This year's batch of potential Golden Globe winners was announced at the usual ungodly hour of 5 a.m. in Los Angeles this morning, and holy Hamm's beard are there a lot of these things. A few key notes from the film department, to start: The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, and American Hustle are all competing as comedies. (Unless they're musicals.) Hustle and 12 Years a Slave lead in nominations with seven each. Two of the five Best Drama candidates are Ron Howard's little-seen Rush and Stephen Frears's littler-seen Philomena. The Butler is MIA. Martin Scorsese was snubbed in the directing category, but Paul Greengrass and Alexander Payne are in. Pixar, having won Best Animated Feature Film six of the seven years the category has existed, is out of the running for the first time. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is nominated for her lead performances in both Enough Said and HBO's Veep. James Gandolfini, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. (Ditto for Michael B. Jordan and his Fruitvale Station performance, as well as Woody Allen and his work on Blue Jasmine.)
If the title of this piece sounds like an Encyclopedia Brown book, that's because we have a bona fide caper on our hands.
This past Friday, the nominations for the 56th annual Grammy Awards were released. As per usual, there were surprises, there were snubs, and many of the decisions make very little sense. But even while being aware of the troll that is the decision-making process, it's almost impossible not to care. Because a Grammy will forever be this sick, twisted, archival form of validation.
Part of this year's madness is the state of rhythm and blues. In 2012, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences performed major overhauls of many of its categories, deciding to consolidate here, rename there, and in some cases, eliminate altogether. Best Contemporary R&B Album, a category that existed from 2003 to 2011, was one of the categories eliminated, with the remaining umbrella category, Best R&B Album, absorbing albums that formerly would have landed in the contemporary field.
Back in September, the Spring Breakers team announced its (probably doomed) intention to chase a Best Supporting Actor nomination for James Franco, releasing an ad to awards voters showing his lusciously begrilled Alien double-fisting a couple of statuettes, a pose suggesting he'd not only already won, but also decided to storm the podium and take a second trophy, because it would look better to have two of those little gilded fuckers splayed out among the treasures on his bed. (He's right — you need that kind of respectable hardware to balance out the AK-47s and precarious Jenga towers of shuriken. That's just basic feng shui, y'all.) Now that we're heading into the year-end Oscar-qualifying sprint, the Breakers gang seems to realize the buzz on competitors like Dallas Buyers Club’s Jared Leto and 12 Years a Slave’s Michael Fassbender has become deafening, kicking things into a higher gear with the release of the first "Consider His Shit" video. So here it is. And it's all wrong.
Finally, a trilogy everyone actually wants to see. (If this doesn't sound like you, please locate the X on your browser and click it. Or just grab a Sharpie and mark a fat X over your screen — that will also work.) Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, humor empresses and superlative Neil Patrick Harris hecklers ("Yo, NPH, take those pants off, America wants to see what you're workin' with!"), will return to host the Golden Globe Awards not just next year, but even the year after. The BFFs, who totally need their own celebrity portmanteau (is there one already going around? Is it Tinamy? Fehler? Amina Poehley?), brought 19.7 million viewers to the NBC telecast this past January, a six-year high for the show; there was also a 28 percent increase in the 18-to-49 demo. Meaning that, yes, signing Poehler and Fey for two more years was what they in the biz call "a no-brainer." (Surprisingly rare, though. Ricky Gervais hosted three straight years starting in 2010, but each uncomfortable performance was followed by waves of "he probably won't be back"/"I'm not coming back" chatter.) Folks — millions of 'em — will tune in for the next two Januarys with purpose, vigor, and high, boozy expectations.
Award shows still happen. And they still give out awards at these award shows. And unfortunately, they continue to dictate how the populace interprets and categorizes music. One of those shows is the American Music Awards, and its list of nominees were announced this morning.
It's a time of beginnings and endings on the Hollywood Prospectus pod. Chris shared the start of what may be a beautiful elevator friendship with one of the stars of Dads, while I described Dylan McDermott's acting style on Hostages for what we can only hope will be the last time.
In between, we talked at length about "Granite State," Breaking Bad’s slow, wintry horror show of a penultimate episode, and the terrifying awfulness of the Emmy Awards, which managed to get some things right but so very many things wrong. We also buzzed through a few of the new fall shows that are worth getting excited/infuriated about and the imminent return of Homeland — and official podcast mascot/hero Chris Brody. Speaking of slow, wintry horror shows, did you know Drake has a new album out? Chris and I started from the bottom but, with one week left, Walter White seems likely to end up there. Circle of life, you know?
