50 Great Actors & Actresss Who’ve Never Been Nominated for an Oscar.

As Oscar season gets into gear, I’ll be posting a bunch of Oscar-related content, both past and present. Here is a list of 50 great performers who’ve never been nominated, ordered alphabetically by first name. I tried to keep it current with folks who are somewhat active today and could very well be in for their first nom soon.


Adam Driver: Driver’s understated work in last year’s Paterson is one of the great screen performances I’ve ever seen, but I’m not going to get too upset about him being snubbed because his rising Star Wars fame makes it extremely likely he gets in for his next great performance. Perhaps Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote next year?

Anthony Mackie: I’m not sure how the hell Mackie hasn’t been nominated yet. He’s very talented, famous, handsome, and works interviews well. He was also every bit as good as his nominated co-star (Jeremy Renner) in The Hurt Locker. He just hasn’t really gotten any juicy, awardsy roles since. Fix that please, Hollywood producers.

Aubrey Plaza: Don’t laugh, she’s much more than just a deadpan comedy star. Performances in films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Ingrid Goes West prove such. She can bring it, and if she steps away from the mumblecore stuff for a bit, the Academy will see that.

Ben Foster: There may not be a better character actor working right now. Nobody does unhinged-but-still-human better than Ben Foster. 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog, Hell or High Water…the list goes on. The latter of those three was a Best Picture nominee last year and he still couldn’t get in despite picking up a handful of critics awards. Ugh.

Brendan Gleeson: He’s either won or been nominated for virtually ever other major acting award there is; so Oscar continually ignoring his work is on them, not him. It’s starting to feel like one of his kids is going to get a nom before he does. I like Domhnall though, so that’s cool I guess. 

Bruce Willis: Sure, he’s starred in some really bad movies, but so have plenty of other Oscar favorites. That shouldn’t erase his great performances, like being the best part of Pulp Fiction, for example.

Channing Tatum: The cinephile community continues to ignore just how good Tatum is. Maybe it’s because he was mostly cast in meathead, show-off-your-chest roles early in his career. But his Soderbergh collabs, hilarious work in the Jump Street movies, and all-in performance in Foxcatcher have proved he’s a great actor. He just needs people to stop seeing him as the guy from Step Up.


Chris Pine: Those dreamy eyes and chiseled jawline are both a blessing and a curse, as Pine is actually a versatile character actor trapped in a prototypical leading man’s body. He’s good in everything, whether it be lifting an otherwise bad movie like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, or deftly blending in with his co-stars and scenery in something more serious like Hell or High Water

Colin Farrell: Colin suffers (or, suffered) from the same curse as Pine. When he came up, Hollywood tried to make him their next Tom Cruise. But he’s not an action hero or leading man. He’s a remarkably unique actor capable of communicating deep depression and hilarity in the same line. I don’t think anyone else could’ve made films like In Bruges and The Lobster work.

Danny Glover: Glover has been such a staple in Hollywood for nearly four decades that people often forget about him. He just, is. While he doesn’t have that one performance that jumps out in an “how was he not nominated for that?” sort of way, his prolific filmography should be more than enough to get him noticed by a branch that often hands out career achievement awards disguised as nominations.

Donald Sutherland: I’m dead serious. Donald Sutherland, star of M*A*S*H and Klute and a dozen other classics, has never been nominated for an Oscar (8 Golden Globes though). At least the Academy has realized how wrong they are and decided to give him a Lifetime Achievement Awards this year.

Emily Blunt: This is starting to get ridiculous. You can probably count on one hand the actresses who’ve been more prolific than Emily Blunt over the last fifteen years. She can do it all; whether that be stealing scenes from Streep and Hathaway, making Tom Cruise seem like a sidekick in an action movie, or keeping an overly gritty film like Sicario human. Goddamnit, how does Emily Blunt not have a nomination?


Elizabeth Banks: She’s coming for one soon as she continues to break out of her comedy shell. Her work two years ago in Love & Mercy managed to stand out even surrounding by great actors like Cusack, Giamatti, and Dano. She’s also proven herself a capable director. 

Elizabeth Olsen: The most talented Olsen sister has quietly become one of the most consistent working actresses. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a landmark performance for which she should’ve been nominated. She’s a scene-stealer in the Marvel movies. And she was great this year in Wind River. Still just 28, she’ll surely get one.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: If Gugu isn’t a household name yet, she will be by this time 2018, after starring in two likely blockbusters (God Particle, A Wrinkle In Time). Her performances in both Belle and Beyond the Lights were nomination-worthy, the film’s just failed to land with general audiences. Her most notable work probably came in the Emmy-winning Black Mirror episode “San Junipero”. Like with Olsen, it feels like a foregone conclusion that she’ll get one sometime over the next five years.

Idris Elba: Hollywood producers have never really understood how to use Idris Elba. It’s not a coincidence that’s his best work has come on TV, although, he was certainly deserving of all the praise he received for Beasts of No Nation. It appears this could change this year, as he’s in the thick of the Best Supporting Actor race yet again for Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game.


Jamie Lee-Curtis: Like with Sutherland or Glover, what can you really say at this point? Few people have given greater contributions to the medium of cinema over the last 40 years.

Jeff Goldblum: Perhaps he’s become more well known in recent years for his unique style of ranting than for his actual acting talent, but Goldblum can bring it. Just watch The Big Chill or The Fly if you don’t believe me. Goldblum needs a director to tailor a flashy supporting role in a Best Picture nominee to his talents, like what Whiplash did for J.K. Simmons.

Jim Carrey: Carrey proved himself as a dramatic actor years ago with films like The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Him missing for the latter is one of the worst Oscar snubs of the century so far. Since then, he hasn’t really *tried* to do something that would resonate with Oscar, which is fine, but if he wants one, he has to choose better/different scripts. 

