Open Mic

January 2014

'Breaking Bad' Creator Vince Gilligan Piles Up More Hardware, as DGA Honors Achievements in TV and Film

Hillary Atkin Posted January 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

“Breaking Bad” continued its streak of racking up hardware after wrapping up its five-season run, when show creator Vince Gilligan picked up the honor of outstanding directorial achievement in dramatic series at the 66th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards.

Gilligan took the DGA for the concluding episode, “Felina.” One of his four competitors in the category was the show’s star Bryan Cranston, for directing the “Blood Money” episode during the epic final season. The other contenders nominated for directing some of television’s most lauded dramas were David Fincher (“House of Cards”), Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”) and David Nutter ("Game of Thrones”).

The multi-talented, cross-genre Cranston was also a nominee in the comedy series category for an episode of “Modern Family.” The award went to Beth McCarthy-Miller for directing an episode of another dearly departed show, “30 Rock.”

Director Don Roy King took the prize in the regularly scheduled variety/talk/news/sports category for “Saturday Night Live with Host Justin Timberlake.”

The movies and miniseries for television category had directors of three HBO programs (“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” “Phil Spector” and “Behind the Candelabra”) vying against those who helmed National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Kennedy” and NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!”

It was Steven Soderbergh, who was also honored with the Robert B. Aldrich Service Award, who took the gold medallion for the celebrated Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra.” “The best way to describe the people I worked with on this are performance-enhancers,” he said of his directing team.

Soderbergh, a previous nominee for “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich,” can now add the DGA to the Emmy Award he won for “Candelabra,” which he originally intended as a feature film but could not get financed.

Egyptian-born filmmaker Jehane Noujaim was awarded outstanding directorial achievement in documentary for Netflix's “The Square,” which chronicles the revolution that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak through the eyes of six protestors.

“You have to believe in the impossible,” she said, and noted that her film was not cleared for release in Egypt yet was pirated, copied and uploaded 750,000 times in the last few days. Normally creators don’t condone piracy, but under those circumstances, she seemed pleased that her film is getting seen in her home country.

Alfonso Cuarón may not be a master of the art of speaking English, according to his “Gravity” leading lady Sandra Bullock, but he clearly demonstrated his proficiency in directing by taking the DGA's top prize.

With Bullock encased in a 9’ x 9’ lightbox for hours on end to shoot her astronaut scenes in the blockbuster drama, she had only Cuarón’s voice to guide her. “But I didn’t understand any of the words he was saying, whether it was ‘ice’ or ‘eyes,’” she told the black-tie audience of 1,600 at the Hyatt Regency’s Century Plaza Hotel’s California Ballroom Saturday night. Previously, Bullock, who is up for a lead actress Oscar for her performance, had remarked on not being able to differentiate his pronunciations of “herpes” and “earpiece.”

The untelevised Directors Guild of America ceremony ran longer than Martin Scorsese’s three-hour “The Wolf of Wall Street” -- with seemingly none of its f-bombs -- and Scorsese appeared visibly disappointed at not winning the feature directing trophy, whose contenders also included Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and David O. Russell (“American Hustle”).

The show has a unique format among awards galas. Yes, there are cocktails and dinner after a red carpet, but each of the feature film directors up for the highest honor has time in the spotlight while being lauded by a high-profile participant involved in their project under consideration.

This year, they were all actors -- Tom Hanks for Greengrass, Sarah Paulson for McQueen, Bradley Cooper for Russell, Rob Reiner for Scorsese and Bullock for Cuarón -- who bestowed their directors with a golden medallion, giving real currency to the throwaway line that "It's an honor just to be nominated."

Within the industry, it’s also chance to lobby each contending picture further down the campaign trail to the Academy Awards, which take place more than a month from now.

All five of the DGA’s nominees are among the nine feature films up for Best Picture.

As per tradition, it was last year’s DGA winner, Ben Affleck for “Argo,” who opened the envelope that contained Cuarón’s name.

But breaking with tradition was the host of the ceremonies, actress Jane Lynch. “It’s the first time they’ve had a non-director host the show,” said Lynch, after being introduced by DGA President Paris Barclay. “And I’m also the first female. You know, it won’t be long before we’re going to want to vote, have equal pay and wear pants out in public.”

Women also played a prominent role in several other big moments, including the Diversity Award that was presented to Shonda Rhimes and producing partner Betsy Beers, in recognition of their commitment to diversity hiring and providing jobs and opportunities to women and minorities in DGA-covered categories.

