Emmy Predictions from a Game of Thrones avoider

You may or may not be watching the Emmy Awards on Sunday night but chances are you will be sampling some of it.

That’s the way it works these days.  You try a little and then you switch to something else.  Or you switch to this and then you get hooked.

Or you binge it all Monday night at 11pm when you can’t begin to think of sleep and don’t want to think at all.

Or you do it in clips that people post on social media, as an afterthought.  This can be done in the tradition of hate watching or in admiration of a particular saucy or emotional acceptance speech you HAVE TO SEE at that moment.  Though it might also be an embarrassing tumble across the stage or a mangling of someone’s name, or two, three or four names that becomes MUST SEE TV, err, clip.

Never Forget… that hair

The game of television has changed.  So many options and so, so much more time to waste/spend on them.

Still, what is particularly outstanding about this year’s list of nominees is the sheer number of networks and platforms involved.  Remember when it was just NBC, CBS and ABC with a little PBS thrown in?

I do.

Then Fox became a player.  HBO, Showtime and the rest of pay cable quickly followed.  Not to mention basic cable.  Yes, this year they are well represented with major nominees from AMC, TBS, FX and even BBC America.

Sadly still no love for Hallmark’s wall to wall Christmas movies #CandaceCameronisVERYRich

Though truly there is a new frontier that’s arrived and will not let up until it’s total domination.  That would be Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

It’s tiring to name every streaming show and special that’s award worthy that you will never catch up with.  Unless, of course, that special or show wins an award Sunday night.  Then it becomes the star of the platform and gets featured for at least, well, a few hours.  Maybe even a few days.

All of the above and more has made it nearly impossible to predict who the Emmy winners will be.  You don’t watch everything out there that’s nominated and neither do the voters.  Though this is why we can do just well at predicting them as any other viewer or professional prognosticator.

In that spirit, here is your Sunday night (or Monday, or Tuesday night), cheat sheet:

 

 

 

Outstanding Competition Program

Shantay, you stay

The Amazing Race • CBS

American Ninja Warrior • NBC

Nailed It! • Netflix

RuPaul’s Drag Race • VH1

Top Chef • Bravo

The Voice • NBC

For bringing drag into the mainstream  (Note: Never thought I’d write or read that sentence) –

Winner:  RuPaul’s Drag Race

 

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series

Documentary Now! • IFC

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee • TBS

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver • HBO

Late Night With Seth Meyers • NBC

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert • CBS

Saturday Night Live • NBC

They all have their moments.  But ultimately it’s –

Winner:  Last Week With John Oliver

 

Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series

Documentary Now!, “Waiting For The Artist,” Alex Buono and Rhys Thomas • IFC

Drunk History, “Are You Afraid Of The Drunk?” Derek Waters • Comedy Central

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, “Psychics,” Paul Pennolino • HBO

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, “Live Midterm Election Show,” Jim Hoskinson • CBS

Saturday Night Live, “Host : Adam Sandler,” Don Roy King • NBC

Who Is America?, “Episode 102,” Sacha Baron Cohen, Nathan Fielder, Daniel Gray Longino and Dan Mazer • Showtime

We have NO idea.  You choose.

Oh, okay.

Winner:  Saturday Night Live, Don Roy King

This was one of the sweetest TV moments of the year #almostforgot

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah • Comedy Central

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee • TBS

Jimmy Kimmel Live! • ABC

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver • HBO

The Late Late Show With James Corden • CBS

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert • CBS

Simply put, John Oliver killed it this year and the majority of voters know it and love him for it.

Winner: Last Week with John Oliver

 

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

At Home With Amy Sedaris • truTV

Documentary Now! • IFC

Drunk History • Comedy Central

I Love You, America With Sarah Silverman • Hulu

Saturday Night Live • NBC

Who Is America? • Showtime

Until Trump is out of office, SNL feels like a lock in this category.  We coastal elites do what we can.

Winner:  Saturday Night Live

 

Outstanding Television Movie

What’s old is new again #2019TVMotto

Bandersnatch (Black Mirror) • Netflix

Brexit • HBO

Deadwood • HBO

King Lear • Prime Video

My Dinner With Hervé • HBO

It’s gonna be the return of HBO’s Deadwood. The voters really don’t want to give it to the interactive Black Mirror.  Partly because that would mean they have to deal with interactive television.

Winner:  Deadwood

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie

Different kind of Brexit

Stellan Skarsgård, Chernobyl • HBO

Paul Dano, Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal • Prime Video

Asante Blackk, When They See Us • Netflix

John Leguizamo, When They See Us • Netflix

Michael K. Williams, When They See Us • Netflix

This is another really tough category of wonderful performances that couldn’t be more different.  The most unusual of the bunch is Ben Whishaw’s gay boy toy who would NOT be ignored or discounted or marginalized, even back in the 1960s..  Truth be told, he was pretty funny, too, and the voters like that.

