Today is Michael Cerveris’s 57th birthday. His best know screen role may have been as the Observer known as September on Fox’s Fringe. He has also been a regular on Fame for one season and a recurring character on Treme, and he is currently appearing as the recurring character of Lazlo Valentin/Professor Pyg on the fourth season of Gotham. He has had supporting roles in films such as The Mexican and last year’s Detours, and starred with recent headliner Adam Pascal, among others, in the movie musical Temptation.
Cerveris is one of the leading stage actors of the past three decades. He began working in regional and Off-Broadway theater almost immediately after graduating from Yale. He made his Broadway debut in 1993 as the title character of The Who’s Tommy, and received the first of his six Tony nominations for his work in musical theater. Cerveris has starred as the title character in a revival of Sweeney Todd and played Juan Peron in a revival of Evita. He has also done some straight stage drama, appearing on Broadway in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, and in a Public Theater production of King Lear as Kent. He has won two Tonys, as John Wilkes Booth in the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, and as Bruce Bechdel in Fun Home, adapted from Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel.
We’re looking forward to tonight’s release of the new Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming with another of our “Worst to First” articles. I’m not sure I’ll offer too many surprises on the top end here, but there might be a little bit of suspense in the lower half. Since most of us will not have seen the new film, we’ll only be ranking the existing five for the time being. If you have seen the newest solo Spider-Man flick already, feel free to share your non-spoiler thoughts here in the comments section.
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It may seem counter-intuitive to discuss the death of the Spider-Man franchise pending the release of a new movie starring the comic book hero. These days, studios are unable or unwilling to let their movie franchises die. It doesn’t matter how well or how poorly Spider-Man: Homecoming performs this weekend, Sony cannot afford to stop making movies about Marvel’s famous wall-crawling, web-spinner. But just three short years ago, the studio released a Spider-Man movie that was received so poorly that the studio put the brakes on all future Spider-Man-related projects and turned to a competitor for assistance.
While there have definitely been years in which the Academy appeared to be having trouble filling out this category, this was definitely not one of them. Probably the most talked-about exclusion of the Oscar year was Amy Adams’ lead performance in Arrival, which managed to grab eight other nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and in several technical categories without likewise honoring Adams. It has been suggested that perhaps she split the vote with her equally fine work in Tom Ford’s entrancing Nocturnal Animals. Still more onlookers favored Annette Bening’s turn in 20th Century Women or Taraji P Henson as mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson in Hidden Figures. Clearly none of these women would have looked out of place on the final list of nominees. This is a good sign for actresses in general, but maybe not a great one for those hoping to take home an Oscar. The competition appears to be getting even more fierce.
That could also be demonstrated by how much trouble I had deciding on my own rankings in this category.
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Does anything about that top image look slightly off to you? If so, it’s probably because there are only four films nominated in the Best Original Song category instead of five. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t five nominated songs. It’s just that one of these movies has two. No points for guessing which one.
This is actually not that uncommon. In fact, the Best Original Song category has a history of wonky nomination counts for a variety of reasons. Back in 2013 one of the songs had its nomination revoked. Prior to that, a series of rules changes designed to reduce any perception of the category being “filled out” with unworthy nominees sometimes resulted in fields of three or four. A nomination process that required voters to rate each song, with only those rated higher than a set target gaining a place on the Oscars stage produced a situation in 2011 in which only two songs were nominated (prompting one high-profile singer to accuse the Academy of being “mean”). Over the first eleven years of the category’s existence voters were permitted to nominated as many songs as they liked…and boy did they like! Throughout the early forties no less than nine songs were nominated every single year, topping off at a whopping FOURTEEN in 1945. Obviously that was an out of control situation. People love being honored and they certainly love seeing their projects get free promotion. With no television show to keep on time, why not pile up as many nominations as possible if you can?
For a good long time after that, the Academy put a cap of five nominations on the category and as far as I can tell that was working pretty well. There were a few times when there were a small number of songs which the Academy considered to be qualified, and they would automatically reduce the number of nominated songs to three. This happened in 1988 when Carl Simon’s song from Working Girl took home the gold over Phil Collins’ retro bit of fluff from his otherwise unknown starring vehicle Buster. Considering the well-publicized demographics of the Academy it’s a little hard to swallow when they proclaim that only two or three songs deserve nominations. I’m going to stop short of criticizing them for nominating more than one song from a single movie, though. I personally think it’s pretty great if a particular musical is really that good that they can shower it with praise. Disney’s Beauty & the Beast really is that good, and a lot of people felt the same way about The Lion King. Besides, if they were limited to one song per film, my favorite movie song of the year probably wouldn’t have been nominated this time around.
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Two-time Oscar winner Sally Field celebrates her 70th birthday today. She began acting over 50 years ago, starring as the title character in the short-lived but well-remembered (by some, at least) ABC series Gidget. A second ABC comedy followed, with Field playing Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun.
By the late 1970s Field was moving into feature films, starring in the #2 film of 1977, Smokey and the Bandit. At the same time she was working hard to break away from being typecast as a plucky ingenue. A first step was her Emmy-winning role in the 1976 miniseries Sybil, but she really made a break with her past when she starred in a 1979 film based on the experiences of a textile worker and union activist named Crystal Lee Sutton:
Daffy and I are back with new episodes of our podcast, Le Show. As we did last year, we’re tackling the Academy Awards. Rather than ramble on for an hour about all the major categories, we decided to split things up. So instead of one long show, we’ll be putting out several shorter installments. In the first episode, we run through the five Best Supporting Actress nominees, who we think will win and who we think should win.
Before anyone accuses me of jumping the gun on this one, let me state right up front that Emma Stone is not yet on the A-List. What she is is a rising star with a lot of potential. Hollywood is littered with with the hopes and dreams of starlets who never quite made it to the top. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Emma Stone will not be one of them.