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Tag Archives: Keri Russell

2017 Emmy Nomination Acting Wish List

12 Jul

It is almost here! Emmy nomination day is tomorrow (Thursday, July 13) and as has become tradition here is a rundown of who I would love to see getting recognized by the Television Academy.

Every year this wish list keeps on growing and of course there are some repeat names featured. Some previous staples are not featured due to missing the window of eligibility including last year’s Best Actress in a Drama winner, Tatiana Maslany. Maslany is crushing this final season of Orphan Black and while it is unlikely, hopefully memories will last that long so she is included next year.

As with the 2016 wish list, I have split this into drama, mini-series and comedy and includes a mix of locks, first timers and outside bets. In this time of Peak TV there is no time to watch everything so if your fave is not included this might be why.

DramaKeri Russell and Matthew Rhys

Kicking off as I have done each of my previous wish lists with Americans leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. The big surprise of last year was not having to use the gif for when they didn’t nominated, as voters came on through by finally recognizing the incredible performances Russell and Rhys give on a weekly basis.

Season 5 of The Americans was more introspective as the action turned inward dealing with the toll of spy life and the things Rhys and Russell do with their faces when there is no/minimal dialogue constantly has me in awe. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for this pair of spies and a surprise wedding delivered a much needed romantic respite. Plus it is good to see a wedding with crowns that doesn’t end in murder. Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux (and the rest of The Leftovers cast)

As with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, the things Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux do with their face parts is astounding on every level. This final season of The Leftovers delivered the love story aspect I was hoping for and incredible performances we have come to expect from this exceptional cast. It is why this is the third year I have been hoping to see this show get recognized.

Carrie Coon gif at the ready for if/when it doesn’t.Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley 

Keeping with this theme of the best in face parts acting comes Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley in The Handmaid’s Tale. Both women crush it in their abilities to wear a mask and then revealing the real devastating emotion of the character. They are pretty much the reason why I sobbed my way through the finale.

Bonus shout out to Samira Wiley because season 4 of OITNB is the one that voters can nominate and she should def get one for once again turning me into a chin quiver wreck. Also her smile lights up the screen like no other.Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones 

A lot of TV makes me cry as you can tell from the previous entry, but I’m pretty sure that This is Us wins the prize for episode that made me ugly cry the most. Taking a break from the Pearson family drama to go on a road trip with Randall and his dying father William; “Memphis” showcases the talents of both Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones. Christine Baranski 

After the disappointing end of The Good Wife I wasn’t sure if I wanted more from this world. And then I remembered how much I love Diane Lockhart and how much fun this show could be without the Alicia baggage (looking at you Peter). And it is fun! Christine Baranski steps into the lead position and of course she is as amazing as Diane’s collection of fancy blazers and statement necklacesClaire Foy and Jared Harris

The Crown gives great Royal family dramz and even though Liz has to maintain a sense of decorum, it is very fun seeing throw stuff at husband when he is being terrible (my alt name for this show is Shut Up, Philip). Foy is great at both aspects and I’m throwing in Jared Harris into the nomination wish list hat for his impact in such a small amount of screen time. And yes he made me sob, which is maybe a prerequisite for a lot of this wish list.

Mini-SeriesBig Little Lies Cast – Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Reese Witherspoon

Months after and I am still thinking about Big Little Lies and I would love to see these women dominate the mini-series acting categories.

The scene at the top of the stairs in the finale is another great example of communicating with no words and the bonus Audrey Hepburn getup factor adds something to this scene. Also got to give them props for all the delicious gifs they have given us. Reactions for all scenarios.

BTW – I swear I am not basing this list on how much I use a gif from something, but if I did BLL would win every category. Even ones they can’t be nominated in.Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange 

Jessica Lange gets the showier part of the two in Feud and considering a lot of time is dedicated to whether Bette or Joan has the best material; it feels kinda meta talking about these performances in this way. Best dramatic use of a cigarette and sunglasses definitely goes to Susan Sarandon though. Carrie Coon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Season 3 of Fargo didn’t really come together until the last few episodes, but Carrie Coon had a great standout moment early in the season when she traveled to California as part of the investigation. She really does give fabulous hotel/motel staying.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead got to show off her survival skills once again (see both BrainDead and 10 Cloverfield Lane for more) and if it wasn’t for these two women I would’ve probably quit this season early on.

ComedyPhoebe Waller-Bridge 

One thread running through most of this comedy acting wish list is that the star(s) of the show is also the creator. This adds a personal element to the material, which I guess I am drawn to.

First up Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Fleabag, which delivered on smut, laughs, great lipstick and yep, you guessed it, tears. I am nothing if not consistent. Donald Glover and Zazie Beetz

Atlanta is like nothing else on TV right now and one example of this is the relationship between Earn and Van. Exes who go out for dinner – in an episode which showed just how difficult dinner out can be on a budget – sleep over and are raising a daughter together. The spotlight shines on Zazie Beetz in one of the episodes of this very good season; focusing on Van, her career and a drug test mishap. Issa Rae

Like I said, it is a really great year for the multi-hyphenates and Issa Rae’s Insecure is another strong example of this trend. Also giving another different perspective on relationships and the fuck ups we make along the way and Rae shines in the friendship aspects (even when they’re in a fight), career struggles and why a couch is sometimes much more than somewhere to sit and watch TV.Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe 

It might be because I have friends who are in Italy right now so Instagram is awash with great food and architecture pics or that season 2 of Master of None started here, but all I want to do is go to Italy and eat pasta right now.