In her acceptance speech, Rhimes, the creator of “Scandal”, “Grey's Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” told an anecdote about a male roommate who did the dishes one day a week while she did them the other six -- and he wanted praise for it -- lamenting that an award was necessary for what should be standard business practices of hiring diverse people in front of and behind the camera.

“It’s like washing dishes, something all of us should be doing anyway. There shouldn’t be an award for it, and we’re a little pissed off about that, yet one has been given only four times before this,” she said, while underscoring that the Directors Guild is the only guild that gives out such an award. “Different voices make for something original, which is what the public is hungry for.”

Beers and Rhimes are the first women to receive the Diversity Award. Previous honorees, named in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2005, include cable net HBO, Steven Bochco and John Wells.

A full list of winners can be found by clicking here.

Critics Choice Movie Awards Help Firm Up Handicapping for the Oscars

Hillary Atkin Posted January 20, 2014 at 12:01 PM

The quirks of this year’s awards season calendar, with the 19th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards coming just four days after the Golden Globes and on the eve of the Academy Awards nominations announcement, served to cement the favorites and frontrunners heading into the Oscars.

Cate Blanchett. Matthew McConaughey. Jared Leto. Lupita Nyong’o. “12 Years a Slave.” “American Hustle.” “Frozen.” All were critical darlings who took the CCMA in their respective categories during a two-hour telecast hosted by Aisha Tyler on the CW Jan. 16.

Like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does for its Golden Globes, the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) separates drama, comedy and animation categories for its movie awards. (The organization honors excellence in television at a separate ceremony scheduled in June.)

It was abundantly clear that both groups marked their ballots nearly identically when it came to awarding the top films and best lead and supporting actors and actresses. The only exception was that the Globes honored Jennifer Lawrence with the supporting actress statuette for her role in “American Hustle,” while the critics went with Nyong’o -- who also got the statue at the Screen Actors Guild Awards over the weekend, as did Blanchett, McConaughey, Leto and “American Hustle.”

Both HFPA and BFCA also gave gold to “Hustle’s” Amy Adams and to Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” For directing, both also awarded Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity,” which took a total of 7 statuettes, a CCMA record.
Like the Oscars, the critics recognize both original and adapted screenplays. The prizes went to Spike Jonze for “Her,” and John Ridley for “12 Years a Slave.”

With the exception of Ridley, all of those honorees were in attendance at the ceremony, as were other nominees, winners and presenters, including Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Bradley Cooper, Emma Thompson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonah Hill, Ben Kingsley, Mark Wahlberg, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Harvey Weinstein and Margot Robbie.

The A-list turnout is a testament to the importance of the kudo-fest, which will mark its 20th year next year.

Also similar to the Globes is the freewheeling, fun spirit of the CCMAs, which took place at Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar and led to at least three bleeped f-bombs and other words you can’t say on broadcast television.

One instance came when Sandra Bullock was accepting the award for best actress in an action movie and an off-camera announcer interrupted, apparently tossing to a break. But after her bleeped WTF, Bullock soldiered on with her speech.

Another censored bit came from the mouth of Bradley Cooper when the cast of “Hustle” took the podium for the best acting ensemble award; and yet another when host Tyler let loose with a profanity, which was drowned out in the hall by audience laughter.

Here's the complete list of winners:

Picture: “12 Years a Slave”
Actor: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Supporting actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Young actor/actress: Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue Is The Warmest Color”
Acting ensemble: “American Hustle”
Director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Original screenplay: Spike Jonze, “Her”
Adapted screenplay: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity”
Art direction: Catherine Martin (production designer), Beverley Dunn (set decorator), “The Great Gatsby”
Editing: Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger, “Gravity”
Costume design: Catherine Martin, “The Great Gatsby”
Hair and makeup: “American Hustle”
Visual effects: “Gravity”
Animated feature: “Frozen”
Action movie: “Lone Survivor”
Actor in an action movie: Mark Wahlberg, “Lone Survivor”
Actress in an action movie: Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Comedy: “American Hustle”
Actor in a comedy: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Actress in a comedy: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Sci-fi/horror movie: “Gravity”
Foreign language film: “Blue Is the Warmest Color”
Documentary feature: “20 Feet From Stardom”
Song: “Let It Go,” Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, “Frozen”
Score: Steven Price, “Gravity”
Joel Siegel Award: Forest Whitaker
Louis XIII Genius Award: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater for their trilogy “Before Sunrise,” ”Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight”
Hollywood’s Hottest Star: Benedict Cumberbatch

critics choice movie awards.jpg

The Golden Globes, Airing This Sunday, Are Usually More Adventuresome Picking Their Winners Than the Emmys. Let's See Whether That Holds Up This Year. Here Are Hillary's Picks