Joel Edgerton: Edgerton continues to churn out quality work in good films that can’t quite land with the Academy (his Loving co-star Ruth Negga got a nomination, but the film was snubbed beyond that). Focus Features is gearing up for an Oscar run with Boy Erased next year. It’s Edgerton’s latest directorial effort, but he’s not acting in this one. Maybe that’s where he finally finds Oscar love?

John Goodman: WHO DO I HAVE TO FUCK FOR GOODMAN TO GET AN OSCAR NOMINATION? Seriously, when you think of the term “best supporting actor”, is he not the first name that comes to mind? Pick your favorite Goodman role in a Coen Bros movie, and it’s more than a worthy performance.

John Turtorro: Yet another Coen muse named John who’s been grossly ignored by the Academy. Turturro is an actor who lifts every film he is in, even the dreadful Transformers movies.

Keanu Reeves: While his highest-profile work has come in action movies, Keanu has also proven himself time and time again a great dramatic performer. My Own Private Idaho drew raves mostly for the work of the late River Phoenix, but Keanu was every bit as good. 


Kerry Washington: Everyone knows how great Washington is. She’s become very, very popular thanks to her work on Scandal. Now it’s just about finding the right role in an Oscar-friendly film. Some though that may be Django Unchained, but her character ended up sitting almost the whole movie out.

Kevin Bacon: Another performer whose lack of a nomination is genuinenly shocking. You can probably pick out 10+ Kevin Bacon turns that are worthy of awards attention. For a recent great Bacon performance, check out Cop Car (2015).

Kirsten Dunst: Maybe her frustrating work in the Spider-Man movies left a bad taste in the mouths of many, or maybe it’s just that her best performances come in art films that aren’t really in the Academy’s wheelhouse? I don’t know, but nobody as good as Dunst was in Marie Antoinette or Melancholia should be without an Oscar nomination.

Kristen Stewart: Ever since her Twilight duties ended, K-Stew has turned in exceptional performance after exceptional performance. She works with great directors. It’s probably a matter of being in something a bit more commercially friendly.

Kurt Russell: One of the great pure movie stars of all-time has never gotten his proper due as a serious actor. Perhaps he’ll find an old man role that can bring him one. We thought it may be The Hateful Eight, but some of his co-stars outshined him. He doesn’t currently have anything in the pipeline.

Léa Seydoux: Seydoux was so unbelievably good in Blue is the Warmest Colout, but it’s not very surprising the lengthy French romance didn’t land with Oscar. She’s a rising name though thanks to her appearances in major franchises such as Bond and Mission: Impossible, so perhaps her next transcendent work will have more American eyes on it.

Margot Robbie: Robbie’s sudden rise to the top of the game has been fascinating. It’s really been the result of just two roles; a seductive Brooklynite in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and the iconic Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. While those two films unfortunately portrayed Robbie’s character as little more than a sex object, she’s proven her dramatic capabilities in Z for Zachariah and (reportedly) in I, Tonya, which many pundits expect to land her a nomination this year.


Maria Bello: All Bello does is churn out quality work. It’s crazy she wasn’t nominated for either The Cooler or A History of Violence

Martin Sheen: Insane. The star of Badlands and Apocalypse Now, two landmarks in American cinema, has never been nominated for an Oscar (though he’s picked up a slew of Emmys and Globes for The West Wing). He’s also turned in a handful of strong support performances. At 77, the clock is, unfortunately, ticking. He’s playing Oral Roberts in a Netflix film coming next year. Maybe that’s the one?

Michael B. Jordan: Another guy who feels destined to be nominated sooner rather than later. He did deserving work in both Fruitvale Station and Creed, but neither film got a real awards push from their distributors. Once he finishes his duties for Creed II, expect him to find a project that’ll get him back in the awards discussion. 

Michael Peña: Peña is one of the most versatile actors working today. He can be hilarious (Ant-Man, Observe and Report). He can be heartbreaking (he gave the best turn in Crash, a Best Picture winner). He can act next to huge movie stars and not get outshined (End of Watch with Gyllenhaal, Fury with Pitt). He’s another Michael who feels destined to get one soon. Maybe for the War in Afghanistan drama Horse Soldiers from Warner Bros next year?

Miles Teller: Miles Teller has been compared to a young Brando; both for his acting chops and the fact that he doesn’t appear to mind coming off as an asshole. That type of PR can work both ways. Whiplash saw an awards-worthy performance out of Teller, but all attention and campaign dollars were directed at J.K. Simmons.

Nicholas Hoult: Some questionable role choices in bad franchises have held Hoult back, but he can act. He was a standout in Mad Max: Fury Road, and he’s got a juicy role in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film coming next year.

Pam Grier: Most of her notable work came in 70s genre film, which never had a chance with Oscar, but Jackie Brown certainly should have. She held that rather crazy narrative together. Unfortunately, Greer doesn’t really work anymore and seems comfortable with her legacy. But if she does step back into serious work, I’d expect Oscar to take note.

Paul Dano: The fact that this didn’t happen after There Will Be Blood or Love & Mercy makes me think it never will. Maybe Oscar just doesn’t really know or care who Dano is. But he’s one of the very finest actors of his generation. I have no doubts he’ll give a dozen more worthy performances.

Peter Sarsgaard: Shattered Glass, An Education, Jackie. Get this man a damn nomination, please. He’s perhaps the most underrated actor working today. 

Ray Liotta: I’d like to take a second to note how ridiculous it is that Liotta wasn’t nominated for Goodfellas, one of the great lead performances ever. Surrounded by flashier work, Liotta holds the film together with his enthusiastic turned paranoid performance. He does what DiCaprio did in The Wolf of Wall Street, but more human. He’s also done some very good supporting work since (The Place Beyond the Pines, Killing Them Softly).


Rebecca Hall: Hall’s work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Christine make for two of the best performances of this century. She understands the subtleties of her characters, and how to communicate them without speaking. She’s an automatic must-watch for me, as I’ve never not seen her lift a movie. She’s gonna be in Woody Allen’s 2018 film, maybe that’s the one? Allen directed her best performance in the aforementioned Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Regina King: We as a collective need to stop under-using and underappreciating Regina King. Much of her major work has come on TV, but roles in Jerry Maguire and Ray should’ve garnered her more attention. 

