Emmys 2011: The Miniseries & Movies

We come to the thrilling conclusion of predicting the winners for the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards by taking a look at the Miniseries/Made for Television Movie categories.

It's something that in a year with several great options (Carlos, Luther, Sherlock), voters still managed to make a few uninspired choices, which will be discussed momentarily. However, they could make up for it by giving trophies to those who are truly deserving, rather than going the way many "experts" assume they will and reward performers/series who seem like safe bets.

This article comes on the day of the Creative Primetime Emmy Awards, so we'll know who's won for casting by the end of the night (in addition to the casting and guest acting categories for both comedy and drama).



And the Emmy Goes To. . .DOWNTON ABBEY
And the Emmy Goes To. . .DOWNTON ABBEY

OUTSTANDING MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. MILDRED PIERCE
  2. DOWNTON ABBEY
  3. TOO BIG TO FAIL
  4. CINEMA VERITE
  5. THE KENNEDYS
  6. THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH

Mildred Pierce is a polished melodrama that doesn't feel as melodramatic as you might expect, given the time period and style of the original. It boasts an impressive cast of respected actors (Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce, Melissa Leo) that are directed by a revered filmmaker (Todd Haynes). Not to mention, it may even be an improvement on the 1945 motion picture. It's biggest threat is Downton Abbey, which also sports a fine ensemble. Plus, the television academy obviously has a thing for British miniseries (Little Dorrit, Cranford, Prime Suspect). However, it's not as compelling as Pierce. Too Big To Fail would easily walk off with the Made for Television trophy if that standalone category was still in existence. It's an okay film, but it, too, fails to pack much of a punch. Cinema Verite is a decent movie that should be content enough with its nomination, as should The Kennedys and The Pillars of the Earth.



And the Emmy Goes To. . .BARRY PEPPER? Wow.  WTF.
And the Emmy Goes To. . .BARRY PEPPER? Wow. WTF.

LEAD ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. Idris Elba - LUTHER
  2. Edgar Ramirez - CARLOS
  3. Laurence Fishburne - THURGOOD
  4. William Hurt - TOO BIG TO FAIL
  5. Barry Pepper - THE KENNEDYS
  6. Greg Kinnear - THE KENNEDYS

While many Emmy pundits are overlooking him, it's hard to see how the magnetic Idris Elba fails to win here. Unlike the other nominees, he turns in an explosive performance as a cop with anger issues, and he has the luxury of doing this in all six episodes of Luther. Edgar Ramirez, the actor most favored to win, is both charming and vicious in Carlos (particularly in Part 2, the miniseries' strongest episode), but Elba practically grabs you and throws you up against the wall, and that's hard to shake off. Laurence Fishburne is a respected thespian who performs in a one-man show, and he could act as a spoiler in case voters decide they want to honor someone who isn't violent. Plus, many winners here are actors who portrayed real people (Al Pacino and Claire Danes were both victorious last year playing Dr. Jack Kevorkian and Temple Grandin, respectively). William Hurt is relatively laid back in his turn as Henry Paulson (translation: it doesn't scream "Give me a trophy!"). Barry Pepper should have campaigned in the supporting field, where he'd have a better shot. Greg Kinnear is good as JFK, but you need to be great if you want to be a legitimate threat to win.



And the Emmy Goes To. . .KATE WINSLET
And the Emmy Goes To. . .KATE WINSLET

LEAD ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. Kate Winslet - MILDRED PIERCE
  2. Diane Lane - CINEMA VERITE
  3. Jean Marsh - UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS
  4. Taraji P. Henson - TAKEN FROM ME
  5. Elizabeth McGovern - DOWNTON ABBEY

Kate Winslet essentially had this thing won when she was cast, but, truthfully, it's the noticeable lack of any real competition here that should all but seal the deal for her. Of course, it's Kate Winslet, so it's not like she won't earn it, but no one is going to be surprised when she wins. Diane Lane acts as the only potential upset. She has some great moments in Cinema Verite (suspecting her husband of infidelity, discovering one of her sons is a homosexual), so if any of the other ladies should toy with the idea of writing an acceptance speech, it's her. Jean Marsh is instantly likable in Upstairs Downstairs, but she doesn't knock you out by any stretch of the imagination. Taraji P. Henson deserved her nomination for playing a mom who goes a little crazy when her son is missing, but she's not helped by being in an otherwise forgettable Lifetime movie. Elizabeth McGovern displays some undeniable grace in Downton Abbey, but she's overshadowed by her co-stars, particularly Maggie Smith.