Hillary Atkin Posted January 10, 2014 at 12:50 PM

When it comes to handing out hardware to television shows and talent, Golden Globes voters have a long history of being ahead of the curve in recognizing quality new programming on the small screen. Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) seem to have no issue giving trophies to freshman outings -- rather than waiting to award them after they have several seasons under their belts, as often happens with other kudo-fests.

Yes, Emmy Awards, we’re talking about you. No disrespect, but ATAS voters didn’t fully wrap their arms around “The Sopranos” as Outstanding Drama until many seasons in on HBO, amongst many other such examples of delayed recognition.

But back to the Globes, which air this Sunday on NBC with second-time hostesses with the mostest, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who go in with job security that they’ll be the emcees next year as well.

The HFPA’s willingness to award the new over the established could bode well for several of this year’s TV contenders. Here are my predictions as to who the Golden Globe TV winners will be:

Best TV Comedy or Musical
Girls
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation
The Big Bang Theory
Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Hillary’s Pick: It would be a huge upset if Fox’s new comedy “B 99” took the honors from defending champ “Girls” or awards darlings “Big Bang” or “MF” -- both of which were nominated for Globes last year -- but it would be trophy rocket fuel for the Andy Samberg/Andre Braugher starrer.

Best TV Drama
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Masters of Sex

Hillary’s Pick: Two newbies, “House” and “Masters,” broke through and knocked out previous favorites including “Homeland” and “Mad Men.” Globe voters have never been “Bad” and therefore we doubt that they will change their tune despite its boffo finale. Tough call on who will take the trophy, but we’ll place our bets on Netflix’s entry, “House of Cards.”

Best Actress in a TV Drama
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Hillary’s Pick: The three women in three new, acclaimed dramas -- Maslany, Schilling and Wright -- each hold a strong appeal for the HFPA. Margulies is the only repeat contender in this race for best leading lady -- she took the trophy in 2010. Claire Danes, winner the past two years for “Homeland,” isn’t in the running. We’re thinking W -- as in Wright.

Best Actress in a TV Comedy
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Hillary’s Pick: Dunham got the statuette last year, but the HFPA doesn’t often favor repeat winners. Julia Louis-Dreyfus hasn’t won this category since “Seinfeld,” and given her feature nomination for “Enough Said,” seems to be attracting much Globe love, so JLD is my pick here.

Best Actor in a TV Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
James Spader, The Blacklist

Hillary’s Pick: Talk about the freshness factor. Recent winners starring in still-running shows, Steve Buscemi and Damian Lewis, aren’t even in the running. Each one of the current entrants is incredibly strong, but we’re betting on Spacey to take it home and give Netflix yet another reason to celebrate its move into original programming.

Best Actor in a TV Comedy
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Hillary’s Pick: Cheadle is the reigning king, Parsons won three years ago, Bateman was anointed for the original “Arrested” in 2005. Since the HFPA isn’t known for year-to-year repeats, with few exceptions -- sorry, Mr. Cheadle -- Samberg and Fox will battle it out for the 2014 Globe, with Fox taking the statuette.

Best Miniseries or TV Movie
American Horror Story: Coven
Behind the Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake
White Queen

Hillary’s Pick: Starz is making quite a splash with two entries, “Dancing” and “White Queen,” but as usual, HBO is the one to beat in this category with my pick, “Candelabra.”

Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Rebecca Ferguson, White Queen
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Hillary’s Pick: Ferguson is the new face, Mirren, Lange and Carter have the movie star appeal and Moss broke out from her award-winning role as Peggy on “Mad Men” to take the lead on a noir crime drama. We’re feeling Lange has the most chops to impress the foreign press.

Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Hillary’s Pick: Movie stars all, with Ejiofor and Elba getting lauded all around this season for their feature roles in “12 Years a Slave” and “Mandela.” Yet Douglas as Liberace feels like a lock for the HFPA’s crown.

