The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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SXSW 2010: MacGruber

It’s been a long time since a “Saturday Night Live” skit was turned into a full-length feature, and for good reason. With the exception of a rare few (most notably the first “Wayne’s World” and “Night at the Roxbury”), they’ve all been pretty terrible. Director Jorma Taccone hopes to buck that trend with “MacGruber,” the big screen adaptation of Will Forte’s MacGyver-like soldier of fortune. Though it might seem like the kind of one-joke concept that couldn’t possibly be funny for 84 minutes, “MacGruber” is so unrelenting in its attempt to win over the audience with childish humor that you can’t help but laugh along.

MacGruber (Forte) was once regarded as the country’s greatest hero, but in the ten years since the murder of his fiancée, he’s given up his gadget-making days and retreated to South America to live in a monastery. But when his old nemesis, Dietrich Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), steals a nuclear warhead with the intention to blow up the White House, MacGruber is recruited by Col. James Faith (Powers Boothe) to come out of retirement and save the world once again. After he blows up his team of former military buddies, MacGruber enlists the help of longtime friend Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and by-the-books soldier Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) to track down the warhead and pound some Cunth.

macgruber

If you laughed at that last bit, then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy “MacGruber,” because the script is positively overflowing with that kind of juvenile wordplay. Co-written by Forte, Taccone, and fellow “SNL” scribe John Solomon, the trio does a surprisingly good job of taking a series of minute-long skits that all invariably end up with MacGruber blowing up and expanding it into a real story. It’s not a particularly great story, mind you, but it gets the job done for a film more concerned with setting up the next big joke. There are a lot of jokes that don’t really warrant more than a snicker, but some of the film’s running gags – including one involving MacGruber’s Blaupunkt car stereo and another where he obsesses over a rude motorist – will leave you in stitches.

Even the jokes that aren’t necessarily funny still work to some degree thanks to the film’s cast. Forte is excellent as the title character (just wait until you get a load of MacGruber’s trademark combat move), perfectly towing the line between naivety and just plain stupidity, while Kristen Wiig makes the most of her limited screen time. Ryan Phillippe also helps to ground the film as the straight man of the group, and Van Kilmer, although he doesn’t really capitalize on the sheer absurdity of his character, is clearly having a blast playing the villain. Though it gets off to a bit of a rough start comically, “MacGruber” eventually draws you in with its brand of sophomoric humor, pulling out all the stops in the name of comedy (and the ratings board). It’s certainly not the funniest film of the year, but there are enough laughs scattered throughout to suggest that not every film based on an “SNL” skit is complete shit.

  

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Fat Tuesday at the movies

Do the bon temps actually roulez in Hollywood? It’s more like they just kind of unspool.

* My good friend, Zayne Reeves, was kind enough to make sure I didn’t miss this rather extraordinary Esquire piece by Chris Jones on Roger Ebert’s current life. I’ve been spending my share of time around illness myself over the last several weeks and I can’t think of a more quietly, beautifully sane way of dealing with the strange cards life can deal us. Though I’m just one among very, very many he’s shared kind words with, I’ve always felt lucky for the very brief e-mail correspondences I’ve had with Roger over the years, Now I feel luckier.

* Reviews of the fourth Martin Scorsese film to star Leonardo DiCaprio, “Shutter Island,” are starting to trickle out. Glenn Kenny has a good one. “Good” both as in “positive” and also as in “worth your time reading.”

shutter-island-2010-wallpaper

* Doug Liman will be directing a film about the 1971 Attica prison riot/revolt/uprising, now best remembered by film lovers as the chant from “Dog Day Afternoon.” It’s a story he has a personal connection with through his late father, attorney Arthur Liman. Nevertheless, the director of “Go,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Bourne Identity” seems to be moving in a sort of John Frankenheimer-esque direction overall, too.

* Speaking of the man who yelled “Attica! Attica!,” Al Pacino has stepped into a part recently vacated by Robert De Niro. You just can’t seem to keep those two guys apart for very long.

* Nikki Finke is having a very fat Tuesday indeed. Earlier today she reported on Carl Icahn trying to snap up Lionsgate for himself and a deal between Warner Brothers and video kiosk powerhouse Redbox, not to mention the news that the Oscars this year may not be including the original artists in the Best Song category.

There’s still more; a 3-D movie based on Erector Sets. Sure, why not. Next up: “Slinky 3-D,” I’m sure. Now, if they really want to get a rise out of the family audience, they might consider adopting Mickey Spillane’s novel, The Erection Set. From the description I just linked to, it would really be something in three-dimensions.

* Writer-director Paul Feig is reteaming with his old “Freaks and Geeks” colleague, Judd Apatow, for a film starring and cowritten by Dave Medsker’s-ultra-fave, Kristen Wiig writes Borys Kit. Let’s hope it’s better than a typical SNL skit these days.

