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Edie Falco (#110 of 7)

Emmy Winner Predictions 2007

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Emmy Winner Predictions 2007
Emmy Winner Predictions 2007

The Sopranos (Will Win)

I haven’t liked The Sopranos, a one-time winner in this category, for some time now, but the final season—or, rather, the second stretch of last year’s especially flippant batch of episodes—was something of a return to form for the show. My favorite episode of this last season (“Soprano Home Movies”) wasn’t submitted for consideration, but second-best “Kennedy and Heidi” was (in addition to the divisive finale). Grey’s Anatomy could upset, but this one feels like a no-brainer.

The Emmys: What Are They Good For?

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The Emmys: What Are They Good For?
The Emmys: What Are They Good For?

There’s been a lot of complaining about the Emmys this year, and with good reason. The Emmy nominations have often ranged from puzzling to incomprehensible, but this year’s crop seems worse than usual, featuring numerous examples of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences throwing out the baby and keeping the bathwater (nominating, for example, House the show, but not its star Hugh Laurie, who holds even mediocre episodes of that show together through sheer force of acting will).

A quick look at Emmy history shows that unless you’re a massive, out-of-the-box hit in one of Emmy’s favorite genres (cop show, medical drama or workplace sitcom, please), you’re doomed to never gain recognition (which would put you in league with several critically acclaimed series that could only muster a writing nomination at best, including The Simpsons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Wire) or to gain recognition several years after you broke through (it took three seasons of critical badgering and ratings improvement for Everybody Loves Raymond to break through—and by then, the show was starting to slip).

But if, perchance, a show manages to crack the Emmys, it’s likely to stay in the game as long as it’s on the air (For instance, Raymond and Will & Gracethe, the most recent example of egregious Emmy over-rewarding). Emmy even hangs on to shows that are legitimately entertaining, groundbreaking and interesting for far too long—in the late 90s, it seemed that it would take an act of God to get the Academy to ditch NYPD Blue and ER, much less their performers.

Moviegoers spend a lot of time complaining about the Oscars, but the Oscars at least make a halfhearted stab at credibility. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominates respectable, middle-of-the-road movies far too often, but there’s often least one film in the Best Picture lineup that’s worthy of discussion by passionate cineastes. In this last year, the Oscars nominated such hotly debated titles as MunichBrokeback Mountain and (yes) Crash, which probably provoked the most discussion of all. But in an age when people passionately debate what, exactly, the numbers mean in Lost or which political parallels are being drawn in an episode of Battlestar Galactica, what does it benefit anyone to nominate The West Wing yet again for doing the same old thing it has every year? The West Wing is a thoughtfully written, handsomely-produced show, but in the past few years, what, if anything, has it added to discourse on either politics or television?

To answer these rhetorical questions, let’s back up a bit and consider the mechanics that result in these nominations.

Blog-a-Thon: Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction

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Blog-a-Thon: Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction
Blog-a-Thon: Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction

I’ve been an Abel Ferrara junkie ever since a friend showed me Ms. 45 at NYU, so the idea of contributing to the Ferrara Blog-a-Thon felt like a duty to one of our greatest unsung directors, but as I told Girish and Aaron Hillis before a press screening of Quinceañera at this year’s New Directors/New Films series, “I don’t do cliques.” Ferrara might approve—fans of his films are familiar with his thou-shalt-not-conform ethos—but then I got an annoying email from Quinceañera co-director Wash Westmoreland that worked to change my mind. Westmoreland objected to my review of his film on the grounds that I was insulting him and his directing partner when I wrote that they were inserting themselves into their movie by way of the story’s lascivious white gay couple. I told Westmoreland: “Lili Taylor is Abel Ferrara’s proxy in The Addiction, doesn’t mean I think Ferrara has tits or likes to suck blood.”

