Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Dawn of Film Music, Part III: Various Other Great Scores

Metropolis by Gottfried Huppertz:
Metropolis was a silent German film with German subtitles directed by the great Fritz Lang and released in 1927. Its influence on modern filmmaking is immeasurable, its take on science-fiction, and its commentary on industrialization and the rapidly approaching age of human-less mechanization. It’s a fascinating expressionist masterpiece.

I wouldn’t say that Metropolis’ score is necessarily all that influential, but it certainly is great at least in my opinion. It’s very classical in style, bearing far more resemblance in style to the composers of the 1700s and 1800s than to that of the film composers to come. That being said, the film’s score works wonders for me. Throughout much of the early part of the suite, there is an unmistakable air of grandeur and power and triumph that is simultaneously mixed with this almost magical quality. This technology is wondrous, but not flawless. Throughout the first half of the suite, this magical quality remains, but the tone darkens and so the themes of the film are mirrored more than beautifully by the score.

Aaron Copland:
Copland is my favorite classical composer of the 20th century and is my favorite English-speaking composer ever. His lush, full-bodied, earthy chords and sounds and instrumentations are brilliant in my mind, and all of his music is at once unique and wonderfully similar. His film scores, in comparison to one another, were more on the side of unique. Here are a few excerpts from some great scores of his. I won’t even analyze them at all afterward. Simply enjoy. I will say that what I like a lot about Copland’s film work is how he focused more on atmospheric theme than other things. He would compose based upon the action, whatever was going on in the film at the time, but he would refrain from putting exaggerated emphasis on a specific action (i.e. a gunshot with a fortissimo staccato note or something like that). I also love his incidental music for the play Quiet City, which I won’t post here since it’s not a film.
Of Mice and Men (1939):
If you can find Threshing Machines, that’s my favorite part of the entire soundtrack.
The City (1939):
I couldn’t find any videos with just the score itself, but here’s the entirety of the short documentary The City. Just listen for the score as the film itself is of varying quality, but never of particularly high quality.
Our Town (1940):
While not a particularly good film based on a play that’s pretty good but not great and had no business being made into a film, Copland’s score for Our Town is gorgeous.
The Heiress (1949):
This score won him his only Oscar.

Laura by David Raksin:
A 1944 Otto Preminger-directed film noir starring the unbelievably beautiful Gene Tierney (I think she’s probably the most beautiful actress ever in Hollywood), a great Dana Andrews, and the never better and more pompously amusing Clifton Webb, Laura is quite an underrated film.

David Raksin is not a name you hear often when talking about film scores, though he has been known as the “Grandfather of Film Music” on various occasions. He was a solid composer who occasionally achieved greatness. His nickname comes from his composition of over 400 combined scores for TV and film. Raksin’s work on Laura is brilliant stuff, though. It’s a hauntingly beautiful score that leaves me in awe every time. There’s never really any specific moment I look at and say, that’s masterful composition, or, that’s so haunting. Rather, the entire score as a whole creates this haunting portrait.

The Best Years of Our Lives by Hugo Friedhofer:
The 1946 Best Picture-winning film was directed by legendary director William Wyler and starred Fredric March, Dana Andrew, Harold Russell (a non-actor who actually was a war veteran), Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, and Virginia Mayo. It was a great film that probably won because of its subject matter (it’s one of the absolute best films ever made examining the trouble returning vets face in returning to civic life). It’s a Wonderful Life has always been my favorite. Friedhofer’s score is simply remarkable, so I’ve included 2 videos of various themes from the film.

Unfortunately, the uploader of the videos only has left the two videos I posted as open for embedding. This entire score is quite interesting. I really love how ingeniously Friedhofer weaves the theme of the first video I have into the second I’ve posted. His inclusion of even more themes presented in other tracks (you can find on YouTube also posted by the same person) in the final track is complete and utter brilliance.

The Red Shoes by Brian Easdale:
This 1948 film written and directed by the Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) and starring Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, and Marius Goring is great and arguably the duo’s best. The score is Easdale’s most famous and it’s wonderfully charming and enchanting.

The Third Man by Anton Karas:
Carol Reed’s 1949 film noir starring Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard is utterly and completely amazing in every sense. It’s score is as well, though in a completely different manner.

Anton Karas’ use of the zither is odd but ultimately brilliant. His selection of it is odd and catches a first-time viewer off-guard, much in the same way Cotten’s Holly Martins is out of the loop pretty much the entire film. Also, the way the zither creates its music makes it sound like it’s always one step behind, just like Martins, and in many ways the viewer, is in understanding what has happened to his friend Harry Lime.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Alex North:
The 1951 version of Tennessee Williams’ brilliant play is classic and ubiquitous. Vivien Leigh is characteristically brilliant, and Marlon Brando gives an absolutely iconic performance. Karl Malden and Kim Hunter are also top-notch.

Alex North holds the record for the most Best Score nominations without ever winning. He was one of the first composers in Hollywood to compose a score based on atmosphere rather than actual action. His incorporation of jazzy string movement and big band-esque brass parts of varying kinds fits the New Orleans locale perfectly. I simply love the score. That he didn’t win for this score is only made easier to handle by knowing that Franz Waxman won instead for A Place in the Sun.

High Noon by Dimitri Tiomkin:
Some don’t like Gary Cooper. I’m not one of them. He’s certainly not my favorite actor, but I think he’s quite good much of the time, especially here, in this wonderful Fred Zinnemann western, also starring the beautiful but incredibly untalented Grace Kelly and the egregiously Oscar-snubbed Katy Jurado, who I feel should have won the Oscar this year, despite her segments of the film being altogether unnecessary for the film itself.

Do Not Forsake Me, Oh, My Darlin’ is a classic film song, and Tiomkin’s variations on it (beginning at about 2:45, with the song itself ending at about 2:30) are wonderful. The rest of the score is brilliant in my opinion, from beginning to end.

From Here to Eternity by George Duning:
A classic war film (even though it’s about what happens right before Pearl Harbor) if there ever was one, Fred Zinnemann’s 1953 film is well-acted, well-directed, and well-written. It’s score is also incredibly well-done by George Duning, a very good, but oft-forgotten composer.

Surprisingly and pretty disappointingly, I couldn’t find a video containing the main theme of the film, so we have this, one of the most famous kissing scenes in movie history. The music is just incredibly pretty.

I also have to include the scene, featuring the brilliant Montgomery Clift.

Around the World in 80 Days by Victor Young:
This film, obviously based on Jules Verne’s novel is overlong and only intermittently entertaining. David Niven doesn’t stand out nearly well enough and Cantinflas is annoyingly over-the-top, completely unfunny, and rather terrible. That being said, Victor Young’s score is wonderfully fun, exuding the adventure and magic of the entire premise of the film. If the main theme of this particular score excerpt sounds a bit familiar, that’s because it’s been borrowed many times. (I’m pretty sure Michael Giacchino even borrowed elements of it for both Up and Ratatouille. Even if he didn’t, the instrumentation quality similarities and influence is unmistakable.)

Giant by Dimitri Tiomkin:
This, the main title theme, of George Stephen’s worthwhile epic 1956 film starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean is very western, especially with its singing chorus and rich orchestrations complemented by bombastic trumpet sections. Simply wonderful.

The Bridge on the River Kwai by Malcolm Arnold:
David Lean’s 1957 masterpiece starring Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa, and Jack Hawkins also includes Malcolm Arnold’s counter-march to the well-known Colonel Bogey march is wonderful and catchy. It won him an Oscar and rightfully so. The best known version of Arnold’s The River Kwai March isn’t the one in the film, but I’m posting the one from the film.

The Big Country by Jerome Moross:
Though overlong and sometimes uncompelling, William Wyler’s 1958 western, starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, and Charlton Heston, benefits greatly from a brilliant turn by famous singer Burl Ives and a wonderfully catchy main theme by the otherwise unnotable Jerome Moross.

