Review: Captain Phillips (some spoilers)

I guess I could see why this would be as highly praised as it is. It’s crafted in all the right ways, and ending with an utter gut-punch, thereby closing on your strongest scene, is a clever way to beef up reactions to your film. That said, I wish it cut to black on Hanks instead of that stock-standard aerial zoom-out of the ship which stopped it from being a basically perfect ending.

But if it ended with its best, then it started with its utter worst. Poor Catherine Keener. Is that seriously all you can do with one of the basically only two female characters? That car ride to the airport was phenomenally stilted; by the looks of it I’d say it was butchered in the editing room but left in because cutting Catherine Keener entirely might have been even worse. But that’s what they should’ve done, for the film’s sake. [Side note: this and the previous paragraph are what prevented it from being a 3.5.]

The good: it’s definitely a good thriller. The first half is wildly tense and propulsive. Unfortunately, the second half sags a but under the weight of repetition. Captain Phillips does/says something -> shouting -> threatening -> navy holds them up -> repeat. And during all of this, the score BLASTED to remind the audience that SUSPENSEFUL STUFF IS HAPPENING BECAUSE SUSPENSE. This also made it occasionally difficult to understand the English of the African actors because their enunciation was flattened. I kept wishing for it to become Zero Dark Thirty and trust the audience to feel the burden of silence and the ocean that, in different ways, tortured the main characters.

Further to that: Phillips himself was a bit vanilla, in spite of Hanks’ work. He comes across as a bit of a taskmaster but this isn’t much explored; if the stories that have appeared are reliable, it may have made a much more complex film if Phillips’ characterisation tested our sympathy for him even a tiny bit. The Muse character was much more interesting, and quite mesmerising as played by Barkhad Abdi, who I’d love to see get some recognition for his performance.

But complexity was not the rule of the day. It briefly glosses over first world capitalism’s desolation of the Somali fishing industry as the fundamental cause of the rise of piracy (which was at least more than you could say for A Hijacking which was more concerned with showing the corporate brutality that leads to it, rather than its actual effects), all this in spite of the fact that – while I was more thrilled by much of the rest of the film – I was never more interested than in the scenes in Muse’s village. That was fascinating stuff rarely portrayed on screen that was both tense and intellectually stimulating.

But it’s well-directed – I’ve never seen a Paul Greengrass film before other than bits and pieces of a couple of Bournes, but he seems to know his way around this sort of thing – and it builds tension admirably when it’s not trying to conjure it out of nothing. There was some fine cinematography in there too; the parachuting silhouettes against the grey night sky actually took my breath away, and the use of light and shadow was quite nice all round.

As a whole, though, it’s only the final scene that transcends and it really threw the emptiness of the rest of it into sharp relief. It was content to tell the story and leave it at that, so I’m content to like it well enough and leave it at that.

[Stray observation: it took me about an hour, but I finally realised that the 2IC, Shane, was played by Michael Chernus who is Taylor Schilling’s brother in Orange is the New Black. And it took me until right now to realise that one of the crew was Hank Jennings from Twin Peaks.]

Dream Emmy Nominees 2013

The Emmys are so frustratingly stagnant that prognosticating them has become worrisomely simple, although if ever there were a year where the nominations could be upset this would be it. Here are my desired nominees for all the major categories which are hopefully less of a pipe dream than they seem (desired winner is bolded):

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Breaking Bad
  • Mad Men
  • The Americans
  • Hannibal
  • Rectify
  • Orphan Black

It’s a bit difficult to leave out Game of Thrones, which continued to be excellent, but as a season I felt it had too much padding (Theon, much of Tyrion, early Sam material) to quite elevate it to the coiled coldness of The Americans, the elegiac beauty of Rectify, the horrifying wonder of Hannibal, or the kinetic tautness of Orphan Black, the latter two of which had such high degrees of difficulty inherent in their premises.

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Louie
  • Parks and Recreation
  • 30 Rock
  • Enlightened
  • Archer
  • Bunheads

I don’t believe Bunheads is actually on the Emmy ballot, but that’s only due to ABC Family’s negligence, because it deserves to be nominated, though I’d probably switch it out for Happy Endings or Arrested Development if I had to. Otherwise, Enlightened was the crowning achievement of the year in televisual drama or comedy given that it executed pretty much the best of both worlds. 30 Rock drifted into the ether with one of its best seasons and Parks, Archer, and Louie delivered more of their now-routine brilliance.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
  • Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
  • Claire Danes (Homeland)
  • Keri Russell (The Americans)
  • Kerry Washington (Scandal)
  • Emmy Rossum (Shameless)

I must admit, I only regularly watch the shows of the first four women in this category, but I’ve seen some of what Washington and Rossum do and respect it greatly. But Maslany is the only logical choice here (in any other year, Moss or Russell would take it in a walk), her bravura performance is funny, moving, and bewilderingly complex, at one point playing a character who is playing a character who is playing a character and actually making that feel real.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Aden Young (Rectify)
  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
  • Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
  • Damian Lewis (Homeland)

