Wednesday, 29 December 2010

REVIEW: The Way Back

Because it's a shithole, OK.

Peter Weir is not a director many would think to site amongst their favourite directors, at least anyone I know, but dude has been Oscar nominated six times. Six times. I reckon that's more then David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle combined. And in a way that makes sense, Weir tells human stories, often unburdened by overly intrusive visual style or any embellishments that go beyond just telling the story. This can be seen as a failing or an attribute in equal measure, but for me it depends on the story in question. But its kind of encouraging that a film-maker that goes to great lengths to be invisible in his work can get so well acknowledged. Because he's made some great films for exactly that reason.

The Way Back, his first film since 2003's Master and Commander, is another apt example of everything Weir can do right as a film-maker, in that its simultaneously low-key and epic in that he doesn't let the soundtrack or the camera-work over-compensate, and just tells a mature story of human survival against the elements, in which the characters themselves take centre stage. And it works as a moving, almost minimalist story, that doesn't hit you over the head with the tragedy, rather letting its slowly creep up on you. Featuring some great performances, even leading man Jim Sturgess who previously I've had my doubts about, has had a very interesting 2010 and does good work here. One would expect Ed Harris do give a give a good performance, but its one of his better ones, exuding a wisdom combined with cynicism to lend some real weight to that oldest guy in prison stereotype. Colin Farrell, who seems to find his groove most when in supporting roles, gives a great performance as a sort of Russian street thug and Dragos Bucur lend s some depth to his comic relief character, But I think what I liked the most is how well the film fleshed out all of its characters, rather then just the ones played by famous actors.

Atonement's Saoirse Ronan gives another performance to suggest why she's the Oscar bait child actor of choice and Weir excels at making the environment feel like a character, from the bitter winters to the expansive deserts to the point where we almost feel the weight of every step the characters take as they trek through the wilderness. Its a little familiar, and other films about extraordinary survival will perhaps have some similar elements. But it's just a classy, eloquent example of film-making, something that Weir delivers almost every time out.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Love And Other Drugs

Insert your joke about naked A-listers here.

I think Love And Other Drugs kind of won me over, with reservations. I was expecting a mash-up between formulaic romantic comedy and mawkish illness melodrama, and that's pretty much what I got I suppose, although things were executed a little more eloquently then I expected. Sure old man director Edward Zwick was a little bit Dad trying to break dance with the film's visual style. But the writing felt a little more world weary and a little less dough-eyed, and Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal were very good. Particularly Hathaway, who's nothing short of excellent and whose performance belongs in a better film.

Even though its only really half a romantic comedy, I think its still pretty much the best the genre had to offer this year. Both of its leads are funny, both of its leads have fairly well drawn characters and they had good chemistry together, feeling like an actual couple and not in that usual stick two attractive people in a room and surely sparks must fly approach that never works. Its romance is credible, so it makes the jokes a little funnier and the inevitable scenes of heart-pouring a little truer. I would say in the last third cliches start getting hit a little too hard, problems are created because its about time the couple get broken up artificially so we can get a great reunion scene at the end. But Gyllenhaal and Hathaway make watching these familiar beats more tolerable. Hathaway has quietly turned into one of the best actresses of her generation in the last couple of years or so, from Rachel Getting Married on down. She doesn't always make the best films but is always viable and charming in them. And Gyllenhaal, he's one of those people whose talent always exceeds what people expect on account of his looks, and this just pisses me off raw.

Love And Other Drugs is far from a perfect film. It seeps into melodrama a little too often, it can be a little aimless and its attempts at corporate satire in regards to the healthcare industry pretty much fall flat, but taken as a film about a relationship which I think it tried to be more then anything else, it succeeds because for ones in these damn romantic comedies, I was engaged in it. And that was a rare and pleasant feeling.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Gulliver's Travels

Yes, they called me President the... awesome. You're killing me Jack Black.