Season 2 had Aziz Ansari mixing things up including a stellar episode about modern dating and the Thanksgiving spectacular that dealt with Denise’s coming out story based on Lena Waithe’s experiences.

One other standout moment was a scene in “The Dinner Party” that played to the entirety of Marc Almond’s “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” with Dev sitting in the back of the car. It was mesmerizing in ways I didn’t expect. Rachel Bloom

Songs of a different kind and I can’t tell you how often I get “Period Sex” stuck in my head.

Rachel Bloom once again gifts us with so many great tracks including “The Math of Love Triangles,” “So Maternal,” “We Tapped That Ass,” “Remember That We Suffered,” “It Was a Shit Show” and “Friendtopia.” And this season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend shattered the love triangle (miss you, Greg), explored love, friendships and took a deeper dive into Rebecca’s past. Lena Dunham and Matthew Rhys 

This season of Girls was definitely the strongest for Lena Dunham from an acting perspective with the scene between Hannah and Adam in the diner as the standout moment. Again everything that had to be said was done with a look and it was subtly moving.

The two-hander with Matthew Rhys was another highlight and the wolfish grin Rhys gives towards the episode after the incident is wonderfully terrifying. It would be great to see Rhys and Carrie Coon getting double nominations.Gina Rodriguez

Yeah I’m gonna talk about crying again and Jane the Virgin has always caused some waterworks on my end. Season 3 took it to new levels and Gina Rodriguez’s reactions to THAT phone call was especially devastating. But the show didn’t wallow in misery and it was good to see Rodriguez getting to play many different things with Jane this season. DeRon Horton 

While “Chapter V” (directed by Barry Jenkins) is the Dear White People episode standout, it is DeRon Horton as Lionel who gives the performance of the season. Lionel is super shy and trying to fit in; both things we have seen many times, but he is also coming to terms with his sexuality (including being attracted to his roommate) and he doesn’t feel like a character we have seen on TV before. This is important and Horton’s gives a nuanced take of a young black gay man. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney 

The messiness of Sharon and Rob’s relationship hits new heights in season 3 as they keep secrets from the other, giving both Horgan and Delaney new levels to play with. Yes this is another series that had me sobbing and laughing. Kleenex should probs sponsor this blog.

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Speak Singing the Spice Girls with Nicole Kidman, Riz Ahmed, Keri Russell and More

6 Jul

The August issue of W Magazine features a portfolio of some of the hottest stars from recent and forthcoming TV shows including Riz Ahmed, Nicole Kidman, Keri Russell, Claire Foy, Millie Bobby Brown and Milo Ventimiglia. So far they have released several video interviews from the various profiles that you can see below and today delivers this Spice Girls themed ‘Lyric Improv’ delight. This is in a similar vein to the Clueless speech version from film award season.

To give some context and to make you feel as old as I do right now, the song “Wannabe” was released in 1996 and Millie Bobby Brown was not born until 2004. I remember being at a friend’s 13th birthday sleepover just after this song had come out as we danced around her garden singing this song before settling down to the mandatory horror movie selection (that night included Candy Man and I still won’t say his name into the mirror). We were mostly into indie music (see anything Britpop/grunge), but on this night we let those pretenses drop and enjoyed this now pop music classic.

So yeah, now I’m feeling old and also this is why Claire Foy’s little bit in this video really speaks to me. Nicole Kidman has gone for an interesting choice of seductive tones for this song.

Also here is Riz:

And Nicole:

TV award season is my fave.

In this week’s work in other places, here is my love letter to all things Ruth Negga and Tulip on Preacher.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

9 Jun

Another busy week for “Out of the Box” featuring summer events, returning shows and Emmy campaigns. The latter already delivering on roundtable discussions bringing joy to my award season loving heart. There was also the CFDA Fashion Awards, which I covered here and June has started well on the fashion front. There was no Americans this week, but Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys did go to the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on Saturday and this event always delivers on sunglasses chic and splendid outfits.

Russell goes for another difficult striped Johanna Ortiz once again and once again she pulls it off in effortless style. Pairing it with a crisp white sleeveless shirt is the ideal balance and I’m also applauding the sandals, hat and shades. It is all very cute and seeing this pair outside of their concerned faces on The Americans is always welcome. In more good hat news at the polo is Priyanka Chopra and this whole look feels the most ’90s and I am here for it. Also we all know how happy polka dots make me, so this Altuzarra frock is an instant win.For more on polka dots look no further than Nicole Kidman in Alessandra Rich and this manages to be the most Nicole Kidman and perfect for this summer event.

Missed these dingdongs

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Orphan Black returns tomorrow (June 10) for its fifth and final season and let it be known that I am feeling a lot of things about this show ending. This cast is always a joy and also I see you retro Strokes tee. And now I’m also sad that I just referred to 2001 as retro.The Emmy FYC events they keep on coming and I love how different the Master of None cast style choices are. Aziz is giving great blazer game, Lena Waithe is continuing this week’s good hat theme and Angela Bassett is Angela Bassett. Stunning as ever.