Winner:  Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal

 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie

Patricia Arquette, The Act • Hulu

Emily Watson, Chernobyl • HBO

Margaret Qualley, Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects • HBO

Marsha Stephanie Blake, When They See Us • Netflix

Vera Farmiga, When They See Us • Netflix

It will likely be the always terrific Patricia Clarkson for her performance as the devious Mom in Sharp Objects.  Nevertheless, The Chair has a feeling that Emily Watson’s deliberate, truth-telling scientist in Chernobyl won’t be denied.

Winner:  Emily Watson, Chernobyl

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie

This is a tough one

Jared Harris, Chernobyl • HBO

Benicio del Toro, Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Mahershala Ali, True Detective • HBO

Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal • Prime Video

Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us • Netflix

Dreading this category.  You could make a convincing case for each actor to win.  Still, using dramatic long form dramatic television acting as the barometer it boils down to Jared Harris in Chernobyl and Jharrel Jerome in When They See Us.  Both gave us heartbreaking, career-defining performances in totally different vehicles.  For pure intensity of emotion and riveting breakout moments –

Winner: Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us

 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie

Joey King, The Act • Hulu

Patricia Arquette, Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Amy Adams, Sharp Objects • HBO

Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us • Netflix

Niecy Nash, When They See Us • Netfli

Yes, they were all good.  But bringing the real Gwen Verdon back to life for us?  Please.

Winner:  Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Start practicing that speech Michelle!

 

Outstanding Writing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special

Chernobyl, Craig Mazin • HBO

Escape At Dannemora, “Episode 6,” Brett Johnson, Michael Tolkin and Jerry Stahl • Showtime

Escape At Dannemora, “Episode 7,” Brett Johnson and Michael Tolkin • Showtime

Fosse/Verdon, “Providence,” Steven Levenson and Joey Fields • FX Networks

A Very English Scandal, Russell T. Davies • Prime Video

When They See Us, “Part Four,” Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury • Netflix

Oh gosh, who knows???  We live in a TV landscape with seemingly endless, brilliantly done limited series.  All were unique and had incredibly strong episodes.  But for the overall cohesive body of work on every episode –

Winner:  Craig Mazin, Chernobyl

 

Outstanding Directing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special

Make way for the next EGOT winner (step 1)

Chernobyl, Johan Renck • HBO

Escape At Dannemora, Ben Stiller • Showtime

Fosse/Verdon, “Glory,” Jessica Yu • FX Networks

Fosse/Verdon, “Who’s Got The Pain,” Thomas Kail • FX Networks

A Very English Scandal, Stephen Frears • Prime Video

When They See Us, Ava DuVernay • Netflix

It comes down to whether the evocation of nuclear disaster or American racism had the biggest effect on the voters.  This year it’s the racism.

Winner:  Ava DuVernay, When They See Us

 

Outstanding Limited Series

About to walk into Emmy history

Chernobyl • HBO

Escape At Dannemora • Showtime

Fosse/Verdon • FX Networks

Sharp Objects • HBO

When They See Us • Netflix

The good news is that there are numerous award-worthy entries in this category.  The bad news is that only one will win.  Given the voting membership of the TV Academy and the timeliness of the material despite it being a period piece, Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us will likely not go unseen.

Winner: When They See Us

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series

Barry, “ronny/lily,” Alec Berg and Bill Hader • HBO

Fleabag, “Episode 1,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge • Prime Video

The Good Place, “Janet(s),” Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan • NBC

PEN15, “Anna Ishii-Peters,” Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle • Hulu

Russian Doll, “Nothing In This World Is Easy,” Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler • Netflix

Russian Doll, “A Warm Body,” Allison Silverman • Netflix

Veep, “Veep,” David Mandel • HBO

Phoebe Waller-Bridge created Killing Eve AND Fleabag.  The unexpected six-episode second season of Fleabag was a perfect package of writing genius.  Ask EVERYONE.   Not to take away from the other very worthy nominees, but –

Winner:  Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag, Episode 1

Only she can pull this off

 

Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series

Barry, “The Audition,” Alec Berg • HBO

Barry, “ronny/lily,” Bill Hader • HBO

The Big Bang Theory, “The Stockholm Syndrome,” Mark Cendrowski • CBS

Fleabag, “Episode 1,” Harry Bradbeer • Prime Video

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “All Alone,” Amy Sherman-Palladino • Prime Video

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “We’re Going To The Catskills!” Daniel Palladino • Prime Video

Boy, the “We’re Going to the Catskills” episode of Maisel was masterfully directed.  Yet the Academy has a love affair with Barry and Bill Hader that feels unstoppable.

Winner:  Bill Hader, Barry,” ronny/lily”

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

For this sequence alone…

Anthony Carrigan, Barry • HBO

Stephen Root, Barry • HBO

Henry Winkler, Barry • HBO

Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method • Netflix

Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Tony Hale, Veep • HBO

The Television Academy LOVES Tony Shalhoub and he had a number of especially strong episodes this time out.