So it happened. It really happened. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences called AMC's bluff and went through with its awards ceremony last night despite running against the first, Twitter-spoiler-rife airing of Breaking Bad's supersize, penultimate episode, blithely handing out every last one of its statuettes like nothing more important was happening down the programming grid. They did not, as we humbly suggested in a very polite letter addressed to the President of Television, divert the hundreds of limousines carrying the presenters and nominees into the Nokia Theatre parking structure and hold everybody there until Monday night, with full in-car food and beverage service by always-accommodating host Neil Patrick Harris, so that we could have the necessary time to digest the more important show before dealing with the unnecessary distraction of their awards presentation.
But they never answered that letter. And so we, either because we are insane or because we made a cold, hard calculation about how to get through four hours and 15 minutes of total viewing as efficiently as possible, actually watched the Emmys first. Well played, TV Academy. We were weak. We blinked. We hope you feel good about the fact that we waited around to discover who took home your biggest prize before we allowed ourselves to actually watch that very same series demonstrate its current creative dominance. You're the winners today.
Oh, right: winners. We're here to talk about the winners. If you require the list of all the Emmy winners, you can find that right here, from your Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series to your Outstanding Costume Design in a Two-Time Variety Special (if that was a category — maybe it was. It's hard to be sure; they're handing stuff out for three hours). Right now we're more interested in the big winners, the totally unexpected winners. The winners we're still thinking about this morning, in the moments when we're able to catch our breath between the post-traumatic heart palpitations Breaking Bad gave us.
The real winners.
Let's run through them before the shortness of breath kicks in again.
This Sunday night on CBS, the 65th-annual Emmy Awards will celebrate the year in television excellence. Like most meth-addled Americans, I won't be watching — at least not live. Instead, I'll be tuning in to AMC to watch some truly excellent television in real time, a.k.a. the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad.
Still, many, many people will watch an Emmy ceremony that is likely to be among the most unpredictable in recent memory. (And by "many, many people" I primarily mean those of you with ready access to multiple screens, those with a lack of interest in the endgame of certain New Mexican science teachers, and/or those with an unquenchable fondness for Neil Patrick Harris production numbers). And so please consider the following as a guide to the moments to watch for — six potential upsets, shockers, and game-changers, a.k.a. the times you definitely don't want to be getting up for more guacamole. Save that for Best Actress in a Drama — unless you've forgotten the names of Claire Danes's publicist, manager, and husband over the past year. And save some guacamole for me.
Everything is coming up Franco. The laughter from last night's Comedy Central–sponsored Night of 1,000 Francos hasn't yet stopped ringing in the heads of hungover Francophiles, and already his Spring Breakers publicity team has scrambled the For Your Consideration jets and told The Hollywood Reporter that a full-court awards-season press is on its way. Look upon Franco's Oscar shit and despair, every other person not winning that Best Supporting Actor statue this year:
I hate every awards show except the MTV Video Music Awards. The Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and all of the other fringe awards shows have it all wrong by pretending like their stupid trophies matter. We only watch awards shows to judge the way people look and facilitate our sick obsession with critiquing the projected personalities of celebrities.
The MTV Video Music Awards is the perfect awards show because every year it is a slave to hyper-recent cultural trends. Above all else, the VMAs create a stimulating awards show for the viewer by being completely shameless when it comes to curating a handful of moments worth talking about. This is the same sort of trend-addiction vortex that got Psy to a billion views on YouTube. The VMAs aren’t like the Oscars, piling the legacy of the entire show on one guest host. Their strategy seems to be putting as many celebrities as possible in the same room and hoping it turns into chaos, which basically means a black rapper interrupting a teenage white girl’s acceptance speech.
After going back-to-back on Best Picture and Best Director nominations for The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell officially put his next project in the threepeat crosshairs. So what's he bringing to the Oscar party this time? The trailer for American Hustle debuted this morning on Good Morning America, as, uh, all serious awards contenders do, and we've now got our first look at how absurdly Russell has stacked the deck for his latest run. There's Oscar-winning Fighter star Christian Bale in a spread collar, ascot, and truly unfortunate hairpiece. Then Bradley Cooper, Oscar-nominated for Playbook, shows up. Oh, and didn't somebody else actually win for that movie? Right, Jennifer Lawrence. Yeah, she's in it, too. How about another Fighter Oscar nominee in Amy Adams? Yup. De Niro? Not in the trailer, but he's in it. He's won stuff. And let's also throw in a Renner, just because the call sheet has all those fun boxes for names.
