Monday, 16 July 2012

Encore’s Emmy Ballot: The Dramas, Part 2 (Supporting Players)

In a matter of days the Emmy nominations shall be announced and I shall go into potentially catatonic shock when contenders I adore are left off, or surprisingly included. There will be a mass of feelings, and I'm preparing for the worst. Meanwhile, I'm still rolling out my own personal emmy ballot from the list of shows I watch (here) in the categories they submitted.

Previous entries in the ballot:
Dramas, Part 1: Casting, Guest Actor, Guest Actress
Comedies, Part 1: Casting, Guest Actor, Guest Actress
Comedies, Part 2: Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
Comedies, Part 3: Leading Actor, Leading Actress

- Dylan Baker in Damages (for “I’m Worried About My Dog”)
- Walton Goggins in Justified (for “Slaughterhouse”)
- John Goodman in Damages (for “The War Will Go On Forever”)
- Jack Huston in Boardwalk Empire (for “Gimrack and Bunkum”)
- Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (for “Problem Dog”)
- Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (for “Under God’s Power She Flourishes”)

Sometimes in my facetiousness I tend to exaggerate, but compiling my ballot for this category was a legitimately painstaking effort. In the same vein, I do not overstate when I call this the strongest acting category of the last television season. Here’s this for qualification – six of the fifteen actors listed above and below would win the MVP award on their respective. I could easily see a situation where the six above could be replaced with any of the six below and I’d still have a fantastic ballot. What’s more, I can think of six more performers NOT shortlisted who I wouldn’t mind be cited, either. So, as I said – painstaking. Of the runners-up, I’d like to give specific mention to Joel Kinnaman and Vincent Kartheiser for playing different shades of greyness in their respective characters and turning in performances I wish could appear on my ballot (or would appear on Emmy’s), and Alfie Allen and Shea Whigham for turning in excellent but ultimately underappreciated work playing would-be villains (but not quite) with much more heart and sensitivity than a lesser player would – the former more than the latter.
And, now, of my ballot…

I don’t relish the fact that by having two double-mentions on my ballot, the number of shows remembered lessens but I couldn’t help it. Jack Huston is the performer in my six who possibly stands out most on first glance. His screen-time in Boardwalk Empire is not expansive, but that hasn’t prevented him from being great. It’s funny watching how despite half of his face being obscured by a mask Richard (with probably the exception of Margaret) continues to be arguably the show’s most emotive character and that comes down – in a significant way – the work Huston puts in. He’s working double – even triple – time with his eyes and in a year of devastating moments of sorrow Richard’s attempted suicide was one of the most profound. Baker doesn’t get to traverse as expansive a plateau on Damages. Like many standard villains there’s often the difficulty of being too one-note, and Gerry’s one significant moment of breakdown exists as simply a ploy – and Baker has played unsettling before. Still, there’s no thought of his previous evil characters (say, Colin Sweeney).

Goodman, always a fantastic character actor, didn’t seem as if he was asked to stretch himself much in the first few episodes of the Damages season four, and then around episode four the nuances in Erickson’s character became more profound and as he tread the ground between gregarious boss and dangerous foe he added even finer tinges in scenes opposite Chris and his sons. Goggins in Justified and Paul in Breaking Bad are both playing degrees of dangerous men, although the latter is more sensitively drawn than the former. In the way that Breaking Bad examines a smaller roster of characters Paul is gifted with great significant moments to display his talent – for example that brilliant monologue towards the end of “Problem Dog”. Conversely, I’ll be annoyed when/if Walton Goggins is not cited by the Emmy this year but even as he’s my #2 choice his arc this season lack that that episode specificity (ilike Paul) which voters adore. Choosing an episode to represent his contributions becomes particularly frustrating and I settle on his work in the finale, specifically because that tender scene between Ava and Boyd – because hardened criminal or no, my favourite beats of his, and the entire series even, revolve around the relationship the two have (excellently buttressed by Goggins and Carter’s performances).
It’s a no-contest for my winner, though. Michael Pitt turns in my favourite performance – irrespective of category, gender and genre – of the past year and if I could sacrifice any of my favourites to see him nominated come the 19th of July, I would. So much of Jimmy’ journey throughout this season examined familiar tropes of the haunted young man of the era, but they were all tropes the show examined smartly and which Pitt portrayed with so much depth and feeling. I could think of half a dozen episodes with significant moments from his, and in a way I hate citing the penultimate episode (of mostly flashbacks) as his highlight. For one, it lacks moments with him and Nucky (who he’s so fantastic opposite) but he wins major points just for that staggered walk from his bed to the floor while under the influence – a truly devastating, searing star turn.

Runners-Up: Alfie Allen in Game of Thrones; Alan Cumming in The Good Wife; Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones; Vincent Kartheiser in Mad Men; Joel Kinnaman in The Killing; Gabriel Mann in Revenge; Mandy Patinkin in Homeland; Brent Sexton in The Killing; Shea Whigham in Boardwalk Empire

Four shows and six ladies battle for my supporting actress ballot, three of them heading to likely nods, three of them not as likely...