Having used one of Ferrara’s films as mace, something had clicked: the Ferrara film as a weapon of choice. Together, the man’s films suggest a set of steak knives—sharp and serrated, they leave behind wounds that are not easily healed or forgotten. I’ve tried them all with the exception of Mary and Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy, and while it isn’t my favorite one to handle (the heady and dissonant Snake Eyes, the elegiac The Funeral, and the bonkers Ms. 45 are tops), The Addiction provides the cleanest cut. It is somewhat of an anomaly for the Bronx-born director, sheathed as it is in a black-and-white, expressionistic cloak, but it’s thrown at you with the same moral, guttersnipe effrontery as Bad Lieutenant and Fear City. Ferrara has always been cool like dat and The Addiction is a very diggable piece of horror sautéed in a beatnik sauce of Lower East Side philosophizing at once spunky and chill.

The Sopranos Recap: Season 6, Episode 11, "Cold Stones"

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<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 11, “Cold Stones”
<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 11, “Cold Stones”

Can’t you feel it all starting to crumble around them?

It was another joyless week in Jersey, as this week’s episode, “Cold Stones,” set the stage for a mob war with Phil Leotardo’s New York crew in the same bleak, muffled tones we’ve come to expect from this season. Even the inevitable whacking of Vito Spatafore was a muted affair, occurring mostly beyond the frame-line and devoid of the show’s signature graphic violence. (On this morning’s Howard Stern Show, actor Joseph Gannascoli explained that not only was this one of four “endings” filmed for his character, but what aired was also a shorter and more discreet edit of the scene they originally shot.)

After spending the past ten weeks watching our characters try on different personas and alternate lives, it looks like everybody’s about to start slipping back into their old, now ill-fitting skins with a sigh of weary resignation. Vito’s attempt to buy his way back into The Life was half-hearted at best, complete with hollow-sounding re-assurances to his wife that he was on the verge of making things right with Tony.

The Sopranos Recap: Season 6, Episode 3, "Mayham"

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<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 3, “Mayham”
<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 3, “Mayham”

The most important scene in Sunday’s Sopranos episode came during Carmela’s surprise visit with Tony’s therapist, Dr. Melfi. Poring over her conflicted feelings toward Tony, who was still incapacitated from a gunshot wound, Carmela admitted that from the very start of their relationship, she knew he was a criminal. But she chose not to think about it. “I don’t know if I loved him in spite of it, or because of it,” she said.

Throughout the show’s long run, fans have periodically been forced to ask themselves that question—but rarely for long. David Chase’s series, a rude social satire disguised as a gangster soap, was usually so preoccupied with power plays, domestic melodrama and cavalier injections of comic sadism—and so inclined to let its murderous heroes err on the side of crackpot lovability—that you couldn’t stay conflicted. For all its metacritical self-analysis, in the end The Sopranos was usually content to be seen, first and foremost, as a bloody good show, emphasis on show.

The Sopranos Recap: Season 6, Episode 1, "Members Only"

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<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 1, “Members Only”
<em>The Sopranos</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 1, “Members Only”

Talk about starting with a bang. Last night’s Sopranos premiere broke with the show’s traditional slow-building intro by jam-packing two hours of plot into 60 minutes and capping the episode with one of its most startling violent acts: de-fanged, housebound and Alzheimers’-suffering ex-mob boss Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) shooting New Jersey mob kingpin Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) in the chest at close range. It was vintage Sopranos, expected yet somehow surprising, and twisted and pathetic rather than superficially exciting. You always figured Tony might get shot, but not like this. It was downright humiliating, especially when director Tim van Patten cut to a God’s-eye-view shot of fat, bloody Tony lying on the kitchen floor, laboring to hoist his bathroom-scale-certified 280 pounds high enough to grab the wall phone and call 911.

Tony can’t die, of course; at least he can’t die this soon. Series creator David Chase can go on all he likes about how every cast member is fair game, but you still know he’s not going to kill his leading man with 19 episodes left to go. So as powerful as that shooting was, it still feels a bit like wheel-spinning. (Michael Imperioli’s Chris Moltisanti survived a less embarrassing shooting incident in Season Two.) But it’s still a shocking development, one that sets the stage for Chase and his writers to indulge their David Lynch-Dennis Potter fixation by pulling Tony out of this world and putting him into another one. The lead sentence from one of my Star-Ledger colleague Alan Sepinwall’s Sopranos preview pieces now makes sense: “There are going to be more dreams. Deal with it.”