And the Emmy Goes To. . .GUY PEARCE
And the Emmy Goes To. . .GUY PEARCE

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. Guy Pearce - MILDRED PIERCE
  2. James Woods - TOO BIG TO FAIL
  3. Tom Wilkinson - THE KENNEDYS
  4. Paul Giamatti - TOO BIG TO FAIL
  5. Brian F. O'Byrne - MILDRED PIERCE

This has to be the weakest acting category in any of the respective fields (and that includes the guest performers). Be that as it may, Guy Pearce feels like the strongest contender. He's respected (some might even say overdue for some recognition), and he has a great turn in Part 5 of Mildred Pierce. Nevertheless, it's fairly easy to see James Woods swooping in and taking this from him. He has the meatiest role in Too Big To Fail, and he doesn't miss a beat. Tom Wilkinson gets to chew lots of scenery in The Kennedys, but that miniseries' mixed critical reception is going to hurt him. Paul Giamatti is really never bad in anything, although he doesn't get to do too much as Ben Bernanke. Brian F. O'Byrne is a character actor more people should know about (he was great in HBO's Oz), and he has some good scenes with Winslet. His performance doesn't seem like one that would ordinarily win him any prizes, but given the lack of excitement this category has to offer, none of the men can be ruled out entirely.



And the Emmy Goes To. . .MAGGIE SMITH
And the Emmy Goes To. . .MAGGIE SMITH

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. Maggie Smith - DOWNTON ABBEY
  2. Mare Winningham - MILDRED PIERCE
  3. Evan Rachel Wood - MILDRED PIERCE
  4. Eileen Atkins - UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS
  5. Melissa Leo - MILDRED PIERCE

Maggie Smith can be both easy to dislike and, thanks to some comic moments, just as easy to enjoy in Downton Abbey. She's a beloved figure in the industry by actors and audiences alike, and she stands out best in this British miniseries. Don't be shocked, however, if Mare Winningham gets in. She plays one of those sharp, fast-talking supporting players who usually leave awards venues happy. Evan Rachel Wood is pretty fantastic in Mildred Pierce, but Veda can be a little too melodramatic at times. Eileen Atkins' character suffers from a similar problem, and she's a part of a miniseries that didn't deliver. Melissa Leo is outdone by co-stars who have flashier roles.



And the Emmy Goes To. . .DOWNTON ABBEY
And the Emmy Goes To. . .DOWNTON ABBEY

DIRECTING FOR A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. MILDRED PIERCE (Todd Haynes)
  2. CARLOS (Olivier Assayas)
  3. TOO BIG TO FAIL (Curtis Hanson)
  4. DOWNTON ABBEY (Brian Percival)
  5. CINEMA VERITE (Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini)

Since his miniseries is the frontrunner to claim the top prize, Todd Haynes is likewise primed to earn the trophy here. Additionally, he does an excellent job behind the camera for Mildred Pierce, especially in the latter episodes. Olivier Assayas should definitely be a threat to win, however. Although the third episode drags more than the first two, Carlos moves at a relatively efficient pace thanks to some pretty compelling moments captured on film. Curtis Hanson doesn't feel like much of a threat, but then again, who thought Jay Roach would best Tom Hooper when Recount was up against John Adams in this field? Too Big To Fail has a similar feel to the 2008 HBO film, and voters may be tempted to reward Hanson for the timeliness of his piece. Brian Percival and Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini won't win here.



And the Emmy Goes To. . .DOWNTON ABBEY
And the Emmy Goes To. . .DOWNTON ABBEY

WRITING FOR A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. DOWNTON ABBEY (Julian Fellowes)
  2. MILDRED PIERCE (Todd Haynes; J. Raymond)
  3. TOO BIG TO FAIL (Peter Gould)
  4. SHERLOCK: A STUDY IN PINK (Steven Moffat)
  5. UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS (Heidi Thomas)

Julian Fellowes already has an Oscar for constructing the same kind of story we see in Downton Abbey that garned him a trophy for Gosford Park, and the dialogue works just as well. Todd Haynes clearly has a gift when it comes to writing dramas set in the early years (i.e. Far From Heaven), so both he and J. Raymond should be in contention for what they bring to Mildred Pierce. Peter Gould takes a lot of complicated business jargon and condenses it into a story that's easy to follow. It wouldn't necessarily be a surprise if he won, but Too Big To Fail doesn't have the momentum it needs to secure a win anywhere. Steven Moffat deserves some praise for how he modernizes Sherlock Holmes and Watson, but Sherlock's lack of nominations elsewhere hurt. Heidi Thomas has written better scripts, and Upstairs Downstairs, overall, was disappointing.



And the Emmy Goes To. . .MILDRED PIERCE
And the Emmy Goes To. . .MILDRED PIERCE

CASTING FOR A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

  1. DOWNTON ABBEY
  2. MILDRED PIERCE
  3. TOO BIG TO FAIL
  4. UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS
  5. CINEMA VERITE

Downton Abbey has a huge ensemble in a series that could win the big prize, placing it squarely in prime position for the win. However, Mildred Pierce has more actors nominated, and since it's the frontrunner in most of the miniseries/movie categories, this may be an early indicator of its expected success next Sunday. This is one of the few places where Too Big To Fail could emerge victorious, but its lack of momentum keeps it from being a sure thing. Upstairs Downstairs missed out on an Outstanding Miniseries bid, which hurts its chances, and most people think of Cinema Verite as a three-person film, not an ensemble.



FINAL TALLY: 4/8 [50%]

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