Sunday, January 17, 2016

Speculative fiction at the Critics' Choice Movie and Television Awards


Tonight, A&E hosts the Critics' Choice Awards for both movies and television. I've already written about three of the nominees for the movie awards, "The Big Short," "Spotlight," and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."  Now it's time to look at the rest of the nominations, particularly in speculative fiction, which comprises science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

It turns out that the most nominated movie is a work of science fiction, "Mad Max: Fury Road."  From the press release:
“Mad Max: Fury Road” leads this year with 13 nominations including Best Picture, Charlize Theron for both Best Actress and Best Actress In An Action Movie, Tom Hardy for Best Actor In An Action Movie, George Miller for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Hair and Makeup, Best Visual Effects, Best Action Movie, and Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie.
What a lovely day!


How about the rest of the speculative fiction films being honored (bolding mine)?
“Carol,” “The Martian,” and “The Revenant” impressed with nine nominations each, all in the running for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography, among others. “Spotlight” earned eight nominations, followed by “The Big Short” with seven, and “The Hateful Eight” with six. “Bridge of Spies,” “Brooklyn,” “The Danish Girl,” “Jurassic World,” and “Sicario” each garnered five nominations and “Room” earned four.

Jennifer Lawrence is up for three awards, for her work in both “Joy” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” while Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are both nominated for two acting awards.
In addition to "Mad Max: Fury Road," "The Martian," "Jurassic World," and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2," "Ex Machina" has three nominations, while "It Follows" (the sole horror nominee), "Ant-Man," (the sole comic-book movie nominated), and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" each have one.  That's not a bad showing for speculative fiction, especially science fiction, at a movie awards show.

Both "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Martian" might do well, but not exceptionally so, in the mainstream awards, especially for directing, cinematography, editing, production design, and make-up, where they are in stiff competition with mainstream dramas, but it's the categories for genre films where the action (pun fully intended) will be tonight.  With no further ado, I present the nominees and my opinions of their chances, beginning with a mainstream category in which genre films predominate.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
The Walk
Four of the six nominees are science fiction films.  Of these, I'd root for "Mad Max: Fury Road" except that the really spectacular visuals are the results of stunt work, cinematograpy, and editing, not special effects.  For those, my pick right now is "Jurassic World."  That written, I wouldn't be surprised by any of these films winning, especially "Ex Machina."

Speaking of special effects, it's the subject of an award that has already been decided.
The “Critics’ Choice Genius Award” will be given to ILM in recognition of its 40 years of revolutionary moviemaking that changed entertainment forever. Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams will be on hand to present the honor. For four decades, ILM has set the standard for visual effects, creating some of the most stunning images in the history of film. At the forefront of the digital revolution, ILM continues to break new ground in visual effects. ILM has been awarded 15 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, received 26 Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards, and was presented with the National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States in 2004. Founded in 1975 by George Lucas, ILM is the leading effects facility in the world, serving the motion picture, commercial production and attraction industries. ILM has created visual effects for over 250 feature films, including all seven Star Wars episodes, the Jurassic Park Franchise, the Harry Potter series, the Indiana Jones films, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Iron Man, Transformers, and The Martian.
Well deserved and it will make up for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" not getting any awards (trust me, it won't win Best Movie and it didn't get nominated for any other categories).
BEST ACTION MOVIE
Furious 7
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Sicario
My favorite is "Mad Max: Fury Road" over "Jurassic World"--the former is both more clearly an action movie and a better film overall, but I would be disappointed if not surprised should the critics pick "Sicario," which is probably the best drama of the bunch.  As for "Furious 7," it may be all action, but it's mindless action, unlike "Mad Max: Fury Road," where the violence has intelligence behind it.  It should be happy with its People's Choice Award.
BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Daniel Craig – Spectre
Tom Cruise – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Tom Hardy – Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris Pratt – Jurassic World
Paul Rudd – Ant-Man
Normally, I'd be rooting for Daniel Craig, but "SPECTRE" was a disappointment.  Instead, I'm hoping that Chris Pratt wins.  Tom Hardy is probably the better actor, but he wasn't even the star of his own movie; Charlize Theron was.  Speaking of whom...
BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Emily Blunt – Sicario
Rebecca Ferguson – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Bryce Dallas Howard – Jurassic World
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
Charlize's only serious competition is likely to be Emily Blunt.  Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress, but the material in "The Hunger Games" series does not lend itself to outstanding performances.  On the other hand, she might repeat her Golden Globes win for her performance in "Joy" as a comedic actress.
BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE
Ex Machina
It Follows
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Of this lot, it's a tight competition between "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Martian," although "Ex Machina" might sneak on past.  After all, it's the critics voting, not the movie-makers.  As for the field, I'd substitute "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" for "It Follows."  The latter is probably the best horror movie of the year, but it's not as good as the rest.

That completes my comments on the movies, but like the Golden Globes, I've been neglecting the TV shows.  Follow over the jump for those.