Winner:  Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

 

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Sarah Goldberg, Barry • HBO

Sian Clifford, Fleabag • Prime Video

Olivia Colman, Fleabag • Prime Video

Betty Gilpin, GLOW • Netflix

Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live • NBC

Anna Chlumsky, Veep • HBO

Eight nominees in a category?  Really?  But it doesn’t feel like anyone can beat what Alex Borstein does with the snidest New Yorker ever on TV.  Not even Oscar winner Olivia Colman or SNL’s Queen of Everything Kate McKinnon.

Winner:  Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

.. but only because I was robbed.. right Chairy? #wealreadymissyouLeslie

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Bill Hader, Barry • HBO

Don Cheadle, Black Monday • Showtime

Anthony Anderson, black-ish • ABC

Ted Danson, The Good Place • NBC

Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method • Netflix

Eugene Levy, Schitt‘s Creek • Pop TV

Hollywood loves a loveable assassin who wants to be an actor.  Or is it up and coming loveable actors who employ all the traits of a trained assassin that they love?

Winner:  Bill Hader, Barry

 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

She’s gonna need more hands

Christina Applegate, Dead To Me • Netflix

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag • Prime Video

Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll • Netflix

Catherine O’Hara, Schitt ‘s Creek • Pop TV

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep • HBO

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is among the most Emmy honored in history and had a triumphant final season after battling cancer in real life.  Plus, this is the last opportunity to award her work on Veep.  Despite the heavy competition, it’s –

Winner:  Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

 

Outstanding Comedy Series

Who’s it gonna be?

Barry • HBO

Fleabag • Prime Video

The Good Place • NBC

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel • Prime Video

Russian Doll • Netflix

Schitt‘s Creek • Pop TV

Veep • HBO

It should be Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Russian Doll, with Schitt’s Creek or The Good Place as the dark horses.  But it will be between Barry and Veep.  Why?  Because the TV Academy NEVER honors the comedy series that I believe in my heart of hearts should win.  (Note: Except last year when Maisel won).  So I bet they give it to the last season of –

Winner:  Veep  (Note:  Barry is a very close second and could win).

 

 

 

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

You can’t beat Villanelle in this scene

Better Call Saul, “Winner,” Peter Gould and Thomas Schnauz • AMC

Bodyguard, “Episode 1,” Jed Mercurio • Netflix

Game Of Thrones, “The Iron Throne,” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss • HBO

The Handmaid’s Tale, “Holly,” Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder •

Killing Eve, “Nice And Neat,” Emerald Fennell • BBC America

Succession, “Nobody Is Ever Missing,” Jesse Armstrong • HBO

Without giving too much away, the “Nice and Neat” episode of Killing Eve was one twisted piece of writing in the very best way.  Of course, so was Episode 1 of Bodyguard.  Ditto the pilot of Succession.  Aaargh!!!!!  Okay, let’s once again go out on a limb here.

Winner:  Killing Eve, Emerald Fennell

 

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series

Game Of Thrones, “The Iron Throne,” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss • HBO

Game Of Thrones, “The Last Of The Starks,” David Nutter • HBO

Game Of Thrones, “The Long Night” Miguel Sapochnik • HBO

The Handmaid’s Tale, “Holly,” Daina Reid • Hulu

Killing Eve, “Desperate Times,” Lisa Brühlmann • BBC America

Ozark, “Reparations,” Jason Bateman • Netflix

Succession, “Celebration,” Adam McKay • HBO

Oh gosh, again?  Well, no.  Despite the odds makers saying it will be that really long  83-minute episode on that show that has three nominees in this category we’re not having it.  The pilot to Succession IS a justly sad commentary, an the evocation of an American Armageddon of amorality.

Winner:  Adam McKay, Succession

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Gwendoline Christie, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Sophie Turner, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Maisie Williams, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve • BBC America

Julia Garner, Ozark • Netflix

It would be great to live in a world where four in a category was seen as overkill and Fiona Shaw could win for one of the most delicious deadpan performances on TV in Killing Eve.  But she won’t and we don’t.  Instead bet on the scene-stealer in you know what — and this one stabbed her way to the top (or so I’m told, I have no idea)

Winner:  Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones

The Chair has no idea what this is #justthetruth

 

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul • AMC

Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul • AMC

Alfie Allen, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Michael Kelly, House Of Cards • Netflix

Chris Sullivan, This Is Us • NBC

The rule is when you have three or more actors from a show nominated in the same category, one of them has to win.   So let’s go with the brooding intensity of –

Winner:  Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

 

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Miss Eve Pilastri

Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Robin Wright, House Of Cards • Netflix

Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder • ABC

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve • BBC America

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve • BBC America

Laura Linney, Ozark • Netflix

Mandy Moore, This Is Us • NBC

Sandra Oh is a beautiful, irresistible mess on Killing Eve.  That is all.

Winner:  Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

You know you want this acceptance speech

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul • AMC

Kit Harington, Game Of Thrones • HBO

Jason Bateman, Ozark • Netflix

Billy Porter, Pose • FX

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us • NBC

Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us • NBC

We’re a sucker for Milo Ventimiglia on This Is Us. Or maybe it’s his character, the now deceased but never really dead great dad, Jack Pearson.  Though maybe we just have our own Dad issues.  (Note:  Maybe?).

