Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – 15 Oct 2017

Darkest Hour
The Greatest Showman
Last Flag Flying
Murder on the Orient Express
Phantom Thread
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Falling off: Detroit; Downsizing; Goodbye, Christopher Robin
Rising star: Call Me by Your Name

The skinny: With Toronto and Telluride out of the way, the murky picture looks a little bit clearer. It’s hard to no for sure when old-school crowd-pleasers like The Greatest Showman and Murder on the Orient Express might not be deemed worthy and two of the most anticipated films (Phantom Thread and The Post) aren’t done yet and don’t even have a trailer. And then there’s the curious case of Call Me by Your Name. Early buzz pegged it as dominant in most categories, but it’s gotten a somewhat muted reception, especially by gay critics, some of whom view this very sensual story as too tame.

Joe Wright, Darkest Hour
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Steven Spielberg, The Post
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Falling off: Kathryn Bigelow, Alexander Payne
Rising star: Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049

The skinny: With Three Billboards taking the People’s Choice Award at Toronto (often a key indicator of Best Picture nominees and winners), it’s likely to become a more significant player (especially if it picks up some critics’ groups awards). And if they hold up, I’m still betting on Joe Wright and Christopher Nolan to finally get directing nods. Denis Villeneuve has been ascendant for several years, but he’s only getting in if Blade Runner 2049 is also a Best Picture nominee, which is a big ask.

Chadwick Boseman, Marshall
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Falling off: Denzel Washington
Rising star: James Franco, The Disaster Artist

The skinny: Muted reception for Roman J. Israel, Esq. means Denzel’s out (for now). But Marshall‘s launch has been odd to say the least, so Chadwick Bozeman is in the most danger of losing his spot. Does that mean they’d opt for something super-weird, like James Franco’s portrayal of Tommy Wiseau? Probably not, but he is a former nominee and host (which we don’t talk about).

Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul
Nicole Kidman, The Beguiled
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Meryl Streep, The Post

Falling off: Rooney Mara
Rising star: Annette Bening, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

The skinny: Mary Magdalene has been sent off to 2018, so Judi Dench is now definitely getting nominated for Victoria and Abdul, which has been the sleeper hit of the fall. If Annette Bening couldn’t get nominated for her stellar work in 20th Century Women last year (which managed an Original Screenplay nod), I don’t know how she can do it as the film’s only big aspect, but she’s consistently great, so if Academy voters forget about The Beguiled above the line, she’s got a shot.

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What I Watched This Week: 8 Oct 2017

The Simpsons – “Springfield Splendor” (B+)
A truly delightful episode, as Lisa’s art therapy becomes a best-selling graphic novel and then a truly disastrous musical. There’s plenty of great gags about amateur psychiatry, comic book fandom and overblown Broadway productions. But more importantly, it’s sweet and gives Marge a chance to shine. “You could say it’s writ Marge!” “Yeah, but you shouldn’t.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm – “The Pickle Gambit” (B+)
Another ep that’s longer than a half-hour, but earns its runtime. Larry inadvertently injures Funkhauser’s nephew, gets kicked out of a hotel by Jim Rash and offends the consul of Iran. Pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay good.

The Mindy Project – “Jeremy and Anna’s Meryl Streep Costume Party” (B+)
An episode greater than the sum of its parts. The centerpiece party is among the best things the show has ever done. And though I’m a little skeptical of Jody having a Grinch’s-heart-growing-three-sizes-and-breaking-the-heart-measuring-device moment by giving women without insurance free healthcare, his banter with Morgan was priceless. And Beth Grant’s good enough to pull off a sub-plot about an abandoned kid, even if Mindy lusting after him doesn’t quite work.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Kicks” (B+)
A sharp reset episode that has everything you could want: Jake and Boyle solving a case, Holt being both supportive and stoic, and Rosa and Adrien being gross. Though I’m curious if their break-up is actually good for the show, or just means that Jason Mantzoukas is busy.

