Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – September 2021

BEST PICTURE
Belfast
CODA
Don’t Look Up
House of Gucci
The Humans
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
The Tragedy of Macbeth

The skinny: The Academy finally did the right thing and pushed the number of nominees in this category back to an even 10. Even with a shortened eligibility window (just March to December this year), there are a lot of studios seeking to make up for lost time. Even so, almost all of these will crowd up the last two months of the year. Belfast is the default front runner, since it just won People’s Choice at Toronto, but there’s a lot of race left to go.

BEST DIRECTOR
Leos Carax, Annette
Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza
Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth

The skinny: While Annette is divisive and unlikely to be nominated for anything except Original Song, Carax is the front-runner for that “respected international director whose movie wasn’t as warmly received by the Academy at large” slot. Though if The Hero keeps getting the kind of rapturous praise that greeted A Separation and The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi could easily take it.

BEST ACTOR
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog
Adam Driver, House of Gucci
Andrew Garfield, Tick Tick Boom
Will Smith, King Richard
Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

The skinny: All of these guys have previously been nominated, but only Denzel has won. Only he and Smith are locks at this point, but this feels pretty comfortable given how it’s a typically “weak” year for the kinds of turns the Academy goes for.

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Lady Gaga, House of Gucci
Jennifer Hudson, Respect
Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Kristen Stewart, Spencer

The skinny: Are we clearing out for another take on a real-life person or for Frances McDormand to somehow win her fourth Oscar? It all comes down to the campaigns.

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What I Watched This Week: 19 Sep 2021

NEW SHOWS
Reservation Dogs – “Satvrday” (A-) / season finale
Slightly more traditional than their past three knockouts, but this was pretty much the perfect finale for this season, and I’m so grateful there will be more to that story.

What We Do in the Shadows – “The Chamber of Judgment” (B+)
Guillermo literally plays a game of thrones, playing Nandor and Nadja off one another. Meanwhile, Colin gets usurped as the No. 1 energy vampire thanks to a MLM pitch. Both storylines are funny, but nowhere near the heights of the last two episodes.

Ted Lasso – “No Weddings and a Funeral” (A)
For an episode that’s all about death, this episode is never a dirge. It’s razor-sharp, ties up a lot of the season together nicely and has a glorious moment of zero cynicism.

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What I Watched This Week: 12 Sep 2021

NEW SHOWS
Reservation Dogs – “California Dreamin’” (A-)
If Bill Burr shows up as a guest star, you know you’re in for a good episode. Mostly taking place about a year before the events of the season premiere, we finally learn what happened to Daniel, and the reveal is devastating. It puts everything into perspective, and explains so much about Elora’s character. This show continues to blow me away.

What We Do in the Shadows – “The Casino” (A)
The funniest episode of the season to date. The crew travels to Atlantic City – complete with depressing new opening credits – for a weekend getaway and end up succumbing to the soul-sucking mundanity of casinos.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Last Day” (A) / series finale
Had no idea what they were gonna do for this finale, but I should have suspected it would be one final heist. And it is glorious, earning its runtime and (nearly) every callback. The show stumbled this season, but when it just played the hits and avoided self-awareness, it was just as good as it always was. I’ll miss it, but it was time for it to go.

Ted Lasso – “Beard After Hours” (A)
If any other show wants to take a break mid-season to pay homage to one of Martin Scorsese’s most underrated movies, that’s fine with me.

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Emmy Predictions 2021: Comedy and Variety

COMEDY SERIES
black-ish (ABC)
Cobra Kai (Netflix)
Emily in Paris (Netflix)
The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
Hacks (HBO Max)
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
PEN15 (Hulu)
Ted Lasso (AppleTV+)

Will and should win: Ted Lasso
Could win: Hacks
Should have been here: Search Party (HBO Max)

The skinny: Last summer, Ted Lasso was just a show a few people had watched and recommended, and filed away as “I’ll get around to that some day.” Now, it’s a full-blown phenomenon that will sweep every category it’s nominated in. It deserves it, too.

ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso
Kenan Thompson, Kenan

Will and should win: Jason Sudeikis
Could win: William H. Macy
Should have been here: Glenn Howerton, A.P. Bio

The skinny: The biggest lock on a night full of them.

ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Aidy Bryant, Shrill
Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant
Allison Janney, Mom
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Jean Smart, Hacks

Will and should win: Jean Smart
Could win: Allison Janney
Should have been here: Alia Shawkat, Search Party

The skinny: While she won more than a decade ago for ABC’s short-lived Samantha Who?, she lost for her stellar turns in Fargo and Watchmen. (Though to two great actresses who had already won multiple times.) But she’s likely to pick up two acting trophies on Emmy night, a rare feat.

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Emmy Predictions 2021: Drama

DRAMA SERIES
The Boys (Prime)
Bridgerton (Netflix)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Lovecraft Country (HBO)
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Pose (FX)
This Is Us (NBC)

Will win: The Crown
Could win: The Handmaid’s Tale
Should win: The Boys
Should have been here: Perry Mason (HBO)

The skinny: This is The Crown‘s year, finally. And for their best season, too. I’m still shocked The Boys is even nominated, so I’ll take that as a consolation.

ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country
Josh O’Connor, The Crown
Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton
Billy Porter, Pose
Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason

Will and should win: Matthew Rhys
Could win: Billy Porter
Should have been here: Antony Starr, The Boys

The skinny: I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen here. I could see just about anyone besides Sterling K. Brown win. I’ve been feeling Rhys for a long time now, and not just because he’s my favorite of these performances. He won a long-overdue award for The Americans, and his mix of volcanic intensity and quiet brooding carry over to this reboot. But I would skip this category if you’re a betting person.

ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Uzo Aduba, In Treatment
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Emma Corrin, The Crown
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Mj Rodriguez, Pose
Jurnee Smollett, Lovecraft Country

Will and should win: Olivia Colman
Could win: Emma Corrin
Should have been here: Laura Donnelly, The Nevers

The skinny: It’s Colman’s year. Corrin won the Globe, but let’s not kid ourselves.

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Emmy Predictions 2021: Limited/Anthology Series and Movies

LIMITED/ANTHOLOGY SERIES
I May Destroy You (HBO)
Mare of Easttown (HBO)
The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
The Underground Railroad (Prime)
WandaVision (Disney+)

Will and should win: Mare of Easttown
Could win: The Queen’s Gambit
Should have been here: Fargo (FX)

The skinny: It’s a coin-flip for which series will steamroll these awards. I’m hedging my bets a bit (as you’ll see later). It felt like Mare of Easttown had all the momentum. It aired more recently, actually grew its viewership, and is generally well-regarded by everyone. But if last week’s Creative Arts Emmys are any indication, The Queen’s Gambit is coming for everything. It’s allegedly the most-watched Netflix show of all time, and features a star-making turn by Anya Taylor-Joy. I’m still going with Mare, but that might just be my preference talking.

ACTOR IN A LIMITED/ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE
Paul Bettany, WandaVision
Hugh Grant, The Undoing
Ewan McGregor, Halston
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr, Hamilton

Will win: Leslie Odom, Jr.
Could win: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Should win: Hugh Grant
Should have been here: Ethan Hawke, The Good Lord Bird

The skinny: Here’s where I say for as great as Hamilton is, its time for awards is over. This is literally a filmed performance of the same cast that won a Grammy, a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize. They should not be eligible for TV acting awards. But that doesn’t mean it’s not winning some major categories. But if there are enough voters who feel like me, then it’s anyone’s game.

ACTRESS IN A LIMITED/ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE
Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You
Cynthia Erivo, Genius: Aretha
Elizabeth Olsen, WandaVision
Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit
Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown

Will and should win: Kate Winslet
Could win: Anya Taylor-Joy
Should have been here: N/A

The skinny: This is the closest an Emmy race has maybe ever been? I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a Hepburn/Streisand-esque tie on our hands.

