Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Emmy Ballot: Supporting Actor & Supporting Actress (Comedy)

N.B. These ballots are based on the official submissions and follow the Emmy rules for nominations (i.e. 10 for Programs, 6 for Actors and 5 for Casting). All ballots are in ranked order, with winners in bold.

Monday, June 29, 2015

My Emmy Ballot: Casting (Comedy & Drama)

N.B. These ballots are based on the official submissions and follow the Emmy rules for nominations (i.e. 10 for Programs, 6 for Actors and 5 for Casting). All ballots are in ranked order, with winners in bold.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Emmy Ballot: Guest Actor & Actress (Drama)

N.B. These ballots are based on the official submissions and follow the Emmy rules for nominations (i.e. 10 for Programs, 6 for Actors and 5 for Casting). All ballots are in ranked order, with winners in bold.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Emmy Ballot: Guest Actor & Actress (Comedy)

N.B. These ballots are based on the official submissions and follow the Emmy rules for nominations (i.e. 10 for Programs, 6 for Actors and 5 for Casting). All ballots are in ranked order, with winners in bold.

Friday, June 26, 2015

NEW TV 2014-2015: Final Report Card

Before I get to the Emmy ballots tomorrow, I wanted to acknowledge some of this season's hot new shows. Once again, it was another solid season for TV debuts, with lots of great options among the Limited Series, Movies, Series and Variety Specials. Here are my final grades and quick thoughts on all the brand new programming I watched:

It's a Television Invasion!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you an important announcement...it's Emmy season!

Most persons are probably unaware that I have a tumblr site dedicated to TV, called "Mad Man looking for a Good Wife". I started it 3 years ago, but I've been neglecting it as of late. Since television is virtually indistinguishable from film nowadays though, I decided that it would make sense to incorporate it into Film Actually. So the title of this post refers to this special week of purely TV coverage here, as well as the fact that TV is usurping cinema as the more exciting medium for American "filmmaking".

Thursday, June 25, 2015

COMING SOON: Tangerine

One of the biggest stories out of Sundance this year was a little movie called "Tangerine", directed by Sean Baker. This Hollywood-set comedy follows a pair of transgender prostitutes on a mission to find the no-good pimp who's been cheating on one of them. The film garnered strong reviews after its premiere, but what makes it especially intriguing is not the story itself but the way it was shot. In true DIY style, "Tangerine" was shot on the iPhone 5! I don't know about you, but I'm hella excited for this one. It looks like it's gonna be so wild. Check out the raucous trailer below.

Tangerine storms into theaters July 10th.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


This week on Hit me with your best shot, we're celebrating the year 1948 with one of that year's best films "The Red Shoes". Directed by the famous directing duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, this tale of the rise and fall of a ballet dancer is a fine pick for the "Best Shot" treatment. Indeed, the bravura filmmaking involved in showcasing the titular ballet offers an endless array of striking images. In it, Moira Shearer also fully justifies the decision to cast a dancer who could act, rather than an actress who can dance. Her movements add that extra touch of emotion to the piece.

But my choice for best shot isn't from this scene. It comes towards the end, when the film delves deep into its central themes during the sad climax.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, June 22, 2015

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Little Accidents

I would watch Elizabeth Banks in anything. She always brings something interesting to every role she plays and is often the best thing about her films. But even another reliably compelling Elizabeth Banks performance couldn't hide the flaws in Sara Colangelo's 2014 indie drama "Little Accidents".

Based on her previous short of the same name, Colangelo sets her film in a small mining town in rural America. The plot begins in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy, as a mining accident has claimed the lives of many of its workers, leaving a lone survivor. As the community searches for answers, they place the blame on the big shot executive of the mine for his negligence. Meanwhile, his own family is suffering through heartbreak, as his son goes missing during all the drama. Soon, tensions and suspicions arise, with far-reaching effects on several individuals. A world of lies and deceit threatens to reveal itself and irreparably alter this community forever.

In its first scenes, "Little Accidents" sets up a tantalizing exploration of distrust, class conflict and morality. As the town's inhabitants point fingers at her family, Elizabeth Banks turns in a strong performance as the distraught Diane, mother of the missing boy. As she deals with the grief of an increasingly dire situation, it's fascinating to watch her interact with similarly affected locals. One of those is Owen Briggs, played by Jacob Lofland (clearly the go-to person for such redneck child parts). Briggs is the son of one of the perished victims and he finds himself in a sticky situation that links him to Diane in unfortunate ways. As the secret gradually eats away at his conscience, the film promises a powerful climax as the investigation into the various crimes starts to find answers.

But rather than focus on the psychological intrigue of these various characters, "Little Accidents" decides to stray into unnecessary subplots, the worst of which is a love affair which adds nothing of value. While the film benefits from strong atmospherics, doubling down on bleakness and the stale air of a mining town with few possibilities, the script comes across as unfinished. Still, the film's skilled cast (namely Banks, Lofland and Boyd Holbrook as the surviving miner) manage to fill in the missing pieces with their deeply felt performances. If only they were actually given fully developed character arcs to work with, this could have been a special film indeed. Colangelo displays a good grasp of mood and tone in her direction, but this first screenplay falls way short of the experienced mastery of its talented ensemble.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


For this week's edition of Hit me with your best shot, we looked at one of the biggest films of 2012 - Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike". As we gear up for another round of pecs and buns with this summer's sequel, it was nice to revisit this film to remember how strong it really is. Though its main box office draw was obviously its voyeuristic appeal, the filmmaking is compelling in its own right. Thematically, it provides a good commentary on the "bros before hoes" subculture, accurately depicting both its positive and destructive aspects.