Kate Mara was a no-show for the Emmy announcements this morning, broadcast as they have been since time immemorial from the steerage class mess hall on Les Moonves's war yacht. Airplane trouble was to blame — the actress was reporting a story for Slugline in Arizona — but no matter, because the pre-dawn ceremony was about the only place where her House of Cards didn't make an appearance. The doomy Netflix original crashed the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in a big way, garnering nine nominations in major categories ranging from dramatic actor (Kevin Spacey) to dramatic actress (Robin Wright) to dramatic clavicle (also Robin Wright). That means the happiest person in Hollywood this morning isn't actual Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris, whose celebrated podium charm replaced Mara at the last minute. It's Reed Hastings. This was exactly the outcome the Netflix CEO was envisioning when he outbid HBO for 24 episodes of the David Fincher–helmed Cards. Hastings knew his company needed the strong appearance of quality, if not the thing itself, in order to get attention and respect from a dubious industry. Regardless of whether Netflix actually goes home with any awards on September 22 — Jason Bateman was also nominated for Arrested Development; I have a feeling Spacey is taking the trophy — Hastings has successfully evolved his company from red envelopes to the red carpet.
That was the biggest takeaway from what felt like a transition year for the Emmys. All of the old favorites were nominated — and, in the case of Dame Maggie Smith, I mean that quite literally. 30 Rock received 13 nominations for its phenomenal final half-season and even a wheezing The Office grabbed a writing nomination for series adapter Greg Daniels's tasteful finale. The casts of Modern Family and Downton Abbey once again clogged up the ballots in the comedy and drama categories, leaving little room for fresh blood like New Girl and The Americans. While, speaking of blood, Game of Thrones (16 nominations) and American Horror Story: Asylum (17) treated the technical and miniseries categories the way Walder Frey treated guests at the Red Wedding. Boardwalk Empire was the only formerly major player to fall off the map this year (10 nominations, but mostly for hairstyling and costuming), and it's probably best to think of that not as a snub (although the second half of Season 3 did improve considerably) but as the first sign of big changes to come.
It turns out, the most important line from the Season 6 premiere of Mad Men wasn't a quote from Dante and it wasn't Roger's self-pitying spiel about doorways. It was Don's postcoital admission to Sylvia that he doesn't "want to do this anymore." But all these years on Madison Avenue have taught us that wants and needs are two very different, often contradictory impulses. And so what followed was 10 hours of the once (and future?) Dick Whitman continuing to do the very same destructive things he'd been doing, including boozing, floozing, and detonating professional and personal relationships like he was trying out for the Weathermen (though — Season 7 spoiler alert! — that particular radical organization wouldn’t form until 1969) without a modicum of happiness, joy, or desire. Mercifully, in last night's season finale, Don appeared to get what he claimed he wanted via an express elevator headed straight to the bottom. And, unlike Season 4's drunken nadir, this time there wasn't a quick fix of daily swims and emo journaling to help cushion the fall.
One of the things that makes Matthew Weiner the best writer working in television today is his refusal to sugar the pill and make life easier for his protagonists. I suppose, then, that it's admirable he did the same for his devoted audience this year. Despite some adrenaline-ass-injection highs, Mad Men Season 6 was a tough watch. And while I liked where last night left us — strangely, Don's sudden, precipitous descent hinted at a potential happy ending that I never would have predicted for him even a week ago — the road there was bumpier than a flight in Ted Chaough's Cessna. I've already written at length about my frustrations with Season 6; suffice it to say that last night felt very much of a piece with what had come before. There was history repeating itself (Pete's mother dying in the same sea his father crashed into years before), there was the impossibility of re-creating happiness (California can't be Don and Megan's happy place), there was a sports car stuck in reverse.
Welcome to the Oscar Travesties finals! As expected, Crash, the most egregious error of collective judgment in the long and distinguished history of the Academy of Crash Mistakes and Haggis Sciences will face off against ... wow, Crash again, in a winner-takes-all battle for the honor of being the most contentious kudos recipient since two Cro-Magnons bludgeoned each other to death with jagged rocks over a disagreement about the artistic merits of a poorly rendered cave-scrawling of a three-legged bear that earned an approving nod from a blind elder.
So, Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali. The Grammys did their job. Order has been maintained. What happens next? Here are my predictions: Babel will return to the top of the albums chart next week. Jay Pharoah’s inevitable yellow suit-and-headband Frank Ocean parody will be relegated to “Weekend Update,” rather than get its own stand-alone sketch, on SNL. The guy from Fun. will regret wearing capris. A jingle that sounds like The Black Keys will appear in a Radio Shack commercial. Jack White will record a new 45 with three of the models from Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video. And nothing that happened Sunday night will matter when it comes to how our culture ultimately judges the value (or lack thereof) of these artists, or the many other artists who made notable music that had no chance of being nominated.