Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Cries & Whispers (1973)

*This post is part of the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" blogathon at The Film Experience*

It would tempting to rename Ingmar Bergman's 1973 classic Cries & Whispers "Secrets & Lies," if Mike Leigh hadn't made a classic by that name 23 years later. The film follows the reunion of three sisters - Karin (Ingrid Thulin), Maria (Liv Ullman), and Agnes (Harriet Andersson) - who have come together because Agnes is dying. Rather than spending their final moments with each other remembering the good times, deeply-held resentments and secrets boil over, and this supremely messed-up family tears into one another.

Though Bergman had been a much-celebrated auteur for nearly two decades in his native Sweden and throughout Europe, Cries & Whispers was his first film to earn him widespread acclaim in the United States. Not that his films were unknown here - Wild Strawberries (1957) and The Seventh Seal (1957) were both well-received films by critics, and The Virgin Spring (1960) was the inspiration for Wes Craven's debut horror film The Last House on the Left. But Cries & Whispers was almost immediately hailed a masterpiece, and today it remains one of his highest-regarded films.


It's certainly one of his most visually-striking, thanks to Sven Nykvist's Oscar-winning cinematography and Marik Vos-Lundh's sets and costumes. All of these elements make remarkable use of color, which Bergman uses as a coding motif for his film.

More after the jump.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sight & Sound Sunday: Psycho (1960)

*In 2012, Sight & Sound published its decennial list of the greatest films of all time, from critics and directors. "Sight & Sound Sunday" is a biweekly feature that investigates the top 50 films from this list, exploring how they came to be regarded as classics.*

2012 poll rank: #35 (tied with Metropolis, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles, and Satantango)

"A boy's best friend is his mother."

Psycho is, without a doubt, director Alfred Hitchcock's most well-known film. The mere mention of the word "psycho" will bring to mind screeching strings and the infamous shower scene, even among those who have never seen the film before. That particular scene has permeated pop culture so thoroughly that it's easy to forget how revolutionary it was at the time of the film's release. This was a murder committed onscreen, something that had long been considered unacceptable under the Hollywood Production Code. Moreover, it was the murder of a naked woman in a shower, with blood flowing into the drain. These aspects seem quaint today, but in 1960 this was nothing short of scandalous (also scandalous: this was the first film to ever feature a toilet flushing).


The film, too, is rightfully remembered for being a very different film, both in general and in terms of Hitchcock's career. Unlike his previous film, North By Northwest, Psycho was filmed in black-and-white and shot with a television crew borrowed from his anthology series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Similarly, Hitchcock almost completely financed the film himself, with Paramount only agreeing to distribute the film. The most audacious move, though, came in the casting and writing: Janet Leigh, playing Marion Crane, was a major Hollywood star at the time. She dies at the end of the film's first act, and then-realtively-unknown Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates apparently takes over.

It's this last point that truly sets Psycho apart: Hitchcock's crafted a film that doesn't have a single protagonist. In fact, it doesn't really have a center at all, leaving the audience unmoored in a tale of deception, death, and demented Oedipal desire.

More after the jump.

Friday, July 25, 2014

And God Can Sort Them Out: "Game of Thrones," Season 4 (2014), and "Hannibal," Season 2 (2014)

*This essay contains HEAVY SPOILERS for the most recent seasons of Game of Thrones and Hannibal. Proceed with caution.*

Death is pervasive in television. It creeps into almost every drama, especially when sweeps season rolls around and a series needs a big, shocking moment to boost ratings. But it's more than just a ratings stunt. The death of a major character can be an effective story engine, re-orienting the goals and alliances of the other characters or allowing them moments of solemnity. If the story is structured around an intrusive character threatening the status quo (played by an actor who's only signed on for a finite number of episodes), then the death of that character is the easiest way to wrap up that storyline without leaving any loose ends. And it's not just limited to dramas: comedies, too, occasionally deal with death, in ways that can be Very Special Episode-y (with lots of hugs and sentimentality) or painfully hilarious (the infamous "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show). Death is a part of life. So naturally it pops up often on television too.


Yet there are some shows that make death their preoccupation. Last month, two such shows, Game of Thrones on HBO and Hannibal on NBC, wrapped their fourth and second seasons, respectively, with enough blood to run a Red Cross drive. What is fascinating about these two series is how they complement and counter each other when it comes to matters of death and the existence of God(s), in addition to being two of the best dramas currently on television.

More (AND SPOILERS) after the jump.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Short Takes: "Enemy", "Batman & Robin", and more

Gloria (dir. Sebastian Leilo, 2013)


Gloria (Paulina García) is in her fifties, divorced, and living alone now that her children have grown up. It's the perfect setup for a kitchen-sink drama, but director Sebastian Leilo has created a film that hums with the same joie de vivre as its protagonist. Gloria goes out to clubs, dances, and meets a former navy officer (Sergio Hernández) who she believes she could have a stable, permanent relationship with. Of course, there are hiccups along the way, as Gloria is forced to confront not only who he is but also her own past. But so much of the film's success comes from Leilo's snappy direction and from García's brilliant, tour-de-force performance. She never shies away from the rougher edges of Gloria's personality, yet she makes the audience fully believe in her strength and independence. It's a marvelous portrait of a woman fully determined to be herself. A-

Enemy (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2014)


Given that the Jose Saramago novel that the film is based on is a reworking of Fyodor Doestoevsky's The Double, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Enemy finds Denis Villeneuve doing his best imitation of fellow Canuck David Cronenberg. Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal), a meek college professor in Toronto, discovers while watching a movie his doppelgänger, Anthony (Gyllenhaal again). Anthony is like Adam in every way, except more brash and sexual. Things become complicated when Anthony demands that Adam switch places with him, giving Anthony the opportunity to spend a romantic getaway with Adam's girlfriend Mary (Melaine Laurent) and get away from his pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon). Though Villeneuve - working from a script by Javier Gullón - certainly achieves an eerie vibe through hazy cinematography, he doesn't really have the kinkiness to match Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, to which this film bears a strong resemblance. That being said, Gyllenhaal is terrific in the duel roles, and Gadon stands out as a woman who's had enough of Anthony's behavior and is willing to take an alternative. It's a fine thriller, but it never lives up to its full potential. B-

Batman & Robin (dir. Joel Schumacher, 1997)


This is the film that brought the original Batman movie franchise to a screeching halt. The plot involves Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) doing battle with two serious threats: Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his band of hockey stick-wielding cronies (whom I assume are the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers), and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and her sidekick, Bane (Jeep Swenson). "Serious threats" is a misnomer, since the film doesn't have any real stakes. Actually, it doesn't have much of anything: the acting is across-the-board terrible, though Thurman does strike the campy chord better than anyone else, while Schumacher incompetently stages and shoots one dull action sequence after another. This is a film that has no idea what it wants to be, other than a hit. And it couldn't even manage to get that right. (Best ShotF

In the Land of Blood and Honey (dir. Angelina Jolie, 2011)


It probably doesn't come as a surprise that Jolie's first feature as a writer/director would be related to a humanitarian cause; in this case, the Bosnian War of the mid-1990s, in which over 100,000 people were killed and an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 women were brutally raped. The film filters the war through the relationship between Danijel (Goran Kostic), a Serbian soldier, and Ajia (Zana Marjanovic), a Muslim Bosniak artist who's landed in a prisoner-of-war camp. The two form a romantic bond that shifts with their circumstances during the war. As a director, Jolie proves that she has a strong eye for detail, and she brings out fine performances from both Kostic and Marjanovic. As a writer, however, she struggles to provide any sort of quiet moment for the audience to catch their breath. The result is that she lays on the tragedy and despair far too thickly, making the film a chore to watch and difficult to stomach in some of its brutality. It's a fine debut for her as a filmmaker, flawed but indicative of her potential. C

Cries and Whispers (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1973)


Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman is perhaps the Scandinavian nation's best-known filmmaker, having earned international acclaim for a large portion of his career (he died in 2007). Cries and Whispers, though, holds a vaunted status in his filmography, and for good reason. The film centers on three sisters - Karin (Ingrid Thulin), Maria (Liv Ullman), and Agnes (Harriet Andersson) - who are reunited when Agnes becomes gravely ill. Their reunion, as many family reunions do on film, unearths old resentments and long-guarded secrets between them as they reflect on their lives growing up in their childhood home. The film is beautifully shot in stark blacks, whites, and reds, giving the story an almost mythic quality. And the central performances are uniformly terrific, with each actress revealing multitudes about these sisters' relationships than words could ever express. It's a deeply moving, powerful film that proves why Bergman was considered one of cinema's greatest humanists. (Best Shot coming July 29) A+

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (dir. Peter Jackson, 2013)


The best thing that can be said about The Desolation of Smaug is that it is an improvement over The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Unlike that first film in the pointlessly-stretched-out trilogy, there are fewer diversions and introductions here, with the plot advancing forward rather quickly as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and company make their way to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the dwarves' kingdom. However, there's still not enough interesting things happening here, even with the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and the introduction of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a character created for the films whose sole purpose so far has been to serve as a love interest to both Legolas and dwarf Kili (Aiden Turner). Though there's more momentum in the narrative of this film, it feels like Jackson has lost interest in exploring Middle Earth, delivering a few inventive action sequences early on but phoning in the climax. I'm sure if you were to watch all three Hobbit films together (the third is due later this year), this one works better. But as a stand-alone film, being better than it's predecessor still isn't good enough. C

Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer, 2014)


It's hard to describe an enigmatic film like Under the Skin, director Jonathan Glazer's first narrative feature in a decade. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien creature who roams Scotland, preying on men with the help of a motorcycle-riding assistant and her own allure. The film doesn't have a plot so much as a premise, but those willing to take a look will be justly rewarded. Johansson is a wonder as the creature, capturing the little nuances that make it seem more human as it navigates a world that it doesn't completely understand. The film is filled with beautiful imagery, complemented by a haunting score from Mica Levi (of the band Micachu & the Shapes). It's a hard film to explain, but once it gets, well, under your skin, you'll have a hard time forgetting it. (Best ShotA

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Under the Skin (2014)

*This post is part of the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" blogathon at The Film Experience*

Before this year's Under the Skin, director Jonathan Glazer had only made two narrative features: the better-than-average gangster film Sexy Beast (2001), and the gorgeous Nicole Kidman-starring head-scratcher Birth (2004), in which a woman falls in love with a child claiming to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. One wondered what direction his career would take afterwards: would he tread back to more conventional waters, or would he go deeper into the experimental abyss? Ten years later, we have our answer, and it is undoubtedly the latter.


Under the Skin is based on a Michel Faber novel of the same name, in which an alien creature (Scarlett Johansson) stalks about Scotland looking for male victims to lure back to her lair and devour. That's really all there is to the plot of this film; the joys lay not in the story itself but in how Glazer, director of photography Daniel Landin, and production designer Chris Oddy have crafted a remarkable visual experience that transports the viewer.

More after the jump. (Warning: some of the images from this film contain nudity)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Snowpiercer (2014)

I will say this much up front: if you haven't seen Snowpiercer, Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho's first English-language film, don't read the rest of this review. The less you know about the film, the more its strange pleasures work on you (if you let them, of course; keep an open mind going in). I went to see it knowing only basic premise: the world has been frozen over, and the last remaining survivors are living on a high-powered train that circles the globe. The result was one of the most engaging, entertaining, and fulfilling movie-going experiences I've had in a long time.


Snowpiercer is more than just a great action movie, it's a thoughtful one, with unexpected turns that make it a wholly remarkable experience.

More after the jump.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

RIP James Garner (1928-2014)


The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that actor James Garner passed away Saturday night in his home in California. He was 86.

Garner got into acting almost by accident, as he was cast in a non-speaking role in a production of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial by an old friend. On set, he learned how to act by running lines with the stars, including Henry Fonda. With a rugged handsomeness and a cutting sense of humor, Garner first made his name in television, starring as gambler Bret Maverick in the western Maverick (1957-1962) and as grumpy detective Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files (1974-1980). It was for the latter role that he won a Best Actor in a Drama Series Emmy, in 1977.

Garner's film career found him playing a number of flawed heroes, his good looks being undercut by his sharp wit. He played a number of soldiers, cowboys, and detectives, earning his first big breaks in movies such as The Americanization of Emily (1964) and The Great Escape (1963). He would appear in over 50 films, though he acted less after the 1980s. Later in his career, he would reprise his role as Jim Rockford for a series of TV movies based on The Rockford Files, as well as appear in films such as The Notebook (2004) and The Ultimate Gift (2006), the latter being his last on-screen role.

Garner's lone Oscar nomination came from what is certainly my favorite film of his: Murphy's Romance, Martin Ritt's 1985 romance co-starring Sally Field. Garner plays Murphy Jones, a widowed druggist who helps divorced Emma (Field) get her horse-training business off the ground. It's a role marked with all of Garner's best qualities: easy warmth and friendliness, wry humor, and roughnecked handiness.

There's no doubt that his presence on screen will be missed.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jersey Boys (2014)

On Broadway, it's called a "jukebox musical." In Hollywood, it's a "music biopic." But ultimately, these are the same things: sweeping stories about the careers of famous musicians as told through their hit songs. The latter is what draws you in, though, and, especially on Broadway, is almost entirely the point of the production's existence. For example, Jersey Boys on Broadway was destined to be a smash because of the universal appeal of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' music; that audiences would get bits and pieces of the band's story between the songs is just an added bonus. As a result, jukebox musicals ultimately live or die by the appeal of the artists at the center. It's why, say, a musical featuring the songs of Carole King can be a Tony-winning hit, while a musical about Tupac Shakur closes after six weeks. Tupac's music doesn't naturally suit itself to the Broadway stage (at least, not in this version), while King's songs are popular among pretty much any audience segment.

The same is essentially true of music biopics. The songs are the raison d'être for the film, but because film is a storytelling medium, more emphasis has to be placed on the narrative between the songs. In this case, films live or die on the strength of the story and the performance at the center: Ray succeeds as much as it does because of Jamie Foxx's electric performance as Ray Charles. On the other side of that coin, Beyond the Sea fails because, despite being a terrific actor in his own right, Kevin Spacey was a poor fit for playing Bobby Darin, especially at the point he finally got the movie made. Whereas jukebox musicals can coast on the thrill of watching the songs performed live, music biopics need more meat around the songs to make the venture worthwhile.


All of this is to say that Jersey Boys, Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the Tony-winning hit musical, is a rare film that attempts to translate a jukebox musical into a music biopic. The results are shaky, but the film still has its charms.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Batman & Robin (1997)

*This post is part of the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" blogathon at The Film Experience*

I know what you're thinking. Just hear me out.

I'm not going to argue that Batman & Robin, the notorious 1997 bomb that killed the Batman franchise for nearly a decade and would likely rank high on any list of "worst would-be blockbusters of the past 25 years," is some sort of misunderstood masterpiece. It's terrible. It's worse than terrible. It's mind-bogglingly terrible, made worse by the fact that the same base creative team behind this film had made the competent-if-not-great Batman Forever just two years prior. There are way too many things going horribly, horribly wrong in this film (more on that later) to justify it as a work of art.


And yet we're going to take a look at it this week for "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," which is celebrating Batman's 75th anniversary by assigning a choice of any theatrically-released Batman film. So why Batman & Robin? Why, instead of the gothic charms of Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, or Christopher Nolan's terrifically brooding and political Dark Knight trilogy, or even the 1966 Adam West-starring goof, am I going with what is hands-down the Caped Crusader's lowest cinematic moment?

Because Batman & Robin is one of the most influential superhero movies ever made.

