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Downton Abbey (#110 of 20)

2014 Emmy Winner Predictions

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2014 Emmy Winner Predictions
2014 Emmy Winner Predictions

Glancing over this year’s Emmy nominations is to marvel again at just how much the television landscape has changed in 20 years. Back in 1993, The Larry Sanders Show became the first cable TV program to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Only one non-network sitcom has ever claimed that award (Sex and the City in 2001), but the sheer number of nominations and wins that cable programs garner each year continues to signal the future of television programming. And one of the more pressing questions that will be answered this year is whether the Emmys are ready to embrace online TV creators such as Netflix with prizes in its top two categories for either House of Cards, nominated for 13 awards, or Orange Is the New Black, nominated for 12, more than any other comedy. Elsewhere, the sense of “importance” with which Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart has been greeted by critics and audiences has made nearly ever miniseries or movie category a no-brainer to predict. And while the Emmys, unlike the Oscars, have never been known to drive pundits and viewers alike to fits of nail-biting anxiety, at least a few of this year’s drama races have been turned upside down by the recent plagiarism claims that have plagued Nic Pizzolatto, possibly exposing True Detective as the emperor who’ll arrive at the Nokia Theatre on August 25 with the least amount of clothes.

The Guest Trailer Shows Off Dan Stevens’s Assets

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<em>The Guest</em> Trailer Shows Off Dan Stevens’s Assets
<em>The Guest</em> Trailer Shows Off Dan Stevens’s Assets

Downton Abbey’s third season ended with the unexpected (and unexpectedly smiley) death of Matthew Crawley. According to a 2011 article from The Daily Mail, actor Dan Stevens took to heart the “comments on Twitter about how fat Matthew was looking,” and as the new trailer for Adam Wingard’s The Guest suggests, the ditch from whence his character on Downtown Abbey rose led the actor to a Crunch. In this film by the makers of You’re Next, a practically unrecognizable Stevens stars as David, a man who seduces the family of a deceased fellow soldier with insane shows of vigilante justice and front-row views of his abdominal musculature. Below is The Guest’s trailer, which sadly doesn’t give much of a sense of the film’s weirdly aestheticized pulp pleasures and incredible soundtrack choices, even if it is successful at broadcasting Steven’s phoenix-like resurrection as a spornosexual action star.

Understanding Screenwriting #108: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, & Smash

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Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>
Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>

Coming Up In This Column: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, Smash, but first…

Fan mail: David Ehrenstein, reacting to my comments on Cat Ballou, thought that all the things I liked about the writing and acting came together “thanks to efforts of that controversial new-fangled invention known as the Director.” I didn’t get around to mentioning the director, Elliot Silverstein, because this is one of those films, like M*A*S*H (1970), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Thelma & Louise (1991), that succeeds in spite of its director rather than because of him. Silverstein is very sloppy about where he puts the camera and the acting is all over the place. This was his only truly successful film, and he soon went back to television, where he started.

Side Effects (2013. Written by Scott Z. Burns. 106 minutes.)

Better than Hitchcock. Both Alfred Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick were interested in psychiatry. In the mid-’40s, Hitchcock persuaded Selznick to buy a novel that was, according to Hitchcock’s biographer, Donald Spoto, “a bizarre tale of witchcraft, satanic cults, psychopathology, murder, and mistaken identities.” (The background material here is from Spoto’s The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.) Hitchcock presented some ideas on how a movie could be made out of the material to Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplay for Spellbound (1945). Hecht’s version deals with an amnesiac who replaces a man scheduled to become the head of a mental hospital. The amnesiac is accused of murder and with a helpful female psychiatrist works out his problems. Since she’s played in the film by Ingrid Bergman, he falls in love with her as well. The film was a commercial success, but it’s rather clunky, like many ’40s films about psychiatry. And like many Hitchcock films, it’s less about character than about giving the director a chance to show off. As befits Selznick, the film is a slick production with stars (Gregory Peck as the amnesiac) in a romantic mode.

True/False Film Fest 2013: Village at the End of the World and Stories We Tell

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True/False Film Fest 2013: <em>Village at the End of the World</em> and <em>Stories We Tell</em>
True/False Film Fest 2013: <em>Village at the End of the World</em> and <em>Stories We Tell</em>

Every year, the True/False documentary film festival transforms the typically tame college town of Columbia, MO, home of the University of Missouri, into something out of Alice in Wonderland, as participants are dropped down, down, down a rabbit hole and into a land of endless films and parties. Handmade clouds float above ticket buyers at the box office, brick-lined alleyways between streets around town are painted with installation art projects, and coffee shops overflow with legions of filmmakers and the critics who write about them. With over 40 films, 35 different musical performances, eight panels, a parade, a masked ball, storytelling events, and even a 5K, it’s difficult to tell what’s running faster: film reels, the viewers darting around to see said reels, or the artisanal beer taps that are seemingly the only source of hydration for the weekend. The truth about True/False is that there’s too little time and too much to see.

Poster Lab: In Fear

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Poster Lab: <em>In Fear</em>
Poster Lab: <em>In Fear</em>

According to reports from Sundance, In Fear, the debut feature from TV and documentary veteran Jeremy Lovering, drew a lot of inspiration from The Blair Witch Project. No, the director didn’t give his actors a handheld camera and strive to maintain found-footage realism, but he did keep them largely in the dark regarding script and story details, just as Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez offered cryptic, planted clues to Heather Donahue and company amid the Blair Witch shoot. It’s all part of the same directorial method of drawing true, terrified reactions from your horror-movie players—the darker side of, say, filming A-Listers singing power ballads live.

That genuine heebie-jeebies technique isn’t the only link between Lovering’s film and everyone’s favorite micro-budget ’90s spookfest. The new In Fear one-sheet harkens back to that great photo-negative poster that originally touted Blair Witch, and showed ominous, skeleton trees that implied a wooded path to hell. Similarly minimalistic, the ad for In Fear also uses little more than trees, save for one sharp detail that makes it coolly remarkable.