My Picks For This Year’s Emmy Nods: Limited Series
Conclusion: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a TV Movie/Limited Series
This category has been dominated by Regina King the last couple of seasons (deservedly so) and Laura Dern last year. It is possible (if the Academy follows by desires, so take that idea with a grain of salt) that Dern will dominate again, but its more likely that a new face will prevail. It’s more likely to come from one of the HBO TV movies, but here are my preferences.
Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace
For those of us who only knew of Donatella Versace through SNL’s satires of her through the first decade of the 2000s, it no doubt was stunning to see Cruz’s creation of her as the iron fist of Versace empire. Trying to hold the company together after her brother’s death, searching to keep him away from the coldness after his HIV diagnosis, her stormy relationship with her brother’s lover, and the final moments where she acknowledged just how shaken she was, this was a performance that very likely could have Cruz getting an Emmy to go with her Oscar. I would be fine if that happened.
Laura Dern, Twin Peaks: The Return
As I said previously, she will mostly likely be nominated for he excellent work in The Tale. But if the Academy dares to drag its memory back to last year, they’ll find hard to ignore Dern’s remarkable as a Twin Peaks character we frequently heard about but never saw: Diane. As a boozy, shrewd, foul-mouthed and ultimately fake (with David Lynch, who can ever be sure) former colleague and love of Dale Cooper, Dern gave a performance that, even among the huge cast, was one of the most noteworthy and frightening in her repertoire. This may have been her best work with Lynch, and she goes all the way back to Blue Velvet. And on a personal note, I’ve never seen a more brilliant use of the f-word as punctuation, since McNulty and Bunk used it to figure out a crime scene in The Wire. She deserves to be recognized for that alone.
Riley Keough, Paterno
Having seen the movie, I mostly thought that, like so many HBO productions, hugely overblown. The movie centered entirely on the denial basically surrounded Joe Paterno, and had only a side-long relationship about what the Penn State coach actually knew — kind of like telling the entire story of O.J., and not dealing with the murder trial. What I did find good was probably the one performance that slipped under the radar — Keough’s work as the dogged journalist who, going against the entire sports world, stubbornly picks at the decades of abuse by Jerry Sandusky until it breaks. She’s a very gifted talent (as those few who watched Season 1 of The Girlfriend Experience know) and in a cast of much bigger talent deserves to be recognized.
Nicole Kidman, Top of the Lake: China Girl
Why do I want to recognize an actress who basically ran the table last year for her incredible work in Big Little Lies? Well, aside from the obvious reason that she won last year and that’s usually a good enough reason for the Emmys to nominate you again, there’s the not incidental fact that playing a complete different character in this already brilliant series, she once again demonstrated that she’s one of four or five of the greatest actresses working these days. (Admittedly most of the others are also in Big Little Lies, but still…) And in a smaller, less showy role, she commanded the screen. That should be enough of a reason
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Patrick Melrose
She may be the most underrated Actress in the history of Hollywood, constantly ignored for Oscar nominations and nearly as often for Emmys. But its going to be really hard for the Academy to find a justification to ignore her for her fine work as Patrick’s mother. One of the few performers in the limited series who aged significantly, she gave memorable work as a woman, who was nearly as damaging to her as his father, who knows what her husband is doing and chooses to ignore it, who thinks charity to strangers is more important than it is to her family, who puts her son in the agony of trying to end her life, and than backs out at last minute. We know from watching the series that her husband has damaged her at least as much, but one finds it hard to consider that even close to an excuse. She’s as good as she always is. Let’s hope the Academy finds it enough.
Isabelle Nelisse, The Tale
There were a lot of good female supporting performances in this movie, but by far the most brilliant was the most unsettling. As the 13-year old Jennifer who narrates most of the movie, and engages in the majority of the most horrible behavior in a way that she considers consensual almost the entire way through, it was riveting. But what makes this performance among the most outstanding of the year, at least for me, were the sequences where she talks to the adult version of herself and feels no shame or even sadness for what has happened to her. Her simple reaction to whether or not telling the title story was a good thing — “I got an A” — may be one of the most frightening deliveries for the TV year. There were a lot of great character actresses in this movie. This thirteen-year outdid them all. And I hope she’s acknowledged for it.
See you Thursday.