Now I haven't read the original Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels. But something tells me this isn't the most faithful adaptation, because the movie I just saw doesn't quite fit the description ' Satire of human nature' that Wikipedia tells me it is. Because I just saw a movie where a tiny person disappeared into Jack Black's ass crack and was never seen again. Seriously. Holy shit, 2010 has seen some terrible, terrible films but Gulliver's Travels has got to be up there with the best of them. A thoroughly reprehensible piece of shit, where a movie studio spent 150 million on a series of sight gags. But they're, like, really small and he's really, really big. Plus he's fat so that shit has DOUBLE MEANING. Jonathan Swift can take his satire of human nature and suck on that stuff. They saw the Avatar joke right?

Ergh. Jack Black is not an actor opposed to selling out. He seems to make one odious studio release after another, diluting his persona and appeal a little bit more each time, until we reach this. Where he has at the most hollow and anaesthetized version of himself he has yet to play. Its depressing, because I liked Jack Black once, and theoretically I still do. But this does not help me make my case. Call it his Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls. But what is done with Black is somehow less egregious then what is done with Jason Segel, stuck in a half straight-man, half nothing role that just dies on screen, and I refuse to blame Segel for that because I know how funny he can be. Its just this movie has worked very hard at casting funny people and trying its darndest to make them as plain as possible. A misguidedly game Emily Blunt turns up to be the punchbag for a few clueless princess jokes that would have felt tired when the original Shrek came out. I guess Chris O Dowd is the only one to emerge with any credibility, his villain being the only source of any half-chuckles the movie may bleed out of you.

But this is bullshit no mistake, insultingly sanitised with super broad and super obvious reference humour and existing only as a visual experiment, with a super thin and predictable story sketched in on a CGI lunch break. It's just for lack of a more fitting word, awful. It's the kind of film that speaks to the worst of modern film-making, particularly for kids. I can't imagine neither the dumbest kids nor the frattiest adults finding anything to enjoy in this almost pathetic excuse for a film.

Rating: 2/10

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

REVIEW: Tron Legacy

5 Reasons why Tron Legacy was destined to suck:

1) Tron is not the movie people remember it being.

Tron is one of those films you see when you're about eight, maybe in the cinema, maybe with a bunch of your friends. You're taken by the look, the Neon red and blue's and pseudo motorbike chases. Jeff Bridges was affable and nerdy right, and it was fun. But its one of those times in movie history where everyone critiqued with their eyes and not their stomach, Avatar is another, and let a visually ground-breaking film get away with its storytelling short-comings. The original Tron is a fun movie, but emphatically nothing more.

2) Corporations repackaging their youth and selling it back to you, minus the soul

Thank you Edward Norton on the fight Club commentary. See the problem here, is that today's Fox and Disney suits were once children, and when they were kids they liked playing with Transformers, or watching Tron. But time passes and now they're all grown up, with a world to exploit. And in order to pay for that fourth Ducati Veyron, their childhood memories light up with dollar signs. ' Hey I liked Tron when I was a kid, we should remake it! Fuck yeah, kids will love that. Discs and shit. Fuck Yeah. Now where is my hair gel and cocaine ' But whereas the original Tron was made with nothing but love, and it showed, this is made with nothing but cynicism and thus it has no soul, no discernible identity or reason to exist. Its just another sci-fi chosen one narrative, where people talk way too much.

3) Garrett Hedlund is the poor man's Cam Gidanget

One has to wonder why the character of Sam is in Tron Legacy at all. The roles of villain and hero are both taken by Jeff Bridges, and its not like Sam is some devastatingly interesting character whose story had to be told. He's here because data showed that films with an attractive white male, aged 25-35 in its lead will make the money. Hedlund is a charisma vacuum, coming off like a self-satisfied douchebag only without the decency to be obnoxious. He's both unlikeable and bland, pretty much the worst combination an actor can have. He's a large reason why people believe this movie to be boring, because as far as I'm concerned, exposition scenes are as interesting as the actors in them. And Hedlund, well.