This Is Us – “Déjà Vu” (B-)
Some strong scenes, but I worry about what this means for the direction of the show. Telegraphing the weakest character’s (and weakest actor’s) upcoming painkiller addiction is certainly timely, but I don’t think they’re up to the task. And the Pearsons fostering could be good for commenting on privileged kids, but will probably just serve for lots of scenes of their foster daughter throwing things and then crying while a parent hugs them. This show could easily be stretched to the limits and start to fray, so I hope they can rise to the challenge their making for themselves.

Good Behavior (Season 1) – “So You’re Not an English Teacher” (A-)
An outstanding pilot, though I’m very curious how they’ll sustain this week-to-week. It will almost certainly be a con-of-the-week/hit-of-the-week set-up, which means the intensity probably won’t be as strong. But the acting and cinematography are likely good enough to keep me interested.

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What I Watched This Week: 1 Oct 2017

Curb Your Enthusiasm – “Foisted!” (B+) / season premiere
Could have been a little tighter, but don’t listen to the haters, because it doesn’t feel like Curb has lost a step.

The Mindy Project – “Leo’s Girlfriend” (B+)
Julie Bowen is perfect as the showy, condescending, over-involved school mom. Chris Messina re-integrates into the cast perfectly. All that was expected, but I was not expecting the twist of Morgan being the father of Tamra’s baby. I was not expecting to be emotionally involved in either of those characters at all.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Big House, Part 2” (A-)
Not quite as gut-busting as the premiere, but still frequently hilarious thanks to Tim Meadows’ scene-stealing work. It also sets up a potential season-long corruption arc for Captain Holt, which should let him flex his Emmy-winning dramatic chops again.

This Is Us – “A Manny-Splendored Thing” (B+)
A consistent episode that shows just how important it is to have just one other person to put their hands on your face and tell you, “It’s OK. We’re going to get through this.”

The Good Place – “Team Cockroach” (A-)
Confines most of the action to Eleanor’s house, but explores the nature of the characters, the office politics of the Bad Place and exposes Michael’s vulnerability. Plus, some more solid Florida jokes.

The Good Place – “Dance Dance Resolution” (A)
A sharp, smartly constructed episode that upends everything yet again.

Boy Meets World (Season 5) – “And Then There Was Shawn” (A)
Ah, the ’90s, when a show could air its Halloween episode right after Valentine’s Day instead of October, reference Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and South Park, and also be somewhat moving and scary, but still be funny after all these years.

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Netflix Picks: October 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – 10/13
I’ll trash Greenberg till the day I die, but Noah Baumbach has been on an upswing lately with Frances Ha, While We’re Young and Mistress America. And maybe, just maybe, this will be the challenging project that will get Adam Sandler back to the types of roles that require more of him than just showing up at some vacation destination and making fart jokes. Even if it’s not, this dramedy has a hell of a cast, including Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson high as a kite.

Stranger Things (Season 2) – 10/27
*looks side to side, motions you to come closer, whispers*
This is better than the movie It, even though it was clearly influenced by the book. Season 2 hopefully is even more thematically rich, fitfully scary and downright awesome than the first season.

Patton Oswalt: Annihilation – 10/17
Patton can do no wrong. His comedy is always brilliant and insightful. This episode should be even more resonant since it’s the first one he wrote since the death of his beloved wife.

Rodney Carrington: Here Comes the Truth – 10/3
ID-0 (Season 1) – 10/6
Skylanders Academy (Season 2) – 10/6
Suburra (Season 1) – 10/6
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson – 10/6
Word Party (Season 3) – 10/6
Christina P: Mother Inferior – 10/10
Fe De Eterras – 10/12
El Especial de Alex Fernández, el Especial – 10/13
Kingdom of Us – 10/13
Mindhunter (Season 1) – 10/13
Super Monsters (Season 1) – 10/13
The Babysitter – 10/13
Voltron: Legendary Defender (Season 4) – 10/13
Slasher: Guilty Party – 10/17
1922 – 10/20
Haters Back Off (Season 2) – 10/20
One of Us – 10/20
The Day I Met El Chapo: The Kate Del Castillo Story – 10/20
Wheelman – 10/20
Wanted (Seasons 1 & 2) – 10/12
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold – 10/27
Judah Friedlander: America Is the Greatest Country in the United States – 10/30
Zumbo’s Just Desserts (Season 1) – 10/31