At the heart of the film is the burgeoning friendship between Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and Magic Mike (Channing Tatum). It's a relationship that's adorably announced early in the plot, when the former turns to the latter and says "I think we should be best friends". As a sucker for a good bromance, this instantly drew me in and inevitably influenced my choice for best shot.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, June 15, 2015

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Wet Hot American Summer

This week's top film is a comedy that released 14 years ago and has left a fascinating legacy over the years. David Wain's "Wet Hot American Summer" bombed with critics and audiences alike upon initial release in 2001, but has been embraced since then as a true cult classic. For any cinephile keeping abreast of pop culture, the reasons for its increasing popularity are plainly evident. One look at the cast list and you can't help but be impressed by its almost prophetic showcase of the imminent generation of film stars.

"Wet Hot American Summer" is an ensemble comedy that boasts the likes of Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and Elizabeth Banks, long before their names held any significance in pop culture. Alongside more established names like Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce (among others), they all came together for this satirical take on teen sex comedies from the 1980s. The film chronicles the last day of a summer camp, where the adult cast members are intentionally miscast as late adolescent counselors to the young kids in their care. Under the watchful eye of the camp director (played by Janeane Garofalo), the gang gets up to mischief as they all vow to find romance before the summer is over.

As a true cult film, "Wet Hot American Summer" is a film that I didn't even know about until Netflix announced its upcoming prequel "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Summer". With that Netflix stamp of approval, this film instantly became a must-see. I was curious to see what was so special about a project that failed so miserably the first time around.

From the first moments of the film however, I got it. In our age of nostalgia, "Wet Hot American Summer" is a fitting time capsule on two levels. Primarily, it's the aforementioned cast, many of whom had only acted in 2 or 3 films before. Having not yet crafted their public celebrity personas, it's a unique pleasure to see these big names blending in to an ensemble like proper working actors. Like Bradley Cooper for example, who is so unassuming here, far from his current status as a reliable Mr. Charisma. Indeed, it would have been impossible to predict their rise to fame at the time, but they all give you a twinkle of the star quality they would soon develop. They play the typical immature teen tropes (the slacker, the sexy blonde etc.) with so much gusto that you can't help being drawn to their thinly written characters.

The other way the film acts as a time capsule is in the general tone of the film. It works so well as a satire because it captures the reckless abandon and eager sexuality of the films of that era, like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". If someone were to wake up from a 30 year slumber, they probably wouldn't find anything too unusual about the filmmaking. David Wain really deserves credit for this authenticity in his direction.

While "Wet Hot American Summer" has done well for itself over the years, it's also easy to see why it wasn't an immediate hit. Mainly, the screenplay too often relies more on silliness than wit for its jokes (the John Hughes and Cameron Crowe comparisons certainly don't apply to the writing). But despite its flaws, it provides a fun diversion through its youthful vibe and the undeniable "it" factor of its yet-to-breakout stars.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


This week's featured film for Hit me with your best shot is one of the most beloved Oscar sweepers of all time - Milos Forman's "Amadeus". This resplendent film earned every one of its 8 statues, especially those related to its exquisite period detail. It's truly a scrumptious film to look at and it also features fine performances from F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce as the rival composers (Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart respectively) whose lives form the basis of this historical drama. For my best shot then, I decided to focus on the main stimulus of the plot - the prodigious talent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, June 8, 2015


If you'd told me at the start of 2015 that the latest Melissa McCarthy comedy generically titled "Spy" would be my favourite film of the year at this point, I would have surely called you crazy. But lo and behold, this James Bond-esque spoof has snuck itself to the top of the pile. Easily the most fun film of the year so far, "Spy" once again proves why McCarthy is one of Hollywood's most valuable stars.

In the film, McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a desk worker at the CIA who suddenly gets the opportunity of a lifetime after an unfortunate tragedy. While providing intel for a partner agent (played by Jude Law), she witnesses his demise at the hands of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the daughter of the terrorist they are tracking. After it's revealed that Boyanov knows the whereabouts and identities of the remaining agents, Cooper volunteers herself as an inconspicuous undercover agent. Initially agreeing to spy from afar, she soon finds herself actively engaged in the mission, finally making use of all the skills she had honed many years ago.

What unfolds is a rolicking adventure through Europe as McCarthy pursues villains through Paris, Rome and Budapest. Along the way, she encounters several colorful characters, in a cast that includes Jason Statham, Rose Byrne and Jude Law, all playing specific archetypes to hilarious effect. Rose Byrne is sexy and condescending, Jason Statham is aggressively cocksure and Jude Law is the James Bond surrogate, handsome and debonair.