Bassett also spoke to The Cut about For Your Sweetheart and also about the excellent Master of None Thanksgiving episode she appeared in:

“It was an important episode in terms of young people who are expressing themselves and their sexuality and their acceptance within family, community, or whatever the case may be. I was proud to be able to be a part of that dialogue and express it through art. [Lena and I] didn’t know each other before, but now I’m her mama. I mean her co-mama. I mean her second-in-line mama. All props to her actual mama, because she is a beautiful young lady. The woman that raised her has got to be stunning in her own right. I’m getting chills now, I love her so. It’s a wonderful friendship that emerged from that.”At the Dear White People Emmy FYC event Antoinette Robertson is looking the most ’90s in the best possible way. Extra points for going blue strappy sandals instead of the usual black.Rami gonna Rami (with a shout out to Ilaria) and he does it so well on the red carpet in the perfect example of smart/casual, wearing Burberry at a Mr Robot Emmy event.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

2 Jun

“Out of the Box” was on a break last week while I was away, which means I missed quite a lot of Cannes coverage – though not Top of the Lake – and so there is a little bit of overspill here.

Emmy campaign season has really kicked off now with more FYC events and The Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable series. So it is pretty much my favorite time of year. Plus various other events from the week, delivering sartorial delights.Kirsten Dunst in an outfit I would consider too good for a flight – hoodie all the way – but when you’re flying in for Cannes it makes sense to up the chic levels and this is doing that on a casual level. Leaning into a late ’70s angle (my fave style decade) and I pretty much want this whole ensemble. Also, hey Landry! At the Beguiled premiere there was a sense of gown coordination from Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst without being too matchy matchy. It has also come to my attention that other than the snuggling up daytime photocall posing, I am very much here for these arms raised shots from behind (more below).

Basically, Cannes is great for dramatic red carpet posing that would look a little ridiculous elsewhere.  And for the festival best besties I give you more coordination without appearing too coordinated and also at the Beguiled premiere.

Gwendoline Christie and Elisabeth Moss looked they were having the most fun together and I look forward to a lot more from this pair as they continue to promote Top of the Lake.In unsurprising news Isabelle Huppert looking cool as fuck in floaty florals and shades, at the Happy End daytime photocall. As you are probably more than aware, Twin Peaks is back and while she has yet to appear in the first four episodes, Laura Dern crushed it at the LA premiere in a slightly bonkers mixed texture/pattern Rodarte frock. As all Dale Cooper fans will know, Kyle MacLachlan can sure wear a suit.A glass of wine and a rooftop party in New York City sounds pretty perfect to me right now as I huddle over my computer in a very warm apartment.

At the People Book Expo 2017 celebration, Gabrielle Union and Janet Mock look fabulous in this setting serving up great daytime event style.

Workin this drab ass hallway during GLOW press like 💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻… #awomanswerkisneverdone

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You know I love a hotel corridor pose (see 50% of Elisabeth Moss’ Insta posts) and the Mad Men cast give great hotel corridor pose. Alison Brie continues this trend while promoting her new Netflix show Glow – which I am super excited for – in this very ’70s looking Bella Freud frock.Keri Russell loves a leather pant and after getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Russell changed up her outfit to something slightly more edgy for her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! I’m just thrilled to see The Leftovers cast look this happy as they pose at an Emmy FYC event and I am so not ready for the finale this weekend. There will be weepingSpeaking of Emmys and it is time to sound the Hollywood Reporter roundtable klaxon! Kicking off with a whole lot of handsome dudes in suits; mostly looking at you Riz, Sterling, Ewan and Jeffrey. What I am of course really waiting for is the drama actress outing (sorry guys) as this always delivers.

But there are some interesting conversations to be had here, particularly from Riz Ahmed, Sterling K. Brown and Jeffrey Wright as they discuss the importance of representation and being seen beyond stereotypes. Another pre-Emmy annual highlight from The Hollywood Reporter is the supporting actor class photo which features a mix of performers from comedy and drama. Notable style highlights here include the women in various shades of red – Samira Wiley, Aisha Hinds, Alison Wright, Ali Wong, Aubrey Plaza – patterned dress delights from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rose Byrne, and Insecure’s Jay Ellis being the number one dapper gentleman.

Scott Speedman Was a Disaster of a Boyfriend and Other Important Felicity Things

31 May

Yesterday Keri Russell received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was season 5 finale of The Americans and she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with former co-star and ex-boyfriend Scott Speedman. The two are still pretty tight, along with other Felicity co-star and former onscreen roommate Amanda Foreman aka Meghan and this pretty much ticks so many boxes. Not Meghan’s magical box, but those ones I talk about often on here (see the recent Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants reunion) about former co-stars still hanging out.

The back and forth banter between Russell and Speedman includes the fact that he was a disaster of a boyfriend with no real specifics, which considering how squirmy Speedman gets is probably a good thing for him.

Although he couldn’t have been too bad considering how tight they clearly still are. A Felicity reunion is quickly nixed and even though I’m a huge fan of the show I don’t need to see that unless Twilight Zone homages or time travel is at play.

The infamous haircut comes up (of course) and Russell also reveals that Speedman had no idea what ceremony he was actually attending.

The whole interview with both of them is delightful and earlier in the episode Keri Russell also reveals that she is going to appear on Running Wild with Bear Grylls and that IRL boyfriend (and on-screen husband) Matthew Rhys got an adorable gift for her that included some strong advice from her oldest son.

Rhys was also present at the Walk of Fame ceremony along with Americans co-stars Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich and co-showrunner Joel Fields. Felicity co-creators JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves also spoke at the ceremony.
This might be the first time that I’ve really liked a deconstructed shirt and Keri Russell looks fabulous in this striped Johanna Ortiz number and pairing it with flared Chloe pants works like a charm. The Rag & Bone full suit is great on Matthew Rhys and for the occasion. Expect to see more from The Americans pair with Emmy FYC events in the works.