Lock-up: Disturbing the Peace (Vol. 1) – 10/1
PJ Masks (Season 1) – 10/1
Schitt’s Creek (Season 3) – 10/5
The Fosters (Season 5) – 10/5
LEGO City (Season 1) – 10/15
West Coast Customs (Season 6) – 10/15
La Querida Del Centauro (Season 2) – 10/25

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What I Watched This Week: 24 Sept 2017

The Opposition with Jordan Klepper – “September 25, 2017” (B+) / series premiere
Has a lot to introduce in this premiere, but it has the right skeleton in place to basically be The Colbert Report 2.0, moving with the Republican party from the blow-hard elites of Bill O’Reilly-era Fox News to the more frightening Internet psychos of InfoWars.

The Mindy Project – “May Divorce Be with You” (A-)
A nearly stellar episode, with character growth, a ton of laughs, and one genuinely awful/adorable rendition of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Although the show’s final minute hints at something I’m sure every fan of the show wants (including me), it can’t help but feel a little forced.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Big House, Part 1” (A) / season premiere
Whatever reservations I had about last season’s finale, this premiere wiped them away, as the writers find an endless supply of great jokes from the situation of someone as clueless and cocky as Jake in federal prison. And if any show could land jokes about Epix and Lycos, it’s this one.

This Is Us – “A Father’s Advice” (B) / season premiere
Catches everyone up, but doesn’t really move anything forward. I wouldn’t call it a waste of time, since the performances are still so good and there’s a big reveal at the end. But, uh, guys, let’s get moving.

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What I Watched This Week: 17 Sept 2017

Jerry Before Seinfeld (A-)
It’s all material we’ve heard before, but Seinfeld’s delivery is so effortless that it doesn’t feel old hat. I could have easily watched another hour.

The Mindy Project – “A Romantical Decouplement” (B+)
A major improvement on the premiere in a joke-packed episode that finds no fewer than five characters realizing what they really want. Mindy isn’t growing, and that’s frustrating, but at least she’s not hurting Ben anymore. (What am I even saying? How did I get emotionally invested in this stupid show?)

The Good Place – “Everything Is Great!” (A-) / season premiere
The show resets (and then resets again) in an hour-long episode that can’t quite manage to be as engaging as that brilliant pilot, but still packs in a ton of jokes, some of which work because we know what makes the four tortured souls tick, and some because they reveal that Bad Place employees care just as much about a fun workplace and fulfilling roles as anyone else.

The Sinner – “Part VIII” (A-) / season finale
The show reaches is its end and finds about as much resolution as it can. Cora finally remembers what happened on that fateful night, and the horrifying months after. That mystery had a satisfying reveal. But as good as Bill Pullman was in this show, all his dark sexual proclivities and broken marriage still never cohered, so that all fell like filler. That means this won’t be a show that makes my top 10 this year.

Black Mirror (Season 3) – “San Junipero” (A)
I still haven’t gotten around to all of Black Mirror, but I decided it was high time to watch the most acclaimed episode, which shocked everyone by winning the Emmy for Best Made-for-TV Movie. (Is this a made-for-TV movie? Absolutely not. But it was still better than the competition.) Yes, it is as good as everyone says it is and the rare example of an episode of this show that’s not quite a cautionary tale and one with a rare hopeful ending.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Season 10) – “Charlie Work” (A)
A brilliant, madcap gem from one of the recent seasons I never got around to. I’ve long believed that Charlie Day is giving the best performance on the show, and this is yet another showcase for his laser-focused insanity.