4) Tron Legacy's template: The Matrix Reloaded

The thing about mythology, and more importantly explaining mythology, is that it should be done on a need to know basis. At least in a damn action movie. Yet Tron Legacy spends about 45 minutes telling me a backstory that doesn't matter, motivations that are irrelevant and information that is superfluous. Nothing is worse then when simple films go on endlessly about how much they matter, and Tron Legacy is a simple movie. Like Reloaded, it becomes way too caught up in extolling exposition before, oh shit its the end of the movie. At least Reloaded had some brain-melting action. Not one scene of carnage was as impressive as the scenes of rinsage in Reloaded, and if they weren't enough to save that film, then this one is beyond fucked.

5) Aside from everything else, its just not very good.

Poor Jeff Bridges. Saddled against a naff script, a CGI face that looks like a pro evolution soccer character and dialogue that would make the architect squirm, he still manages to be good in this film. His bad guy is a little menacing, in spite of his face, and his good guy is like a stoner Obi Wan Kenobi. But Bridges isn't enough to save if from its dull, pointless self. I guess Michael Sheen turns up for a while to amuse/embarrass himself. High in the running for shallowest movie experience of 2010, if not quite the worst. Because you can't manufacture a sense of wonder in a board room. I'd call it a disappointment if I had any expectations for it. But I thought it would suck and it kind of did. What else do you want from me.

Rating: 4/10

REVIEW: Burlesque

Aguilera porn

When one goes to see a movie about strippers, glorified very classy strippers, but if you define stripping as taking your clothes off for a living then that's what Burlesque dancers are, one does not expect it to be so gay. I don't mean that as insult, and the camp aspect made this more tolerable then films of its kind that can't really move beyond the 'look at the boobies' school of film-making. Its just I feel sorry for all the pervs that churned out 9.75 to watch a film about strippers and got jack shit for their money. I mean they brought their raincoats and everything. Nothing quite like a public masturbation joke to round out 2010 is what I say.

So, Burlesque. First of all it should be said that Ms Aguilera has a very impressive voice, that is clearly established. No-one is doubting that. I kept thinking they were cheating it in some way but I read around thats not the case so, fair do's. The sequences involving her singing in any capacity are really the only thing it has going for it, because elsewhere its a painfully cliched hollywood rags to riches tale, that so nauseatingly simplifies everything it may as well be written by a 13 year old girl dreaming about how easy her path to stardom will be. But its escapism I suppose and even if its escapism not directly aimed at me, I guess I have to let some of that go. Its adequately made and they do their best to make Oscar winning actress Cher look like a real human being and not one of those masks people pull of their face in Mission Impossible. Stanley Tucci steals it by default, by being the only one who seems to know how to do his job, and even if his character is a massive stereotype, he's awesome enough to make you not care.

It's a glossy, empty bizzarely dated testament to hearing showbiz women roar, and quite frankly apologetic feminism only takes you so far. There's nothing for me here, and its not funny or legitimate enough to make me think it worth the effort, which its sadly not. Say if you're favorite film of all time is Love Actually and you thought Nine was mightily under-rated, or are just a sucker for celebrities with more fame then talent then this will be for you. Otherwise, just watch Chicago again and save yourself some money in these hatd times.

Rating: 4/10

NWI Awards: Best Leading Actress In Dramatic Television

A little sidenote: This category is was much, much more difficult to compile then it should have been. This industry is mad sexist when it involved to dramatic roles for women, but I managed to do it. And more importantly do it without including Anna Paquin for True Blood.

10) Emily Deschanel, Bones

I don't not to watch episodic cop shows, mostly because past about four episodes they become nauseating, but if I were to watch one on a regular basis, it would probably be Bones. Leads Deschanel and Buffy's David Boreanaz work well together, and it can be funny. But sister of Zooey gives an always interesting performance as borderline asperger's inflicted Temperance Brennan. (Show, why call your main character Temperance. Why?)

9) Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

First of all this show has a stupid title, because it could mean the closer, as in one who is becoming closer to things, like solving cases. Or it could mean the closer, as in someone who closes cases. Either way, Sedgewick gives a good, if occasionally OTT performance at its centre. It gives it a little more identity then just another female lead cop show on TNT.

8) Jennifer Carpenter, Dexter

On a show where the supporting cast is a multi-ethnic conglomeration of blandness, Carpenter does well with what she's got, taking a character that is seemingly defined by whoever her boyfriend is at any given time, Carpenter has done some good work in a difficult role.

