2017 SAG Awards Viewing Guide: Part 4 – TV Movie or Miniseries Awards

After last year’s NIGHTMARE  nominee choices (“Tut”, “Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe”, “Texas Rising” and “Lizzie Borden Chronicles”), the nominating committee got serious this year, with excellent and worthy nominees across the board!

That said, placing miniseries and TV movies together always seems slightly unfair. A series is a series. A ninety minute film is not. So I usually end up going with the series in this category. However, this year…perhaps not…


Women

Bryce Dallas Howard – “Black Mirror” (Netflix)

Boy oh boy, did this performance surprise me. The last I’d seen of her was her absolutely awful performance in “Jurassic World”. But here, she is complex and real – managing to be conniving, yet sympathetic, throughout. Which is to say, her NEED to be something she is not is honest and, often, heartbreaking. Her episode of “Black Mirror” is so much better than the others, I’d have happily watched an entire season of her story – yet it does not carry the same weight of the other nominees’ work, so I can’t give her my vote.
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Felicity Huffman – “American Crime” (ABC)

I don’t quite understand this nomination. Of all the adult performances by women in this show, Huffman’s is the least full and three-dimensional (with the exception of about ten minutes in episode eight). Hope Davis, Lili Taylor and Regina King…any one of them could have received a nomination over Ms. Huffman. More importantly, how is it that there are better dancers at that high school than Hubbard Street?
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Audra MacDonald – “Lady Day at The Emerson Bar and Grill” (HBO)

So, as meh as last year’s nominated performance by Queen Latifah in the Bessie Smith story was, that’s how sensational Ms. MacDonald is in “Lady Day”. I don’t love the script, and I felt terrible for the audience members who, whether they liked it or not, were part of the film – which couldn’t help but take away from MacDonald’s work. Regardless, it’s extraordinary – the voice, the movement, the sorrow, the anger, the addiction – all of it. If I found it just a little more enjoyable as a film, she’d receive my vote.
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Sarah Paulson – “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” (FX) (SHE GETS MY VOTE)

I cannot tell you how little I wanted to watch this. After consuming all seven hours of Ezra Edelman’s BRILLIANT documentary (“OJ: Made In America”), I felt there was absolutely no need to hear his name ever again. But, then when the nominations came out, I decided to do my duty and get down to it. And, damn if it wasn’t fantastic TV – and a great postscript to the doc. I’ve never been a huge Paulson fan. She’s always good, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve never watched more of the American Horror Story franchise than was necessary, but she never came across as someone to watch for. Until this. When you can take a historical figure from recent memory and remake our impression of them – make them more sympathetic, ferocious and caring than we ever knew, that’s something. A worthy winner (as is Ms. MacDonald)!
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Kerry Washington – “Confirmation” (HBO)

This HBO historical pic was MUCH more informative and interesting a film than I thought it would be. I was engaged from beginning to end, and it’s impossible not to connect Ms. Washington’s performance to that actuality. But, the film, and her performance, was just this side of thin when compared to the other nominees. Still, a must watch.


The Men

Riz Ahmed – “The Night Of” (HBO)

Ahmed’s performance in “The Night Of” is career making. Granted, he had/has a helluva career going anyway, but there can be no denying that his turn as Naz Khan will put him in a different category going forward. That said, he’s not in the Top 3 of these five.
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Sterling K. Brown – “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” (FX)

Nominated twice (for this and “This Is Us”), this is the much better performance of the two. As I stated in my comment regarding Sarah Paulson, “The People vs. OJ” made the Edelman documentary, “Made In America”, more robust, somehow. But without Paulson and Brown, “ACS” would’ve seemed more frivolous – sordid, even. But he takes what we saw at that time as the bizarre behavior of Chris Darden, and fills it with real emotion and real intention. It’s an outstanding performance…and, if not for Cranston, Brown would get my vote.
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Bryan Cranston – “All the Way” (HBO) (HE GETS MY VOTE)

Reprising the role he created on Broadway, Cranston’s performance of LBJ is folksy, paranoid, blistering and (somehow) lovable. It’s one of the best television performances of the year and rightfully deserving of our votes. Do yourselves a favor and give HBO two hours of your time to view this masterful film.
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John  Turturro – “The Night Of” (HBO)

A master class in earnest self-deprecation, Turturro’s performance in “Night Of” is brilliant. Maybe not since “Miller’s Crossing” has he created a personage this captivating. It’s not often one describes an entire character as a car wreck one can’t turn away from, but that’s what he’s accomplished. The show, which is fantastic, would have suffered deeply without him (and, as the role was originally written for James Gandolfini, that’s saying something). Would not be upset in the least if he walked away with the statuette!
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Courtney B. Vance – “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” (FX)

Here’s the problem for Vance (and most of the cast outside of Paulson and Brown)…he does an admirable (three-dimensional) impersonation of the ridiculously charismatic Johnnie Cochran. That’s not a slight. It’s just a fact. Paulson and Brown, on the other hand, seem to have created characters out of whole cloth…making their performances deeper and more honest somehow. Doesn’t mean Vance won’t win…just means I don’t think he’ll have been as deserving as Turturro, Brown or Cranston, if he does.

Written on 1/17/2017

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