Not that you shouldn’t watch all the performances, but it’s difficult, at best, to find the time. As a rule, I don’t sleep, so…here are my observations of the nominated performances.
Here’s the problem: we don’t give out Supporting awards…only Lead. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, it’s totally unfair to Keri Russell, for one. By putting Julia Garner in as a lead, Keri gets left out in the cold. Same goes for Matthew Rhys. Putting aside my outrage at John Krasinski’s inclusion, Joseph Fiennes’ role is supporting, thus leaving another “American” outside of the party with no passport. And, what makes it all the more odd is that we nominated the Ensemble from “The Americans” but not the stars…one of whom just won both the Globe and Critic’s Choice (Mr. Rhys). Anyhoo…here ya go…
PART 1: TELEVISION DRAMA
Julia Garner – “Ozark” (Netflix)
Julia Garner is magical. In the “The Americans” and “Maniac” she is stellar and human. In “Ozark” she is one of the two most compelling characters in the show (the other being Lisa Emery’s Darlene) and on TV this season. I defy you to watch her interactions with her dad and not fall apart. Ruth Langmore is beautiful, powerful, angry, heartbreaking and viscerally present. Alas, it’s a supporting role and as amazing as she is, I can’t vote for her because of that. But she’s a close second!
Laura Linney – “Ozark” (Netflix)
Ms. Linney’s Wendy Byrde is much stronger and more involved in Season 2. However, in lieu of making her more scared and reactionary (real), they’ve written her dialogue as a match to Jason Bateman’s. As a result it’s JUST this side of too sarcastic to be as connected to her as I was to these other performances. Great? Yes! Best? No.
Elizabeth Moss – “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
I’m a Red Sox fan. Fenway Park is my happy place. So…it was a struggle to get through the second season ten minutes after the the first episode began. Of course, it was also a struggle because of just how dark and unrelenting the show is. Brutal is the better word. I also think there’s a touch of “Handmaid’s Tale” fatigue…at least from many of the people I’ve spoken with…and that definitely hurts her chances. That said, Moss is still brilliant. And just as she had the misfortune of going up against Claire Foy last season, she’s up against another deserved sure bet this year…and the winner is…
Sandra Oh – “Killing Eve” (BBC America) (…she gets my vote)
The Actor statuette obviously belongs to Ms. Oh. It is the most three-dimensional performance of the year. No, it’s not the most outwardly emotional. It’s not the most showy. It is the best portrayal of the “Every Woman’s” longing, confusion, fear and rage we’re going to see this year, or anytime soon. It’s a sense of doubt, and the accompanying frustration that we all so easily connect to. This is also an overdue, yet warranted, acknowledgment of her years of fantastic work. (side note: if we had a supporting category, we could also acknowledge Jodie Comer’s AMAZING work on the show!)
Robin Wright – “House of Cards” (Netflix)
Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood has been in control of her wildly varying emotions, emotions only we are privy to, for so long, it’s easy to take her performance this season for granted. But it’s still fantastic, and given the turmoil surrounding the show’s former counterpart who shall not be named, I’m proud of our NomCom for recognizing her. If you haven’t watched her in it, you should. Of course, if you’ve never seen the show at all, this season may not make a lot of sense – and as great as it is, you’ll have to put up with your feelings about the above male unnamed lead. However, I wouldn’t put her on the podium above Ms. Moss or Ms. Oh. (side note 2: uh…if there had been a supporting award, Michael Kelly would have won it several times over!)
I’m sorry…Matthew Rhys easily gave the best performance of the year, followed closely by Jared Harris in “The Terror” (talk about an incredible ensemble!). So here’s the best of the rest…
Jason Bateman – “Ozark”
Last year I wrote, “the only thing holding him back is that, in “Ozark”, I think Linney and the brilliant Julia Garner carry the lion’s share of the emotional weight”. Not only has this not changed, his character has actually regressed, now that Lisa Emery and Janet McTeer have been given so much more responsibility for the show’s tension. In fact, in the few scenes where he must show us a different shade, the results are kinda painful (thinking of a particular kissing scene). Thus, as much as I love him and the show…he’s not really in the running for the award.