The Americans 5.13 “The Soviet Division” Review: It’s Us

31 May

There are a couple of threads running through season five of The Americans that culminate in some big decision moments; first the idea of staying together and this applies to partnerships and the family unit as a whole. The other is the impact on the teenage characters of which this show has a number of extending way beyond just Paige and Henry.

In fact both of these threads have been important for some time now and back toward the end of season 3 I wrote about how teen girls rule the world on The Americans (they just don’t know it), but this has now been extended to several boy teens. Boy teens are typically ignored or just sit and wave (oh hey Chris Brody) on prestige dramas so this is going against the norm in making them integral.Let’s start with the scariest boy teen there is and if Elizabeth is trying to make Paige in her own image, well there’s already a spy version who is even more committed to the cause than even she is. Tuan is terrifying because like a lot of teens he has strong opinions and he’s also super impulsive. Yes his plan worked, but Pasha did almost die and they can’t ever know whether he would’ve survived if Philip hadn’t stomped over there.

He sees weakness in Philip and Elizabeth and he has the perfect one-liners to throw at them including their “certain petty [or petit] bourgeois concerns.” Those concerns on this occasion being whether a teenage boy is going to live or die. Not whether to get McDonald’s for dinner.Tuan admits his own weakness in his report and also points to Philip and Elizabeth’s failings, ‘failings’ which can be attributed to their experience and the fact that a) they have been working on multiple operations and b) they work as a pair. So despite Philip’s potentially rash choice to break protocol and head over to Pasha’s house while a CIA agent is posted outside, Elizabeth is by his side in an instant.

Early in the episode as they discuss Tuan, Philip notes how young he is and Elizabeth wishes she could take him with them back to the Soviet Union. Elizabeth sees a lot of herself in him and despite his hard exterior she knows that he needs someone. When she has her one-on-one chat with him after he has attempted to ream them out – the side eye Elizabeth gives is magnificent – Elizabeth points to his weakness.

Telling him he will fail if he stays by himself is a very on theme message for this episode and season as a whole. After all they were very young when they started this dangerous life and they have always had each other, even when they weren’t together together.I keep coming back to the conversation at the end of “Lotus 1-2-3” and the unifying statement Philip makes telling Elizabeth he can’t let her take over the whole thing because “It’s us,” but ultimately the point they come to by the end of the finale is that this is the path they are going to take. Kimmy’s dad has been promoted and he’s going to be the head of the Soviet Division.

This is the spy jackpot and everything they have been working towards; Philip considers getting rid of the tape and whether it is duty to country or knowing that he can’t lie to Elizabeth he refrains from doing this. I suspect it is more the latter and the ‘normal’ life they have been dreaming of disappears as soon as he tells her about the tape’s contents.

Family is important to Elizabeth and yet she is a soldier for her country first and there is no way she can leave now they have this goldmine opportunity. But hey this means Henry can go to boarding school now. Elizabeth understands why Philip yelled at their son in the same way she totally got it when he tore out the pages of Paige’s Bible; it is a culmination of so many things and fun dad is not always fun. Especially when he is slowly being ripped apart from all the shit they have to do.This brings me to another theme of the episode with Elizabeth’s reasoning as to why moving back home will be great “All of us together without all of this shit on our backs” and Stan telling Renee that he is “tired of feeling shitty.” They’re all at a crossroads and the parallels are hard to ignore; different sides, but the same awful side psychological side effects. They all have to manipulate and put other people’s lives on the line. People have got hurt and worse along the way and it is getting too much to handle.

Stan’s situation is also running concurrent to Oleg’s (who sadly does not appear in the finale) and they are both good agents trying to do the right thing. This is something Renee emphasizes to Stan as a reason why he should keep doing what he is doing and she is definitely a spy, right? Or the writers are throwing up another red herring.

Either way there is no confirmation about her status, but Philip remains suspicious and also has times for jokes pondering what it would be like if they ever had kids quipping that Paige thinks she has it bad.It is good that despite his soul being shattered into pieces, Philip can still see the dark humor in their dark situation but the pipe dream of getting away and living a happy life in Russia as a family is over by the end of this finale.

Also this fantasy of a happy life together back home is of course a fantasy because there is no way that Henry (and even Paige) would react well to this massive change. And it is not just their kids who would find it hard and as Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” plays we see Elizabeth looking at her wardrobe full of clothes and kitchen appliances. Their petty bourgeois concerns.

In fact this relates to a scene from season 2 after Philip bought the Camaro and he asked Elizabeth if there was anything that she liked about this life. She denied it at the time, but her wistful glances at her beautiful shoes tells another story. It would be a massive lifestyle shift for all and even when they’re talking about planning a European vacation as their cover there is an end of The Graduate like moment where they both look a little unsure about the course they have set for themselves.Ultimately this is all irrelevant by the end of the episode because they’re staying put and when Philip apologizes to his daughter about not having the normal things like a dog or a regular boyfriend across the street, it is because he already knows what his wife will say when he tells her about the tape. It is a heartbreaking scene for a number of reasons as he slowly welcomes his fate. There is no escaping this life.

