Sunday, May 31, 2015

Critics' Choice Television Awards

SERIES: Silicon Valley
ACTOR: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
ACTRESS: Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
SUPPORTING ACTOR: T.J. Miller, Silicon Valley
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Allison Janney, Mom 
GUEST PERFORMER: Bradley Whitford, Transparent

SERIES: The Americans
ACTOR: Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
ACTRESS: Taraji P. Henson, Empire
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul 
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lorraine Toussaint, Orange Is the New Black
GUEST PERFORMER: Sam Elliott, Justified

MOVIE: Bessie
ACTOR: David Oyelowo, Nightingale
ACTRESS: Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge
SUPPORTING: Bill Murray, Olive Kitteridge
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Freak Show 
TALK SHOW: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
REALITY SERIES HOST: Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
GENIUS AWARD: Seth MacFarlane

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron officially kicks off the summer movie season.  Box office records for Marvel's eleventh entry to its venerable cinematic universe are insured.  After all, the Marvel brand is such a finely oiled, storm-weathered machine that it's nearly irrelevant to put much serious thought or intellectual weight over whether or not the movies themselves are good or bad.  Analysis is besides the point-- the approval ratings and billion dollar global business dictates Hollywood investments rather than artfulness, originality and aesthetic value.  This may sound horribly cynical-- the corporatist, overstuffed Age of Ultron can't not be iced with a little cynicism-- but that's certainly not meant to imply that there aren't pleasures to be found in Joss Whedon's second go as captain of the ship.  Nor is it meant to imply that there shouldn't be a place in the cinematic marketplace for the adventures of this rag-tag group of superhero misfits-- Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)-- learning how to form a team.  There's value in that, just as there is in Richard Linklater's effortlessly insightful 18-year spanning Before-trilogy.  I just wish slightly more people flocked to the latter and slightly less blathered endlessly at the former.

Hiring Whedon was Marvel's smartest move.  When he came aboard to write and direct the first Avengers, the Marvel universe was still an unsteady, risky venture.  Yet with Whedon's verve as a writer and willingness to work within the iron-clad Marvel infrastructure as a director, it was clear way before the iconic 360 money shot near the end of the 2012 film that franchise/brand was going to take over the world (whilst simultaneously showing the destruction of it in every movie).  Whedon already established on the great television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer a way to deconstruct, mold and sharpen genre pieces by attaching humanity, levity and relatable anguish while still respecting and holding true its mythology.  The first Avengers film was hardly a work of art but it was zesty and chock full of small, human-sized moments to savor on thanks to Whedon's sharp one-liners and gift with performers.  Avengers: Age of Ultron at times feels like a heated divide between Whedon's untethered imagination and Marvel's eternal task to retain the status quo.  Which again, isn't to say the movie is altogether bad (devotees will probably be happy, agnostics may continue to shrug), but perhaps marks a blessing that Whedon is handing directorial duties moving forward.
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