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It’s impossible to have a unified “take” (hot or otherwise) on the Emmy nominations. Anyone who says differently is lying or deluded. This year’s nominations are not only good or only bad, only surprising or only disappointing. Some of the biggest “disappointments” can be read as disappointments only if you expected the Academy would radically alter its modus operandi this year. Some of the biggest pleasant surprises are probably more accidental than intentional. As with every year, the Emmy nominations are a list to be plundered, commented upon, regarded from a safe distance and with a reasonable proportion of salt grains.
With that perspective in mind, here’s a list of my thoughts on the Emmy nominations, in no particular order and with varying degrees of sophistication and seriousness. (And here’s my list from yesterday of wish-list nominees. A few made it to the actual list!)
When was the last time you saw a movie set in the Midwest?
Think about that question for a minute, and you’ll realize that the answer is, “Quite a long time ago” or “Very rarely.” Even though movies have the freedom to explore every corner of the known world (not to mention the unknown ones), Hollywood productions rarely take up issues of the heartland. And when they do, they often do so in a simplistic, stereotypical way, emphasizing the wackadoo accents and aw-shucks sincerity without searching for some humanity beneath the superficial.
Alexander Payne’s Nebraska doesn’t entirely avoid those stereotypes, nor does it pretend to – its principle actors adopt accents that could only be described as Midwestern. What elevates this film beyond generic depictions of the Midwest is its willingness to see beyond the stereotypes. Payne and screenwriter Bob Nelson observe the oddly confining vastness of the “amber waves of grain,” capturing the claustrophobia that comes with being so small in a world so large. At the same time, this is a touching film about relationships between fathers and sons and a grimly amusing commentary on the challenges of timelessness.