Robin Wright: Ever since she broke out with The Princess Bride, Wright has struggled to resonate with Oscar despite some really strong supporting work. Her stock is higher than ever thanks to House of Cards and Wonder Woman. Maybe her next turn in a prestige film will do the trick.

Rosario Dawson: While she’s known nowadays for the Marvel/Netflix shows and problematic comments, Dawson has proven herself a great actress. She gave a powerhouse performance in Kids at the age of just fifteen. #MakeRosarioDawsonGreatAgain.

Rose Byrne: She’s just so consistently great, whether it be in comedy or drama. I’d cite Paul Feig’s Spy as the clearest example. She shows up and steals the show from a very talented cast. She was also great opposite Susan Sarandon in The Meddler last year.


Sam Rockwell: Perhaps the most consistently electric character actor of today appears to finally be in for his first nomination courtesy of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Scarlett Johansson: Crazy that ScarJo hasn’t been nominated. Despite still being just 32, she’s been one of the most prominent and acclaimed actresses of the last fifteen years, ever since her should’ve-been-nominated breakout turn in Lost in Translation. Films like A Love Song for Bobby Long, Under the Skin, and even her voice work in Her shouldve garnered more awards attention. 

Shailene Woodley: How Jennifer Lawrence has 4 nominations while Woolley has 0 is beyond me. The Descendants, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars. Whew. That’s a damn fine trio of performances for such a young actress. Bonus points for holding her own opposite three titans of the field on Big Little Lies.

Steve Buscemi: William H. Macy and Frances McDormand certainly deserved their nominations for Fargo, but Buscemi should’ve been nominated too. And for Mystery Train. And for Reservoir Dogs. And for Ghost World. AND FOR CON-AIR.

Oscar Isaac: I 100% buy the young Pacino hype. Oscar Isaac is incredible. His work in Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, and Ex Machina make for some of the best turns of this decade. All three should’ve been cited. Thanks to Star Wars fame, his next great turn likely will be.

6 Directors We’d Love to See Get Fired From a ‘Star Wars’ Movie

A couple days ago, news broke that Colin Trevorrow of Jurassic World fame will no longer be directing Star Wars Episode IX. Much like literally every other time in history somebody in Hollywood is fired, the PR spin calls it a “mutual decision” and says it’s due to “creative differences”. Considering the film is still only in scripting/development stages it’s not the craziest thing to see the director replaced. What makes it alarming is that this is the FOURTH time LucasFilm president and super-producer Kathleen Kennedy has removed a director from a project in her still short tenure as Star Wars boss. With Rogue One, which was ultimately quite successful, Kennedy forced director Gareth Edwards to take a backseat during re-shoots and post, bringing in Bourne veteran Tony Gilroy to spearhead the film’s completion. Josh Trank couldn’t even get his standalone story off the ground, and just this year Kennedy fired Phil Lord & Chris Miller off of the upcoming Han Solo movie IN THE MIDDLE OF SHOOTING, replacing them with the experienced and competent but often bland Ron Howard. Something is clearly up at LucasFilm. Kennedy is the one in charge and if she sees things differing from her vision, she’s quick to make a move.

Our team -Zak, and Zak after five expired Coors Lights- thought it’d be interesting to put together a short list of directors we’d like to see get hired and then fired by Kennedy. 

Also, I would never actually root for someone to lose their job. This is for fun. 

Let’s begin with…

George Lucas

Much to the chagrin of the goddamn nerds who continue to push the awful myth that the prequels were anything other than crap, George Lucas has had no involvement in Star Wars since he sold his company to Disney. I would love to see Lucas brought back into the fold, only to be let go after the first draft of his script dedicates its entire third act to regulations in the scrap metal industry on Jakku.

Also, Lucas and Kennedy (and Steven Spielberg, and Kennedy’s husband fellow super-producer Frank Marshall) have all been close friends for decades. I’m a huge fan of personal relationships being destroyed by professional rifts, personally. 

Patty Jenkins

Jenkins is fresh off the wildly successful Wonder Woman, a film that champions strong ladies in an industry that is still run by a staggering number of old men. What’s lame about that is, journalists and fans are now talking about Jenkins like she’s the only female filmmaker. Any time there’s a job opening, her name is brought up as the progressive choice. Like, really? Patty has already “made it”, folks. So have Kathryn Bigelow and Ava DuVernay. If those are the only three female names you can conjure up when fan-hiring a female director, you’re part of the problem. Studios should be trying to balance the scales by finding the next Jenkins.

So I’d love to see Jenkins hired but then replaced by another filmmaker on the cusp of the superstardom Jenkins has already achieved, like Susanne Bier or or Dee Rees or Michelle MacLaren (who was actually originally hired for Wonder Woman.)

Quentin Tarantino

Here’s a hypothetical…Kennedy hires the lauded Tarantino as an unexpected coupe. Fans everywhere are excited. We all imagine the insanely talented Star Wars cast reading Tarantino dialogue. But when the script is finalized, Tarantino has Finn saying the n-word every other line and cast Samuel L. Jackson as his father. Can you imagine someone telling Finn he needs to go back to Jakku and him screaming, “N—-, what?”. Would that be too controversial for a Disney-backed franchise film? Would Tarantino be fired on the spot? Would Spike Lee emerge from thin air to remind everyone that Django Unchained was both bad and extremely problematic (which he’s right about, btw)?

Christopher Nolan

“We’re going to shoot this film on both IMAX and 65mm film stock. Actually, we’re going to invent a new film stock, like 95mm or something. Then, we’re going to build an actual working, flying Milenium Falcon. NASA will help with the costs. Then, we’re going to write a nonlinear script that closes by pondering if the entire trilogy was just a dream. Then, we’re going to cast Cillian Murphy as Kylo Ren, and have Tom Hardy in there somewhere, and maybe Michael Caine. Also, fuck Netflix. Did I mention that? Then, we’re going to enlist actual astronauts to-”

“Chris, get the fuck out of my office.”