As I’ve said in the past, I love brass, and the brass sections in the theme are great, as are the lightning-fast string parts. It’s very reminiscent (that’s not really the correct word, but whatever) of a film, whose score I will address eventually because I love it, made 27 years later.

Anatomy of a Murder by Duke Ellington:
This brilliantly made 1959 courtroom drama directed by Otto Preminger and starring James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, Lee Remick, Lee O’Connell and George C. Scott is also blessed by an incredibly fun score by Duke Ellington.

As a note, the opening only goes until about 1:30 of the video. As the score is by Ellington, it’s obviously jazz-based. I just love the score and I had to use the opening title sequence because of how brilliant Saul Bass was.

Some people may have noticed that I have omitted all of the work of one major composer entirely from this list. I am well aware and will be addressing him in my next post. I hope we are thinking of the same person. I feel like this composer more bridged a gap between the lush and grand scores of old Hollywood and the more atmospheric composers of newer Hollywood.

I think I’m just going to end every post with a couple of videos of interviews between the great Dick Cavett and some Hollywood personality. They’re always incredibly fascinating and are oftentimes hysterical. So here’s 2 hours of Richard Burton and Cavett. If you have the time, I can’t recommend sitting down and listening to this in the background while doing something else. It’s incredibly interesting.

The Dawn of Film Music, Part II: The Other Four

This entry is going to be at least a little, if not quite a bit, longer than the Max Steiner article. During his career, Steiner was nominated 24 times for some version of an Oscar for Best Score, and he one on 3 occasions: The Informer, Now, Voyager in 1942, and Since You Went Away in 1944. Obviously, Gone with the Wind losing is looked upon as a major misstep by the Academy in 1939. That it lost to Herbert Stothart’s greatly deserving score for The Wizard of Oz makes the loss no less unbelievable.

The other 4 composers I’m going to talk about were no worse composers necessarily than Steiner, but their work was decidedly less influential. The other four composers I’ll focus on had a combined 76 nominations and 16 wins (I think I added that correctly) for some variation on the Oscar for Best Score. One was born in German-controlled Poland, one in Hungary, one in Austria, and one in Connecticut, but all ended up in Hollywood.

Franz Waxman:
Born a Jew in Silesia in modern day Poland, Waxman probably would’ve ended up in Hollywood eventually, but not nearly as soon as he did if not for being attacked by a group of Nazi sympathizers in 1934. His first major work was for James Whale’s horror classic, Bride of Frankenstein, in 1935:

This is a composite of some of the different themes of the film’s great score. What strikes me, much in the same way Steiner’s did, is how well Waxman is able to combine different feelings into the same combinations of notes. Listen for yourself and see if you can hear the stretches during which Waxman expresses both love and uncertainty and a little fear. Waxman’s ability to make something out of very little, which came to be his trademark, is evident here. All throughout his career his variations on the use of single notes or of seldom-used composition techniques earned him acclaim.

Waxman stayed out of major composition until he composed the score that made him famous in 1940, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca:

This rather short, 2 minute main theme is so haunting, even while it’s grandiose. It’s large and loud orchestrations are made all the more powerful because they’re all in minor keys. The music almost becomes the subconscious saying, “Be careful what you let yourself get caught up in. It might not be what you think.” And then it becomes your own response, “But it’s so beautiful and wondrous that it couldn’t be all that bad no matter what.” Simply masterful work.

Waxman composed quite a bit during the rest of the 40s, garnering 5 total Oscar nominations. His work in Sorry, Wrong Number in 1948, though not nominated, is great work. I won’t go into detail on it as I couldn’t find a video of it, but the climax of the film is incredibly interesting in its usage of seldom-used musical techniques.

Along with Rebecca, Waxman’s greatest score was for 1950 release, Sunset Boulevard, a brilliant film only enhanced by Waxman’s wonderful talents.

This was his first score to win an Oscar. The poster on the video says, “A Most Unusual Picture,” and indeed the film is. It’s also a most unusual score. The beginning is wonderful in how excellently it plays up the Hollywood angle of the film, giving an over-the-top, bombastic portrait of the establishment. A few minutes in, Waxman then gives us the strangely haunting, but simultaneously enchanting nature of Norma Desmond, encompassing who she is, what she has become, and what she wishes to rise again to become.

The next year, he received another Oscar win for his wonderful score for A Place in the Sun.

The score is beautiful in many ways, and only adds to this largely underappreciated film. I particularly enjoy how quickly he changes from piano to fortissimo and then all the way back down to pianissimo in the span of 2 or 3 measures. His interesting and uncommon orchestrations are evident here as well if you listen closely in certain places.

His 1954 work on Rear Window, though unrewarded, still stands as a testament to his great talents as a composer:

Waxman’s jazzy main title to this Hitchcock thriller is very interesting to me. The jazz is fun and playful and upbeat, just the way Jimmy Stewart played his role as the potentially despicable, but ultimately endearing Jeff Jeffries. At the same time, his submelodies are all devoted to showing the suspense/thriller aspects of this excellent film. It’s an incredibly interesting and ultimately quite affective approach to this fantastic film.

His final great work was the 1959 Audrey Hepburn film The Nun’s Story:

His last great score, The Nun’s Story showcases Waxman as a man moved by the film for which he’s writing. As such, his score is beautiful in every sense of the word.

Miklós Rózsa:
Born in Budapest, Rózsa achieved fame in actual classical composition in Europe, before moving to Hollywood and gaining fame for his scores of one of it seems like thousands of adaptations of The Four Feathers in 1939 and for his enchanting work on 1940’s The Thief of Bagdad:

I find this rest to be perfectly fitting for everything I’ve heard of the film. It’s a beautiful score that evokes the fantastical elements of the film wonderfully.

In 1944, he received a nomination for his score of Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity.

This is simply a gorgeous and powerful score that underscores everything dark and devious about the film to wonderful effect. It doesn’t necessarily come across that way on its own, but even then it’s still worth listening to.

The next year he won his first of 3 Oscars for Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound:

While the film certainly is not one of Hitchcock’s better 1940s films, but Rózsa’s score is lovely and certainly was deserving of its Oscar. Just listen to the video and see why it’s such a great soundtrack for a psychological mystery thriller with romantic touches like this. It should be incredibly obvious. Rózsa never gives you time to relax. Instead, he piles on more and more and more stuff. It’s a lesson in going as close to beating someone over the head with something without ever coming close to doing it. I love it far more than the film itself, which could have benefitted from someone more convincing than Gregory Peck. I didn’t listen to the entire thing, but another interesting part of the score is his use of the theremin, an early electric instrument that controlled pitch using a sensor that sensed where the player’s hands were moving.

Rózsa’s score for the underseen 1946 film The Killers is quite good, as well. In 1947, Rózsa received his second Oscar victory for A Double Life.

This was a film noirish kind of film in which Anthony John, played to perfection by the underrated Ronald Colman, goes crazy because he begins to have increasing trouble separating his real life self from the self of the Othello he plays on the stage. I think this suite excerpt shows all of this quite well. Plus, it has great Renaissance-style composition for when Colman’s actually onstage. It’s really something.

During the 1950s, Rózsa became MGM’s go-to composer for their epics. First the overlong, overrated Quo Vadis; then Ivanhoe. Julius Caesar was the last of his 3 straight Oscar nominations. Rózsa’s crowning achievement came with his tremendous work on William Wyler’s 1959 classic epic Ben-Hur. Every bar of Rózsa’s score is arguably of equal grandeur and excellence as Steiner’s score for Gone with the Wind. Obviously the most well-known is the Parade of the Charioteers.

Ignoring how funny the guy sounds since he’s speaking German, this is absolutely recording of Rózsa’s astonishing work. Above all, this is just supposed to be a grand display of power and that makes this song an unqualified success. The rest of the score is probably just as influential as Gone with the Wind’s in some respects. Rózsa finds incredible nuance in his composition for this oftentimes undernuanced film. Also, I couldn’t find a clip of the film with the parade itself, so instead here’s a video of the astronomically expensive and awesome race itself.

My favorite part is and forever will be the sequence from 6:15 through 7:00, but especially at 6:54 or 55.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold:
Another Jewish composer, Korngold was born into music, being the son of an eminent Austrian music critic. He was described as a “musical genius” by Gustav Mahler and composed a ballet that received acclaim at just 11. He composed his first orchestral work at 14 and two operas by 17. In an earlier time, Korngold would have been the next big thing on the court composer circuit. But being 17 in 1914 meant that, at some point, composition for film was the place to be at some point. After completing his 4th opera at the age of 26, he did some more composition before going to Hollywood and arranging some Felix Mendelssohn for the 1935 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring such actors as a young James Cagney. His first major success was his Oscar-nominated original score for 1935’s Captain Blood, as swashbuckler starring the dashing Errol Flynn in his first starring role.

The upbeat, brass-heavy, exciting composition style found here is highly characteristic of Korngold’s film music, and that makes him a favorite of mine. I love how, even during the non-brass sections, there is still this sense of action and excitement.

The next year, Korngold won an Oscar for his score for the epic costume drama Anthony Adverse starring Fredric March.

The score is quite a bit better on the whole than the incredibly overlong film itself. It’s gorgeous, but Korngold makes sure to include the brassy, brazen touches that always endear him to me. The over-1200-page novel had absolutely no business being adapted in the first place as it’s not really all that engrossing and rambles for much of the time (at least it did for the few pages I read). From Here to Eternity, on the other hand, despite being almost 1000 pages as well, definitely was worth it.

Two years later in 1938, Korngold won his 2nd Oscar for another Errol Flynn adventure film, The Adventures of Robin Hood, a fantastically entertaining and colorful film about Abraham Lincoln. I’m kidding.

I simply love this and every other second of this gloriously entertaining film and score. There’s really nothing left to say.

Korngold received a 4th Oscar nomination for yet another Errol Flynn film, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. Korngold’s last Oscar-nominated score is also the last I will talk about for him. The Sea Hawk, also starring Errol Flynn, isn’t as good as Adventures of Robin Hood, but it’s still entertaining.

Though I think Adventures of Robin Hood is an altogether better score, I do enjoy the main theme of The Sea Hawk the most of all of Korngold’s work. It’s a ubiquitous melody that most people have heard and either don’t know it or have absolutely no idea where it comes from.

Alfred Newman:
The only American of the bunch, Newman is a member of the Newman musical family. His brother Emil was best known for conducting The Best Years of Lives, and his other brother, Lionel, received 11 Oscar nominations and was musical supervisor for all 3 of the original Star Wars trilogy films. Alfred’s two sons are David Newman, a composer best known for his score of the animated 90s film Anastasia, and Thomas Newman, a wonderful composer who wrote The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Skyfall. Moreover, Alfred’s nephew is Randy Newman. During his career, Alfred himself received 43 Oscar nominations for Best Score and won 9 of those times, both of which are the records. Anyway, Newman first won an Oscar for his Scoring of the musical film Alexander’s Ragtime Band in 1938, but it really was nothing special. He really hit it big with his nominated score for 1939’s Wuthering Heights. This is Cathy’s Theme.

Much like the film itself, this is just a gorgeous embodiment of the melodramatic, romance imbued nature of the film. (I’ve always thought Merle Oberon had a fascinating sort of enchanting beauty about her (see 1:35).)

His work on the Charles Laughton version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is also quite good, but Laughton’s tremendous work completely steals the film. Anyway, much of his work in the 40s was lauded, but nothing has ever struck me as much as other stuff.

His work on All About Eve is simply wonderful. The film itself is absolutely masterful and is my 2nd favorite film of all time, what with Bette Davis, my favorite actress, giving her best performance, and George Sanders’ peerless turn as Addison DeWitt, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s astonishingly brilliant script. Also, I just find Celeste Holm to be incredibly charming, though I know some don’t. Anyway, this video is of the main title sequence of the film and the early few scenes of the film. It isn’t entirely representative of the entire score, but it functions well enough in that regard.

He won some more Oscars and received several more nominations before, in 1955, composing the score for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, a truly horrid melodrama starring William Holden, in my opinion a great actor who was, in virtually every case, an absolutely incompetent romantic lead, as a newspaper writer from America, and Jennifer Jones, a perfectly good actress from Oklahoma, as a Chinese doctor. It’s laughable and terrible and I yelled at the TV about how bad the film was and even almost got off my couch and left the room it was so pathetic.

Despite how much I hated the film and everything it stood for, the score is remarkably beautiful and exemplifies everything the film was at the time. It’s romantic and beyond gorgeous.

In 1959, Newman received another nomination for his work on The Diary of Anne Frank.

The score really is beautiful with hints of the heartbreaking nature of the film.

Newman’s score to How the West Was Won earned him another Oscar nomination in 1963.

It’s the prototypical Western score and I absolutely love it. Though it’s may not be one of my top 5 favorite Western themes ever, it’s certainly up there in the top 10 somewhere. It’s catchy and brassy and completely impossible to hate.

The l970 film Airport, for which he received his final Oscar nomination, was, I’m pretty sure, his final score overall as well.

This film marked the beginning of the disaster film trend of the 1970s continued by movies like The Poseidon Adventures, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno. The score shows Newman keeping up with the times but not forgetting about what made him so successful earlier on. His score still has the classical Hollywood feel somewhat, but it most certainly feels updated. There’s just something about his orchestrations and the instruments he chooses to inhabit each specific part that makes it sound more modern. Plus, it just sounds like something bad is going to happen, which it is.

My next post will be a series of miscellaneous other scores and tracks I enjoy from the 30s, 40s, and 50s that weren’t composed by one of these 4 men. I might also include a TV theme, a TV theme that is heard all over the place but is almost never identified as the theme of a specific TV show. After that, your guess is as good as mine as to what I’m going to post about.

To end, in order to continue the trend started last time with the Bette Davis videos, here are two videos with Elsa Lanchester on The Dick Cavett Show.

Talking about Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester

Talking and being hysterical about Isadora Duncan

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Dawn of Film Music, Part I: Max Steiner

I thought for quite a while yesterday about how to talk about history of film music on the screens. I thought about jumping straight to my favorite score ever, or talking about the TV theme I’ve been listening to on YouTube on repeat for about two straight days and how it’s a fascinating example of the seldom-seen morphing of a TV theme as a show progresses through a number of seasons, but none of this would have been possible without what I’m going to talk about today, the dawn of modern film music.

Film music has always composed a huge portion of the complete experience on the big screen. Strangely, however, the standardized film score, a film score written specifically for a film that was played as background at every screening of a given film, was not commonplace until the dawn of the sound era, and even few years after that, really. Charlie Chaplin was one of the few filmmakers to utilize such a film score before the sound era, and he even went so far as to compose them himself, though many times his music didn’t necessarily fit the action taking place on the screen. Even in instances in which the two are in sync, a modern listener would have trouble figuring out how the industry got to the powerful themes of John Williams’ work in Star Wars and Indiana Jones or to Ennio Morricone’s magnificently simple, yet indescribably beautiful and descriptive poems from what Chaplin was creating. Chaplin didn’t fully understand the power of instrumentation and of sentiment. No body composing the hard-to-come-by film music of the time understood that a film required, no, deserved a symphony. Around 1930, however, this was changed forever.

Just like many of the founding fathers of the Hollywood film industry, the majority founding fathers of modern film music came from abroad, mostly central and eastern Europe. Max Steiner, born in Vienna, was lucky enough to be born to the godfather of Johann Strauss, the composer of the ubiquitous “Blue Danube,” to be the godson of Richard Strauss (“Also sprach Zarathustra”) and to study under Gustav Mahler before he turned fifteen. Classical music was his future, but it certainly did not correspond to the time in which he was born. Eventually, at age 32, Steiner made his way to Hollywood and began composing. And like his co-founders of film music, his deep background in classical music informed virtually every notable score he ever composed. Many call Steiner “the founding father of film music,” and while I might disagree and say, as I have mentioned in passing, that he was one of a group of four or five composers that founded the genre, I cannot deny that Steiner is the composer of the first truly modern film score.

Released in 1933, King Kong was huge, to put it bluntly. It defined big budget for the time, and the special effects methods used were state-of-the-art and huge leaps forward. Sometimes forgotten about the film, however, was Steiner’s score:

If the chords of this, the main theme, sound familiar, it’s because they’re so incredibly formative for the genre that most every film composer worth his weight in anything has utilized much of the same chords at least once, even Steiner himself. The music perfectly combines the size, the fear, the importance, and the majesty of the film’s central plot in the same notes, in those opening 90 or so seconds. Throughout the middle of the theme, Steiner made excellent use of his string section, weaving a fascinating melody and counter-melody that conveyed both the beauty and the uncertainty of Skull Island, before finally dropping us near the end with soft, eerie single woodwinds, backed only by the foreboding pluck of the strings. Importantly, he avoided the pitfalls that so many composers of the studio era seemed incredibly prone to: lack of complexity when it’s needed. His luscious string theme in the middle is backed by great submelodies, and his foreboding, foreshadowing chords are piano or mezzo-piano at the loudest. He never even thinks to shout in your face, “Oh shit, there’s going to be a gigantic ape in this film that’s going to climb the Empire State Building and swat biplanes out of the sky. Be scared!” (The chord held out around 2 minutes in, if resolved differently, becomes Jurassic Park, in case you were wondering)

Steiner’s career took off. Over the next several decades he would compose some of the best and/or most recognizable film scores ever created. Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, The Lost Patrol and The Informer, Now, Voyager and The Caine Mutiny, Since You Went Away and The Searchers: these are just some of the many excellent scores he composed during his career.

I’m having trouble finding artful ways to introduce the videos, so I’m going to quit trying and instead just post a bunch of them with short comments.

Gone with the Wind:

It’s only fitting to list this one first. It is undoubtedly Steiner’s most celebrated work, and rightfully so. “Tara’s Theme” is what you think of when you think of the movie’s music, and I think there’s a simple explanation for that. Steiner manages to create something so effortlessly majestic that you can’t help but be spellbound (just like the monster-of-a-film itself), while somehow also making it incredibly personal. It's almost like he's talking directly to you.


This is, of course, the second film that comes to mind when Steiner's name comes up. "As Time Goes By" is probably the most famous and iconic song with lyrics in film history. And while Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa Lund never actually said, "Play it again, Sam," Dooley Wilson's rendition of the song will last forever. That being said, Steiner wrote 0% of the song. He only composed the score, which I think is a example of variations on a theme at its best. Much of the sweeping melodies found in the film are simply variations on the melody of "As Time Goes By," and yet, I know I always felt like what the music I was hearing was something very original, if not completely so. This, the main theme, just shifts effortlessly between themes and musical strands. It's simply wonderful to witness.

Now, Voyager:

This is a great ending of a great movie. Besides the famous line about the moon, what always strikes me is, aside from how uncharacteristically tolerable Paul Henreid is, Steiner's gorgeous music. His score is of the sweeping romantic genre, but it never comes across that way. It's quiet and loud at the same time. It says so much, but allows the film to speak for itself instead of drowning it out with brash, unrepentant, unoriginal string-based concoctions. The crowning touch on that scene for me is that final chord. The camera quickly pans upward to the starlit sky, and just as the stars come into view, there's a musical flutter that makes it seem almost as if you can hear to stars.

Since You Went Away:

This is simply lovely. It's both reflective and progressive. Simply an absolute joy to listen to.

The Caine Mutiny:

This is just a fun as hell march. Plain and simple.

The Searchers:

What some argue to be the greatest western of all time (usually in competition with Once Upon a Time in the West and the Dollars Trilogy), certainly has a great score, though I would argue that all four of the scores of the other four great westerns, all of which were composed by Ennio Morricone, are better. The music is great and can certainly be seen as a paving of the way for the new style of composition of westerns that would come about in the 1960s. I do find it interesting that Steiner goes to great lengths to exude the Native American elements found in the film, and yet he does so in a relatively non-racist manner, strange considering the reputation the film itself has for having an incredibly racist lead character (who also happens to provide John Wayne the perfect avenue to exercise his limited acting abilities to greatest effect and give probably his best screen performance).

Here's a medley of some of the scores I've listed as well as some others:

When I began this particular post, I meant for it to include at least a bit about the other founders of film music, but this turned out to be far longer than I expected. As such, I will finish up the beginnings of modern film music tomorrow with snippets regarding all of the other founders of film music.

P.S. Writing all of this and finding all of the videos, I came across two great videos that are excerpts from an interview held on The Dick Cavett Show on November 18, 1971 with my favorite actress of all time, Bette Davis. The first video is an hysterical description of Davis' about kissing on screen. The second is a wonderful view into what her feelings about some of her Now, Voyager costars as well as what made her love actors in the character-driven old Hollywood versus the individual-driven new Hollywood, sentiments that would only be more pronounced today. The full interview is available and is really quite interesting if you want to listen to it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Music of the Screen Media

Since I’m unlikely to see many movies in theaters before Oscar season rolls around in September or October, I’m going to start a series all about what I consider to be great film scores and great TV theme songs. Now, when I say TV theme songs I don’t mean “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” by Gary Portnoy from Cheers, though that is an admittedly great song, nor do I refer to The Rembrandts’ catchy “I’ll Be There for You” from Friends, nor do I call attention to The Friendly Indians’ “I Know You Know,” just one great part of the always underrated Psych. No I mean the instrumental themes that catch your attention just as they capture the essence of the show or the mood of the times in which the show is broadcast. If you don’t know what I mean, I’d keep reading and then stay tuned if I were you. (I will be taking one or two days to talk about some great TV themes with lyrics just in case you were afraid I wasn’t going to.) Some TV themes I love are just plain catchy and that’s why I love them, but some are just astonishing in their brilliance. The exact same goes with the film scores. Their success, however, goes far more hand-in-hand with their ability to evoke honest emotion at just the right time or to lay a strong foundation for a truly fun or exciting scene. A film score somewhat defies the norms of filmmaking. A bad one can hurt a movie, but it can’t really ruin it in the same way poor cinematography or atrocious editing can. On the other hand, a brilliant film score can transcend a film. Listening to a brilliant film score after having viewed the film brings you back to the emotions you felt while watching. I’ll share some of my favorites and why I think they’re great. I’m going to be mixing up chronology of release and broadcast years and interweaving film and TV as well as writing up every single one differently depending on what clips musical segments I can find. Sometimes I’ll have a single article for a great, but lesser known, composer and his work. Other times I’ll have multi-part, multi-day articles on celebrated composers such as John Williams and Max Steiner and the work of his I find particularly good, as well as the work of lesser known (at least outside of the realm of hardcore screen media followers) film and TV composers who deserve may have received their fair share of acclaim, but to whom far less public attention is paid than they wholeheartedly deserve (such as Ennio Morricone and Mike Post).

I hope you enjoy because I certainly know I’ll have an absolute blast doing these write-ups. I might get something up today, but I probably won't.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Emmy Nomination Predictions for Comedies

I don’t have time to do a lengthy write-up for the Comedy categories, so here are some much shorter explanations for them.

Comedy Series:
It seems to me that 4-5 of these are locks:
1.      Modern Family (ABC)
2.      Girls (HBO)
3.      The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
4.      30 Rock (NBC)
5.      Louie (FX)
I’ve heard that 30 Rock isn’t going to make it on, but I think that’s ridiculous. In my opinion, it’s the most consistently funny series on television. The first 3 are locks. Louie has been a favorite in the past to make it on the ballot, and this year seems to be the year it finally breaks into the category. The contenders for the final spot essentially boil down to Arrested Development, Veep, and Parks and Recreation. Out of those, Arrested Development seems the most likely, but don’t count Veep out. It surprised last year and could do it again. Parks and Rec is really a long shot, but I absolutely adore the series, so go die in a hole if you don’t like seeing it there.
There are a bunch of missing series here (I’m only going to list the ones that I gather are worth it, not just the popular ones):
-Archer (FX) starring voices of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, and Amber Nash
-Awkward (MTV) starring Ashley Rickards
-Community (NBC) starring Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, and Ken Jeong
-Enlightened (HBO) starring Laura Dern
-Episodes (Showtime) starring Matt LeBlanc
-Happy Endings (ABC) starring Eliza Coupe, Elisha Cuthbert, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally, Damon Wayans, Jr., and Casey Wilson
-Nurse Jackie (Showtime) starring Edie Falco
-Suburgatory (ABC) starring Jeremy Sisto, Jane Levy, Ana Gasteyer, Rex Lee, Carly Chaikin, Allie Grant, Chris Parnell, Alan Tudyk, and Cheryl Hines
-The Middle (ABC) starring Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, and Eden Sher
-The Mindy Project (Fox) starring Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina

So my final predictions are:
1.      Modern Family
2.      Girls
3.      The Big Bang Theory
4.      30 Rock
5.      Louie
6.      Arrested Development
First One In: Veep

Lead Actor in a Comedy:
There are 3, okay 4, locks:
1.      Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock
2.      Louis C.K. as Louie in Louie
3.      Jim Parsons as Dr. Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory
4.      Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth in Arrested Development
This leaves 2 spots open. The race seems to be down between 3 or 4 people. Don Cheadle looks like he’s in decent to repeat last year’s nomination as Marty Kaan in House of Lies. I don’t see Jake Johnson getting onto the ballot as Nick Miller in New Girl. I just don’t. That leaves one spot for either Matt LeBlanc or Jon Cryer to wrangle. Now I’m hoping beyond all hope that LeBlanc takes the spot. Two and a Half Men was never all that funny, and it’s just plain ridiculous and stupid and unnecessarily vulgar now that Charlie Sheen is gone (which is just plain weird). Here’s my obligatory sentence stating how much I absolutely hate The Big Bang Theory, think it’s an incredibly unfunny show and how much I resent Jim Parsons for having had so much success saying the names of legitimate physics stuff. Everyone involved in the making of that show as well as in its deification should be taken out behind a building and shot until unrecognizable. Baldwin, fortunately, looks like he could take home the win this year since he’s almost assuredly going to submit his fantastic performance in the double-length series finale. I couldn’t be happier for what is one of my top 5 favorite comedic characters of all time.
Other deserving players:
-Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation
-Jeremy Sisto as George Altman in Suburgatory
-Joel McHale as Jeff Winger in Community
-Neil Flynn as Mike Heck in The Middle
-Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation

Once again:
1.      Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock
2.      Louis C.K. as Louie in Louie
3.      Jim Parsons as Dr. Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory
4.      Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth in Arrested Development
5.      Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan in House of Lies
6.      Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc in Episodes

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
There are, I hope, 5 locks here:
1.      Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer in Veep
2.      Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in Girls
3.      Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in 30 Rock
4.      Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation
5.      Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day in New Girl
Now I wish that Deschanel weren’t the lock and that there were really 6 locks in this category, but what can you do. The perfect category would also include Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie and Laura Dern in Enlightened in place of Deschanel, whose little act is getting quite annoying, at least for me. Falco looks to be the most likely to get in, followed by Dern and Melissa McCarthy, an incredibly funny woman, in the disgustingly unfunny Mike and Molly.
Other deserving ladies:
-Ashley Rickards as Jenna Hamilton in Awkward
-Jane Levy as Tessa Altman in Suburgatory
-Martha Plimpton as Virginia Chance in Raising Hope
-Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin in Weeds
-Mindy Kaling as Dr. Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project
-Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck in The Middle
-Portia de Rossi as Lindsay Bluth Fünke in Arrested Development (why she chose this category is beyond me)
-Sutton Foster as Michelle Simms in Bunheads

Once again:
1.      Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer in Veep
2.      Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in Girls
3.      Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in 30 Rock
4.      Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation
5.      Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day in New Girl
6.      Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie

Supporting Actor in a Comedy:
This a ridiculous and stupid category. I love and hate this category. All of the Modern Family men deserve recognition here, except for O’Neill because he ends up just wasting his nomination on terrible episode submissions. That being said, there are absolutely no concrete locks, though Eric Stonestreet and Ty Burrell in Modern Family seem quite sure, as does Jeffrey Tambor in Arrested Development. I’m going to go ahead and pick Will Arnett in Arrested Development and Simon Helberg in The Big Bang Theory. This leaves the single remaining spot open to O’Neill or Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and I’m going to go with Ferguson. I just don’t see, Max Greenfield of New Girl or Bill Hader of SNL repeating nor do I see Adam Driver of Girls getting in.
Other deserving men:
-Alex Karpovsky as Ray Ploshansky in Girls
-Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation (not as much as in past years, but whatever)
-Chris Messina as Dr. Danny Castellano in The Mindy Project
-Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer in Parks and Recreation (far more than in the past)
-Danny Pudi as Abed Nadir in Community
-Donald Glover as Troy Barnes in Community
-Jack McBrayer as Kenneth Parcell in 30 Rock
-Jim Rash as Dean Pelton in Community
-Michael Cera as George Michael Bluth in Arrested Development
Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation
-Seth Meyers as various characters (mainly Weekend Update anchor) in Saturday Night Live
-Tony Hale as Gary Walsh in Veep
-Tony Hale as Buster Bluth in Arrested Development (he didn’t submit himself for consideration for this)
-Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan in 30 Rock

Once again:
1.      Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker in Modern Family
2.      Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy in Modern Family
3.      Jeffrey Tambor as George Bluth in Arrested Development
4.      Will Arnett as Gob Bluth in Arrested Development
5.      Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory
6.      Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell Pritchett in Modern Family

Supporting Actress in a Comedy:
There are 3 locks here by my reckoning:
1.      Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy in Modern Family
2.      Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development
3.      Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels in Girls
Beyond that, it’s somewhat of a crapshoot. I don’t see Merritt Wever of Nurse Jackie repeating her surprise nomination from last year, and white Betty White is always a threat to get a nomination given her stature as a 17-time nominee and 5-time winner, I don’t see the 91-year-old getting the nod. That really leaves 3 spots for 5 women. The one I hope immensely will get in is Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock, who is one of my top 10 favorite TV comedy characters ever. She was snubbed awfully last year, and I hope that doesn’t keep her off in this her final year of eligibility. Sofia Vergara looks like she might be in a position to be upset for a nomination this year, especially given her absolutely terrible episode submission choices in past years, but I doubt that will happen. The final spot comes down to being between Zosia Mamet in Girls, who I just don’t think has received enough buzz and the two ladies from The Big Bang Theory: Mayim Bialik and Kaley Cuoco. Bialik got a nod last year, but evidently she had far less to do this year while Cuoco had more. Therefore, I’m going with Cuoco in the final spot.
Other deserving ladies:
-Alia Shawkat as Mae “Maeby” Fünke in Arrested Development
-Alison Brie as Annie Edison in Community
-Anna Chlumsky as Amy Brookheimer in Veep
-Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate Dwyer in Parks and Recreation
-Carly Chaikin as Dalia Royce in Suburgatory
-Casey Wilson as Penny Hartz in Happy Endings
-Cheryl Hines as Dallas Royce in Suburgatory
-Eden Sher as Sue Heck in The Middle
-Gillian Jacobs as Britta Perry in Community
-Kate McKinnon as various characters in Saturday Night Live

Once again:
1.      Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy in Modern Family
2.      Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development
3.      Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels in Girls
4.      Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney in 30 Rock
5.      Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett in Modern Family
6.      Kaley Cuoco as Penny in The Big Bang Theory

That’s all there is. There ain’t no more. I’m not going to do the guest positions because they’re a waste of my time as somebody that had received 0 buzz gets on while the absolute favorite to get a nomination gets left off. Nominations come out one month from tomorrow, so I’ll be doing some recap toward the beginning of the month and toward the middle of the month.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Emmy Nomination Predictions for Dramas

Emmy nominations are announced on the 18th of the month and the ballots were mailed yesterday, so here is my lengthy discourse on Emmy nomination predictions:
Before We Begin in Earnest, However: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: currently, we are witnessing the Golden Age of Television, or at least the Golden Age of the Drama Series. 1939 is inarguably the greatest year in film. Because series run for multiple years, one single year obviously can’t be the greatest year in television history. Instead, a specific period of time is needed. Every decade has a halfway-decent argument for the title, with the 1950’s and 1970’s being the more talked about. But no, simply no. Both decades boasted many of the prototypical sitcoms ever made. I Love Lucy, Make Room for Daddy, Father Know Best, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Odd Couple, Sanford and Son, M*A*S*H, Taxi. The list of “classic” comedies that aired during these 2 decades about equals the number that aired in the other 4 decades since the dawn of the small screen, a list that includes such juggernauts as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Get Smart, Cheers, The Cosby Show, The Golden Girls, Seinfeld, Frasier, and Friends. The decade we completed about 3 years ago had some great comedies, but I venture to say not one of them will live on as a “classic” comedy, though I have my hopes about 30 Rock. The drama series has been reasonably strong since the dawn of serial-style storytelling, which really began in the 1960s with The Fugitive and, to some degree, Run for Your Life and Route 66. This style, which became prevalent in such 1970s series as The Waltons, Upstairs, Downstairs, and Family and continued into the 1980s with primetime soaps Dallas, Dynasty, and Knots Landing and the two series that pretty much created their genres: Hill Street Blues (crime/police) and St. Elsewhere (medical). With 1990, the 20 year preamble to the golden age of today began. Law & Order, then NYPD Blue, then ER, all 3 of them incredibly successful series that ran more than 10 seasons (20, 12, and 15 respectively) dominated the Emmy nominations in the 1990s, though not the wins, all the while supported by underseen series such as Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, Quantum Leap, thirtysomething, Picket Fences, The X-Files, Chicago Hope, and Homicide: Life on the Street. At one time, though, no more than 7 or 8 shows would be deserving of an Emmy nomination, and  for 3 consecutive years not really even a 7th series could compete with the 6-some of Chicago Hope, ER, Law & Order, NYPD Blue, and The X-Files, and brilliant, but never-nominated Homicide: Life on the Street. The Sopranos and The West Wing sparked a creative dramatic genius previously unseen in the industry. Dramas, both awarded and unsung took off, and cable television along with it. The West Wing, The Sopranos, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, 24, The Shield, Six Feet Under, The Wire, early CSI, Deadwood, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, early Grey’s Anatomy, Mad Men, Damages: the list is beyond extensive, but no more so than today. Indeed, that is why I just wrote those almost 550 words giving a pea-sized view of the history television. Just contemplate this information as you read about the dramas in this, our small-screen’s dramatic golden age.

Here we go. This is extremely long, just FYI.

Drama Series: Instead of the 6 series vying for the now 6 Emmy nomination slots, there are upwards of 12 that have a decent shot at landing one, and more like 20 or so that are deserving. The San Antonio Spurs aren’t perennial title contenders because they have Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, both Hall of Famers, but because they have such a fabulous wealth of bench talent. This depth has given them a golden decade, and the depth of TV’s dramatic lineup is what makes this its golden age.
Here are the most probable contenders:
--Breaking Bad (AMC)
--Downton Abbey (PBS/ITV)
--Homeland (Showtime)
--Mad Men (AMC)
These four are virtual locks, unless Emmy voters stop being snobs and Downton fails to make the cut (simply not going to happen) or decide that they don’t like Mad Men at all anymore as it set the record for most nominations in an 0-for-17 shut-out last year (likewise extremely unlikely to happen).
Now what about the other 2 spots? HBO’s Game of Thrones seems like a lock as it’s received nominations in the category each of the last 2 years, but you can never consider a science-fiction series or a fantasy series (which Game of Thrones is, of course) a lock for this award. The X-Files is the most Emmy-decorated sci-fi/fantasy series ever, but it didn’t begin garnering the awards until it hit mainstream culture and 15 million-or-so weekly viewers in its 2nd season. That being said, Game of Thrones, having won a TCA Award a couple of years ago and having won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Drama today in a tie with Breaking Bad, making that Thrones’ 2nd win in a row for the award, I’d say the show is all but a lock.
That leaves 1 spot for a plethora of series. The contenders seem to be House of Cards (Netflix), The Americans (FX), The Newsroom (HBO), Boardwalk Empire (HBO), and The Good Wife (CBS). At the moment, and not being a fan of The Newsroom at all and being lukewarm on what I’ve seen of and fed-up on seeing nominations for The Good Wife, the 5 are now 3. Boardwalk Empire has been having far less success than in the past and will most likely be the only nominee from last year not to make this year’s lineup. It hasn’t performed very well at in the critical awards arena, and it just seems like Emmy voters fear they will have a stale taste in their mouth if they nominate it. So House of Cards or The Americans it is. Both series are quite good from what I’ve heard. House of Cards has been the front-runner for the final slot for a while now, even though the two series have fared entirely evenly in terms of award nominations from major groups. I don’t know why exactly, but I’m going to go with The Americans, though that might change between now and next Tuesday.
All that being said, a number of other series had great seasons this year (from what I’ve heard as I only religiously watch Downton Abbey and NCIS) and deserve mention even though they’re not in the nomination conversation. I’m only going to list them, and you can read about and watch them for yourself:
--Bates Motel (A&E) starring Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga
--Damages (DirecTV) starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne
--Dexter (Showtime) starring Michael C. Hall
--Elementary (CBS) starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu
--Hannibal (NBC) starring Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, and Laurence Fishburne
--Hell on Wheels (AMC) starring Anson Mount and Colm Meaney
--Justified (FX) starring Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins
--Nashville (ABC) starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere
--NCIS (CBS) starring Mark Harmon (I’m completely serious)
--Orphan Black (BBC America) starring Tatiana Maslany
--Parenthood (NBC) starring Lauren Graham, Peter Krause, and Craig T. Nelson
--Shameless (Showtime) starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum
--Sons of Anarchy (FX) starring Charlie Hunnam and Katey Sagal
--Southland (TNT) starring Regina King, Ben McKenzie, and Michael Cudlitz
--The Walking Dead (AMC) starring Andrew Lincoln
--Treme (HBO) starring a massive ensemble cast

So as a recap, here’s my predicted 6 nominees:
--The Americans (FX)
--Breaking Bad (AMC)
--Downton Abbey (PBS)
--Homeland (Showtime)
--Mad Men (AMC)

Lead Actor in a Drama Series:
3 men are locks for a nomination:
--Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad
--Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody in Homeland
--Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood in House of Cards
Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men is also pretty much a lock, but the relatively waning success of his series calls the possibility of nomination into question. Nevertheless, I would consider him to be a lock.
That leaves 2 spots, spots that I currently have filled by Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in The Newsroom and Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire. Daniels is a pretty solid bet as I found him to be great in the 3 episodes I watched, even if the series was annoyingly preachy. Buscemi’s chances all depend upon the level to which the Academy shuts out Boardwalk. His most obvious and likely replacement would be Hugh Bonneville as Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey, but even as a huge fan of Downton, I don’t think Bonneville had a single episode that is nomination-worthy, at least not when up against such a tremendous group of talented men. Matthew Rhys as Phillip Jennings in The Americans and Timothy Olyphant as Marshal Raylan Givens in Justified are the other two best bet alternates. For the moment I will stick with Buscemi, but Rhys is looking better and better every day.
There are a number of deserving men not in contention here as well:
--Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead
--Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannan in Hell on Wheels
--Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy
--Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI in The Borgias
--Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in Elementary
--Kelsey Grammer as Tom Kane in Boss
--Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy in The Following
--Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS
--Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan in Dexter
--Peter Krause as Adam Braverman in Parenthood
--Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan in Blue Bloods
--William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher in Shameless

As a recap, my 6 are:
--Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
--Damian Lewis in Homeland
--Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom
--Jon Hamm in Mad Men
--Kevin Spacey in House of Cards
--Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire

Lead Actress in a Drama Series:
There are either 3 absolute locks in this category:
--Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland
--Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife
--Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
The 4th and 5th spots are both pretty firmly in place, though not locked in. Elisabeth Moss, barring the same Mad Men backlash that would keep Jon Hamm out of his race, is a virtual lock as Peggy Olson in Mad Men. Glenn Close seems poised for another nomination as Patty Hewes in Damages, but her position is precarious.
Once again, that just leaves the 6th spot as completely unsure. I currently have Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings in The Americans, but she most certainly does have competition, though her recent nominations for the role are helpful. Vera Farmiga could provide a shocker nomination as Norma Louise Bates in Bates Motel given her recent Critics’ Choice and TCA nominations. With her Critics’ Choice win today and her TCA nomination, Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning/Alison Hendrix/Cosima Niehaus/Helena/Katja Obinger/Rachel Duncan in Orphan Black made a huge statement and cemented herself in the conversation for a nomination. In the few episodes I've seen (meaning 2), she is astonishing. The first 4 characters I listed are the 4 she portrays the majority of the time. With those, and I'm assuming with the others as well, she creates 4 distinct characters with impeccable accents (even in her original role as Sarah, who is British, while Maslany is Canadian). She deserves the nomination hands-down. Connie Britton is also a threat as Rayna James in Nashville, as is Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards. Britton got a Globe nomination, but those are far from assuring an Emmy nomination. Both have missed out on valuable award nominations elsewhere, with Wright’s snub at the hands of both the Critics’ Choice and the TCA being especially harmful to her chances. Kerry Washington is also a favorite for a nomination as Olivia Pope in Scandal, but I just can’t see it happening. Shonda Rhimes’s leads have always had an awful time with the Emmys, with neither Ellen Pompeo nor Patrick Dempsey receiving the nominations they deserved for any of the first few Grey’s Anatomy seasons. Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer and Mariska Hargitay in Law & Order: SVU are long shots as they haven’t been nominated for a couple of years, but they’ve both once won before and have been nominated for those roles a combined 13 times.
Just a few women not in contention deserve to be:
--Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood
--Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher in Shameless
--Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller Morrow in Sons of Anarchy

I’m going to go out on a limb here for my pick:
--Claire Danes in Homeland
--Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men
--Keri Russell in The American
--Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife
--Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey
--Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel
Top Alternate: Glenn Close in Damages
Second Alternate: Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black
Bear in mind that if Maslany shocks and gets a nomination, she automatically becomes my frontrunner for the win as her possible submission tapes are lights out.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:
This is a stacked category. There are really only 2 locks for nominations:
--Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad
--Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones
Both have won before and have no reason why they shouldn’t be nominated. Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland is a virtual lock, especially since he was so egregiously snubbed last year in favor of the undeserving Downton Abbey men (whom I love, but who had no business being nominated). Jonathan Banks and Corey Stoll as Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad and Peter Russo in House of Cards respectively are also quite likely, especially Stoll because of his scene-stealing status. Interestingly, Banks was nominated 24 years ago in 1989 for Wiseguy.
Assuming both Banks and Stoll get their nominations, this leaves just 1 spot. The hopeful voice inside of me is shouting Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones, so that’s who I have right now. This means nothing, however. Coster-Waldau has a couple of award nominations for this season, so that’s working in his favor, but name recognition isn’t. Name recognition is working in the favor of Jack McCoy, or rather Sam Waterston, however, who is a strong contender as Charlie Skinner in The Newsroom. Noah Emmerich is also a strong possibility as Agent Stan Beeman in The Americans. Alan Cumming was nominated as Eli Gold in The Good Wife 2 years ago, but another nomination is incredibly unlikely, as is a 5 nomination for John Slattery as Roger Sterling in Mad Men, also coming off a 1 year hiatus from the nomination pool. Bobby Cannavale as Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire is quite unlikely with Boardwalk Empire as a series nomination lock much less on the cusp of not being nominated so he’s pretty much out of the question. Rob James-Collier as James Barrow or Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey could nab that 6th spot if the Academy gets British fever again like last year. The two represent the definite best supporting male performances on the series. I prefer James-Collier to Stevens on the whole, though Stevens does have 1 or 2 great possible episodes.
With all that sorted out, here’s some deserving men not in contention:
--Ben McKenzie as Ben Sherman in Southland
--Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad
--David Morrissey as The Governor in The Walking Dead
--Dean Norris as Hank Schrader in Breaking Bad
--Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates in Bates Motel
--Jim Carter as Charles Carson in Downton Abbey
--John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop in Fringe
--Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
--Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in Dallas
--Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal
--Michael Cudlitz as John Cooper in Southland
--Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire
--Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell in Mad Men
--Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in Justified

To predict this wide-open category:
--Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad
--Corey Stoll in House of Cards
--Jonathan Banks in Breaking Bad
--Mandy Patinkin in Homeland
--Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones
--Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:
This category is only slightly easier to predict. There are what essentially amount to 4 locks, though really only 3 of them are done deals.
--Maggie Smith as Lady Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey
--Anna Gunn as Skyler White in Breaking Bad
--Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris in Mad Men
I’m going out on an extremely tenuous limb here by predicting that neither of the two main female supporting players from The Good Wife, Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi, will be nominated. They have both been nominated each of the last 3 years, with Panjabi winning 3 years ago. In their place, a number of women could get a nomination. With the 2 Good Wife women gone, the remaining 3 nomination slots are being vied for by what essentially amounts to 4 or 5 actresses. The 4 main contenders are Morena Baccarin as Jessica Brody in Homeland, who was egregiously snubbed last year and definitely deserves to be nominated; Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Mary Crawley, Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, who received a nomination in the lead category for movie/miniseries 2 years ago but missed out last year in the lead category; Monica Potter as Kristina Braverman in Parenthood, a wholly deserving performance the completely that is reportedly receiving the bulk of NBC’s campaigning funds for drama; and Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, as she takes the place of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark as Thrones’ frontrunner for the series’ first female acting nomination. Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes in Nashville, Joanne Froggatt as Anna Smith Bates in Downton Abbey, and Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes in House of Cards are all also reasonably strong contenders, but they seem out of the race for the time being.
Some other deserving women not in contention include:
--Connie Nielsen as Meredith Kane in Boss
--January Jones as Betty Draper Francis in Mad Men
--Jessica Paré as Megan Draper in Mad Men
--Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Schroeder in Boardwalk Empire
--Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper in Mad Men
--Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman in Parenthood
--Lena Headey as Queen Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
--Michelle Fairley as Lady Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones
--Regina King as Lydia Adams in Southland
--Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons in Damages