Paige is embracing certain aspects and like Tuan she’s a risk taker; parking her car in the same place where she saw her mother spring into full on defense mode and this feels like a test. A test to see if she can defend herself or at least confront her fears about getting attacked. It is also pretty dumb. Later on she takes a smack to the mouth from her mother and she’s still got ways to go before she is as tough as her teacher. Although she takes it pretty well, this is very Elizabeth Jennings of her.Because Philip and Elizabeth lost their father’s at an early age, they both know what a loss like this can do and they are on the same side when it comes to this notion of keeping a family together. This is why they both fight for ensuring Alexei returns to Moscow with his wife and son. He’s too scared despite Tatiana’s earlier assurances and it looks like he will be staying behind. Part of their attempts at reversing his choice comes from guilt feelings at the things they have done – see Young Hee – and because they are tired of ruining so many lives. Philip’s concerns are impacting Elizabeth in this way.

One person who has seen positive growth since the spy world unknowingly entered her life is Kimmy and Philip as Jim emphasizes how much she has changed for the better when he reveals he is moving to Japan. Guessing Jim’s job is going to fall through now and if Elizabeth gets her way this will be the only operation Philip will be running from now on. The fact that Kimmy looked like she was going to get out of this whole mess better off, only to unknowingly become a bigger part of their scheme is pretty depressing. Can she remain unscathed? And will her friend ever get to Japan? Oleg and Mischa Jr. are absent this week, but there is one Russia thread that managed to shine a ray of light and not only is Martha’s Russian coming on, but they’re also making sure she isn’t alone as they’re giving her a super cute (or adorable) orphan girl. This feels like a good thing and after all it was what Martha wanted with Clark, but there’s also part of me wondering if there is something more insidious at play because intentions are rarely pure on this show.

So what about that big conversation at the end? In true Americans tradition the conversation itself is rather sedate and a quiet end to a mostly quiet and meditative season. If season 1 ended with Elizabeth telling Philip to come home in their native tongue then in this moment she is setting him free. It is still proclamation of “It’s us” but in telling Philip she will go it alone from now on she is doing her duty to both country and her marriage. Plus he’s still going to be some pretty important work (as well as running the travel agency) and if he can look a little less sad in season 6 well then that will be a victory for Elizabeth.

This being The Americans it is probably not going to be as simple as that and while this year has seen a less explosive season than one might expect for the penultimate outing getting to the point where Philip is bowing out while Elizabeth stays in is pretty huge. Especially as they’re doing it together. “It’s us.”

When Not to Make Jokes“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” This is from the news item Paige is watching (and Henry is oblivious to, because of course) and it also gives us a date in time around when this episode is set; August 11, 1984.

This shot is also an appropriate time to once again to give a shout out to the production design department for the Jennings family photos.

The Return of My Favorite Philip TopStill on the hunt for a retro Dunlop tee and Philip is once again taunting me with this perfect version.

 

Until next year and the final 10 episodes of The Americans. It has been a pleasure!

The Americans 5.12 “The World Council of Churches” Review: What’s In a Name?

24 May

Lines between make believe and reality are intrinsically blurred on The Americans because Philip and Elizabeth’s cover lives are so entwined with who they are and were that it’s impossible to separate the two at this point.Small acts of defiance such as getting married in secret, in a ceremony that used their original names is important to the series as a whole, not because it’s going to bring down the Berlin Wall or end the Cold War, but because it gives Philip and Elizabeth something that is actually theirs. Mikahil and Nadezhda are now really married and it doesn’t matter that their American marriage certificate isn’t legit. And now they have got from that point of brief contentment (because crowns and okay, commitment) to wanting to go home.

But it’s not as easy as that and while Claudia is surprisingly receptive to the idea, it’s their kids inherent Americanness that is ultimately going to be the issue. Maybe this is why Claudia is so receptive; she knows they have other things to consider and the journey home is long. Also, Philip continues his pattern of never sitting down at these meetings.Names come up on countless occasions; first when Paige asks about how they came by Jennings. They explain that Philip Jennings was a real person (as was Elizabeth’s maiden name) and the KGB take the names of real (and now deceased) people to strengthen their covers. This was how they cracked the Clark code and realized Martha’s husband was KGB. Philip admits that he misses his old name and there is a wistful tone when he says this. Wistful because this is the first time home has felt this close. 

But it is far from easy. They can talk all they want about what names they will go by when they return to Russia and the Jennings marriage has never been stronger – remember “it’s us” – but they are living in a fantasy land if they think that Paige and Henry will be fine with any of this. Sure Paige is adjusting to life as a junior spy and soon the weight of Pastor Tim (and the cross around her neck) will be gone, but she’s going to be just as alienated there as Pasha is in America. And Henry. Well Henry is another story as he’s got his hopes set on an entirely different dream. Seeing first hand what has happened to Pasha and the lengths Tuan is willing to go to when it comes to completing their mission is chilling. He’s just a teen in a Marty McFly like gilet and rotating pop culture tees (this week featuring Knightrider), but he might also be the most ruthless of them all. He’s the king of manipulation including convincing Pasha to slit his wrists as a way to get back home. He told him how to avoid the artery, but there is no guarantee. And this is why Philip (dressed as Brad) storms out of the house in a bid to stop this plan.

It doesn’t matter that this might jeopardize the entire op, because Philip has had enough of this shit and his parent brain kicks in. And when she catches up with him, Elizabeth is there to grab him by the hand and be all in this together. It’s all in their vows. Plus she’s got to make this surprise visit look more natural than it currently is.
With one episode left to go this season it looks like breaking point has well and truly been hit. And it’s only going to get worse.

Note – this week’s review is much shorter because I am traveling. Will be back to the usual essay length for the finale next week. 

The Americans 5.11 “Dyatkovo” Review: Paying for the Past

17 May

You can’t escape the past and season 5 of The Americans has constantly been looking back to explain the present. History repeats and this impact is felt on both a micro and macro level; individuals and organizations are at risk and real change is hard to implement. Especially when authorities have a different face/name and yet continue with their shady shit. Corruption seeps down to every level.