Woody Allen

I lied earlier when I said I’d never root for someone to actually get fired. I hope Woody Allen gets fired from something. Fuck Woody Allen. Maybe getting fired from such a high profile film would make everyone realize he’s really just a rapey pedophile whose works have aged poorly for everyone who isn’t a Brooklyn-based posh fuck who subscribes to The New Yorker and never reads it but makes sure to bring it everywhere with them and have its logo hang out their Patagonia laptop case yet they couldn’t tell you who Junot Díaz is despite having the last 5 NYer issues on the over-priced minimalist coffee table in their Scandinavian-influenced apartment that smells like an odd mixture of cat urine and bush weed that they refuse to tidy up because the filth makes them feel like real Brooklynites and not the ugly mustache-having fucks guilty of gentrification that they actually are. You know, the types who’d actually be excited for a new Woody Allen movie.

Fuck Woody Allen.

Clint Eastwood

Clint works so damn fast, often developing and shooting and editing an entire acclaimed film in the span of six months, that Kennedy might even get the chance to fire him. Kennedy would show up with some script revisions only to find Clint already made the whole damn movie. 

‘Game of Thrones’ szn 7, ep. 3: Is Jaime about to become a cuck?

For all the dragons and armies and boobies, Game of Thrones is at its best when it’s at its quietest; that is, moments when it’s just two or three or maybe four people in a room talking to each other. In “The Queen’s Justice”, by far the strongest episode of a season that’s already 42.8% of the way over, we saw a handful of accelerated action sequences sandwiched in between a couple of killer conversations.

Let’s start with the obvious one, the most anticipated meeting in GOT history. Dany and Jon. Ice and fire. Auntie and nephew. The two characters this show has set up as the likable leads ever since season one. All that jazz. Despite the one-note nature of the Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington as of late*, there was still some stirring dialogue here. I credit the larger context of the the conversation; context that the viewer, but not the characters, understand. There’s this “rule” in storytelling that for a scene to have real tension, someone has to be hiding something from someone else. Either one character knows something the other doesn’t, or the audience knows something neither characters do. This was of course a case of the latter as we all know Dany and Jon are related. Everything they do and say to each other before they learn the truth carries extra dramatic weight. It must be really fun to write dialogue this way, and harkens back to just how perfect is was to reveal Jon’s lineage to us last season before he met Dany.

*Just how many times is GOT going to make a joke about Jon Snow brooding before it, you know, has him do something other than brood?

Dany and Jon were at a relative stalemate at first. She wants him to bend the knee and support her claim to the throne. He wants her to give him dragonglass and join his side in the coming war against the dead. Luckily, Tyrion is there. He’s the best talker of the bunch and somewhat in the middle of the two. He’s loyal to Dany and wants to see her destroy Cersei, but he also knows Jon is an honest dude who probably isn’t making everything up. We saw him able to convince Dany to budge a bit and allow Jon to mine dragonglass. But it’s not like Dany and Jon are best buddies just yet. As Jon asked, how does he convince people he doesn’t know that a threat they don’t believe in is coming to kill them? That’s the story for the remainder this season.

I don’t care about Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes dying.

Line of the Week

“They just like severed heads, really” – Euron

Bran is sort of a weirdo, no? I understand his role as the Three-Eyed Raven requires him to act a certain way, but good god, that reunion with Sansa was cold. He hadn’t seen her in years, more or less since he could walk, and the first thing he said to her boiled down to “you looked pretty that night you were forced to marry and raped by a monster”. Bran is clearly a huge part of the show’s endgame, but his last few scenes have been uncomfortable to watch, and not in the way GOT scenes are usually uncomfortable to watch.

Ramsay Bolton, the aforementioned monster who terrorized Sansa, may be dead, but the show has been quick to replace him with Euron Greyjoy. Euron is a much more interesting character than Ramsay, however. Euron at least has understandable motivations, a certain method to his madness. Ramsay was a sadist who existed on the show for the sole purpose of giving the viewer someone easy to root against. It was fun to see Euron parade his captors through the streets of King’s Landing on his way to the Red Keep. Mark Mylod, a veteran director of GOT and other HBO shows, made a strong effort to shoot the walk from the same angles as Cersei’s “walk of shame” at the end of season five. It wasn’t too long ago that the same commoners were throwing shit and food at a naked Cersei; now they’re doing it to their enemies. It was a neat way to show the fickle nature of the people. “They just like severed heads, really,” as Euron said.

I still don’t care about Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes dying.

Cersei and Jaime’s wartime strategy certainly one-upped Tyrion and Dany’s yet again this week. I enjoyed the way the attack on Casterly Rock was staged, more or less as a montage narrated by Tyrion. In doing so, the show was able to not waste any time with a relatively insignificant plot point but still work in some action. It was a callback to Tyrion’s heyday of entertaining whores, much like Jaime’s decision to give up The Rock in favor of easily taking Highgarden was a callback to a similar tactic Robb Stark deployed against him back in season two. Also, the show didn’t make it clear, but the logic behind taking Highgarden instead of defending The Rock is so the Lannisters could use the loot from Highgarden, the richest place in Westeros, to pay back the Iron Bank. On top of that, Casterly Rock is on the other side of the world. Now without ships, Grey Worm and the Unsullied are basically stuck away from where the war is. If you’re Cersei/Jaime and had to chose having control of just one of the two, Highgarden is the obvious choice.

I absolutely adored the performance of Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell throughout her run on the show. Her scathing wit made every conversation she took part in entertaining. She was a true scene stealer. At no moment was that more clear than her final scene. Even facing certain death, literally having just drank poison, she still won the moment vs Jaime. The look on his face as she explained Cersei’s monstrosity and admitted to killing Joffrey was priceless. He knew everything she was saying was true. It’s yet another scene where Jaime’s allegiances are subtly tested. He loves Cersei and he probably always will. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later. 

