Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guest Post: Creative Arts Primetime Emmys Part 1

Chase here again. Let's get started.

In structuring the posts for this series, I was going to address each individual category with a separate post. Well, there’s a lot of specific categories and I think it’ll be better to group them for post purposes. All of the posts except for the last one will be from a related but technically separate set of awards: The Creative Arts Primetime Emmy (single or multi-camera). These consist of everything that goes into completing the tv experience except for the major categories of acting, writing, and directing. The first eight categories will be Animation, Art Direction, Casting, Children’s Program, Choreography, Cinematography, Commercial, and Costumes. (Disclaimer: For this post and all subsequent posts it should be noted that I haven’t seen all the nomination material. So, my opinion will be biased, naturally)

There are five sub-categories for Animation.
1. Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour)
  • Futurama, “The Late Philip J. Fry”
  • Robot Chicken, “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III”
  • South Park, “Crack Baby Athletic Association”
  • The Cleveland Show, “Murray Christmas”
  • The Simpsons, “Angry Dad – The Movie”

My Vote: Futurama. This has been one of the best episodes since Futurama was resurrected. Futurama usually treats the time travel trope with great care since it’s been done many times. This was no exception. This episode ranks right up there with “Roswell That Ends Well” for me. The science jokes are on point and structure holds together under the episode’s internal logic unlike most time travel stories.

2. Animated Program (for Programming One Hour or More)
  • None. I’m guessing either nothing qualified or nothing was submitted.

3. Voice-Over Performance
  • Bob Bergen as Porky Pig, The Looney Tunes Show “Jailbird And Jailbunny”
  • Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Barney Gumble, Louie; The Simpsons “Donnie Fatso”
  • Seth Green as Various Characters, Robot Chicken “Catch Me If You Kangaroo Jack”
  • Maurice LaMarche as Lrrr, Orson Welles; Futurama “Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences”
  • Christopher Plummer as Narrator, Moguls and Movie Stars “The Birth of Hollywood”
  • Brenda Strong as Mary-Alice Young, Desperate Housewives “Come on Over for Dinner”

My Vote: Maurice LaMarche. You may know LaMarche’s voice as one part of a duo. He was The Brain of “Pinky and The Brain” fame. This episode further explores the marriage of Lrrr and Ndnd showing that even though women are from Omicron Persei 7 and men are from Omicron Persei 9, Lrrr and Ndnd still love each other.

A few comments on the other nominees...I’m sure Bob Bergen does a good job as Porky Pig, but if the voice isn’t Mel Blanc then there’s no comparison. I know that Blanc is the standard for more than one generation of kids who grew up with Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. If you’re not familiar with Mel Blanc, “The Man of A Thousand Voices”, he is the voice you hear whenever you’re watching classic cartoons. He was the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Woody Woodpecker, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, Speedy Gonzales, and hundreds of other characters.

I know Dan Castellaneta and Seth Green do good work, but I’m more impressed with LaMarche.

Brenda Strong? Really? Doesn’t she have like two lines and the beginning and end of the episode? Is that really voice acting?

4. Individual Achievement in Animation
  • None.

5. Short-format Animated Program
  • SpongeBob SquarePants, “That Sinking Feeling”
  • Robot Chicken, “Robot Chicken’s DP Christmas Special”
  • Regular Show, “Mordecai And The Rigbys”
  • Disney Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa
  • Adventure Time, “It Came From the Nightosphere”

My Vote: Adventure Time. Hands down. This is every boy’s fantasy, to travel around with your best canine friend and have adventures fighting ogres, evil kings, and saving princesses. Very well written and animated. I also have started watching Regular Show on Cartoon Network. It centers around two slackers, a blue jay and a raccoon, working with a yeti, a gentlemen from the 1920s, a muscle man, and a ghost at a park who all work for a gumball machine. Yes, it sounds stupid, but it works. Think Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but not as mean-spirited. I also have to mention the creativity and heart that Disney was able to achieve on Operation Secret Santa, a sequel to the original Prep & Landing.