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The List: Top 10 ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Episodes

Everybody Loves Raymond premiered 25 years ago this week. While it didn’t have the most auspicious start, it only grew sharper in later seasons, becoming a top-rated Emmy powerhouse. Each person in the main cast won at least won award (except for the late Peter Boyle, who was robbed), and it’s played in syndication for years. It’s the last great multi-cam sitcom. Though others may claim that – heavy sigh – The Big Bang Theory or Last Man Standing hold that distinction, nothing was quite so good for so long as the saga of the Barones. Below are my 10 favorite episodes, and you may notice quite a few overlapping themes.

10. “Halloween Candy” (Season 3, Episode 6)
For a show as family friendly as this, sex was a frequent topic of discussion. Unlike Married with Children (which was still on the air at the time Raymond debuted) or future knock-offs, sex between husband and wife was never presented as a chore or something to be avoided. In this episode, Debra tasks Ray with being in charge of contraception (“the stuff”). He brings home a colorful variety pack for Halloween, hoping to rush through trick-or-treating to use them. But mistaking them for candy, Frank (as Frankenstein) hands them out to eager kids, creating multiple disasters.

9. “Cookies” (Season 6, Episode 15)
When Ray attempts to help Ally sell her (not quite) Girl Scout Cookies, it ignites a turf war with the leader of the troop (guest star Amy Aquino). While the episodes focusing on the kids weren’t always the best, this one stands above, as the parents devolve into territorial children.

8. “No Fat” (Season 3, Episode 10)
No show was as obsessed with food as this one. So when Marie goes on a health kick just in time for Thanksgiving, everyone is understandably upset about the lack of a traditional feast. The big scene at the dinner table delivers the show’s best physical comedy, as each family member takes turns trying the wobbly vegan “turkey.”

7. “Marie’s Meatballs” (Season 2, Episode 15)
The show was able to mine so much humor out of mundane situations because its characters took those things way too seriously. That gave the show just enough stakes for every episode, but kept things from ever getting dire. (Thank God this show never attempted a “very special episode.”) But few betrayals were as shocking, unexpected and hilarious as this one. After getting some of Marie’s beloved recipes, Debra’s attempts to recreate them go horribly awry. That’s because Marie has secretly sabotaged her culinary efforts, leading to a priceless confrontation.

6. “Marie’s Sculpture” (Season 6, Episode 5)
I still can’t believe they got away with this one. While there’s an outdated joke or two, this is one of the most uproarious half-hours. Marie unveils the artwork she’s been toiling away at for months. And while it’s undoubtedly good work, its appearance is a little, well, you know. While Frank fixates on it, the rest of the family looks for a way to get rid of it, all while hoping not to avoid the artist’s feelings.

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What I Watched This Week: 5 Sep 2021

NEW SHOWS
Reservation Dogs – “Hunting” (A)
Another standout episode that focuses on one character, deepening our understanding appreciation of that one, while expanding the world and its complex emotions.

What We Do in the Shadows – “Gail” (A-)
The first half feels a little choppy, but once we get to the big reveal about the secret identity of Gail (guest star Aida Turturro), the show takes flight – literally for some characters – and features one of the best parodies ever.

Ted Lasso – “Man City” (A)
Now that’s more like it. This is an episode all about vulnerability. And while it can lead to deeper relationships and emotional growth, at first it really fucking hurts. Thankfully, this show doesn’t gloss over that.

CURRENT SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
“Game of Boyles” (A)
“Renewal” (A-)
Once again, the show is at its strongest when it’s not trying to make up for seven seasons of saying “Not all cops.” But these are otherwise two hilarious episodes that play to its silly strengths.

Ted Lasso – “Headspace” (B)
Part of the joy of this show is how nice its characters are, even in conflicts. So why is everyone suddenly acting like a prick?

What We Do in the Shadows
“The Prisoner” (B+) / season premiere
“The Cloak of Duplication” (A-)
The premiere has to spend a lot of time reminding everyone of what happened last season, since it feels like it’s been an eternity. That means we get fewer jokes. But the addition of Kristen Schaal is a welcome one, and the second episode is right back to being as demented as ever.