More after the jump.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sight & Sound Sunday: In the Mood for Love (2000)

*In 2012, Sight & Sound published its decennial list of the greatest films of all time, from critics and directors. "Sight & Sound Sunday" is a biweekly feature that investigates the top 50 films from this list, exploring how they came to be regarded as classics.*

2012 poll rank: #24 (tied with Ordet)

The popular concept of how films are made is that they are meticulously planned, with a script that lays the foundation for the narrative and characterizations that is then interpreted by the director and actors to create the finished film. This is especially true in modern Hollywood, as films come pre-packaged as franchises, with each respective film ostensibly building toward a greater narrative arc with a distinct, satisfying climax. It's not even so much that this kind of storytelling is all about endings, but about definitive endings that leave nothing unresolved because these finales were planned long before the film ever began shooting. Filmmaking is the process of enacting a master plan, with a distinct, strong vision guiding the production.

Yet that's not often the case. Certainly, most films begin with a script, and that script lays the groundwork for what the film will be. But that vision is malleable - scenes are left on the cutting room floor, or rearranged in the editing bay to better suit the narrative or mood the filmmaker is seeking. In almost every case, there is vision, but it's not set in stone. The film can evolve into something new through the filmmaking process.


Then there are filmmakers like Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai. Wong is notorious for letting his projects linger in development for years before they reach their final form (ironically, Wong began his career as a screenwriter, penning numerous scripts before taking up directing his own). In the Mood for Love, for example, was originally planned as a sequel to his 1991 film Days of Being Wild, before evolving into a romantic comedy/musical to be set in Beijing. However, when Communist Party officials worried about Wong's politics, he relocated the film to Hong Kong. From there, it slowly evolved into the film that would become his most celebrated, establishing him as a beloved international auteur (In the Mood for Love is the highest-ranked film on the 2012 poll from a post-colonial director).

What makes In the Mood for Love stand out among Wong's films is how the filmmaking process bleeds into the nature of the film's narrative, resulting in a film that feels simultaneously spontaneous and visionary.

More after jump.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Living in the Age of Franchises means that there's a lot of audience hand-holding in big movies. It's a bit ironic, if you think about it. If the first movie was popular enough to merit a sequel, then one would assume that the prospective audience would be aware of the events so far when they see the sequel. And yet, sequels usually begin with a lot of expository info-dumps, making sure that the audience knows everything before jumping into the meat of the story. It can be kind of obnoxious, especially in a franchise where the second/third/fourth/hundredth installment was pre-ordained. Why do we need exposition at the beginning of the second movie when the first was just one big prologue?


X-Men: Days of Future Past, the sequel to 2011's sort-of reboot X-Men: First Class, is the rare franchise entry that trusts its audience to keep up. For the most part, there's no spelling anything out. A brief voiceover in the opening scene explains that, in the future, killer robots known as Sentinels have driven both mutants and humans alike to the verge of extinction. A band of mutants - led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) - have hunkered down in China with one last-ditch plan. The idea: send Wolverine (or, rather, his conscious) back in time to the 1970s, where he can stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the creator of the Sentinels and whose death spawns the apocalypse they are currently living in.

The film's title spells out the complexity of this narrative: there's a lot of time-hopping between the past and future, uniting characters from the original X-Men trilogy with those of the First Class films. But despite it's enormous ambitions, the film only occasionally falters, succeeding as a thrilling installment to the series and proving how sequels should be done.

More after the jump.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 Emmy Nominations: Second Verse, Same as the First

This morning, the Television Academy announced the nominees for the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast Monday, August 25 on NBC (why Monday? Because football.). The thing with the Emmys is that, more than any other awards show besides the Grammys, it's very easy to end up disappointed by the nominations. Because television is a recurring medium, with shows stretching on for years, the same shows and performers are often eligible year after year. Compare this to the Oscars, where a film is only eligible for one year, meaning that each year will offer new nominees. The Emmys, on the other hand, have a tendency to recognize the same things over and over, with newcomers often having to fight their way in. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when those recurring nominations are worthy, but with so much truly incredible television out there right now, it often feels like a nomination for, say, Downton Abbey is more of a default mode than an actual recognition of merit. There's no real solution to this, other than to remember that these are arbitrary awards decided by a relatively small group of people and therefore not a be-all, end-all decree of what's "best."