Still, it’s not Milo’s year.  That honor goes to Billy Porter for his work on Pose.  Playing a gay man in the AIDS era on weekly television is a first that will be rewarded.

Winner:  Billy Porter, Pose

Outstanding Drama Series
Better Call Saul • AMC
Bodyguard • Netflix
Game Of Thrones • HBO
Killing Eve • BBC America
Ozark • Netflix
Pose • FX Networks
Succession • HBO
This Is Us • NBC

Oh, please.  Is there even a possibility Game of Thrones won’t win?  It’ll be worth it to never have to read another story on it again.

Yes, yes, riveting storytelling, intelligently done, blah, blah, blah.   But we’d give it to Succession, the timeliest and sickest reflection on where we, as a society, truly are at this moment in time.  And…we’re not voting.

Winner:  Game of Thrones

Pose – House Evangelista vs. House of Ferocity

 

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Red, White, and Bette

American icon, star of stage and screen, all around badass — these are all ways to describe the Divine Miss Bette Midler. It’s been a hard week for the Chair, so in lieu of his musings on all things politics and pop culture, we defer to the brilliance of Bette’s twitter feed. This week she has been particularly sharp — telling off trolls, skewering Electoral POTUS, and just being the Bette we all know and love.

A sampling is below — but if you aren’t following her, consider this the Chair’s highest recommendation. #BeBette

LOL

Bette Midler – “Friends”

American Bruce

It’s not simple to process Memorial Day in a year when many of us are wondering what it means to be an American.

Some of us might choose to see it as nothing but a long vacation weekend to ignore our world and all of its problems and simply choose to party with friends, relatives or simply ourselves.

That is a more than valid plan.  In fact, probably the safest if everyone will adhere to leaving politics – nee Trumpism – at the door.

No, don’t turn on the news!  Don’t even touch that:

Remote control…

Keyboard….

Newspaper…

History book…

History Book? Chair, you crazy

Whatever….

And DON’T BRING UP THAT SUBJECT!  I told you before you got here, WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS!  If you are going to talk about this, you can just GET OUT!!!

…Fine, then please don’t say anymore, okay?  For me???

Since I don’t have either of my two Moms to implore that of me anymore, only a husband who has long ago stopped trying to fight an uphill losing battle, I decided to ponder the question myself.

Memorial Day, which was called Decoration Day when I was growing up, was, once upon a time, not political at all.  It was there simply to honor the men and women, past and present, in the military.  People who signed up to preserve the idea of a country whose principal mantra is…well, what?

Give me your…. ???

I was going to say freedom, a melting pot of international cultures, two welcoming arms to all those in persecution wanting to start a new life since that is all you need to become an American but see…

Well, already I’m in trouble because this has quickly gotten political.

That being the case I turned to the one person in pop culture who these days seems to cross political divides (sort of) through music to tell the stories of what it is really like to be an average small town American with regular working people as friends, family and relatives who can provide all the lessons you will ever need from which to build a fabulously happy, healthy, kind and prosperous American life —

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN!!!!

Only he can pull off a full denim look

At my sister’s urging I caught up with his Netflix special, Springsteen on Broadway, this weekend. It is essentially a stripped down version of the key Springsteen songs that tell his life story in the way he wants to show it to you.

Yeah, we don’t call him The Boss for nothing.

Still, there is a lot – TONS – to take away from Springsteen on Broadway if you want to feel really good about being an American and honor those in the military.

Also — what’s more American than these white guy dance moves?

In one key section, he poignantly speaks of several local New Jersey rockers who he looked up to in awe that were killed in their prime while serving in Vietnam.  Sure, it’s funny, lovely, sexy, nostalgic, even tear inducing.

But that’s not what really gets you to this holiday.

What immediately brings you in is the very beginning where, standing center stage, in nothing but his jeans, t-shirt and guitar, an almost 70 year-old Bruce admits to you that he’s a fake and a fraud. 

That his whole persona is nothing more than an IDEA.

Wait.. this was really his butt though right? #ineedanswers

A magic trick that has you believing that a guy who never held a regular 9-5 job in his life, never did one day of hard labor and certainly was much more familiar with a the inside of a rock star suite on Sunset Blvd.  than he was the inside of any factory in the USA, could be the quintessential American working class hero.

As he freely admits from the get go:

IT’S ALL BULLSHIT!!

Um… what? #hedid? #really?

We might take that as a perfect metaphor for the times and for this Memorial Day but pretty soon we realize there’s a lot more to him than that.

It is Springsteen and America’s brilliance that their mutual personae are indeed simply an IDEA, but an idea that is based on SOMETHING.

Words that we aspire to and/or people who have inspired us.  Sometimes in moments when we didn’t even know it.

It was Springsteen’s Dad who was the hard-working factory worker who supported a wife and kids on a union salary and spent too much time at the local bar trying to unwind.  It was Springsteen’s Mom who had the upbeat, can-do, music/dance-loving American attitude of doing unto others as you would have them do to you and always, always doing your best.  It was the many people in Springsteen’s small town, by the Jersey shore before it was “the Jersey Shore”, who lived the many stories he wrote about.