More subtext from the Jaime-Olenna convo…Olenna admitting to killing Joffrey, and Jaime clearly believing her, means he now knows Tyrion FOR SURE didn’t do it. And more importantly, he now knows Cersei wanted Tyrion, a brother who Jaime loves, dead regardless of his non-involvement. Tensions in that bedroom should be at an all-time high.

The Sam/Jorah/Citadel subplot has been very underwhelming. First off, the legendary and incurable sickness greyscale is in fact quite curable. It was as simple as peeling the stuff off then applying a little ointment*. Sam’s presence at the Citadel to this point has been nothing more than convenient placing to drive the plot. It hasn’t done anything to forward his character arc. He surely has more to learn there -the common theory is that he’ll be the one to discover Jon’s lineage- but the writers have sacrificed one of their stronger characters for narrative ease to this point in the season.

*It should be noted, however, that Shireen Baratheon was not treated that way. She still had visible greyscale on her face, it just stopped spreading.

“The Queen’s Justice” was an overall solid episode. It featured real forward motion, a highly anticipated meeting, and one of the finest scenes in the series’ run with the Jaime-Olenna ending. It still feels like things are moving a bit slow considering how little time is left, but we’re getting there.

I still definitely don’t care about Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes dying.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. If for some reason you aren’t reading/watching Jason Concepcion of The Ringer, please stop reading this and do so. As The Ringer’s in-house GOT nut and self-described Maester, he knows more about the show and books than anybody. His content is always essential. His “Ask the Maester” mailbags are very educational for non-book readers.
  2. If you haven’t heard, there was a major hack of HBO. The company fears that scripts and even full episodes have been stolen. Add this to the fact that the entire plot of this season has been on Reddit for over six months (and it’s been accurate thus far), and we’re looking at a larger problem with cyber-security in relation to spoilers with GOT. In full disclosure, I am vaguely familiar with what’s rumored to go down. But I would never spoil anything.
  3. We got some Bronn this week! Albeit in a speechless cameo when Jaime took Highgarden.
  4. No Arya this week. Also, nothing from The Hound and the Brotherhood again. Expect Arya to return to Winterfell and be featured prominently next week.
  5. Get Diana Rigg a goddamn Emmy. That is all.

‘Wonder Woman’ is just okay, which is good enough 

Gal Gadot has the perfect eyes for Wonder Woman. They can be fierce, as they are when she’s wielding her sword and shield and lasso. They can also give off a childlike sense of curiosity, as they do when she sees a peacoat (or Chris Pine’s dick) for the first time. If only Patty Jenkins’ film as a whole was as good executing this duality as Gadot’s eyes are…

Wonder Woman is really two movies. One of those movies is an aptly handled fish-out-of-water story; a genuinely funny, romantic, and inspiring tale of a woman who wants nothing more than to save a world she doesn’t really understand yet. The film’s strongest moments all come courtesy of this premise. Whether it’s a young Diana punching air and practicing moves as she watches the Amazon warriors train, or a fully-grown Diana having what amounts to a grade school sex talk on a boat with her tour guide and eventual love interest Steve Trevor (Pine), the first half of Wonder Woman is some of the best and most refreshing blockbuster filmmaking in years. And not just because it’s a female-driven work in an industry dominated by old white dudes. By any standard, regardless of what rests between the director’s legs, a lot of Wonder Woman is a damn fine movie.

Unfortunately, when this superhero film actually acts like a superhero film, it’s an unimaginative mess akin to what the reasonable amongst us have come to expect with the D.C. Extended Universe. The actual plot, and the various cardboard cutout villains who drive that plot, is never interesting. From the second Gadot & Pine share the screen to the second they no longer can, all story becomes just a lame distraction from their relationship. The scenes where Diana fights are frustrating. Jenkins shoots these scenes with such over-reliance on slow-motion that the few moments when Diana kicks butt in real time feel like godsends. The finale is a bland clusterfuck of surprisingly awful CGI that looks dated when compared to similar moments in recent films like Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The film’s aforementioned strengths only make these offenses seem even more egregious. 

Jenkins is an undeniably gifted filmmaker. Anyone who’s seen Monster -a legit masterwork and one of the finest films of the century- can tell you that. She certainly flexes her directorial chops here. All the early moments set on Themyscira, the no-boys-allowed island from which Diana hails, are stunning. Jenkins and DoP Matthew Jensen create these gorgeous sun-drenched images that appear otherworldly, as intended. The dialogue scenes are given a perfect improvisational tone. Jenkins’ WW1 set pieces later in the film look awesome. 

But everything comes back to Diana and Steve’s relationship. It’s an interesting dynamic. They both babysit one another in different ways. Diana literally saves Steve’s life early in the film and continues to do so throughout. Steve helps Diana navigate the social and systematic aspects of a world she’s completely foreign to. Both are good people who want to save lives and end the war, but they have very different ways of going about it. Hilarity ensues, organic romantic chemistry develops, and, in a bold move that’s not being talked about as much as it should, it’s implied that the two have sex. They need each other. Diana needs Steve’s grounded understanding of the world and the war as she learns the ropes. Steve needs Diana’s optimism and can-do wherewithal to combat some of his cynicism. Gadot and Pine are so, so good together. It’s a shame we won’t get to see these two more.

Wonder Woman is self-aware without ever becoming meta. It wisely avoids heavy-handed feminism with the exception of one brief moment (the awful “We call that a slave” line when Diana learns what a secretary is). I cannot speak to the minds of young girls, but it’s easy to imagine this film being inspiring, and it pulling that off while leaving its feminism as subtext is a pleasant surprise. Jenkins is a smart filmmaker. She knows how gorgeous Gal Gadot is, and she knows we know it. She doesn’t treat the audience like dummies and hide Gadot’s sexiness, nor does she obnoxiously flaunt it like Suicide Squad did with Margot Robbie. Gadot looks great. Men briefly ogle her. But that’s it. 

