My Predictions (And Hopes) For This Year’s Emmy Nominations
Week 3, Part: Outstanding Lead Actor in A Movie/Limited Series
With Mark Ruffalo winning the Golden Globe and SAG Award in this category and John Boyega deciding that his role in Small Axe is a supporting one, the race is wide open. While there are a lot of exceptional candidates, I must admit to being reluctant to consider quite a few. As great as Hamilton is, I’m not wild about giving nominations to the filmed version of a stage play. And I have quite a few problems with a couple of other candidates from by the number docudramas such as The Comey Method and Halston. So with that in mind, here are my six candidates.
Paul Bettany, Wandavision
There’s an argument that nominating Bettany for his work as Vision is just doing service to the Marvel-verse rather than any real acknowledgement of talent. After all, he’s playing a robot. But Bettany has always been one of the most gifted actors working in Hollywood and has always been gifted as finding humanity in so many of his performances. One of the nicer benefits of watching Bettany throughout this series was seeing this A.I. utterly incapable of dealing with traditional situations as well as giving the man a chance to demonstrate his skill for comedy, something that so many of the Marvel films weren’t quite willing to give him. There’s a lot of charm in his work, and I support his nomination.
Bryan Cranston, Your Honor
I need to put this up front. Your Honor was by far one of the weakest limited series I’ve seen on television in an era known for great ones. It was cliché ridden from beginning to end, almost every major character was a stereotype and every single tired trope was used throughout. It had some of the best actors in television starring in it and almost none of them could rise above the weight of the material. One of the few exceptions — and anyone whose seen him work should not be surprised by it — was Bryan Cranston’s work as one of the few incorruptible New Orleans public officials who sacrifices everything to save his son when he’s involved in a fatal accident killing the son of a gangster. Cranston managed to rise above every single crass manipulation of the story in every scene he was in, and revealed much more humanity than he was ever allowed to do as Walter White. The series doesn’t deserve a lot of nominations. Cranston assuredly deserves another.
Hugh Grant, The Undoing
Ever since Florence Foster Jenkins, Grant has been enjoying one of the most remarkable late career renaissances in recent history. And his work as Paul in The Undoing is one of the most remarkable works of his entire career. Anyone who has the read the book knows that Paul is guilty of the crime he’s accused of. So it’s a testament to Grant’s ability that even knowing this and watching the evidence piles on against him that there was still a fair amount of doubt even going in to the finale as to Paul’s guilt. Just like his family, we want to believe Paul’s innocent even though there’s just something about his entire attitude from beginning to end that we just don’t trust. In a rarity for Kelley’s work these days, the male performances in The Undoing were stronger than those of the women. And considering that everything about Paul was the complete opposite of what we associate with Grant, that more than anything makes this one of the more powerful performances in an already impressive repertoire.
Ethan Hawke, The Good Lord Bird
Hawke has always been one of the great actors of the last thirty years, but part of the reason I don’t think he gets nearly the appreciation he deserves from awards groups is that he’s always good at being incredibly restrained and low-key. Which makes his work as John Brown all the more remarkable as he starts out at eleven and only goes higher for most of the series. It’s obvious from the moment we meet Brown that he is (as Onion would eloquently put it) ‘nuttier than a squirrel-turd’ and that almost all of his plans are doomed by that thinking. Yet as the series progresses and his fate becomes inevitable even to him, we see that there is a measure of tragedy to the man — he saw too much. An argument can be made that the raid on Harper’s Ferry was the match that lit the Civil War, but we’ve seen Brown as deluded and incapable. Hawke does a fine job showing what Brown was, and what it cost him well before it took his life.
Chris Rock, Fargo
I never thought I’d have to make an argument for this nomination. The center of the fourth season of Fargo, from beginning to end Rock was absolutely dead-on as Loy Cannon, the head of a crime syndicate in Kansas City, who clearly has the mindset of an entrepreneur but is utterly limited by the prejudices of the 1950s — and today. As the feud between the Cannon and Fadda syndicate turned into a complete and utter bloodbath with attacks coming from every possible angle — including his own family — Rock was utterly masterful as playing a man trying to remain in control even though “We’re on the ride now!” It was one of the great performances in a series that has had many of them. Why then has Rock received so little consideration from the pre-Emmy awards and is on the most outside of chances to get a nomination? Rock has been a Hollywood and television icon for more than thirty years and his performance was the equal of those in the category and far superior to some of the more likely candidates? Is it because Fargo is now considered passé? Rock is old hat? I am hoping the Emmys will show the good sense that most of their counterparts have lacked and give this great performances the recognition it deserves.
Andrew Scott, Oslo
No, I’m not just pushing this because he wasn’t nominated for Fleabag. Andrew Scott has always been one of the most versatile actors working in television from John Adams to his breakout role as Moriarty on Sherlock to his most recent performance on His Dark Materials. Much like Hawke, he rarely gets credit because so much of his work is quiet and restrained. There’s a similar level of quiet in his work as one of the people behind a back-channel trying to do the impossible — find peace between Israel and Palestine. The delicacy of what needs to be done is lost on no one and the way Scott’s measured tone tries to handle every conceivable obstacle — and even more than come up — is one of the greatest feathers in his cap so far. He more than deserves a nomination here — and yes, it was a blasphemy that he didn’t get anything for Hot Priest. Come on!
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Jason Schwartzman, Fargo
Am I going into deep on Fargo? Maybe. But it’s hard to ignore the quality of any of the performances on that series. And after Season 4 ended, I have to admit I came to admire much of Schwartzman’s work as Josto Fadda, the son who ends up becoming the leader of his family and is in over his head from beginning to end. The irony that the Fadda clan are just as much outsiders as the Cannon clan is something that becomes clear early on, and in a way makes Josto as much a tragic as he is a comic figure. Every move he makes is the wrong one, and quite a few end up working out for him — until the end where he ends up dying because of a decision that even now, I’m not sure really was his fault. Like Rock, Schwartzman is an immensely gifted comic actor who reveals great depths whenever given the chance. I’m inclined to agree with Josto’s statement that ‘America is a crime story!” and just like so many, he was a victim of her.