7) Karen Gillan, Doctor Who

A vital part of what for me has been by far and away the best year of Doctor Who, with much of the camp and maudlin melodrama Russell T Davies brought to proceedings gone, and replaced with a greater element of serialization and more formed characters. And Gillian's Amy Pond is probably the greatest example of that. A fun, winning performance.

6) Anna Torv, Fringe

Torv was rightly called on being the weakest element of Fringe back in the day. But in its superior third season, Torv was in her element, playing two versions of her character Olivia. The newer of which, heralding from the alta-universe, has began to steal the show on a regular basis, neither the straight-forward villain people expected nor the blank slate that the old character could be, Torv isnow quietly giving some of the most under-rated work on TV, and doing it twice over.

5) Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie

This show is classified as a comedy in al the awards ceremonies, but Falco's performance is so inherently dramatic I have no interest in wasting a space that someone who's actually funny could have. Falco is very good on this oft frustrating show, as you'd expect. Not groundbreaking work perhaps, but hitting al the old beats fantastically.

4) Glenn Close, Damages

The inconsistent Damages did itself a huge favor when it landed Glenn Close at its centre, and over the years she's given a stellar performance in a show that, despite its A-list pedigree and reception, can be fucking awful at times. But Close is too good of an actress not to be extra-ordinary, so what are you going to do.

3) Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights

The show that made melodrama cool again, and much it works largely thanks to the terrific performances of its two leads, Kyle Chandlerand Connie Britton. Unfortunately the male category was too competitive for me to fit Chandler in, but Britton does equally good work as his wife, neither a pushover or a shrew. The two default arechetypes for TV wives, even in well respected shows, she's complex but fundamentally a great person, and Britton brings that out wonderfully.

2) Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

At the centre of the very classy legal show The Good Wife, Marguiles gives an exceptionally intelligent performance. Not afraid to be showy when she has to be, nor appropriately quieter when the scene calls for it. Classy work on a classy show.

1) Eilsabeth Moss, Mad Men

Moss started out one of the weakest aspects of Mad Men. Particularly in the early years, when everyone was so awesome and she was so mousy and unimpactful, but in a year where so many characters fell from grace, Moss' Peggy came into her own, giving performance where the maturity forms in front of your eyes.

Monday, 27 December 2010

NWI Awards: Best Leading Actor In Dramatic Television

10) James Wolk, Lone Star

Yes this show only lasted two episodes and that barely seems enough to accredit it in this way, but damn if this isn't my own blog where I can say what I want and be coherent only if I choose to be. The most intriguing, arguably the only intriguing new network show of 2010, this tale of a con man living two lives was anchored by a very solid and engaging performance by Wolk at its centre. I think it would have only gotten better.

9) Idris Elba, Luther

As you could probably deduce from many of the selections on this list, I'm not the biggest fan of most of what British television does or the way it does it, despite being British and all, but whereas Luther was I think just an exceptionally smooth, elegant rendition of the same old thing. Having Stringer Bell himself at its centre lent it a weight and an intensity one rarely finds, mostly because Elba is awesome, and the kind of actor you'd watch in anything.

8) Hugh Laurie, House

The show is a dinosaur. A preachy, cowardly mess leaning on lame internet 'shipping' to give it even an illusion of freshness, but Laurie's performance refuses to let the show die. In a way there's a serious argument to be made that Laurie's work on this show is the best performance by anyone of the last twenty years or so. He doesn't get the richly written material of a Gandolfini or a Hamm, yet crafts a character every bit as layered and subtle. He's single handedly the comedy and the drama of the show, and he does both excellently. He's made a thousand crass moments seem poignant and has never dropped his game. Just saying.

7) Steve Zahn, Treme

The hell with all of you, I liked this performance. Zahn was a likeable, warm presence at the show's centre and in a way an embodiment of the show's high on life mission statement.

6) Timothy Olyphant, Justified

In a way its nice to have an action hero on TV. Great drama is synonymous with complex, morally ambiguous leading men, so in a way watching Olyphant be an epic badass every week was a nice antidote. And the performance is no less substantial, with the character bearing a soft-spoken cool, and a deceptively intelligent side that goes beyond the cowboy hat iconography.