There are five sub-categories for Art Direction. The Art Direction oversees a large portion of the visual aspect of the show. They can be responsible for locations, set construction, set design, props, etc.
1. Art Direction for Multi-Camera Series
  • Hot in Cleveland; “Sisterhood Of The Traveling SPANXc”, “I Love Lucci: Part Two”, LeBron is Le Gone”
  • Rules Of Engagement; “Last Of The Red Hat Lovers”, “Singing And Dancing”, “The Set Up”
  • How I Met Your Mother; “Subway Wars”, “Natural History”
  • The Big Bang Theory; “The Love Car Displacement”, “The 21-Second Excitation”, The Agreement Dissection”
  • Mike & Molly, “Pilot”

My Vote: This is a toss-up between How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. How I Met Your Mother has to represent many different characters through its sets and the references to past episodes hidden in the sets are well done. I really appreciate The Big Bang Theory for its attention to detail. In every episode there will be something written on the whiteboards related to the episode’s narrative. If you’re interested, the science consultant for the show has a blog called The Big Blog Theory that discusses what the science content is and how it relates to the episode in a very clear and understandable manner.

2. Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series
  • Boardwalk Empire, “Boardwalk Empire (Pilot)”
  • True Blood, “Beautifully Broken”
  • Modern Family, “Halloween”
  • Mad Men, “Public Relations”
  • The Borgias, “Lucrezia’s Wedding”

My Vote: Mad Men. Even though it’s the only nominee I’ve seen, it still has a good chance given the amount of incredible detail and sophistication that is given to each episode.

3. Art Direction for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
  • Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
  • The Kennedys
  • Upstairs Downstairs (Masterpiece)
  • Mildred Pierce

My Vote: The Kennedys. I’ve heard a lot about Mildred Pierce so I feel like I’m missing out on it. For the Masterpiece nominees, I’ve always felt that it’s harder to recreate something the audience is intimately familiar with like the 1960s. Could any American audience really tell if the Masterpiece sets were more 1910s than 1900s?

4. Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program
  • 2010 MTV Video Music Awards
  • 83rd Annual Academy Awards
  • Saturday Night Live, Host: Russell Brand
  • American Idol, Episode 1018
  • Gettysburg

My Vote: Awards shows giving awards to other awards shows? Doesn’t that sound incestuous? It just seems really lame to me. So, my vote goes to SNL.

There are three sub-categories for Casting.
1. Casting for a Comedy Series
  • Modern Family
  • The Big C
  • Glee
  • Nurse Jackie
  • 30 Rock

My Vote: 30 Rock. The guest roles that this series casts always work well and bounce off seamlessly with the regular main cast.

2. Casting for a Drama Series
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Mad Men
  • The Killing
  • The Good Wife
  • Game Of Thrones

My Vote: I would choose either Mad Men or Game Of Thrones. I’m very familiar with Mad Men, but Game Of Thrones’ casting looks like the actors have been inhabiting their characters before the show even started pre-production.

3. Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
  • Mildred Pierce
  • Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
  • Cinema Verite
  • Too Big To Fail
  • Upstairs Downstairs (Masterpiece)

My Vote: I haven’t seen any of these. I’m guessing Mildred Pierce wins.

There are two sub-categories for Children’s Program.
1. Children’s Program
  • A Child’s Garden Of Poetry
  • Degreassi
  • Victorious
  • iCarly
  • Wizards Of Waverly Place

My Vote: Even though I’ve heard of all the nominees, I’ve never watched an episode of one. So, how about Wizards Of Waverly Place? Because I’m sure they’ve done a Harry Potter crossover, right?

2. Children’s Nonfiction, Reality or Reality-Competition Program
  • Masterclass
  • Nick News With Linda Ellerbee: Under The Influence: Kids Of Alcoholics

My Vote: Um, Nick News?

1. Choreography
  • So You Think You Can Dance (5 times this was nominated)
  • Dancing With The Stars

My Vote: No. No. No. No. No. No. This is stupid. Choreography is not tv. I am not answering this with a guess. This category is worthless and meaningless. Destroy it.