- Christine Baranski in The Good Wife (for “Alienation of Affection”)
- Lauren Graham in Parenthood (for “Politics”)
- Lena Headey in Game of Thrones (for “Blackwater”)
- Kelly Macdonald in Boardwalk Empire (for “Ourselves Alone”)
- Gretchen Mol in Boardwalk Empire (for “What Does the Bee Do”)
- Archie Pankabi in The Good Wife (for “Bitcoin for Dummies”)

I’d like to single out runner-up Rose Byrne for the fantastic work she did on Damages last season. Even as Ellen and her machinations become only secondary to the excellence of Patti, Byrne has overtime honed the intricacies of her character so well delivering series-best work last year. It’s tough to omit her form my ballot, but that’s how great these women are.

Gretchen Mol and Lena Headey, two very beautiful women in buzzed HBO shows, probably won’t be celebrating Emmy nominations at the end of the weak, but they should. Even as I tend to be lukewarm on some aspects of Game of Thrones, the fantastic turn from Headey this season made for - in my opinion, of course – the strongest beats of the entire season. Consider, the way she wrests the audience’s attention from the battle without to the battle within in “Blackwater” is proof of her effect as a performer. In many ways, Mol’s work in Boardwalk Empire mirrors Headey as she is forced to navigate through the series with a character difficult to love. And, like Headey, her finest moments are those where she’s allowed to display her pain. The bookending way that “What Does the Bee Do” displays Gillian’s relationship with the Commodore in such startling and revealing ways and even as subsequent revelations in the series make us ponder, her devotion to her son (however skewed) is always excellently displayed.

In some ways, Lauren Graham is – on a weekly basis – given the most difficult task of all my nominees. Parenthood attempts to navigate between the expressly comedic and expressly dramatic and no performer on the show (and few on television) are forced to be as adept at both as she. She has to be funny through her dramatic scenes or vice versa and even as the romance with the younger man seemed, on prima facie level to be unremarkable Graham (and the show really) turned it into something searing. Such that when that breakdown in the car came opposite the excellent Jason Ritter the scene just devastated. Speaking of asking to do much, what of Christine Baranski in The Good Wife? I noticed a professional Emmy prognosticator bemoaning the state of the race where Baranski’s performance lacking any level of difficult would end up on the ballot as a default nominee, and I wondered if they could be looking at the same show? Season 3 of the show placed particular emphasis on importance of Diane and Baranski managed the difficult task of remaining the straight man amidst all the craziness of Lockhart and Gardner, managing incidental comedy, staunch drama and even screwball moments with significant adeptness – and all in that one episode . This will be an Emmy nod well deserved.
And, on that note of well-deserved – Archie Panjabi isn’t just a default nominee, either. It’s odd; it’s been the least Kalinda-heavy season but Panjabi’s ability to latch on to the specifics of the character work even in the smaller moments (kudos to the bits of her opposite Cumming this season). Consider her in “Bitcoin for Dummies”. It’s my least favourite episode of the season (but, at a solid B this is hardly cause for concern) but it gives Panjabi a chance to do so much, lovely bits with Diane and Will, a great scene opposite Carrie Preston and a closing scene on the witness stand which only solidifies her effect on the show. Ultimately, it’s the fantastic Kelly Macdonald who tops my ballot. As the season went on Macdonald’s role got more difficult. How to express the conflicting sides of Margaret’s nature as she become more fanatical and possibly less reasonable? As the character that works best as an audience surrogate it was a tough job, but one Macdonald handled with deftness. Even as Pitt was the season’s MVP, Macdonald is Buscemi’s best screen-partner and the entire last few scenes of “Ourselves Alone” display her ability to play in quiet registers in the finest of ways.

Runners-Up: Rose Byrne in Damages; Joelle Carter in Justified; Erika Christensen in Parenthood; Anna Gunn in Breaking Bad; Christina Hendricks in Mad Men; Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy; Monica Potter in Parenthood; Mae Whitman in Parenthood; Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones
Both these categories are packed with exceptional performances, or so I think. Who on my ballot would you cast off? Who would you replace them with?


Squasher88 said...

Your runners-up look more like my ballot for the men....but I don't watch any of those shows that your nominees are in.

I'm glad you mentioned Lena Headey in "Blackwater". She OWNED it!! Too bad she didn't have a few other episodes like that. She would have been a serious contender for sure.

Do I even need to repeat how much I adore Kalinda Sharma?

Brittani Burnham said...

I'm glad you mentioned Blackwater as well! She owned it. Drunk Cersai is always the best Cersai. I'm really hoping for Aaron Paul and Michael Pitt to receive noms as well. I'm sure Paul will, Pitt could go either way. He definitely deserves one.