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2017 Emmy Predictions: Limited Series and Made-for-TV Movies

Big Little Lies (HBO)
Fargo (FX)
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Genius (Nat Geo)
The Night Of (HBO)

Could win: Fargo
Should win: The Night Of
Will win: Big Little Lies
Should have been nominated: N/A

Sherlock (series 4)
Black Mirror: “San Junipero” (Netflix)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (NBC)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)
Sherlock: “The Lying Detective” (PBS)
The Wizard of Lies (HBO)

Could win: The Wizard of Lies
Should win: Black Mirror: “San Junipero”
Will win: Sherlock: “The Lying Detective”
Should have been nominated: Apparently Oh, Hello on Broadway was eligible for this so, that.

Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies
Ewan McGregor, Fargo
Geoffrey Rush, Genius
John Turturro, The Night Of

Could win: John Turturro
Should win: Riz Ahmed
Will win: Benedict Cumberbatch
Should have been nominated: Not sure how this counts, but Chris Gethard submitted himself for Career Suicide, and that was magnificent.

Carrie Coon, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies

Could win: Susan Sarandon or Jessica Lange
Should and will win: Nicole Kidman
Should have been nominated: Melissa Leo, The Most Hated Woman in America

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What I Watched This Week: 10 Sept 2017

The Mindy Project – “Is That All There Is?” (C+) / season premiere
An apt title, as the show jumps forward a few months, then tries to backtrack everything that happened during the jump. I understand that the show is mostly about Mindy’s search for happiness and fulfillment, but her continued indecisiveness is reaching Lorelai Gilmore levels of fury in me.

South Park – “White People Renovating Houses” (B) / season premiere
Could have done a bit more with its richly deserved targets of ignorant white people and the glut of home renovation shows, but it still gets some great shots at morons who wave the Confederate flag, thereby screwing up whatever actual “economic anxiety” might be present. Probably would have been funnier if I had an Alexa or a Google Home.

The Sinner – “Part VII” (A)
Told completely in flashback, we finally learn what happened that awful night in 2012. It’s both simpler and more complicated than we’ve been led to believe, but even more tragic.

Louis C.K.: 2017 (A-)
Starts stronger than it ends, diving head-first into controversial topics (abortion and suicide), before getting a little lost and questioning his sexuality, particularly when Magic Mike is on TV.

Neal Brennan: 3 Mics (B+)
Not as strong as Chris Gethard’s Career Suicide, but what is? A solid gimmick – one mic for one-liners, one for traditional stand-up, one for a brutally honest discussion about clinical depression – makes it memorable.

Jim Gaffigan: Cinco (B)
His weakest special to date, yet his jokes about food and religion are still like comfort food to me.

Jerrod Carmichael: 8 (B-)
Dude’s got jokes, but his uncertain delivery means they don’t always land. And when many of the punchlines are meant to needle our bubbles, it doesn’t make them nearly as effective as they could be.

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2017 Emmy Predictions: Drama

Lonnie Chavis and Milo Ventimiglia on This Is Us
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Westworld (HBO)

Could win: The Crown
Should win: Stranger Things
Will win: This Is Us
Should have been nominated: Legion (FX)

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Anthony Hopkins, Westworld
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Could win: Liev Schreiber
Should and will win: Sterling K. Brown
Should have been nominated: Dan Stevens, Legion

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Claire Foy, The Crown
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Could win: Claire Foy
Should and will win: Elisabeth Moss
Should have been nominated: Mandy Moore, This Is Us

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2017 Emmy Predictions: Comedy and Variety

Atlanta (FX)
Black-ish (ABC)
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Veep (HBO)

Could win: Atlanta
Should win: Master of None
Will win: Veep
Should have been nominated: The Good Place (NBC)

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Zach Galifianakis, Baskets
Donald Glover, Atlanta
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Could win: Donald Glover
Should win: Aziz Ansari
Will win: Jeffrey Tambor
Should have been nominated: Ted Danson, The Good Place

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie
Allison Janney, Mom
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Could win: Allison Janney
Should win: Pamela Adlon
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Should have been nominated: Kristen Bell, The Good Place

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