5) Michael C Hall, Dexter

Like Hugh Laurie, Hall is the sole reason Dexter isn't entirely unwatchable at this point. Fighting against the writers urge to simplify things and never letting the darkness out of the character. It's long since past the time for me that Dexter was in the running to be a great show, but there's no denying the greatness of the performance.

4) Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

This is a difficult one, because I think Buscemi's performance is almost the most subversive thing about the show and its something that people have pointed to as one of the failings of it. But Buscemi's not a pillar of masculine rage like Tony Soprano or Walter White, or even a relic of an age of a stronger male identity like Don Draper. The way Buscemi plays it avoids these trappings and allows it to become something potentially more unique. Something this shows very much needs.

3) Donal Logue, Terriers

Logue is not necessarily an actor that I had taken notice of before. I'd seen him in many things, but nothing ever really registered until this. Hank Dolworth plays like kind of a cross between The Dude and Philip Marlowe, capable of both coolly riffing and burning up the screen with intensity. Logue was the best thing about what turned out to be a very good show. If nothing else, this show should have bough Logue some pedigree.

2) Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

The most important Emmy win in TV history was Cranston's for that first season of Breaking Bad. Without it I doubt the show gets a second season, and we lose what has become one of the best shows in history. And what a centre Cranston is to this world. He's done a lot of great work o this show, but I'm tempted to say that the monologue he has in 'Fly' is amongst the best work he's ever done. And that's a high frickin standard.

1) Jon Hamm, Mad Men

But Mad Men had 'The Suitcase'. And in that episode was Hamm doing the best work he's ever done. On Mad Men. With past ravings, I've probably made my position clear on what show I prefer but there's not point denying that Hamm was the best actor on TV in 2010. I don't think you can.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

NWI Awards: Best Episodes Of 2010 - Justified: Long In The Tooth

I'm gonna take a stand.

Justified is a curious, if undoubtedly successful show. Blending the grand drama and adult content of a Breaking Bad with the procedural elements of a NCIS, I think more worked about it then didn't, particularly when it took serialization to heart toward the end of its season. But the episode that blew my mind more then any other was not only a stand alone, but narratively the most disposable episode. Nothing much is done with the lead character or the larger story. It doesn't even do much to expand on the world.

But in a way it did something else. It showed the potential of stand alone episodes within the modern TV dramatic landscape, where the only story worth telling is worth telling over 5 years. And to be clear, I love these shows. They are my lifeblood, but Long In The Tooth was such an entertaining, amusing and affecting hour of television that it does make one doubt ones staunchly serialized principles. A large part of that is the truly excellent performance at its centre by guest star Alan Ruck, who seems destined to be remembered as Cameron from Ferris Bueller forever. Its a character he played in some form for the rest of his career, until he became one of those faces you'd see often on TV playing the same kind of ineffectual role, regardless of whether they're talented or not. And Ruck, well he was always that acerbic, kind of spineless guy. But as Roland 'Rollie' Pike, dirty accountant/dentist, he is pretty much a revelation, discovering a not before seen toughness, but not losing that everyman charm. And when an actor does something you've never seen them do this fucking well, it makes you take notice.

Justified works best when its episodes protagonists are not those who don't traditionally belong in an Elmore Leonard universe, and Pike works wonderfully because he's both competent and in over his head, badass and vulnerable. Living his dream of being a dentist after stealing mob money, Rollie's cover is blown when he unloads on a particularly obnoxious customer, and the Elmore ensues. Combined with a sweet relationship he has with receptionist Mindy, well played by Michele Nordin, its a character story started and finished in 42 minutes, and succeeded in that in a way that no other show quite managed this year. It even throws in a couple of moments of Timothy Olyphant being a badass for good measure. Because after all, if you're not gonna use it then throw it away.

The problem with non-serialized shows is that quality doesn't stick, and a galling inconsistency is inevitable. It almost can't be avoided. And Justified suffered a little from that. But if you can get an hour of superlative television as good as Long In The Tooth, then its almost worth the trade. Also if you could re-invent an over the hill actor, that would be great too.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 25 December 2010

NWI Awards: Best Episodes Of 2010 - Party Down: Steve Guttenberg's Birthday

And I don't even mention the fact that McLovin is in the episode, which he is.

Celebrities playing themselves in a manor that pokes fun at their image is a joke grown increasingly weary to me. It's beginning to feel more like a way for famous people to gain good PR then something that serves comedy in any useful way. For me that trick works best when the person playing themselves gives a performance of some kind rather then taking a few soft hits and coming off like a whole new person.

But it worked wonderfully in Steve Guttenberg's birthday, mostly perhaps because its not a series of cheap gags about how lame and outdated Guttenberg is, how he only made bad movies things like that, instead pointing out that us smart-ass cynics will never know an inch of the success Guttenberg had, and he acts as almost a hurricane of positivity to Party Down's regular cast of people who hate the world in one way another, and by making such a mockable celebrity a kind of zen like optimist interested in helping everyone he ever meets, reminding our cast, particularly failed actor Henry, that the dreams they've al given up on might be worth pursuing after all. It also very fucking funny, whilst similarly retaining the sadness that pervades the show and makes it the rich experience it is.

I think what makes this episode stand out against the rest though, and season two of Party Down set a very high standard indeed, is the two scenes where the caterers read Hard sci-fi (Techno-babble that purposefully avoids any kind of heart or humanity) enthusiast Roman's script aloud. In part because it lent a depth to Roman's character who spent most of the series believing he was too good for the world rather then the other way around, and for the way it contrasted the two readings, the first a sarcastic lifeless washout, and the second an unexpectedly intense, unexpectedly awesome scene, in which Henry being so good only lends more to the tragi-comic elements of the show. Adam Scott has always been an under-rated actor, but what he did in this episode has made me a fan for life, its a terrific performance in every sense of the word. Him screaming ' What do you know about Life!' as 'Slave girl' dies in his arms is simultaneously one of the funniest and saddest scenes of the year. To put it in the show's words, 9 times out of ten, if you've got the talent, you make it. But what about that one guy?

A lot of comedy revolves around people failing, but in the world of Party Down its explored in a very different way. It doesn't hide from the darker elements of seeing people dreaming of success and heading inevitably toward humdrum monotony, yet it the Steve Guttenberg's birthday frames this against someone whose got everything they want. If it wasn't so funny this would be the saddest show on TV. Perhaps it still is. Well, if it wasn't cancelled anyway. Genius.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 24 December 2010

NWI Awards: Best Supporting Actress In Comedic Television

10) Heather Morris, Glee

I know I'm supposed to put Jane Lynch or maybe Lea Michele here, but Heather Morris has long been the best thing about Glee for me. And while the show shoots head first into smug intolerability, Morris and her quietly hilarious one liners have become the only reason to watch.

9) Kaitlin Olsen, Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia

A lot of attention is given to the male cast of this show, but I think Olsen is quietly doing a lot of good work, often thanklessly. Her attempts to become an inspiring drama teacher this year proved particularly amusing.

8) Cobie Smulders, How I Met Your Mother

I think Smulders has long proved the secret weapon of this show, often given little to do other then tell Canada jokes, but for a character originally conceived as the hot girl of the show, she's given a long-lasting and constantly funny performance.

7) Aubrey Plaza, Parks And Recreation

Plaza gives a wonderfully deadpan performance, her face seemingly cut in a permanent disapproving scowl, but she's hilarious. Not quite as much as Ron Swanson, but it'll certainly fly.

6) Busy Phillips, Cougar Town

Freaks and Geeks alum Phillips has wondered the TV wilderness for a while, but its great to see her land on a show that allows her to be this winning. Cougar Town has a great ensemble, but I think Phillips stands out just the tinciest bit, perhaps because here character is the broadest. But when that works, it works.

5) Gillian Jacobs, Community

Jacobs and character Britta take a lot of fan hate, and while its true perhaps that the show leaned too heavily on her as group conscience in the early days, in later episodes she found a great little niche as a super self-satisfied hipster whose jokes nobody finds funny. A deceptively strong performance.

4) Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

Granted, most of Vergara's dialogue begins with, 'well back in Columbia we..' but it's an enjoyable, scene stealing performance. Vergara is an easy actress to dismiss on account of the way she looks and all, but she's much funnier then the archetype would have you believe.

3) Portia De Rossi, Better Off Ted

Yet another notch on the tally of great shows that came and went with nobody caring, Better Off Ted was much better then its hideously lame pun of a title would suggest. Combining clever corporate satire, with an appreciatively warm centre, it was clever comedy done right, an none more so then the performance of Arrested Development's Portia De Rossi as Veronica, exuding a kind of controlled insanity that amused no end.

2) Alison Brie, Community

Erm, because she's really, really funny? Arguably the stand out in an extremely talented cast, Brie can do anything the show asks of her and more, from producing the best scream played for comedy known to man to physical comedy that almost rivals Chevy Chase, and that's Chevy Chase.

1) Lizzy Caplan, Party Down

As much as I love Community, no show in 2010 did character comedy quite like Party Down, and Caplan's sarcastic comedienne/caterer was a huge part of that. A performance that has so much more depth and sadness then one would expect in a sitcom about people in pink ties.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

NWI Awards: Best Supporting Actor In Comedic Television

10) Charlie Day, Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia

IASIP is pretty aged now, and its certainly lost a lot of that uncompromising sociopathic bent that made it such a unique show in the first place. But it's cast continue to be amusing together, and none more so the Charlie Day who has been so consistently good on this show it's not even funny.For the episode where he gets to play his joy at getting a job as a janitor in a high school alone.

9) Bobby Van Holt, Cougar Town

Cougar Town, much like Better Off Ted before it and How I Met Your Mother before that, is a hard show to tell people that its good. Its title and original premise lend itself to such an immediate punchline, I've found it best to not mention how much I like it, other then in public forum form obviously. Van Holt is a large reason why the show is so winning, playing his goofy, eternally upbeat Bobby in a way that is always hilarious.

8) Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Modern Family is a show that I'd be tempted to call solid rather then outstanding, it will always play it safe. Hence its popularity. But Burrell always gives an interesting performance, his man-child salesman perhaps the least broad and defined character on the show, and its certainly the subtlest performance on a show where there's not much of that to go around.

7) Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother

I don't know quite why this performance is as utterly endearing as it is. Its very big and quite broad, but perhaps because of Harris gift for physical comedy and his immense almost innate likeability, it becomes a joy to watch even when the show isn't all it could be. Just very funny.

6) Chris Pratt, Parks And Recreation

I think Chris Pratt was what kept me watching through the first season of Parks and Rec, where everything was not quite as it should be. Now the show has become quite the awesome little thing, Pratt is no longer the best thing about the show, but he's still a very vital, entertaining part. An idiotic fratboy type, only with a heart underneath. But more then that shit, he's always frickin hilarious.

5) Martin Starr, Party Down

Probably most recognized for his bit part in the very high quality Adventureland, Starr is a joy to watch on Party Down, as Roman, the caterer moonlighting as a writer of 'hard' sci-fi, he pulls of a character who could be quite hate-able, Roman thinks he's better then everyone he ever meets after all, But what works wonderfully is that Starr plays him so smart, as intelligent people can be entirely talentless too, and Starr plays that note perfectly.

4) Donald Glover, Community

I think in the early episodes of Community, Troy felt like the character that would just be there, not necessarily adding anything that substantial. But Donald Glover exploded out of the role, and that has only been more noticeable in the show's second season, in which Troy has headlined more episodes then anyone, and Glover has handled it like the very talented man he is. He's going to do what he has to, he's gonna be a nerd.

3) Ted Danson, Bored To Death

Bored To Death is a show that really found its anarchic, goofy voice in its second season. But I think the reason to watch this show, and it boasts Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis as its co-leads, is the performance of Danson, as the stoned, elderly intellectual George. Kind of a presentable version of the dude, stuck in a generation that has no use for him. But Danson's deliveries remain to the end hilarious and often weirdly sad.

2) Danny Pudi, Community

What is there to say about Pudi's performance as Abed. It's so pitch perfect, nailing the social befuddlement and yet also in his world, the self-assurity. Abed may be the first Asperger's driven character to take the problems and turn them into something badass. One is rarely pitying Abed, rather wishing you could be him, and that's down to Pudi's entirely Emmey worthy performance.

1) Nick Offerman, Parks And Recreation

And yet, I can't really justify giving this to anyone but Ron Swanson. Because he's Ron Fucking Swanson. Genius.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

NWI Awards: Best Supporting Actress In Dramatic Television

10) January Jones, Mad Men

Facing all truths brutally and honestly in the face, it wasn't the best year for Ms Don Draper. Drawn a little too broadly, and a little too monstrously. But this being Mad Men, January Jones was still given her moments to shine, and its still a good performance even if its undoubtedly the character's weakest year.

9) Olivia Williams, Dollhouse

Joss Whedon sure does love to dip into the well of stiff-upper lipped British characters, but lends it a little extra by making them badasses. Olivia Williams probably always was a little too good for this show, but she lent her character, subtly named Adelle DeWitt, an awesome to the point efficiency in both her evil doings and eventual redemption.

8) Melissa Leo, Treme

In a role that could have been easily overshadowed, John Goodman was a force in this show, Leo is a strong enough actress to carve out not only a fully rounded character, but an almost similarly emphatic one, handling her missing persons arc with admirable restraint. Leo is one of the best actresses working today, and I look forward to her Oscar nomination for The Fighter. Regardless of whether its good or not.

7) Chloe Sevigny, Big Love

I'd like to preface this by saying this was a truly terrible year of Big Love, in which plotlines consumed each other in a fast-paced incoherent frenzy, but one thing that stands about this show is the quality performances. At times it felt like the very talented cast was trying to keep a ship that was determined to sink afloat, none more so then Sevigny, who has always been the brightest light in the mormon drama, cruelly overlooked for too many awards.

6) Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire has a lot in common with The Sopranos, but in a way it always felt a little more grand guignol then that show. Much happier to play things a little bigger and characters a little less realistic, so at first Kelly MacDonald didn't thrill me with her immensively beaten down mouse of a character. But the character grew, as did the performance and by the end she was one of the strongest aspects of the show.

5) Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Mad Men mainstay Christina Hendricks tends to get maybe 2 episodes a year to take her character a little further then the standard 10 lines an episode role. This year was a strong one, as the world began to pass by Joan, or rather catch up to her. She got to appear a little more vulnerable this year, and as good as she is as the unstoppable Joan, it was nice to see the range Hendricks actually has.

4) Khandi Alexander, Treme

If people have one complaint about The Wire, people tend to throw out the female characters thing. And there's some credibility to that. But David Simon answered that in spades with Treme, arguably the place where strong female characters reined supreme in 2010. Alexander makes such a strong impression because in true Simon style, there's so much more to her character then at first it seems. A great performance.

3) Kim Dickens, Treme

But the strongest was Dickens, I think. Stuck playing the wronged woman on nearly every show known to man, I had no idea Dickens was capable of such an endearing yet somehow embittered performance. Playing a chef dealing with bad business in post New Orleans Katrina, she arguably didn't have the most fiercely dramatic role, but it ended up being so engaging to watch. Probably because of the mature and engaging performance Dickens gives. Standout work.

2) Katey Sagal, Sons Of Anarchy

Sagal's third year wasn't quite as bombastic as her second, much like the show really, which pondered its way into aimlessness. But Sagal's scenes with on screen father Hal Halbrook were up to the high standard she had previously set, even if the direction of the season wasn't. It really is one of the best performances on TV, and the fact that the Golden globe recognized her this year was very, very gratifying.

1) Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad

I promise that the next award won't be won by anyone from Breaking Bad, but this one has to be. The enriching of Skylar White's character in season three of this year may have been my favourite performance of the year by anyone. Skylar has always been a figure of fan hate, mostly because she doesn't roll over at Walt's feet. But the performance became so fascinating to watch, and is worthy of all praise anyone can bestow on it.