Gadot’s actual performance erases all the doubts fans had, given her relative lack of experience, years ago when she was cast. She’s a gifted actress and her turn reminds me a lot of Chris Hemsworth’s strong work as Thor. She can play dumb when the script asks Diana to react to all the new things she’s discovering. And she can play tough when shit gets real. I sincerely hope she is featured prominently in the DCEU moving forward. Her Diana is certainly more interesting than Ben Affleck’s Batman or Henry Cavill’s Superman.  

Chris Pine shines as Steve Trevor, and the script makes Trevor one of the best love interests in any comic-book movie. He has a real arc, while serving a purpose in both the larger story and Diana’s development. It’s another fantastic performance from Pine, and a very vulnerable one, that sees him willingly play second fiddle for the majority of the film while never allowing the character -a throwback heroic military man- to seem anything less than classically masculine, a natural archetype given the setting of the film. Pine has quickly become one of our finest working actors, a versatile performer seemingly capable of anything. 

Perhaps the most refreshing element of Wonder Woman, and what’s caused people to overlook its obvious problems, is the overall enthusiasm the film has. In a world filled with brooding superheroes, it’s a lot of fun to see someone excited about being a superhero like Diana is. Her presence in this franchise is crucial. So in a way, despite not being a particularly great film, Wonder Women did save the DCEU from itself. The absurd box office figures and overall acclaim suggest so.

‘Westworld’ is pretty, but it’s not particularly good.

We’re now three hours into into Westworld, HBO’s high-concept science fiction drama loosely based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name. With a reported cost of $10M per episode, the premium cable giant is counting on Westworld to fill a certain dragon-free gap in their dramatic programming that’s been gaping ever since the second series of True Detective immediately went off the rails.

For now, Westworld seems to have done its job. With a pilot viewership of 3.3M -HBO’s best since the first series of True Detective– critical/popular acclaim, and a desirable place in a pop culture landscape very much shaped by recaps and fan theorizing……Westworld is a hit. A second season is essentially assured at this point. We’re just waiting on the announcement. Westworld appears to have already become what both The Leftovers (a bit too slow) and The Night Of (initially promising, but) failed to. My gripe is that I’ve seen nothing to convince me Westworld is actually good or worthy of the theorizing. And again, we’re through three episodes of a ten-episode season. The show’s past the point where pilot-like expositional setup and intrigue can pique interest. At some point, the characters need to carry it home.

The premise of Westworld is fun enough. Westworld is futuristic theme park in an old-West setting populated by semi-conscious, disturbingly realistic artificial intelligences called “hosts” (Cowboy robots? Cowboy robots!). These hosts can’t actually hurt the guests (at least not yet), but boy, can they die in grisly romanticized ways. These hosts are even given personalities and backstories, but they’re on a loop and completely acquiescent to the whims of the guests. These hosts exist to function within each guest’s own create-your-own-adventure. Whores, bandits, lawmen. A guest can do whatever he or she wants while in Westworld. You can drink brandy, fuck robots, rinse, repeat. Or you can grab a six-shooter and go off an adventure.

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There’s an interesting story somewhere in there. What drives people to spend $40K a day to visit? What drives people to make the decisions they make when they do visit? But Westworld the show doesn’t seem to care much about that. It’s narrative, which is very much about narrative in general, is more concerned with the hosts and the coding that goes into them and how they are/aren’t human. Rather than use the idea of Westworld as a way to study its human characters, Westworld (to this point) is happy functioning as just another “What does it really mean to be human?” epic. Only, it’s hard to feel anything for the hosts of Westworld because we’re told explicitly over and over that every single detail concerning them is manufactured. Nothing is natural. They don’t grow and learn, the just get a new storyline to follow from up top. Westworld doubled down on this in its most recent episode; communicating that the emerging memories of the hosts, which is what drives the plot, probably aren’t happening by accident.

The two most interesting characters through three episodes are veteran guest Logan (Ben Barnes) and his first-time friend William (Jimmi SImpson). Logan seems to be content coming to Westworld for its revels (i.e. having sex with robots). William is different. He’s repeatedly shown turning down said inorganic sexual advances, and is more interested in the adventurous elements of Westworld. These contrasts are intriguing, but the two are yet to really matter in the larger context of the show (though, at least that appears to be changing).

To a certain extent, an extent ultimately based on your willingness to sit back and just enjoy, the problems with Westworld are offset by its merits. Westworld is for the most part entertaining. It’s very cinematic in its look. The cinematography experiments, the sets are impressive, the loaded cast seems to be having a lot of fun (Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, and Ed Harris will always be watchable). Westworld attempts to combine two bankable subgenres -the violent western and the thinking man’s sci-fi film- into one tonal/visual aesthetic. It works at times. Westworld is at its best when it takes a Spielbergian approach and has its characters look in awe of everything that is unfolding. It’s more well-made and more thoughtful than 95% of what’s on TV.

It also is so deeply embedded in the idea of mystery that it can afford to tread water for the time being, with the promise of mind-bending payoff lingering in the back. Westworld refuses to show its hand too early. Assuming the show gets multiple seasons, viewers are likely looking at a 20+ hour wait before they know what’s really going on. Maybe this helps retain viewership- are you really going to stop watching this early when you don’t even know what the show is yet? But it also makes the show’s lack of character work even more noticeable. I’m watching Westworld because of what I think may happen down the road, not because I’m interested in what’s going on right now. I’m assuming the hosts are going to continue to be humanized and remember the horrible things they’ve been through and (maybe) team up in some way against those evil, vice-driven humans. Of course, I’m probably way off-base. Some insane twist, the ones folks theorize about, could emerge (one of the showrunners is a Nolan, after all).