Post-WWII turmoil in Russia has been alluded to with Philip learning the truth about his father’s profession, Oleg finding out about his mother’s imprisonment and Gabriel discussing the work he did. You can make a new life, get a new name and yet the scars run deep. Memories threaten to bubble to the surface and ruin the facade of perfection that has been constructed.A seemingly unconnected operation to everything Philip and Elizabeth have been doing brings everything to a head in an unexpected way. In a sequence that is reminiscent of the equally brilliant “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip and Elizabeth interrogate someone the KGB believes killed their people for the Nazis in the occupied town of Dyatkovo. As this is The Americans this is not a simple case of good versus evil and first they must determine whether they have the right person.

Philip has to be sure that this isn’t a case of mistaken identity and early on the evidence they have isn’t particularly conclusive. The photo could be her, but this isn’t enough and Philip reinforces his point by mentioning the conversation they had earlier this season. He can no longer shoot first only to find out that they were wrong. It seems like a good marker, to be honest and Elizabeth is aware that he is close to breaking point; which is why she does what she does later on.Paying for the past is a complicated business and after some back and forth with Natalie about whether she is really Anna, she confesses. At first I thought this was a fake confession as a way to save her husband, but it turns out that she really did all the things she was accused of. But these were far from the actions of someone who took pleasure in committing these atrocities. This is one of Irina Dubova’s first acting credits and she is incredible in this role delivering pain, guilt and fear.

Natalie’s confession takes place in front of her husband with horrific details such as watching her family get shot and being forced to dig their graves. She was saved and she doesn’t know why, “nothing made sense.” And after this she did what she had to in order to survive – echoing what Oleg’s mother told him about prison – which included killing her own people. The first time she did it she was so drunk she could barely stand and all of this began when she was just 16. Elizabeth was 17 when she joined the KGB. And now Paige is at this age too. Too young to be embroiled in all of this.

This is The Americans doing what it does best; hitting us in the gut with the lack of options available. Before this moment Elizabeth calls Natalie a monster throwing back the word that Pastor Tim questioned whether they are. As I already mentioned this episode is reminiscent of “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” particularly the conversations Elizabeth has with Lois Smith’s Betty as she coerces her into taking too many pills. Betty also brings up this notion of Elizabeth being a bad person. In fact she calls her out on her “to make the world a better place” reasoning by saying that’s “what evil people tell themselves when they do evil things.”

This is the most Elizabeth has previously been effected by an on the job kill – I got super teary rewatching these scenes – and the whole thing with Natalie is enough for Elizabeth to make a huge decision; she wants to go home.When Philip hesitates in pulling the trigger, Elizabeth steps up as she said she would. It is an awful moment and even though it was clear they were never going to let them live – they’d seen their faces after all – there was part of me that hoped otherwise. It doesn’t matter that Natalie had made this new life where she was doing good, those actions of the past sealed her fate in the present. Even if she committed these war crimes in order to survive.

So what makes Elizabeth think they can just go home? Everything has been building to this point of quitting the spy biz in one way or another; it is getting too much for both of them. Philip is the one who has been showing the obvious signs of reaching his breaking point and despite his fractured psyche he’s in it for as long as Elizabeth is.

They don’t know the Soviet regime is also crumbling, but the misinformation regarding missions and how they keep pivoting away from doing good is having an impact. The virus sample they extracted, the sample that effectively killed both William and Hans has been weaponized and William’s legacy is having this version named after him. The exact opposite of what he would’ve wanted. They’re both fed up the honey traps and Pastor Tim’s scribblings have had an impact.Thankfully The Americans has never been concerned with the prestige TV trope of “we’re good people that did a bad thing” instead they are people who have done very bad things in the name of duty/country and feel conflict about it. It is why the wordless interactions between Philip and Elizabeth hold so much weight; everything is etched on their faces. Cue my “give Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys all the awards” broken record.

Philip right now is a giant exhale of sadness in human form and seemingly happy childhood memories are doing nothing to free him from the increasing worry lines on his face as they are tainted with the truth. Even something as mundane as watching TV and eating McDonalds with Tuan is far from freeing. He leaves his real son all preoccupied and happy to join his fake son only to have the past eat away at him. To him his father brought some light into his life and likely a lot of darkness and pain into others; is he getting a glimpse of how Henry will view memories of Philip in the future?

Processing other photos gives Philip reason to bring up Paige’s* motivation behind the whole diary reveal. They don’t come up with a definite answer, but Philip wonders if she wanted to see their reactions to reading what Pastor Tim had said about them.

*A Paige-less week, but you can read my thoughts on Paige and the use of horror on The Americans over at Collider

The lasting damage they are having on their children is hard to ignore and Philip has conceded in letting Henry go to boarding school if he gets in. This of course is all academic, if they do indeed decide to go home to Russia and there is no telling how either Paige or Henry will react to this bombshell. Because Paige sure as hell was not chill about the suggestion last season.Ah, Henry. Sweet, smart, oblivious Henry. Listening to his Walkman while doing homework, having a girlfriend and getting a guided tour at the FBI. The latter brings up another interesting point in Philip and Elizabeth’s basement convo about how Stan or the FBI is not getting Henry. They’re also pretty disparaging about Matthew. Way harsh, guys.

