterus instead.

5. The Watch Out Jessica Lange, Another Actress is Nipping At Your Heels Award: Lily Rabe, American Horror Story: Asylum

This season of American Horror Story has been literally an insane ride, with the show riffing on pretty much every horror trope you can think of. Jessica Lange returned to play the lead, Sister Jude, a nun who runs the asylum Briarcliff with an iron fist. With each episode, the seemingly minor and mild character of Sister Mary Eunice, played by Rabe, has been increasingly upstaging the always fabulous Lange. But possession by the devil will do that for a girl.

6. The Why Won’t They Just Go Away? Award: The Kardashians.

‘Nuff said.

7. The OMG, They Might Actually Go Away Now Award: The cast of Jersey Shore.

8. The Best Pilot Of A TV Show That Had No Chance Of Becoming A Long-Running Series Award: Last Resort.

The pilot for Last Resort was truly amazing, as the captain of a nuclear submarine questions an order to fire and ends up commandeering the sub, making himself and his crew enemies of the United States. Here’s the problem: the creators didn’t seem to realize this premise would have made a good movie, but had almost nowhere to go as a TV series. Not surprisingly, it was quickly cancelled.

9. The How Could You Abandon The Fandom You Served So Well? Award: Gary Ross, director of The Hunger Games.

I’m sure Francis Lawrence is acquitting himself well as director of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but how could you leave us, Gary? You could have found a way to make it work! We feel so, so — DUMPED.

Sob.

10. The Popular Author Who Keeps Writing The Same Book Over And Over Award: John Grisham, for The Racketeer.

Dear John:

It’s cool that you chose to write a book with an African American character as the protagonist, but did you really think that would fool anyone into not realizing you’ve written this same story several times already?

Ditch this plot once and for all. Please.

Love,

Your Fans

11. My Favorite Teaser Trailer, Ever Award: Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Check it out for yourself:

12: My Least Favorite Teaser Trailer, Ever Award: Man Of Steel.

Come on, it looks like a cheap book trailer. For a self-published book.

13. My Favorite Movie Trailer Mash-Up That Makes Me Wish I’d Seen More Movies This Year Award: By Sleepy Skunk

Enjoy: