SAG Awards Viewing Guide: Part 4 – TV Movie or Miniseries

Now, I KNOW you didn’t watch any of these…and why would you? Well, I did. And, frankly, what the hell was the nominating committee thinking?!

Seriously, who thought these nominated performances were the best of the best? Did this year really give us nothing? Last year we had “Honourable Woman”, “Olive Kitteridge”, “Normal Heart”, “Fargo”. This year…”Private Life of Marilyn Monroe”, “Lizzie Borden Chronicles”, “Tut” and “Texas Rising”. These are TERRIBLE shows…worst common denominator shows. A fine way to wile away the hours, I suppose…but we are the ACTING GUILD. I mean…huh? Ugh.

Okay, soap box interruption over. On to the performances:


Nicole Kidman – “Grace of Monaco” (Lifetime Network)

This television drama (which obviously began life as a feature), is actually quite watchable. Not sure I’d call it good, but if you are a voting member of SAG-AFTRA, it’s worth the effort. The script is pretty threadbare and the score is GAWD awful, which makes the whole thing feel very Lifetime (which it actually is), and not nearly as serious as the subject matter demands (the near invasion of Monaco by France during the Algerian Revolution). BUT, nominee, Nicole Kidman, never gives in to the saccharin sweetness of the production, and between her, Tim Roth and Frank Langella, the stakes manage to remain at least partially appropriate. She’s stunning, and effective, and convincing.
Queen Latifah – “Bessie” (HBO)

I’m not sure what it is, but Queen Latifah is just a dreadfully dull actress as far as I’m concerned. She can really sing, and she can ABSOLUTELY rap (which is how I choose to remember her), but every character she plays feels exactly the same to me. And this is no different. She’s not bad, and it’s a good little biopic, but I can’t help but feel Bessie Smith deserved something more than a Latifah vanity piece. It’s probably Latifah’s best work,  but I still wouldn’t call it Award worthy. Watch it for the knowledge about, and the music of, an extraordinary musician.
Christina Ricci – “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” (Lifetime Network)

How much money did Lifetime put in to their campaigning?! THREE Lifetime nominations?! Anyway, this is actually not horrible (even if it is in love with it’s “ultra-modern” production values). The thing is, Christina Ricci isn’t even the best woman on the show. No, watch this because it’s an interesting, and fairly well-written, thriller of a series – not because Ms. Ricci is a worthwhile nominee.
Susan Sarandon – “The Private Life of Marilyn Monroe” (Lifetime Network)

Now THIS is a truly terrible show and they must have paid Ms. Sarandon a small fortune to be in this car wreck. Just so you know, if you have absolutely nothing to do and plan on watching it, it’s twenty minutes before she actually appears on screen. I finally had to fast forward to her bits. When EVERYTHING about a show is this laughably bad and the acting is this brutal, Ms. Sarandon’s realism is almost too…out of left field. She’s certainly not bad, but I can’t imagine any (other) voter will get through it sufficiently enough to vote for her. In fact, I’d love to know how she was nominated (other than on her brilliant reputation).
Kristen Wiig – “The Spoils Before Dying” (IFC)

This series would’ve been just fine as a 90 minute movie. The joke gets old pretty quick. That said, Wiig is one of the bright spots (along with Marc Evan Jackson – can someone PLEASE give that man his own show!). Delores DeWinter is a charicature, to be sure, but she makes it feel earnest AND funny. No small feat.

The Men

Idris Elba – “Luther” (BBC)

I love “Luther”…fanatically even. But this season’s three-hour episode doesn’t really show Elba at his Lutherian best. Since the film is more creep than substance, there’s not a whole bunch of room for him to show his considerable chops.
Ben Kingsley – “Tut” (Spike)

Now THIS is ALSO a truly terrible show. It’s a Spike Network joint (no, not that Spike), so it’s main purpose is to show beautiful women wearing very little clothing…over and over. If another network produced this, it might have been worthwhile. Kingsley does have one of his patented crazy monologues which is well worth watching…if you can find it without watching the whole thing. But really, this is made for Bar Mitzvah-aged boys and those who want their history taught by Maxim magazine.
Ray Liotta – “Texas Rising” (Texas Rising)

Five hours of this underwritten over-acted piece of dreck is about five hours and two minutes too long (the two minutes it took me to write this). Liotta is fine. Everyone is. But the show is awful, jingoistic crap…offensively so. Disappointed this show would be rewarded in any way.
Bill Murray – “A Very Murray Chrsitmas” (Netflix)

What a bizarre and delightful little nugget this show was. And Bill is at his absolute sardonic and weary-faced best. And while it’s a great performance…I don’t think its substantive enough to beat out the next guy (but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does)…
Mark Rylance – “Wolf Hall” (BBC) (HE GETS MY VOTE)

Rylance is so friggin’ amazing in this beautiful piece of work. If you watch ONE of these performances, this should be the one. Yes, it’s slow…but its meandering quality highlights the director’s decision to look at these individuals and their relation to each other, as opposed to hitting all the important points in their history. The last ten minutes is breathless and breathtaking, and Rylance is the lynch-pin of the whole thing.

Written on 1/17/2016


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