Henry does seem very interested in what Stan does at work and is fully delighted when he gets to meet Mail Robot. This is the appropriate reaction. Later on Henry reads Stan his paper that pretty and exclaims that working at the FBI sounds like the “best job in the world” and Stan is quick to inform him that this is far from the case. Way to crush young enthusiasm Stan, but he does his best to explain the big drawbacks and one of those is never being able to truly trust anyone. Not even your wife and kids. Across the street this is not the case and because Philip and Elizabeth have each other it makes this difficult world a tiny bit better. If only they could all retire to a secret island and live happily ever after.

Everyone is feeling the strain of their jobs, but Philip and Elizabeth have never been more in sync. Even when they don’t quite agree they have been finding middle ground recently. The secret wedding last week doubled down on their commitment to one another and maybe it really is time for this part of their life to be over. However, I can’t see the KGB agreeing to let some of their best deep cover operatives go without a fight. Especially when you factor in just how many operations they have in play right now.

And if they go on the run they could be the ones starring down the barrel of a gun in a few years time for being traitors. Talking of in sync and how they enter Natalie’s home ensnaring her in a terrifyingly efficient way; they catch their prey without a sound.Over in Russia, Oleg continues with his investigation and even though they find evidence against Lydia that could put her away for fifteen years she is steely as fuck when facing their questions. She notes that this is how their country runs and it is not going to change. She calls the KGB “high and mighty” and it is hard to have a good comeback when Oleg has his own fancy supermarket he gets to shop at because of who his father is.

Two episodes remain this season, twelve in total and with Elizabeth’s “I want to get out of here. We should just go. I mean it. Let’s go home” everything suddenly feels very much near the end. The sound you just heard was my stomach churning from dread and anticipation of what’s going to happen next.

Fun Spy Equipment The camera in the bag is a classic and I’m glad we got to see Elizabeth toting this tote.

Family Photos and Owl Lamps

Family pictures act of reminders and the Jennings house is littered with these happy memories. Once again I am so pleased they use photos that are neither photoshopped or production stills. Also that owl lamp always catches my eye in how perfect and pretty ugly it is. And thanks to Twin Peaks all I can think is this lamp is not what it seems.

Be sure to check out my essay over at Collider discussing the use of horror on The Americans including a deep dive into the Jennings House of Horrors and whether Paige is the ‘Final Girl.’

The Americans 5.10 “Darkroom” Review: Heavy Wears the Crown

10 May

Manipulation is one of the biggest weapons a spy has and to get someone to do exactly what you want without them even realizing it is an important skill to master. On The Americans we have seen different levels and techniques; pretty much every episode is a demonstration in how to assert some level of control over a situation to get the outcome they want.

At the start of “Darkroom” Tuan explains how he got the new group he’s hanging out with to put dog shit on Pasha’s locker and that he did it without them even realizing it. This comes just after Elizabeth has praised Tuan for how good he is at this work. A point of subtle manipulation in itself as this encouragement is to make him feel better after he strayed from the path last week by telling him he is special and she admires him.

In a way it is like a parent praising their child mirroring their cover story and Elizabeth also wants to maintain the good work he has been doing through positive reinforcement. One thing Elizabeth doesn’t do is bullshit him into thinking this life is going to get easier and she doesn’t go for the “it gets better” speechifying that she delivers to Evgheniya about Pasha. Instead she tells him that it won’t get easier, but he can be great at it. Plus they didn’t report him so he doesn’t have to be concerned about that aspect.

Calling something manipulation makes it sound calculated and underhand, which it quite often is on The Americans and yet there are times when certain things are done to protect. One such case is the potential path for Pastor Tim as it has become clear that his presence is doing more damage.

They never made it to EPCOT – The Americans version of the farm – and there is also the matter of the tape that Alice made when he went missing in Africa. It isn’t a simple case of sweeping him under the rug by a well timed car accident or faulty piece of electrical equipment at home. They know they would lose Paige forever if they went this route and we all know that Philip has had enough of killing.But something has to be done as Paige’s is teetering closer to the edge and finding entries in Pastor Tim’s diary about being worried about Paige’s soul is doing nothing to help their situation. This is a burden they don’t want to place on their daughter and while they have ops that run for years it doesn’t mean Paige should endure this challenge. The solution here is to get him sent far away and make it look like this job opportunity has nothing to do with them. And yet the damage might already be done by Pastor Tim’s private thoughts and what Philip and Elizabeth have put Paige through.

Pastor Tim was the reason why Paige asked the big questions in the first place and it is hard to see how even with all of their skills they could have avoided getting to this place. They can keep repeating to Paige all they want that Pastor Tim doesn’t know her and even if this is the case it doesn’t stop the weight of the words he has written down niggling away.

Paige takes a page (boom) out of her parents spy book and takes photos of his diary to help with picking what country to send him to, but also to show exactly what he has written about them. It isn’t a good look for the Jennings family as he questions whether they are monsters and suggests their actions are worse than the sexual abuse and affairs he has been witness to.This is a lot to take in under the red light of the makeshift darkroom, as the family develops these pictures together and Philip has already been having a hard time reconciling everything he has done and this includes the idea of bringing Paige into all of this. He has been reluctant from the off and Gabriel’s parting words further reinforced his fears. Elizabeth has always been the more optimistic and this mirrors how they both feel about the cause; Philip is far more pragmatic whereas she is the true believer.

Reactions are wordless in this scene and in a way it feels like that moment when the hero detective stumbles upon a serial killers murder wall. But instead they are finding out that they are the real villains of the piece.