But it's McCarthy who really gets to shine in her best performance to date. Having already proven herself adept in both comedic ("Bridesmaids") and dramatic roles ("St. Vincent), this role showcases her as genuine top actress. This is all thanks to a screenplay that allows her to be alternately tough, sweet, strong, clumsy, awkward and most daringly of all, sexy. The way the film cleverly subverts expectations of her persona is genius and she absolutely owns it. Not once do you doubt her capabilities in a given situation.

Though I would hesitate to call this a "great" screenplay (individual scenes aren't quite as memorable/quotable as those in Paul Feig's other hit "Bridesmaids"), the direction and performances are so lively that you're constantly entertained. The film really commits to its spy movie tropes too, orchestrating great escapes and death-defying stunts that are thrilling to watch. All in all, "Spy" provides gratifying entertainment like a quality summer film is supposed to. It's one of the most rewarding movie tickets you could purchase this year.

Friday, June 5, 2015

10 Greatest Movie Villians of All-Time

There are many things to consider when reflecting on cinema’s history of great villains. With so many bad guys and gals to choose from, narrowing down a Top 10 list requires a focus on specific characteristics that make them special. That’s what I’ve tried to do here, highlighting some of my favorites based on their unique qualities that have embedded them in my mind, as well as their impact on pop culture in general. Whether it’s because of a maniacal laugh, a catchphrase or just the extreme nature of their wickedness, these are the 10 villains that stand out above the rest.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Hit me with your best shot is back with a film that is known for its unique cinematography - "Dick Tracy". Indeed, this adaptation of the 1930s comic strip is all surface-level style, but what style! I struggled to connect with the film's broad caricatures, but I definitely appreciated the comic book aesthetic when it came to the bright color palette.

Despite its eye-catching cinematography however, the film is curiously devoid of "money shots", making this Best Shot exercise a bit more challenging than I anticipated. In the end, I found myself gravitating towards the long shots, which allow you to take in all of the wonderful art direction. My favourite shot isn't the most colorful, but I loved the film noir feel of the scene. We get the femme fatale, the trench coat and fedora-wearing detective, the secluded moonlit surroundings and the seedy city for a backdrop. You just know they're involved in some risky business.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, June 1, 2015

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: A Man for All Seasons

My top pick this week is surely one of the least discussed Best Picture winners ever. Released in 1966, "A Man for All Seasons" tells the true story of Sir Thomas More, who stood up to the English monarch (King Henry VIII) during a time of great corruption in the seats of power. Starring Paul Scofield as More, the film was adapted by Robert Bolt (from his own play) and directed by Fred Zinnemann. Their influences are clearly evident here, yielding a highly respectable but under-stimulating period drama.

"A Man for All Seasons" is set in the 16th century during a pivotal moment in English history. The sitting monarch King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) is dissatisfied with his wife Catherine, who is unable to bear him a male heir. Frustrated, he turns to the younger beauty Anne Boleyn, with intentions to begin a new fruitful marriage. There's one catch however - divorce isn't allowed by the Catholic Church, the most powerful authority at the time. As men with power are wont to do however, he manages to pull a few strings, getting most of his Privy Council to agree with his appeal to annul his marriage. The exception however is the staunchly devout Sir Thomas More, who refuses to sign the letter requesting the Pope's permission to annul and the subsequent declaration of King Henry as the head of the newly established Church of England. Of course, this refusal is not taken kindly, resulting in a sequence of events that lead up to a trial for high treason. Through the storm however, More sticks firmly to his beliefs, proving himself worthy of the moniker that gives the film its name.

Musicals were all the rage during the 1960s, as can be seen from the list of Best Picture winners (no less than 4 musicals won the Academy's top prize during this period). But a further glance shows that studios and audiences were clamoring towards another very specific subgenre - the scandals of the English monarchy during the rule of King Henry II and King Henry VIII. Four such films were nominated for Best Picture - "Becket", "The Lion in Winter", "A Man for All Seasons" and "Anne of the Thousand Days" - but only "A Man for All Seasons" was able to triumph.

Having seen all but "Anne of the Thousand Days", this bit of trivia came as a surprise to me. I found this film to be the least affecting of them all, lacking the urgency of those Peter O'Toole starrers. In this instance, Zinnemann again proves to be a bit of a wildcard director. He is equally capable of producing riveting dramas ("From Here to Eternity") as he is with his more detached affairs ("The Nun's Story") saved by the superb acting from its leads. "A Man for All Seasons" is an example of the latter, featuring an acting masterclass from Paul Scofield. He gets to the heart of More, anchoring the film with his stoic, calm performance. With so many opportunities to showboat in various scenes, the control he displays is truly impressive.

Despite Scofield's captivating presence however, the film is still a bit too stately to be fully satisfying. The events that transpired here altered the course of society and religion forever, but the film didn't sufficiently convey the greater impact of the events, neither through performances nor staging. Bolt's screenplay is too stagebound, failing to open up to establish the wider social context. Without the ferocity of an O'Toole or Burton, the potency of this excellent material is thus diminished. "A Man for All Seasons" is a good film but it unfortunately falls short of the standard already set by its thematic peers.