BINGEING
A.P. Bio – Season 4 (A- average)
As a season-long arc – one in which Jack loses a lot – it’s a remarkably touching bit of television, though in the finale itself, his emotional epiphany is a bit rushed. Still, I hope this show gets at least one more season, or keeps running forever. I’ll be happy either way, especially if it keeps pulling off such inspired silliness as “Tornado!” and the utter devastation of “Tons of Rue.”

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (A average)
For nearly 15 years, I’ve heard of the great, inspired lunacy of this British comedy, a sci-fi/horror parody of hospital dramas and self-involved creatives. Somehow, it lived up to the hype. This is one of the absolute funniest things I’ve ever seen on television.

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What I Watched This Week: 29 Aug 2021

NEW SHOWS
Reservation Dogs – “Come and Get Your Love” (A)
Zach McClarnon shines in another wonderfully aimless episode. Taking Cheese on a ride-along, he endures bullying from local (white) police, busts the rival gang and generally tries to be a good person, which isn’t always easy.

BINGEING
Birdgirl – Season 1 (B average)
Started strong in its first half, but kind of petered out. While Paget Brewster’s voicework is phenomenal, and the new characters are just as wildly out there, the show still lives in the shadow of Harvey Birdman. If the show comes back for another season, episodes should be half their length.

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Streaming Picks: September 2021

FILMS
Top Picks
The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 – HBO Max 9/1
Grosse Pointe Blank – Hulu 9/1
Heist – Prime 9/1
Worth – Netflix 9/3
You can get spooky season started early with Sam Raimi’s horror masterpieces. The original is terrifying, especially considering its low budget. The sequel is even better because it tells the same story but with a lot more laughs.

Too few people have seen John Cusack’s hitman comedy, but it’s a hidden 90s gem with an absolutely killer soundtrack.

David Mamet’s excellent heist movie celebrates its 20th anniversary. Featuring one of the last performances by Gene Hackman, Mamet’s dialogue crackles, as double and triple crosses unravel a group of criminals.

Finally, Worth is Netflix’s first big Oscar play. Premiering at Sundance 2020, they held it back from the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Michael Keaton plays attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was put in charge of determining payouts for victims who died in the terrorist attacks. The cast also includes Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan.

Recent Selections
Bodas de Oro – HBO Max 9/1
A Feeling Home – Prime 9/1
I Am Duran – Prime 9/1
Inheritance – HBO Max 9/1
Dark Phoenix – Disney+ 9/2
Death in Texas – Hulu 9/2
The Unthinkable – Hulu 9/2
Amaraica – HBO Max 9/3
At Last – HBO Max 9/3
Bittu – HBO Max 9/3
Bolden – Hulu 9/3
Coffee Shop Names – HBO Max 9/3
Undine – Hulu 9/3
News of the World – HBO Max 9/4
Nasciturus – HBO Max 9/8
Mortal Kombat – HBO Max 9/9
The Killing of Two Lovers – Hulu 9/10
High Ground – Hulu 9/11
A La Calle – HBO Max 9/15
Riders of Justice – Hulu 9/16
American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally – Prime 9/17
Funhouse – Hulu 9/23
Felix and the Hidden Treasure – Hulu 9/28
Minor Premise – Hulu 9/29
New Order – Hulu 9/30
Those Who Wish Me Dead – HBO Max 9/30

Originals
Cinderella – Prime 9/3
JJ+E – Netflix 9/8
Kate – Netflix 9/10
Malignant – HBO Max 9/10
Prey – Netflix 9/10
The Voyeurs – Prime 9/10
Nightbooks – Netflix 9/15
Ankahi Kahaniya – Netflix 9/17
Cry Macho – HBO Max 9/17
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Prime 9/17
The Father Who Moves Mountains – Netflix 9/17
The Mad Women’s Ball – Prime 9/17
The Stronghold – Netflix 9/17
Confessions of an Invisible Girl – Netflix 9/22
Intrusion – Netflix 9/22
Je Suis Karl – Netflix 9/23
The Starling – Netflix 9/24
Friendzone – Netflix 9/29
No One Gets Out Alive – Netflix 9/29
Sounds Like Love – Netflix 9/29

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