There are six sub-categories for Cinematography.
1. Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series
  • Two And A Half Men, “Hookers, Hookers, Hookers”
  • Rules Of Engagement, “Uh Oh It’s Magic”
  • Wizards Of Waverly Place, “Dancing With Angels”
  • Pair Of Kings, “Return Of The Kings”
  • Retired At 35, “Rocket Man”
  • How I Met Your Mother, “Hopeless”

My Vote: I’ve actually never heard of Pair Of Kings and Retired at 35 is an original show on TV Land, but does that really count? So, I’m casting my vote for Rules of Engagement because I like David Spade.

2. Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series
  • Boardwalk Empire, “Boardwalk Empire (Pilot)”
  • Boardwalk Empire, “Home”
  • Boardwalk Empire, “A Return To Normalcy”
  • The Good Wife, “Double Jeopardy”
  • The Borgias, “The Poisoned Chalice/The Assassin”

My Vote: Probably any of the Boardwalk Empires. HBO seems to be doing an excellent job on this series. Plus, Steve Buscemi!

3. Cinematography for Reality Programming
  • Intervention, “Rachel”
  • Deadliest Catch, “Redemption Day”
  • The Amazing Race, “You Don’t Get Paid Unless You Win”
  • Survivor, “Rice Wars”
  • Top Chef, “Give Me Your Huddled Masses”

My Vote: I’m not a huge reality fan. If I am watching a reality program then it’s one where something is actually being created. Plus, I enjoy food. So, Top Chef it is.

4. Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie
  • Mildred Pierce, “Part Five”
  • Downton Abbey (Masterpiece), “Part 1”
  • The Kennedys, “Life Sentences”
  • Too Big To Fail
  • The Pillars Of The Earth, “Legacy”

My Vote: Reading the synopsis for The Pillars Of The Earth sounds interesting. It chronicles the construction of a cathedral in a fictional 12th century English town. I would assume some impressive camera techniques could be employed in this type of story, so I’ll give it to Pillars.

5. Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming
  • Gasland
  • If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise
  • American Masters, “Troubadours: Carole King/James Taylor & The Rise Of The Singer-Songwriter
  • Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, “Haiti”
  • Whale Wars, “To The Ends Of The Earth”
  • Gettsyburg

My Vote: I’m only familiar with the foul-mouthed Anthony Bourdain, so that’s a good a vote as any.

Commercial. Did you know that Emmys were given for commercials? Me neither.
1. Commercial
  • Conan, “American Express”
  • Baby Driver, “Subaru”
  • Questions, “Old Spice Body Wash”
  • Polar Bear, “Nissan LEAF”
  • Baby, “McDonald’s”
  • Born Of Fire, “Chrysler 200”

My Vote: Since I couldn’t immediately remember each of these commercials I found them on YouTube. Luckily, commercials can be watched and assessed pretty quickly. Check out the commercials below.

Baby Driver
Polar Bear
Born Of Fire

I think Conan and Born Of Fire both do a very nice job; however, I’m going to vote for Conan because I prefer funny commercials over “inspiring” ones.

There are two sub-categories for Costumes. Recently, I added the blog Clothes On Film to my Google Reader. I had always recognized costume design with a kindergarten sensibility; e.g., the action hero probably shouldn’t be wearing a clown suit. But when I started reading this blog it prompted me to think much more intellectually about costume design and how it can reflect character identity, themes, and enhance the story.
1. Costumes for a Series
  • Boardwalk Empire, “Anastasia”
  • Mad Men, “The Beautiful Girls”
  • The Borgias, “Lucrezia’s Wedding”
  • Game Of Thrones, “The Pointy End”
  • Glee, “New York”

My Vote: I still like Mad Men for this even though newcomers Boardwalk Empire and Game Of Thrones will probably win.

2. Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
  • Mildred Pierce, “Part Two”
  • Downton Abbey (Masterpiece), “Part 1”
  • Cinema Verite
  • Upstairs Downstairs (Masterpiece), “Part 1”

My Vote: Mildred Pierce. You can blame the aforementioned Clothes On Film for influencing my decision on this.

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