He would have beat Chris Christie

And it was also all of the above that he sought so desperately to get away from only to wind up, as he tell us, wildly and ridiculously successful and, yet, still living within 4 miles of his childhood home.

His overriding point is that America has, for better or worse, always been an IDEA forged by the people in it and an ever evolving one depending on what those people at the moment chose to do with who and what they were raised around.

To see those that served to defend it in any other way is to not acknowledge both the HAT TRICK and MAGIC of the idea.  The notion that you can literally be born into anything and succeed far beyond your dreams if you’re clever and lucky enough.

Or be born into everything, or well, a lot, and in your own eyes (or others’) be a miserable failure.

Or fall somewhere in the middle, put upon and never quite satisfied with so many of the promises unfulfilled.

It’s OK to be confused

We all have our own American stories.  Certainly mine had nowhere near the stability and opportunities available to a straight white man born in Bruce’s era and environment.  Though undeniably I was far, far more fortunate than the majority of others in the country, particularly those non-white and non-male.

To honor the many before us who fought for our rights as Americans is to understand that it is only in the true collective WE that we will continue.  We the average factory worker and we the exceptional rock star and every other WE that falls somewhere in between.

To pretend that any of this extremely large, often unmanageable group is an OTHER, or that a very good part of our journey is not pure luck and bullshit combined with only mere dollops of perseverance, talent and hard work, is to miss the entire point of our country completely.

“Born in the USA” – from Springsteen on Broadway

Magical Thinking

Joe Biden told an audience in Omaha last week that Mike Pence is a decent guy.   Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon chose to differ in an editorial in the Washington Post and so do I.

Mr. Pence’s lifetime leadership role advocating against the LGBTQ community, including support for conversion therapy (most heinously during the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s as an alternative way to curtail the spread of HIV), opposition to gay marriage, banning trans people from serving in the military, and attempting to legalize discrimination against gays due to religious beliefs (with proposed legislation and/or laws to back all over the above) does not make him decent.

It shows an empirical pattern of behavior that bears additional scrutiny, particularly for someone currently serving as the Vice President of all of the U.S. in 2019.

This is a real product you can buy on Amazon. You’re welcome.

The same could be said of Electoral College POTUS’s rambling two-hour speech at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) this weekend.  In perhaps his grandest of grandstanding, he threw out his usual invectives that American citizens who oppose him, as well as the media and fellow elected officials who choose to investigate his behavior, are people who don’t love our country.

But perhaps worse yet he continued to defend his self-professed love affair with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, who he claims had no knowledge of the torture and eventual death of an American teenager under his government’s hands because he told me, despite the universal agreement of our own intelligence agencies that this was not the case.

NOT fake news

It is the same argument he used to defend Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin over the last two years when American intelligence across the board provided him clear evidence that Putin directed manipulation of the 2016 election.

It is a similar kind of illogic that in those two very public hours at the podium caused him to scream, where did that come from?, in reference to Congress’ current plan to look into his finances as a way to reasonably prove his business ties to Russia in light of numerous recent accusations from members inside his own campaign that this is indeed the case.

This same blind rage also caused him to proclaim from the podium that these people are sick for wanting to check his deals.

Nice try

And it is, finally, what caused him to come up with yet a new nickname for the chairman of that House committee – my Congressman, Adam Schiff, a former California U.S. Attorney.  Before this large group of conservatives, in that same two-hour speech, broadcast worldwide, our de facto POTUS referred to that duly elected congressman as LITTLE SHIFTY SCHIFF and his work as bullschiff.

And they’re both orange!

Nice, huh?  Especially for a 72 year-old man some people call the most powerful person on Earth, partly because most conceded long ago he forfeited the usual U.S. POTUS moniker of Leader of the Free World.

Magical thinking can sometimes help get us through the day but it can never, ever make untruths into truths, fantasy into reality or sputtering, fantastical bile-soaked lies into objective evidentiary fact.

This weekend I finally caught up with a film my students had been recommending me to see for several years, Swiss Army Man.  It’s a story about a suicidal guy (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island who finds a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) that he is able to ride to some sort of civilization through the body’s flatulence.

Ummmm…

The guy then lives off the water the body expels from his mouth in sudden gaseous spurts only to find about halfway through the story, the body actually starts talking to him.  It turns out said body’s name is Manny and in order to keep him alive the suicidal guy has to re-educate him about the joys of being human.  This being an American film the guy also, in the process, begins to discover his own humanity again.

The film’s dramatic questions are many but primary among them becomes – is the guy imagining that dead Manny can speak or is Manny some sort of divine miracle that sporadically comes to life?  In other words is Manny ultimately indestructible and does he truly possess the unexplainable ability to enable a mere mortal to appreciate life on its own very messy terms.