Best Supporting Actress in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer, White Queen
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Monica Potter, Parenthood
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

Hillary’s Pick: It’s the Starz women, Bisset and McTeer, against the broadcast networks’ supporting femmes. McTeer would be the boldest choice, Vergara the most populist/mainstream. Since the HFPA likes to be on the leading edge, I say that they’ll likely go cable and will choose McTeer.

Best Supporting Actor in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Hillary’s Pick: It will be difficult for any of the contenders to top Voight’s over-the-top portrayal in the Showtime drama “Ray Donovan,” his best role in years, filled with passion, pathos, subterfuge, sex and humor.

Chris Christie: A Master Class on How to Talk to the Media About a Scandal. But ...

Chuck Ross Posted January 9, 2014 at 2:18 PM

One of my favorite scenes in “Lawrence of Arabia” is when Alec Guinness, as Prince Feisal, makes reference to a secret treaty that he’s not supposed to know about that will split up Arabia between the British and the French after World War I. He is talking to Lawrence and Lawrence’s boss, General Allenby.

                 FEISAL
Well, General, I will leave you.
Major Lawrence, doubtless, has reports to
make about my people and their weakness,
and the need to keep them weak in the
British interest...and the French
interest too, of course. We must not
forget the French now...

                 ALLENBY

I've told you, sir, no such treaty
exists.

                  FEISAL
Yes, General, you have lied most bravely,
but not convincingly. I know this treaty
does exist.

                 LAWRENCE
Treaty, sir?

                  FEISAL
He does it better than you, General, but
then, of course, he is almost an Arab.

Please, far be it from me to call New Jersey Governor Chris Christie a liar after he has so convincingly pleaded his ignorance in the Bridgegate scandal today. Christie’s press conference -- which lasted just shy of two hours -- was a master class on contrition for a politician caught in a scandal. He said he had had no knowledge of the closing of the traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee, New Jersey, and he had fired his top aide who, we found out yesterday, did know about it.

And if it turns out that Christie did have knowledge of the lane closings, we’ll all be saying -- based on how Christie handled himself at the press conference -- “Wow, he certainly fooled me.”

Oddly though, I thought, what seemed to most bother Christie is that the top aide in question, Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, had not stepped forward about a month ago when he asked all of his top staff whether they knew anything about the lane closings. To him, this was a huge, devastating betrayal.

And, Christie said, given how he thinks of those closest to him as “family,” and that he trusts them and considers their relationship with him one of mutual loyalty, he was thinking long and hard about how this could have happened.

What he said he was not thinking long and hard about is why some of those closest to him thought this would be OK to do. He claimed that Kelly was not acting on any instructions from either her boss -- his chief of staff -- or himself.

Kelly’s now infamous email to Christie appointee David Wildstein at the Transit Authority said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Why would she act as a rogue player and send such an email? Of course we don't know yet if she was indeed a rogue player.

Regardless, my gut tells me that she sent the email that looks like it triggered the eventual lane closures because she thought that it was OK and the right thing to do, politically. Where would she get such an idea? If not from Christie himself, then most likely from someone who she knew or felt was very close to Christie. And, again, my gut tells me that she did it because she knew or she felt -- having worked with Christie for almost three years -- that it’s what Christie would have wanted her to do.

And since she most likely realized that this was a dirty tricks kind of operation, part of her job would have been to make sure that it could never be traced back to the governor, even if he did know about it.

We might have found out a lot more answers about all of this today because Wildstein was due to testify before the New Jersey State Legislature, but he took the Fifth Amendment.

Still, as noted, Christie dazzled during his press conference, invoking all the right adjectives. He said, repeatedly, that he was hurt and humiliated. He said he was heartbroken and stunned. He said he was blindsided. He said he was sorry to the voters of New Jersey. Since the emails and texts broke yesterday morning tying the scandal directly to one of his top aides, he has held her accountable by firing her. He also said he’s through with his former campaign manager, who was also involved in the materials released yesterday. As for anger, he said for the most part he’s not quite there yet, but he expects he will eventually experience that emotion as well. He was patient, soft-spoken and kept saying that he was taking responsibility for what happened, regardless of the fact he knew nothing about it.

As the press conference droned on and on, and began to get repetitious, I think I must have dozed off for a moment or two, and, somehow, my cynical side overtook me. Because I thought for sure that right before the press conference ended I heard Christie say, in all sincerity, that he most likely would not have stupidly ordered the lanes shut down in the first place on that hot summer’s day if he hadn’t been in a drunken stupor and maybe smoking crack …