* I started with Roger Ebert and I’ll end with an item via his must-read Twitter-feed: the Film Preservation Blogathon being organized by my old Chicago-based cinephile blogging mate, Marilyn Ferdinand. If you care about movies, this is the place. It’s also a fundraiser (a first for a blogathon, as far as I can remember) so if the idea of losing a film — any film — forever bugs you as it should, considering donating. You can do worse than starting with this post by Ferdy’s partner in good works, the Self-Styled Siren aka Farran Nehme. And, courtesy of another cinephile colleague from the days when I had time to blog about old movies all the live-long day, Greg Ferrera, we conclude with….a commercial.

  

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NBC continues the dumbing-down of America in earnest with…”A Very Gilly Christmas”

First, David Medsker sent a public memo to “Saturday Night Live,” pleading with them to stop Kristen Wiig from playing the most annoying characters imaginable, and although the show’s producers ignored him, the posting has received 76 comments to date, many of them completely behind Mr. Medsker’s position, so it clearly struck a nerve with readers. Then, two months later, John Paulsen got specific and called out Wiig’s then-new character, Gilly, as the unfunniest returning character ever. No word from the Wiig camp yet, but 65 readers have responded to it thus far, and while many of them are in full-on defense mode, it takes no more than a cursory glance at the comments to see that Mr. Paulsen is onto something with his premise.

* “Gilly should be put in juvenile detention.”
* “OMG, I want to break the TV when I see that stupid skit!”
* “Gilly keeps coming back for more and more and more and more and more. And it gets worse every time.”
* “The Gilly skits – and indeed, pretty much all the characters that Wiig does – are appealing to those lowbrow people who find catch-phrases funny.”
* “I know ‘to each his own’ and everybody’s taste is different, but I’m shocked that people are defending this really, really bad, really, really unfunny recurring character.”

And, of course, there’s my personal favorite:

“Like a fool, I kept watching, hoping the sketch could redeem itself somehow, that a punchline or a line delivery would come in making it somewhat funny. I mean, this is a comedy show, right? Right? But, alas, it was just painful. I have no idea what the audience was laughing at or why. Maybe SNL installed a live laugh track, or maybe they do pump in laughing gas. But what I saw no one could honestly find funny. NO ONE. Stock footage of starving children has equal comedic value as the Gilly sketch.”

To these discerning individuals, NBC is offering up the comedic equivalent of a lump of coal in their stocking on December 17th from 8 – 10 PM EST, when “Saturday Night Live” presents…wait for it…“A Very Gilly Christmas”!

The good news is that the two-hour special will include brand-new material with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, along with favorite holiday-themed sketches from the 35-year history of “SNL,” including “NPR’s Delicious Dish and the Schweddy Balls,” Martin’ famous “Holiday Wish,” and Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s “D**k in a Box.”

The bad news: it will also include new Gilly material.

  

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Expansions

Just a couple of items where some more information might be of interest.

* I linked yesterday to a Variety story reporting that James Cameron had signed with mega-agency CAA. Last night, however, ace gadfly muckraker Nikki Finke reported that it was merely a new camera technology developed for Cameron’s upcoming “Avatar” 3-D extravaganza, not Cameron himself, that the agency will be repping. In true Finkean style, she can’t resist taking a swipe at Variety in the process, though I guess it might be earned in this case.

Sigourney Weaver* On a more pleasant and actually interesting note, we have some news about Sigourney Weaver‘s upcoming projects, after discussing her — well, actually, Ellen Ripley — topping Total Sci-Fi’s list of female science fiction icons yesterday. For one thing, I didn’t realize until now Ms. Weaver is one of the stars of the aforementioned “Avatar” (as is Will Harris’s talented Facebook buddy Dileep Rao).

But that’s far from all, JA at The Film Experience is waxing enthusiastic over her possible casting (it’s not truly confirmed yet, I gather) in another sci-fi film, of sorts. “Paul” is to be directed by Greg Mottola of “Superbad” and “Adventureland” and written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “Spaced” fame. Apparently the film has something to do with a couple of British comic book geeks (Pegg and Frost) traveling cross-country from Comic-Con who meet up with Seth Rogen — I gather possibly animated or CGI’d or something — as an alien named, naturally, Paul at Nevada’s Area 51 (at least that’s how SlashFilm’s Paul Sciretta has it). It will also feature Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, Jason Bateman and Kristen Wiig.

Sounds pretty good, but JA was also good enough to mention another comedy casting for Ms. Weaver, this in “You Again,” which will star Kristin Bell, a particular favorite over here. As JA points out, it will re-team the high talented, geek-friendly Bell with director Andy Fickman, who elicited one of her most interesting performances in “Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical” back in 2005. At the risk of going off on a bit of tangent (and, by the way, just happening to mention my lengthy 2007 blog post on Fickman’s entertaining, though highly imperfect, movie), did you know that the former Veronica Mars can, as the Western codgers say, sing purty?

Don’t worry, she gets a lot less wholesome later on

  

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