The Chair’s recommendation

Would that there was a Manny somewhere who could point out the bumps in the road and make it all better for those of us who too often than not these days live in the belief that it will all NOT be okay.  (Note: The film was released in a pre Trump-Pence 2016)

I consider myself one of those people sporadically and part of my current journey is to work hard enough where I don’t succumb to my inner belief that the countless negative forces in the world have conspired lately in some nefarious master plan to bring us all down – both collectively as a society as well as individually.

This meme is me until Trump is out of office

To be clear, this is not my overriding philosophy but certainly, left to my own devices, it could be.  I have a real talent for assembling events of all kinds in a viable order that could much too convincingly confirm to most of you whatever misguided or guided (at least in my mind) point I am trying to prove.

In popular parlance, it’s what’s called writing talent.

In depressing real life, it’s what enables me to be the most persuasive and darkest of pessimists if I so choose.

But in the loveliest, lightest and most seductive moments of reality, it can also easily move me to the other extreme in seconds.  What that means is it can get me to convince not only myself but others, through the use of philosophy and said rosy perceived reality, that somehow it WILL all magically be okay even though there may be more than a few signs that this is pie in the sky fantasy thinking is  not likely to at all to come true by any reasonable objective standard.

Neither, of course, is the way to go.

I see no problem with these rosy shades, Chairy.

We MUST have hope against the odds and take steps to do our jobs and live our lives and overcome the negative to create the reality we want.  More commonly, that’s called the hard work of getting out of your own way.

On the other hand, we can’t PRETEND that a divine Manny WILL somehow magically appear (or has appeared) and guide us to right the wrongs in our world or society just because we wish him or it to be so.  That is equally misguided and it is what’s more popularly referred to as “magical thinking.”  Or worse.

Joan Didion wrote a book and a play on this theme entitled The Year of Magical Thinking after the death of her husband the day after the couple’s recently married daughter fell into a coma due to pneumonia/septic shock, only to eventually die herself less than a year later.

Chairy, what are you doing to me!!

The idea that one can become so traumatized by traumatizing events that one pretends bad things didn’t happen, aren’t happening or at the very least can be resolved – and that if one dreams with just the right amount of acuity one’s loved ones at any moment could conceivably walk through the door and one’s present reality could instantly become a thing of the past – is tempting.  And that there is meaning in the smallest of events that we can then assemble to divine us through our despair on a magic carpet of made up reality is undeniably hopeful, albeit sometimes intuitively necessary.

YES, whatever gets you through, I can hear some of you saying.  Well, perhaps.  I mean, if it guides one through the grief process and doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one has the right to demand you live in the truth of despair, seeing your glass as perpetually half empty as I too often do.

this also helps me sleep at night

The trouble begins when we wish world events or real people in our lives to be something they are clearly and objectively not.  Especially leaders we don’t know personally.  Because it then gets exacerbated when their associates start to adopt the party lie to get whatever agenda they want past us, twisting themselves into pretzels of illogic in order to do so.

Meaning you can’t explain it any way you like for yourself.  At the end of the day 2 + 2 simply cannot equal 5 — much as any of us would like it to.

Whatever Gets You Thru The Night – John Lennon (feat. Elton John)

The Remedy?

If you came here looking for commentary on yet another Academy bone-headed decision that was reversed this week… or perhaps a different bonehead declaring a national emergency… hold tight, Chairy fans. The Chair is suffering through the world’s worst bout with seasonal sinus troubles and will be taking this week off.

Fear not — next week is the Oscars, and you know the Chair will rally. IT’S. THE. OSCARS… plus Bette Midler just announced she’ll be performing (I think I hear the Chair’s sinuses clearing already).

Send the Chair a wish of good health or an Oscar prediction, if you dare: @notesfromachair (Twitter and Insta!)

For now, he’ll be blasting this and readying his comeback.

Till then…

Jason Mraz – “The Remedy”

Spiking the Oscars

Spike Lee should win the best director Oscar this year for BlacKkKlansman.  The film is THAT good, THAT timely and yeah, as its producer Jason Blum said recently, it is his time.

His time means that Lee has been in the filmmaking trenches over four decades and has given us such memorable, and sometimes seminal works, as Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X and Bamboozled, as well as such prescient and under-appreciated ones as She’s Gotta Have it, School Daze, Summer of Sam, and Get on the Bus.

Icon status

Lee has done and continues to do what every artist attempts and that is to create a body of material that reflects both himself and the times he, specifically, lived in.  You can look at any one of his movies and get a window into some aspect of national and/or personal history told through the vision of an African American kid from the New York boroughs with stories and messages whose truths reverberated throughout the world for nearly half a century.

That is no small feat for any director these days, but near impossible for one who is non-White.  Name another.

Waiting.

Still Waiting.

Right.  Well, we have nothing but time here so take another minute.

And…………

um helloooooo

Yeah.

So how is it that Spike Lee has NEVER BEEN NOMINATED for an Academy Award as best director??

Guess it must be bad luck or oversight.  Okay, maybe once…or twice.  But anyone who has ever been a reporter in a newsroom knows the old journalism adage: Three (or more) is a trend.