To recap my predictions:
--Anna Gunn in Breaking Bad
--Christina Hendricks in Mad Men
--Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey
--Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
--Monica Potter in Parenthood
--Morena Baccarin in Homeland
First One Out: Elizabeth McGovern
First One In: Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones

Guest Actor in a Drama Series:
Nobody in the guest categories is ever a lock, so here we go. Nathan Lane as Clarke Hayden in The Good Wife is as close as you can get considering guests have fared well on The Good Wife Emmy-wise and he’s Nathan Lane, which is really what these categories are all about. Michael J. Fox is probably the most secure for a nomination considering he’s been nominated each of the last 2 years for playing the exact same role, Louis Canning, in the exact same series, The Good Wife. Dylan Baker is also a pretty solid bet as Colin Sweeney in The Good Wife. He’s been nominated for the role in this category both last year and 3 years ago, and he didn’t make an appearance in the series 2 years ago to be eligible. Jimmy Smits has been nominated for various series 12 times and won for his perennially nominated supporting work on L.A. Law back in 1989 or 1990. He then received a handful of lead nominations for NYPD Blue and was probably #7 or 8 out of 6 for a supporting nomination as Matt Santos on The West Wing in 2006 if not 2005 as well. His 12th nomination was a guest nomination as the main villain of one of the seasons of Dexter, getting the nomination in 2009. Sons of Anarchy is far from a favorite of the Academy, but Smits’ history as an Emmy darling makes him an attractive possibility as Nero Padilla. Matthew Perry, eligible as Mike Kresteva on The Good Wife, has 4 prior nominations, and is a well-known, well-liked, well-respected TV actor and is another likely bet. Ray Romano as Hank Rizzoli on Parenthood is looking to follow in the footsteps of Jason Ritter, who was awarded a surprise guest nomination for the series last year. Romano, though, has been a frontrunner since the beginning due to his name and his 3 Emmy victories in 16 nominations. Robert Morse is never to be counted out as Bertram Cooper in Mad Men, but with the possible decline in Mad Men’s popularity with the Academy and his year-long hiatus from the nominee list, Morse looks to be fading from the race. Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn in Homeland is another strong contender, but his name just isn’t big enough to garner to sort of support he would need to get on the nomination list. Jason Ritter as Mark Cyr in Parenthood seems strong, but his nomination last year was most likely just a fluke, though the idea that people thought they were voting for John Ritter of Three’s Company fame is ridiculous and stupid considering John Ritter died 10 years ago. Jim Beaver, who’s biggest role was as Whitney Ellsworth on Deadwood, is probably the next closest anybody’s going to come to cracking the top 6 and snatching a spot away from one of the first 6 I mentioned, as Shelby Parlow on Justified. Mike O’Malley has a long shot as Nicky Augustine on Justified as does Andre Braugher as Bayard Ellis on Law & Order: SVU, but SVU’s power in the guest categories was never on the male side and its power on the female side has waned significantly in the last several years to boot.
A couple of other notable possibilities:
--Bradley Whitford as Abraham Paige in Shameless
--Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder in Game of Thrones
--Edward Asner as Martin Schultz in Law & Order: SVU
--Harry Hamlin as Jim Cutler in Man Men

To recap:
--Dylan Baker in The Good Wife
--Jim Beaver in Justified
--Jimmy Smits in Sons of Anarchy
--Michael J. Fox in The Good Wife
--Nathan Lane in The Good Wife
--Ray Romano in Parenthood

Guest Actress in a Drama Series:
I lied when I said that there are no locks in these categories.
--Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson in Downton Abbey
--Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing in The Newsroom
Both MacLaine and Fonda have enormous amounts of sway with the voting base of the Academy just by virtue of who they are. When you then add the fact that MacLaine is utter scene-stealing brilliance and Fonda is excellent as well. Stockard Channing is another famous name and should be all but guaranteed a nomination as Veronica Loy in The Good Wife. The final 3 spots seem, as best I can tell, to be reserved for 5 actresses. Martha Plimpton as Patti Nyholm in The Good Wife won the Emmy last year for the role and her inclusion seems incredibly likely. Joan Cusack in looking for her 3rd consecutive nomination as Sheila Jackson in Shameless, and while it’s likely, I’m not going to predict it. She hasn’t won yet and her competition has never been all that great, so I see no reason to think she’ll be back. Diana Rigg is not at all a sure thing to make it in as Lady Olenna Redwyne in Game of Thrones, but the 5-time nominee and 1-time winner has a great shot at making it on veteran status and respect alone. That leaves the final spot for two women. Margo Martindale won a supporting Emmy 2 years ago as Mags in Justified with a tremendous submission tape that launched her ahead of the competition after a shocking nomination. As Claudia in The Americans, she has a good chance to get a second nomination this year. Finally, Carrie Preston has received several critics’ award nominations for her performances as Elsbeth Tascioni in The Good Wife, and this could be the year she finally gets a nomination.

There are a number of notable women not in contention, but I want to be done with this, so I’m not going to list them.

To recap:
--Diana Rigg in Game of Thrones
--Jane Fonda in The Newsroom
--Margo Martindale in The Americans
--Martha Plimpton in The Good Wife
--Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey
--Stockard Channing in The Good Wife

Overall Predictions for Dramas (in order of likelihood):
Drama Series:
1.      Homeland
2.      Breaking Bad
3.      Downton Abbey
4.      Mad Men
5.      Game of Thrones
6.      The Americans
Next One In: Boardwalk Empire

Drama Actor:
1.      Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
2.      Damian Lewis in Homeland
3.      Kevin Spacey in House of Cards
4.      Jon Hamm in Mad Men
5.      Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom
6.      Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire
Next On In: Matthew Rhys in The Americans
Second One In: Hugh Bonneville in Downton Abbey
Third One In: Timothy Olyphant in Justified

Drama Actress:
1.      Claire Danes in Homeland
2.      Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife
3.      Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey
4.      Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men
5.      Keri Russell in The Americans
6.   Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel
Next One In: Glenn Close in Damages
Second One In: Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black

Drama Supporting Actor:
1.      Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad
2.      Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones
3.      Mandy Patinkin in Homeland
4.      Jonathan Banks in Breaking Bad
5.      Corey Stoll in House of Cards
6.      Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones
Next One In: Noah Emmerich in The Americans
Second One In: Sam Waterston in The Newsroom

Drama Supporting Actress:
1.      Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
2.      Anna Gunn in Breaking Bad
3.      Christina Hendricks in Mad Men
4.      Morena Baccarin in Homeland
5.      Monica Potter in Parenthood
6.      Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey
Next One In: Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Second One In: Christine Baranski in The Good Wife
Third One In: Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife

Drama Guest Actor:
1.      Michael J. Fox in The Good Wife
2.      Nathan Lane in The Good Wife
3.      Ray Romano in Parenthood
4.      Dylan Baker in The Good Wife
5.      Jimmy Smits in Sons of Anarchy
6.      Jim Beaver in Justified
Next One In: Matthew Perry in The Good Wife
Second One In: Robert Morse in Mad Men

Drama Guest Actress:
1.      Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey
2.      Jane Fonda in The Newsroom
3.      Stockard Channing in The Good Wife
4.      Martha Plimpton in The Good Wife
5.      Diana Rigg in Game of Thrones
6.      Margo Martindale in The Americans
Next One In: Joan Cusack in Shameless
Second One In: Carrie Preston in The Good Wife

Tomorrow I will do the comedies. Oh, God. Help me.