Sterling K. Brown – “This Is Us”
Here’s what I wrote last year:
“Well, you’ve all seen it. He’s going to win. What can I add? He’s always great, and especially so here in one of the more difficult series to watch. I have avoided it for as long as possible, since the promos for the show DRIVE ME NUTS! Let ME decide if it’s the “most important episode yet”! Oy vey.”
The only difference is I’m not sure he’s going to win…this might actually be Mr. Odenkirk’s year. But, y’know, Brown is as deserving as anyone not named Rhys or Harris.
Joseph Fiennes – “Handmaid’s Tale”
This is a thankless, creepy, outrageous, enraging and bizarre character. That Fiennes is nominated tells you just how good he is to overcome all that. And, while it’s a supporting role, this category is just wide open enough that he could win. He’s a terrific actor, but this is not a SAG Award deserving performance compared to three other actors in the category.
John Krasinki – “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” (AmazonPrime)
For the life of me, I just cannot figure out how he was nominated. It’s a below average show, written with hackneyed dialogue. And, worst of all, Krasinski’s character choices are all over the place. You never know if he’s the smart-aleck, the innocent, the raging patriot, or an empathetic saviour…sometimes in the same scene. No consistency and just brutal attempts at emotional angst make this a most undeserving performance. Now…Ali Suliman’s jihadist Suleiman for a supporting award? THAT’S the only worthwhile discussion from this meh show.
Bob Odenkirk – “Better Call Saul” (AMC) (…he gets my vote…since there are no write-ins)
I thought this was finally the season where Odenkirk’s Saul dropped all pretense of caricature. He’s been deserving even when he wasn’t as good as he was this season…so…let’s give it to him already…whaddya say?! Who’s with me?!
Again, watch “The Terror” from AMC, and tell me that’s not the best ensemble you’ve seen all year…but in lieu of that…
“The Americans” (FX) (THIS GETS MY VOTE)
Uh…so, crazily, this is the FIRST NOMINATION for this cast. Aside from the brilliance of Rhys and Russell, we have Margo Martindale, Noah Emmerich (who just won the Critics Choice Award for Supporting), the BRILLIANT Costa Ronin, Lev Gorn, an astonishing performance by Miriam Shor, and on and on…and that’s just this season. Oh, and Julia Garner made a return cameo for good measure. Can we please just do the right thing?!
“Better Call Saul” (AMC)
Great cast, great writing, great production. While I felt the cast got lost last year, this year they are all over it. If not for “The Americans” or “Ozark”…
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
So, in addition to Moss and Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Amanda Brugel, Madeline Brewer, Alexis Bledel, O-T Fagbenie, and Max Minghella were all back to bring the pain! Which they did with amazing results. But…if not for “The Americans” and “Ozark”…
So…let’s point out the greatness of this cast once again: Bateman, Linney, Garner, Emery, McTeer…AND Jordana Spiro, Peter Mullan(!), and Harris Yulin(!). The only drawback is Jason Butler Harner, who, while amazing in season one, is a caricature in the most recent foray due to some lazy writing. But I’d be totally satisfied if “Ozark” won, if a little disappointed that we never truly acknowledged the greatness of “The Americans”.
“This Is Us” (NBC)
What I wrote last year remains apropos:
“Have I mentioned how distasteful the NBC promos for this show are? In SPITE of that, I forced myself to watch a few episodes of this season. It is really outstanding network television…even if it makes me long for the best family dramas ever, “Friday Night Lights” and “Six Feet Under”. But this failing is certainly not the fault of the ridiculously brilliant cast…Milo Ventimiglia, Sterling K Brown, Chrissy Metz(!), Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Ron Cephas Jones(!), Susan Kelechi Watson, and on and on. Give casting directors Tiffany Little Canfield, and theatrical casting genius, Bernie Telsey, their due. They did a magnificent job placing the right actors in a show that COULD have been every bit as milquetoast as the promos for it.”
Yeah…same goes for this year…
To sum up…WATCH “The Americans” and “The Terror” fer cryin’ out loud!
Next up: Comedy Awards…