With the announcement of this week’s 2019 Academy Award nominations it is important to note that any number of films and/or filmmakers will be left off the list or rather purposely snubbed for a myriad of reasons.   Taste, personal animus, overcrowding and just plain ignorance are all excuses that come to mind.

One could also question why it even matters anymore given that the Oscars are clearly the most exclusive of clubs with a rarefied membership that more and more seems to speak less and less for the general public, i.e. the zeitgeist.

The majority of Oscar voters #oldwhitemen #morethan12 #oscarssowhite

Well, in a world of lists, elections, statuses and immeasurables it is THE most famous arbiter of professional excellence calibrated by a group of peers working in an artistic field that we have.  Sure there is consistent omission, bone-headed pettiness and high/low intellectual ignorance that keep the voters from truly always getting it right.  But love ‘em or hate ‘em there is a reason why each year the show gets watched by more than a billion people worldwide and the honor of receiving one of those little gold (but surprisingly heavy) statues gives the winner a strange sort of immortal status of achievement.

Spike Lee recently did an NPR interview with Elvis Mitchell where he noted his students (Note: He teaches at NYU’s grad program in filmmaking) don’t seem to care about any films made prior to the last five years.  He felt that it was generational and didn’t have an explanation for it, but also found that when he exposed them to work from directors like Kazan or Kurosawa they appreciated, even loved their films.  It was more a general sense of intellectual non-curiosity he was lamenting and he still didn’t understand the reason, even when pressed.

Would this help?

One could surmise it has to do with how much information we must all sift through these days and time management.  It also can be attributed to accessibility; meaning if you can get everything nothing is particularly urgent to experience.  It’s all at most of our disposals whenever we want it so why not do anything else that takes less time and is more pleasurable in the moment.

As one of my heroes, Carrie Fisher, so aptly wrote:

Instant gratification takes too long.

Yet that was back in the 1980s, before the web and about herself and her life as a drug addict.

We miss you lady

Building on this prescient theory, it’s not too far of a stretch then to say that we have all become a nation of addicts whose drug of choice is no longer the movies but the comments on endless streams of social media platforms, television shows and perhaps blogs such as (but unlike) this one where we get to opine on everything and nothing without doing the work it takes to truly earn our opinion.

This seems more than possible because if one is always giving one’s opinion of likes and dislikes, when would one ever have the time to read or watch anything else that would allow one to be educated enough on said subject and its creators in order to truly judge the issue or thing that is being presented???

This is why so many of us are such fans of the film BlacKkKlansman and of Spike Lee in particular.  Love him or hate him as a moviemaker you can never say he doesn’t study an issue, sift through numerous uncomfortable truths and then use his technical and creative expertise to form his take on what’s goin’ on.

When it comes to Mr. Lee, there seems to be no in between

Sure, it may be skewed but what he never does is waste your time on sheer nonsense or filmic masturbation that could at its best only be personally orgasmic.  Every film he does is called a Spike Lee joint and the reason is simple – he wants you to get stoned on the story, subject matter and characters along with him.

This was once deemed exotic and controversial but perhaps that is no longer the case with a pot store seemingly on every other block in L.A. and soon (perhaps?) the majority of the country.  But as a successful moviemaker, particularly one who is non-white, it is extremely rare.

BlacKkKlansman gives us the highly unlikely yet true story of a Black detective in the 1970s that infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.  Said detective engineered it with the help of his White counterpart yet it is the Black man who takes the lead in the narrative.  But it is then Lee who imbues a rather unsavory and sadly quite timely story with equal parts humor, drama and irony.  Not to get too cute about it, but the result is a REAL black comedy in every sense of the word that only someone with a very particular body of work, mined over this particular half a century, could have brought justice to.

2018’s masterpiece #imeanit

That is why Spike Lee deserves the best director Oscar for BlacKkKlansman.  It is a smart, entertaining and expertly made film that speaks in particular to THIS moment in time through the lens of the past as it simultaneously teaches us all we need to know about the present.

But he also deserves it as a career award (Note: Like that doesn’t happen ever other year) and as a sentimental favorite who had been all but written off by mass contemporary audiences and too many industry decision-makers.

Finally, he deserves it for pissing us off so many times over the years as he’s done all of the above.  He deserves it for that, too.  Most especially.

End Credits – “Photo Ops” from BlacKkKlansman soundtrack

Hostess with the Mostest

This year’s Oscars should be co-hosted by Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish and Viola Davis. Wit, class, diversity and what the Motion Picture Academy most seems to be looking for – an expansion of its viewing audience.

That’s industry parlance for higher ratings

AKA MONEY #timetogetreal

I partly suggest this because I am so sick of men.  That’s quite a statement coming from a gay guy, but, trust me it’s true.  If I didn’t already have a husband I’d be taking a break.

After the Electoral College POTUS, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey and Les Moonves of it all we get…Kevin Hart as THE choice to host the annual TV show that gets the biggest ratings of the year?  Well, among the biggest ratings these days because that number has rapidly been decreasing, among so many numbers for network television.