First, the press release, with the speculative fiction nominees bolded by me.
In the television race, ABC, FX Networks, and HBO lead with 14 nominations each, followed by FOX with 12. Topping the list of nominated series is Fargo (FX Networks) with eight. The Leftovers (HBO) and Transparent (Amazon) follow closely behind with six each. The Wiz Live! (NBC) garnered five nominations, while Black-ish (ABC), Mr. Robot (USA), and Penny Dreadful (Showtime) each earned four. Other top series with multiple nominations include American Horror Story: Hotel (FX Networks), Empire (FOX), Jane The Virgin (The CW), Luther (BBC America), Rectify (Sundance), Saints & Strangers (National Geographic Channel), Show Me A Hero (HBO), The Knick (Cinemax), UnREAL (Lifetime), and You’re The Worst (FX Networks), all with three nominations, and Chopped (Food Network), Fresh Off The Boat (ABC), Getting On (HBO), Hannibal (NBC), Inside The Actors Studio (Bravo), Master of None (Netflix), Mom (CBS), Nashville (ABC), Survivor (CBS), The Amazing Race (CBS), The Grinder (FOX), The Last Man on Earth (FOX), and The Middle (ABC), all with two. Because of the new combined Critics’ Choice Awards format, only television shows airing primarily within the seven months from June 1 – December 31 were eligible for nomination.
In addition to the series above, two SyFy productions were nominated, "Childhood's End" for Best Movie Made for TV or Miniseries and "Face Off," the defending best Reality Competition Series, gets to defend its title.


The show that surprised me, in more ways than one, was "The Leftovers."  Before the previous Critics' Choice Awards, I'd announced that I'd given up on it, as I panned the first episode.  That changed when our daughter convinced my wife and I to watch it again and we found an episode of the second season interesting.  As a result, we binge-watched the first and second seasons and really enjoyed it, nihilism and all.  As a result, I'm glad to say I was wrong and the show deserves its nominations, five of which are for acting.


The next most honored speculative fiction show is one I've been hoping would get more recognition, "Penny Dreadful."  In particular, I've been advocating that Eva Green be nominated for her performance.  That happened at the Golden Globes and it happened again here.  Joining Green are Helen McCrory and Patti Lupone for supporting actress and guest actor/actress.  The show itself earned a nomination for Best Drama, competing against "The Leftovers" in that category as well as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.  I doubt "Penny Dreadful" will beat "The Leftovers" for Best Drama (both might lose to "Empire," the winner of the Golden Globe), but I still have hopes that one of the three actresses bring home the award in her category.  Either way, I find the trend of increased recognition encouraging.  If only SAG and the Emmy voters would get on board.


Two series I'm watching that qualify, in one case barely, as speculative fiction got multiple nominations, "The Last Man on Earth," a parody of post-apocalyptic dramas, and "Jane the Virgin," which flirts with magical reality as part of its affectionate parody of telenovelas.  Both of them are competing for Best Comedy, a category in which I think "Jane the Virgin" has the advantage.  It still might lose to "Transparent" or "Master of None."  So might Will Forte for Best Actor in a Comedy to Jeffrey Tambor and Aziz Ansari.  On the other hand, Gina Rodriguez has a better chance for Best Actress in a Comedy.  So does Jaime Camil, who is hilarious as Jane's father, as the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy.

As for the movies and miniseries, the best I can say is that "American Horror Story: Hotel" and "Childhood's End" are not in direct competition with each other.  The former has three acting nominations, none of which are for Lady Gaga (boo!) but isn't nominated for Best Movie or Limited Series, while the latter is nominated for Best Movie or Limited Series, but has no acting nomionations.  In all cases, I think the two speculative fiction shows will get clobbered by "Fargo."

For the reality shows, here's hoping that "Face Off" wins again.  I just hope I didn't jinx it.  Oh, well, there's always "Chopped."

Oh, I forgot one category in which speculative fiction is strong, Most Bingeworthy, where the audience votes instead of the critics.  The nominees are "Empire," "Friends," "Game of Thrones," "Orange Is The New Black," "Outlander," and "The Walking Dead."  Here are the instructions:
[F]ans will be able to vote for their favorite on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by publicly posting #[Show Name]CCA or at http://www.aetv.com/shows/the-21st-annual-critics-choice-awards/exclusives/bingeworthy-poll. An awards show first, fans will also be able to vote by posting a tweet using the following emojis (along with the @CriticsChoice handle):
• #TheWalkingDeadCCA OR skull emoji @CriticsChoice
• #GameofThronesCCA OR crown emoji @CriticsChoice
• #FRIENDSCCA OR people holding hands emoji @CriticsChoice
• #EmpireCCA OR lion emoji @CriticsChoice
• #OITNBCCA OR orange emoji @CriticsChoice
• #OutlanderCCA OR crossed swords emoji @CriticsChoice

A&E has created a helpful tutorial so fans can learn how to play an active role in voting for their favorite shows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QYLkUU5_Pc.
Hurry up and vote, as the deadline will pass soon.  In case my readers are wondering, I've already voted for "The Walking Dead."

Finally, here's a bit of PR that I happen to agree with.
“This is a new Golden Age in Hollywood, with a dazzling array of spectacular, delightful and illuminating films and programs to choose from,” says BFCA/BTJA President Joey Berlin. “These nominations not only honor extraordinary achievements but they serve as an incredibly helpful guide to the best of the best for viewers and ticket buyers. We always tell the creative community, show us your best work and we’ll help the world find it – and that’s what we’re doing today.”
Stay tuned for an entertainment-themed Martin Luther King Day entry on the same theme as last year's.

Enough for today.  I'm playing Star Wars: The Old Republic with my wife!

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