Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
Colin Firth, The Staircase
Michael Keaton, Dopesick
Andrew Garfield, Under the Banner of Heaven
Himesh Patel, Station Eleven
Oscar Isaac, Scenes From a Marriage
Sebastian Stan, Pam & Tommy
One of my favorite books of the last few years is Station Eleven. It’s such an incredible piece of literature, I almost reread it as soon as I finished it. When I heard they were turning it into a miniseries, I was thrilled, because the story was so rich with possibilities, I thought there was no way they could screw it up.
Well, they didn’t, but they didn’t hit it out of the park, either. Still, Himesh Patel, who was so enjoyable in Yesterday a few years back, did splendid work as lead character Jeevan Chaudhary, and did a great job bringing to life a character I so loved on the page. He won’t win this, but the nomination is his reward.
Same goes for Oscar Isaac, who was great in a series I didn’t much like, and the fact that costar Jessica Chastain wasn’t nominated tells me that most other people agreed. Isaac is a star, and I tend to think he got this based on that star power. Taking nothing away from him or his work here, there’s little about it that screams winner to me. Same goes for Colin Firth in The Staircase. He’s great, the show was good, but … meh.
Sebastian Stan is an actor who has been in a few good things, but I keep waiting for him to do something where I say, “Wow, he’s the real deal.” I think his performance as Tommy Lee in Pam & Tommy comes close, but doesn’t quite get there. Not like Lily James does in the other lead role. Still, the work here is good, and he deserves the nod, but that’s as far as it goes.
I don’t know when I decided that Andrew Garfield is the best actor of his particular generation, but it definitely occurred to me as I was watching Under the Banner of Heaven that I had felt this way for a while, I just couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment I decided it. Certainly I knew it with last year’s tick, tick … BOOM!, and with Spider-Man: No Way Home, too. It probably goes back to Hacksaw Ridge, or thereabouts. The man is just such a pleasure to watch in everything he does, it’s amazing to me he hasn’t won an Oscar or Emmy yet. But he will. He most definitely will.
Unfortunately, it’s not going to be this year, because Michael Keaton is transcendent in Dopesick. As a small town Appalachia doctor who prescribes opioids thinking it’s a miracle drug, sees his patients become addicts, and then becomes one himself, Keaton is astonishing. He’s been a very good actor for a very long time, but only recently, in his 60s and 70s, has he found the acclaim I think he deserved 30-plus years ago. The gravitas and power he brings to every role is palpable, and perhaps never more so than in this one. It’s a titanic achievement, and if he doesn’t win, then I don’t understand anything about anything.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Michael Keaton
WHO WILL WIN: Michael Keaton
Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
Toni Collette, The Staircase
Julia Garner, Inventing Anna
Lily James, Pam & Tommy
Sarah Paulson, Impeachment: American Crime Story
Margaret Qualley, Maid
Amanda Seyfried, The Dropout
There are 12 different acting categories for the Emmys, if we don’t include Guest Actor and Actress in the Comedy and Drama categories. In 11 of those categories, I think it comes down to either one person who is running away with it, or a genuine race between two contenders. In only one could any number of nominees actually take the top prize.
Welcome to that category.
Setting aside Maid‘s Margaret Qualley and The Staircase’s Toni Collette, both of whom are phenomenally talented and deserve their place here even though they have no chance of winning, literally any of these other four actresses could hear their name called on Emmy night, so let’s talk about whose will be read off an envelope, and why.
Julia Garner is also nominated for her great work on Ozark, but we’ll talk about that in due time. Her performance as con woman Anna Delvey in Inventing Anna is sublime. As infuriating as the character is, Garner does what she always does, which is to bring depth and charm to someone we shouldn’t necessarily like. She’s really good at it, and as abrasive as her Ruth is on Ozark, multiply that by 10 and you have Anna. It’s really something, and I think she has a good chance to win this award.
But then, so does Sarah Paulson, for playing Linda Tripp on Impeachment: American Crime Story. Paulson is better than just about anyone at disappearing into a role, and she does that here in spades. Tripp is, in my mind, one of the more execrable people to enter public life over the last three decades. She destroyed Monica Lewinsky because Tripp hated Bill Clinton. There is no defending her, and yet, Paulson gives us another side of her that almost had me thinking perhaps she wasn’t so bad. It didn’t, but the fact that I wavered at all? That’s pretty good acting.
Speaking of disappearing into a role, Lily James’ Pamela Anderson in Pam & Tommy is really incredible. I know Sebastian Stan is getting a lot of credit for his Tommy Lee (and more about that in the Best Actor entry), but James is really spectacular as the blonde bombshell whose life was turned upside down because she was famous and someone stole something personal and private from her. Most of the time when an actor plays someone famous, it comes off as an impersonation, rather than a performance. Not so here, as James gives us an interpretation of Anderson, without making us think she’s just trying to imitate her. I was enthralled by it, and I don’t enthrall easily.
And yet, I really think the best of the bunch is Amanda Seyfried’s Elizabeth Holmes. Seyfried has pretty much come of age on screen, and in the process has become a pretty amazing actress. She earned an Oscar nomination last year for her work in Mank, and now has her first acting Emmy nod for this. It’s easy to say this is the best thing she’s ever done, but the work really does back it up.
Like I said, it could be any of them. My vote would be for Seyfried, though I tend to think the Academy will lean toward Paulson, who has won once before and been nominated seven other times. But don’t be surprised if it’s James or Garner, either.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Amanda Seyfried
WHO WILL WIN: Sarah Paulson
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