I can’t

Still, this pick (rescinded two days later) says so much about the entertainment industry – in this case quite an apt stand-in for our immediate world – and its ability to perceive what’s going on in the zeitgeist.

That’s Chair parlance for reality.

Let’s be clear – I don’t want to get rid of all men, or shall I say, all straight men.  Some of my best friends are…

We know, Chairy.

I’m only advocating we, well… try to take a look around and through, inside and out, and up and over.

Kevin Hart.  If you want the full details of his tweets, have at it here.

But here’s a quick summary.  He’s admitted to being physically violent with his wife, even spent a night in jail for it.  There was also a sex tape of him cheating on her when she was eight months pregnant but let’s put that to the side because, well, who doesn’t cheat on their pregnant wife?

The Chair bringing the shade

Mr. Hart has joked more than once that if he caught his son playing with a doll house it would mean he was gay and he’d hit him over the head with it and say, stop it, that’s gay.  In fact, that’s gay or that’s so gay seems like it was his go-to twitter insult from, ok…2007-2011.  He even made an AIDS joke about Damien Wayans back then, saying his social media pic looked like a gay billboard for AIDS.

Explaining himself in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview, Mr. Hart said he wouldn’t do those jokes anymore because, the times, when I said it, weren’t as sensitive as they are now.

Yeah, we need to talk

See…this is the crux of the problem

For some people, the times only become sensitive when they get caught or called out for their… stuff.  Or as All in the Family’s Archie Bunker once eloquently stated nationwide on CBS –TV in the early 1970s:

She (Eleanor Roosevelt) was the one who discovered the coloreds in this country.  We never knew they was there!

When you talk crap so publicly so often and gain any sort of success or profile (Note: Or even if you are unknown and just say it too loud or to the wrong person) you get held accountable for your actions these days.

On the same token, when YOU are the one to bring up what someone said and challenge them on it it’s likely you will get called out in some corners for being the PC police. That pejorative is sort of like the alt-middle version of fake news but without the knee-jerk mass revulsion now finally beginning to be associated with Trumpism.

Yet, when we face the issue, we can see how one is the outgrowth of the other.

When someone tells you — Racism, sexism, homophobia – we just weren’t aware of this stuff pre 1960’s.  It was a different time – you can answer : Yeah, you did and well, sure it was.  What was different is that people didn’t make fun en masse about your minority group because you won the genetic lottery ticket of the moment that excluded you from marginalization.  (Note: Or you were in the majority).

So, big congrats on that.

To which they might answer:

But before we complain and lament about oversensitivity and political correctness – can’t we joke about anything, anymore??? 

“Everyone is just SO sensitive” says the white men who lament a “War on Christmas” #HappyHolidays

To which you reply:  Okay, but let’s look at what’s being asked for.  All that’s being asked for is – a look.

I got called out on social media this week by one woman who wrote that as a Jewish person she’s heard many celebrities go on anti-Semitic rants, including members of the LGBTQ community and that SHE never asked that they not work.

Oh lady, I haven’t had enough coffee to deal with you

Well, no one is saying Kevin Hart should never work.  I mean, I’m not hiring him but, hey… knock yourself out, he’s a movie star…ish.  He’s just not the right host for the Oscars.  Would you want Mel Gibson hosting the Oscars, lady???

Not to mention, you HAVE to know I’m Jewish.  Who else but a Jewish gay man from New York with the insatiable need to always have the last word would ever take the time to answer you back so incessantly, Ms. Laurie Freedman Fannin?!

Oh yes, that is her real name.  Look her up on Facebook.  Especially if you agree with me.  Please.

LOL, you shady Chair, you!!

The real point is, any of the above-mentioned information about Mr. Hart, et. al was available to the Academy through a quick Google search weeks, months and years before they made that choice.  You can be edgy, more than edgy, and still proceed with due diligence and basic consideration.

This is how we get to Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish and Viola Davis.

Here for this!

All women in the #MeToo era.

All people of color in a year when Black Panther and BlackkKlansman seem like sure bet nominees (and perhaps winners in multiple categories).

Wanda Sykes – One of the best standups in the country who happens to be an out lesbian, thus satisfying the mantra of trying to get a comedian host and knowing there are also multiple LGBTQ themed films that will receive nominations.

I’m on my way!

Viola Davis – A past Oscar WINNER (Fences) and multi-nominee (The Help, Doubt) who has had a hit show, How to Get Away With Murder, on ABC (the network that also broadcasts the Oscars) for the past five years.

You know Annalise would slay #nobrainer

Tiffany Haddish – A younger comic actress who WON the prestigious New York Film Critics award last year for a breakout performance (Girl’s Trip) and now STARS in her own movies. In fact, her latest is the current box-office hit, Night School, where she gets to beat the crap out of Kevin Hart!

Heck knows, I’m not that smart.  I just put in a tiny bit of thought on the matter and used The Google.

You’d think the Academy would do the same.  Or would you?

Aretha Franklin – “Respect”