Perhaps most alarmingly in terms of its future, Westworld is hurt by the dullness of its two apparent leads. The female lead (Evan Rachel Wood, trying her best) is a host named Dolores. She’s actually not a prostitute. She’s a farm girl who loves her dad(s) but dreams of adventures outside her little world. She’s shown to have more genuine feelings than the other hosts, though that’s due to her being a muse for the male lead (Jeffrey Wright, lifelessly playing a lead programmer) to use almost as a therapist. There are three lenses through which the viewer understands Westworld. Dolores is the host lens through which we begin to understand the psychology of these things. William is the human lens through which we see the actual park. Wright’s character, Bernard, is the human lens through which we experience the inner-happenings of Westworld. The latest episode attempted to make Bernard seem more nuanced than the hosts; tried to make him, you know, actually human. One forced expository backstory about the loss of a child later and we’re looking at a male lead more robotic than the actual robots.

Of course, none of my carping really matters. Westworld is a hit for the reasons I’m struggling with it, not despite them. It spends its time trying to be mysterious and the interwebs are rife with weary commenters trying to unravel those mysteries.

“Is so and so really dead?”, “What if X is actually Y?”, that sort of thing.

I’ve be burned before when I form an opinion of a show too early, both negative and positive (after the first two episodes of each, I’d have told you The Night Of was the best thing ever and that The Wire was kind of boring). I’ll sit with Westworld for a few more hours. But if I’m not soon given a reason to care about these characters, a reason to watch beyond the what-ifs, I’ll have a hard time justifying its place in my culture-consuming rotation.

FINAL 2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay & Best Adapted Screenplay

This post was updated January 13th and predictions are FINAL

Best Original Screenplay

The Predicted Nominees

You always have to take the Writers Guild nominations with a grain of salt since they have differing views than the Academy on what “original” and “adapted” mean, as well them simply disqualifying films that lack guild affiliation. Damien Chazelle has picked up some prizes for his La La Land script and looks to double dip both here and in director. Same goes for Kenneth Lonergan with Manchester by the Sea. Both are locks for a nom, though I feel like the Academy may want to award Lonergan here if La La Land is winning picture/director. My favorite work of the year is that of Taylor Sheridan with Hell or High Water. He should’ve gotten in last year for Sicario. He’ll be in this year as his film looks like a good best picture bet. The Lobster looks to surprise. It wasn’t eligible for WGA but there’s a lot of love and A24 Films has proven themselves capable of sneaking smaller stuff in major categories. Also, I think Mike Mills is in for some love despite 20th Century Women never really picking up the momentum many thought it would.

1) Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

2) Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

3) Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)

4) Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou (The Lobster)

5) Mike Mills (20th Century Women)

On The Bubble

Keep an eye on Matt Ross for Captain Fantastic. It’s small, but a lot of people love the film. It could double dip here and in best actor for Viggo Mortensen.

6) Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic)

7) Various Writers (Zootopia)

8) Nicholas Martin (Florence Foster Jenkins)


Best Adapted Screenplay

The Predicted Nominees

Finally, a category where Moonlight doesn’t have to battle La La Land. It should be an easy win for Barry Jenkins and his writing partner/best pal Tarell McCraney (who wrote the play on which the film is based). Eric Heisserer made so many changes to the Ted Chiang story that Arrival is loosely based on that it’s practically an original script; and a great one at that. Look for Pulitzer winner August Wilson to score a nom for adapting his own play (though the changes to make it fit the screen are next to none). Likely best picture nominee Hidden Figures should sneak in, and while I don’t think the Academy loves Nocturnal Animals as much as its late momentum suggests, this is a spot to cite Tom Ford for adapting a complex novel.

1) Barry Jenkins & Tarell McCraney (Moonlight)

2) Eric Heisserer (Arrival)

3) August Wilson (Fences)

4) Theodore Melfi & Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures)

5) Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)

On The Bubble

A spot or two could easily go to likely best picture nominees Lion and Hacksaw Ride, though neither are the type of films that overtly show off the writing. I want Jeff Nichols to get a nomination so bad, but Loving never really gained the traction folks thought it would. I think it’s getting shut out entirely on Oscar morning.

6) Luke Davies (Lion)

7) Jeff Nichols (Loving)

8) Andrew Knight & Robert Schenkkan (Hacksaw Ridge)

9) Martin Scorsese & Jay Cocks (Silence)

 

‘Vice Principals’ is essential.

The best show on TV over the last couple of months was hidden on the backend of HBO’s always-reliable Sunday night programming. Overshadowed by the critically-acclaimed (but frustrating) limited series The Night Of and the Dwayne Johnson-starring Ballers, the first season of Vice Principals -from Eastbound & Down maestros Danny McBride & Jody Hill- never seemed to garner the critical or popular attention it deserved. Surely, part of this is due to pilot culture in the current TV landscape. There’s just sooooo much “good” stuff on TV. From the eye of either a professional critic or a casual viewer, if the first episode of a series doesn’t reel you in, you’re likely to write it off immediately and spend your precious watching time elsewhere. That’s the nature of the game and showrunner/networks have to know that, but it’s very unfortunate for a show like Vice Principals, which doesn’t show its true colors until the second or third episode. The show wrapped its first season last night in fine form. I just wish more people were paying attention.

The premise is simple enough and something you may expect out of a family friendly network sitcom. A thoughtful “dramedy” in the truest sense of that overused term, Vice Principals concerns two white vice principals -Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Goggins)- at a mostly white high school. When their boss (Bill Murray!) retires, it appears as if we’re in for a competition between the two very different men for the big gig. But then the school district brings in Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) to run things. She’s black. She’s a woman. She’s also remarkably accomplished and way more qualified for the job than either Gamby or Russell. She has multiple degrees and awards, pictures with famous politicians, and an uncanny ability to combine both Russell and Gamby’s respective strengths into one super-principal (Gamby is a capable disciplinarian, Russell is a shmoozer loved by the staff). Brown should have the job. She’s better than both Gamby and Russell. The show is sure to make that clear in the very first episode. However, Gamby and Russell won’t simply roll over. They both believe they’re “the one”. So the two rivals team up and hatch a sinister plan to go outside the bureaucracy, and the law, to bring down Dr. Belinda Brown.