Much as I love Cranston, I love an underdog more, which is why I have to go for Aden Young, whose quiet, measured performance is pretty much perfect. As are most of the performances here, perhaps with the exception of Lewis, who unravelled somewhat as his show did after its stellar first five episodes. Poor Jon Hamm, though.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
  • Tina Fey (30 Rock)
  • Sutton Foster (Bunheads)
  • Krysten Ritter (Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23)
  • Ashley Rickards (Awkward.)
  • Laura Dern (Enlightened)

Dern is Dern, and she essentially won this category with the first episode of Enlightened’s second season. It’s arguable whether the show should be in this category (it shouldn’t), but it is, so there you go. Possibly controversial inclusions are Ritter and Rickards, who delivered very different but equally fearless female performances, one playing the world’s best-dressed sociopath for laughs, and the other nailing teenage romantic self-sabotage.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation)
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
  • Louis CK (Louie)
  • Jason Bateman (Arrested Development)
  • Jake Johnson (New Girl)
  • Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It)

This is unquestionably the single weakest category possibly in the entire Emmys, which is a good thing. Dudes have had their day. Baldwin, dickish though he may be, still rules the roost here; Jack Donaghy is a pantheon character on a pantheon show and he was no less brilliant in 30 Rock’s final season. My inclusion of Johnson is begrudging since I thought New Girl’s second season was often mediocre, but his pretty good performance elevated it where it needed to be. Capaldi I’m including simply because I’d like to see him nominated despite not having watched the show for a while (which I must remedy).

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  • Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
  • Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
  • Adelaide Clemens (Rectify)
  • Abigail Spencer (Rectify)
  • Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men)

Gunn has long been Breaking Bad’s secret weapon, and many are tipping that this will be the year she finally gets the recognition she deserves. So many asshole dudes on the internet hate Skyler for no reason, but Gunn’s performance is undeniably fantastic. Clemens is a close second for what may be the most sensitive portrayal of a religious person on TV, and Hendricks should have won last year for ‘The Other Woman’. Headey is direly under-appreciated for her work, too, in the face of a showier performance from Emilia Clarke (whom I almost included). As much as I love Dame Maggie, fuck her for ruining this category for far better performances on far better shows.

Oustanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones)
  • Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
  • Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
  • Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) (tie)
  • Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
  • Jonathon Banks (Breaking Bad) (tie)

Another stacked category, with Banks occupying Giancarlo Esposito’s slot of ‘Should Win But Won’t Because Emmys’. Kartheiser got more to do than ever this season on Mad Men, and was terrific every step. Coster-Waldau was the easy stand-out on Thrones, but will probably sit idly by while Peter Dinklage gets nominated for doing practically nothing. Patinkin anchored Homeland’s weak back-half, and Mikkelsen was as brilliant as he always is on Hannibal. Honourable mentions to Noah Emmerich, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Rahm, and Corey Stoll.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
  • Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development)
  • Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory)
  • Casey Wilson (Happy Endings)
  • Lucy Punch (Ben and Kate)
  • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation)

This category is an insane bounty of riches, but I’d like to give honourable mentions to all the supporting Bunheads especially Julia Goldani-Telles and Bailey Buntain the Blonde Bunhead, as she is known. Also Eliza Coupe and Elisha Cuthbert and June Diane Raphael and Allie Grant and Ana Gasteyer and Jessica Walter and Julie White (who was one of the most rounded lesbian characters ever on TV) and Lake Bell and Anna Chlumsky and etc. etc. etc. forever. But Jane Krakowski NEEDS to win. NEEDS. Jenna sits alongside Jack in being timelessly funny and simply nominating her has never been enough. But watch Modern Family shit all over my dreams come Emmy night.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Damon Wayans Jr. (Happy Endings)
  • Will Arnett (Arrested Development)
  • Mike White (Enlightened)
  • Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation)
  • Adam Pally (Happy Endings)
  • Luke Wilson (Enlightened)

So many others I could include e.g Nick Offerman, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jack McBrayer, Charlie Day, Rob Huebel and maybe others. But they’ll all get passed over for the Modern Family bland armada and probably Bill Hader (fine) and maybe Max Greenfield (who deserved it last year but not this year).

And some assorted categories and who should win:

Guest Actress in a Comedy – Parker Posey (Louie). Unquestionably. Only Maria Bamford comes close for Arrested Development.

Guest Actor in a Comedy – Will Forte (30 Rock)

Guest Actress in a Drama – either Marin Ireland (Homeland) or Margo Martindale (The Americans) or Gillian Anderson (Hannibal)

Guest Actor in a Drama – Derek Luke (The Americans)

Outstanding Animated Series – Bob’s Burgers

Outstanding Variety Series – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Outstanding Reality Competition Series – Rupaul’s Drag Race

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/Movie – Lily Rabe (American Horror Story: Asylum)