This year, Game of Thrones led all series with 19 total nominations, while Fargo led the way for miniseries with 18. In terms of networks, HBO led for the 14th consecutive year with 99 total nominations, while Netflix topped both AMC and FOX with 31 total nominations. Below is a list of the nominees in the drama series, comedy series, and miniseries/TV movie categories, complete with analysis.

BEST DRAMA SERIES

Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mad Men
True Detective

True Detective

No surprises here: five of the six nominees were nominated last year (with Breaking Bad the defending champ), and True Detective was a shoo-in from the moment it was announced to be entering the drama series race. It's more than a little disappointing that the Emmys haven't been more adventurous in this category, ignoring acclaimed dramas outside the usual suspects (FX's The Americans, Sundance's Rectify, ABC's Scandal) and excellent genre fare (FOX's Sleepy Hollow, NBC's Hannibal). It's also disappointing that previously-nominated shows that had fascinating seasons, such as CBS's The Good Wife or Showtime's Homeland, didn't pick up any nods either. This isn't an argument that the nominated shows aren't great - they are, for the most part - but that there are other options out there. Interestingly, though, if either True Detective or Game of Thrones wins, they would be only the second HBO drama to win this category, following The Sopranos.

BEST COMEDY SERIES

The Big Bang Theory
Louie
Modern Family
Orange is the New Black
Silicon Valley
Veep

With 30 Rock gone, there was space for some newcomers in this category, with one wholly expected (and a possible winner) and another rather surprising. Orange is the New Black had no trouble earning a nomination here, and it could end up being the show that ends Modern Family's four-year reign in this category (though should Modern Family prevail, it would join Fraiser as the only shows to ever win five series Emmys). Silicon Valley, on the other hand, was a bit more unexpected. Creator Mike Judge's influence has made its way through the television landscape over the past decade-plus, so maybe it's not so unusual. However, this comes at the expense of nominations for Golden Globe winner Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX), Parks & Recreation (NBC), New Girl (FOX), Girls (HBO), and Community (NBC), which will likely sail into the sunset (maybe) without a series nomination.

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Claire Danes, Homeland
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Washington

After last year's super-sized category (seven nominees), the line-up snaps back to six with mostly the same women intact. The new addition is the very deserving Caplan, who, as William Masters' (Michael Sheen) assistant Virginia Johnson, was the true heart and soul of Masters of Sex. It's a little surprising to not see Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) here, though, as it seems that the Emmys' love for her show continues to slip with each passing year.

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Lena Dunham, Girls
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black
Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

After disappearing for a year, McCarthy is once again nominated for her performance on Mike & Molly, which, from my limited viewing, is the best part of the show. Naturally, Schilling is nominated for the breakout success of OITNB, and she joins a recurring group of nominees in this category. Given the show's surprising snub in the Comedy Series category, it's good to see Dunham recognized for her terrifically nuanced performance on Girls.  The big question is: will Louis-Dreyfus win a third consecutive Emmy for Veep?

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Matthew McConaughey, True Detective

When HBO announced that True Detective would be competing as a drama series rather than a miniseries, Harrelson's and McConaughey's nominations here were essentially sealed. As a result, they've prevented former nominees Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), and Damien Lewis (Homeland) from scoring nods, as well as leaving Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) and Matthew Rhys (The Americans) out in the cold. As for the non-True Detective men, they were all nominated last year, though this will be Cranston's final nomination for Breaking Bad.

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Ricky Gervais, Derek
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Louis C.K., Louie
William H. Macy, Shameless

Gervais

Shameless making the move from drama to comedy has already proved successful, with Macy earning a nomination for the tasteless, drunken lout at the show's center, Frank Gallagher. I personally still don't understand the appeal of Episodes, but LeBlanc continues to be a consistent nominee for his performance on the show. Louie aired its first episodes of its fourth season in early May, just barely squeaking into the eligibility period, and it will be interesting to see if he wins anything for this very polarizing season. The most stunning nomination, though, is Gervais' for Derek. I don't believe anyone was predicting this one, given that the raconteur's performance as a sweet, mentally-impaired man trying to do good received mixed notices, yet here it is.

More after the jump.