And there you have it. A 2016 show about two white men with no filter trying to drag down a black woman in the workplace. That alone is unprecedented, and made even more poignant by the fact that Vice Principals never feels too heavy-handed. It never explicitly mentions its dealings with both racial and gender issues. Hell, it almost hides those issues behind dick jokes and psychedelic sequences (it’s Danny McBride, after all). But they’re there, and the show wants you to know that. McBride, co-showrunner Jody Hill, and Goggins have all addressed this in interviews. Everything was intentional. None of these artists are strangers to pushing the envelope. Eastbound & Down, while a bit sillier than VP, was much more intelligent and heedful of social issues than it got credit for.

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Anyone familiar with Goggins is well aware he’s made a career out of playing deplorable, racist characters with an astute level of nicety (most recently in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight). The subtlety with which the show navigates its “politics” is masterful. There’s also the shows handling of modern masculinity. Gamby is divorced and wants his daughter to participate in equestrian activities, but she seems more interested in dirt bikes; partially due to the influence of her mom’s new boyfriend, the classically manly Ray (HBO regular Shea Whigham). Russell, on top carrying designer handbags and walking in a manner that shows off his ass, is often emasculated by his live-in Korean mother-in-law. Both of these men have issues with their standing as men relative to the women in their personal lives; and those issues bleed into their handling of Belinda in their professional lives. There’s so much going on below the surface.

Of course, that doesn’t matter if the show isn’t actually funny. It is. Much of the comedy comes froms the distinct differences between Gamby and Russell, both professionally and personally. The less eccentric Gamby wears short-sleeve button ups and clip-on ties. The overtly flamboyant Russell wears bright-colored chinos and a bowtie/sweater combo under his flashy blazers. Gamby’s best friend at school is Dayshawn (Sheaun McKinney), a wise but apathetic cafeteria worker who nods his head in response to whatever Gamby says. Russell’s best friend is the drama teacher; with whom Russell can talk about what salon to go to without being ridiculed. Gamby seems genuinely distraught and bothered by the sinister plans against Belinda, whereas Russell is painted as a sociopath who’s done this sort of thing multiple times before. A strange bromance develops, and it’s boosted by the chemistry between McBride and Goggins. They rattle off quality one-liners and converse in a way that feels natural to their respective characters. McBride and Hill as dialogue writers are meticulously detailed. The improvisational nature to the conversations is actually something that requires a great deal of attention.

Many of the funniest bits in Vice Principals come from the specific, stream-of-consciousness way the characters structure their sentences. Goggins and McBride both find the perfect cadences and stresses in their characters’ speech. Russell is a drama queen to an extent, emphasizing certain words to get his point across. Gamby is forever nervous, many of his key phrases come via neurotic mumbling. He’s uncomfortable; whether speaking to his ex-wife, Belinda, or the English teacher who goes from wet dream fodder into his actual lover, Amanda Snodgrass (a perfectly quirky yet endearing Georgia King). Gamby and Russell are different people with different motives brought together by the same twisted, problematic endgame.

Vice Principals gets really dark, really fast. Beyond the social commentary waiting to come to a boiling point, the actions of Gamby and Russell establish them as protagonists that are very tough to root for. MINOR SPOILER ALERT. In the second episode, Gamby and Russell go to Belinda’s house hoping to find evidence to blackmail her with. Instead, they see plaques and achievements. Their response is to burn down her house. It’s provoked by Russell, naturally, but Gamby partakes and he carries the guilt all the way through the first season’s finale. Gamby being pushed to such extremes is what tries his character and makes for much of the late-season drama.

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The performances across the board are spot-on. McBride steps out of the shell that’s been formed by Kenny Powers and his characters in various Seth Rogen films. He’s ambitious and caring, but wounded. Not necessarily down on his luck but a man with enough familial problems to make his professional gripes seem silly to the viewer but major to his character, thus creating the character’s ultimate conflict. McBride actually acts here. Gamby’s heart breaks again and again. He falls back on his stern and professional facade even when you just want him to be a dad. McBride nails it with the heavy breathing and muttered profanity. Then there’s Goggins, who completely immerses himself into a self-parodic role a bit less serious than his usual work. He embraces the physicality and speech patterns of the character to a level only matched by the great, more famous working actors such as Christian Bale, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy. This is a character that could’ve gone many ways but now feels like a dude only Goggins could’ve played. The supporting work from Gregory, Whigham, King, and Busy Phillips (as Gamby’s ex) all meshes itself into the show even if the characters are written as relative cliches.

Kimberly Hebert Gregory’s take on Dr. Belinda Brown stands out. The writing wisely embraces stereotypes of the old-school, hardened black mother. Gregory transcends this to make her character seem well-intentioned even when her methods point to the contrary. She uses her big, emotive eyes to play off Gamby and Russell all the while capturing her own motives. Belinda is really the third lead in this show. Her character is every bit as integral to the main plot, and every bit as fleshed out via subplots, as Gamby & Russell. It’s a breakout performance from Gregory, who to this point is best known for random guest spots on bad shows such as Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, though she’s rather accomplished on stage.

On a technical, filmmaking level, Vice Principals  is something to behold. It creates these strange montages, that show unpardonable destruction cut together with schoolboy innocence complemented by a score that channels a sloppy high school band. The horns are too loud, the drums are perfectly off-beat. The photography uses natural light that plays well off the usually bright color of the players’ clothing.

When Vice Principals was announced, it was slated for an 18-episode, 2-season run from the jump. That has to be liberating as a writer. Too many quality shows don’t get the run they deserve, or even worse, run for too long. This is a series tailored to a specific length and that allows its thematics to expose themselves at the perfect times. It’s a contained story that doesn’t get self-indulgent. I for one am looking forward to 2017 and the final nine episodes. Tune in, ya bish.

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