Let’s not forget that Pastor Tim has seen Philip at his lowest ebb and scariest. This was a glimpse into the broken man Philip was in “Martial Eagle” after another innocent lost his life and this was before Pastor Tim even knew who the Jennings really were.  These comments in his diary use spiritual language and even though they are atheist and scoff at his protection from God, these words don’t have to be connected to religion.

Philip through EST is exploring aspects of himself and particularly his past that were buried and the principles are similar even if the methods and language is different. Even Elizabeth works through things while in disguise using real experiences to sell the fake one and while it never goes particularly deep she is still using it to help process emotions.Truth is the thing at stake and while Philip runs it intercuts with his EST meeting; we are all machines and we are mechanically programmed to respond to stimulus. Enlightenment is knowing truth. Pastor Tim is concerned that because of how big the deception was that Paige will never be able to trust anyone again and he actually has a point.

Earlier on in this episode, Philip and Elizabeth explain their loophole about this secret and lie as they only did it to protect their family. A family that only exists as part of their spy cover; it is something I keep returning to but there is no way to extrapolate one from the other and this is where real and fake merge on The Americans as the Jennings do not exist without the KGB.How do they make it real then?

Let’s go back to season one and a conversation between Philip and Elizabeth dressed as Clark and Jennifer in “The Oath.” This takes place just after Clark and Martha just got married and at this point Philip and Elizabeth are still separated with Elizabeth showing some early rare emotion:

“It was touching. No, it was. I didn’t expect it to be. You and I were never really married”
“No”
“It’s funny, I know they’re just words people say. Do you think things would’ve been different between us if we would have said them?”
“I don’t know”

A lot has happened since then and the cracks in Elizabeth’s super cool exterior have been slowly forming since and what better way to reinforce what is real than making it so. So much of their lives is performative and their relationship for a long time was part of this.

This hasn’t been the case for some time now and they are in a stronger place than ever before and this big romantic gesture by Philip does a couple of things; it solidifies what they already have and things are not going to get any easier for them professionally. In fact it looks like it is just going to get harder. It also gives them something real to hold onto as this ceremony is done in their native language and using their real names bringing in Gabriel’s Russian Orthodox priest contact.

Plus they get to wear crowns and boy do they look good in them. Philip and Elizabeth for Game of Thrones, please. Also a good place to tip my hat to Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as it is not often they get to play this level of contentment and happiness. It is a moment to breathe for both them and the audience – even though the pit of dread is never far away – and it is an incredibly tender scene. The whole thing is performed in Russian and despite the presence of religion, which Philip apologizes for, it is actually perfect. This ceremony provides a connection to their home and past while cementing their relationship in the present. It is a renewed commitment to each other before everything else.

Later they must return to their ‘real’ lives and their actual wedding bands get locked away in the laundry room cupboard of things from home. Ah yes the same room where Pastor Tim’s words are going to get burned into their brains.

Because there is also still Topeka and tai chi as the plant they got needs years of research. When Claudia tells them they have to continue working their honey traps they don’t say no with their words, but their body language speaks volumes about how unhappy they are at this prospect. Another reason to remind each other that it is this united front that matters.

Protecting family isn’t just a Philip/Elizabeth concern and it is what they are using to try and push Evgheniya back to Russia. Elizabeth tells her to fight for her family and as with the wrecking of Young Hee’s marriage (*sob*) last year it is extremely unpleasant (to put it mildly) what Pasha is being put through. For everything they are doing to their own daughter, psychologically they have destroyed so many people in ways that go beyond just killing. The trail of destruction is long all in the name of this Cold War. Just look at the dinner table scenario with Oleg; they have a lot to work through and instead no one is saying a word.After their double date – yes I want to see karaoke with these guys – Elizabeth asks Philip why he is so bothered by the notion that Renee might be one of them. For Philip it is a simple answer; he doesn’t want Stan to be like Martha. I think when Stan finds out the truth about their real identities it is going to be far more devastating but I appreciate his efforts to shield his friend.

To send Henry away to boarding school would be getting him as far away from any fallout and Paige fights her brother’s corner by suggesting it isn’t too late for him. She says that Henry is different and he knows what he wants; she’s right as well and I wonder if Pastor Tim’s words no matter how much they try to ignore them will have an impact on this decision. Sometimes protecting someone means sending them away.What “Darkroom” managed to do was somehow magnify the sense of infinite dread, but in a different way than before; this wasn’t about how broken Philip’s soul is and instead Paige becomes the focus again. Now she is stress cleaning and while this is better than stress sleeping in her closet it is far from good. It is also a nice callback to when Elizabeth made her clean the kitchen floor in the middle of the night. This time Elizabeth is highly concerned about this late night activity.

Philip and Elizabeth are already bound by vows made to their country and by making their marriage real at this late stage in the game it puts another point in the column for choosing family over ideology if push comes to shove. We already know Philip would defect in a heartbeat if Elizabeth was to say yes and while the motherland is why they fight it is becoming increasingly clear that all might not be as it seems. And by making their union real on every level it strengthens them in ways the KGB never can.

Fabulous ’80s Knitwear 

There’s a lot of great vintage sweaters on The Americans and this one reminds me of so many from my mother’s closet.

Retro Sportswear AppreciationYou know I am always down for period specific sportswear. Philip’s polyester zip up is no exception.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

5 May

Somehow it is May already and this month is a particularly busy one for TV and fashion. The first Monday in May is Met Gala day; it delivered in some respects and featured some of our TV faves. This month is also traditionally the time for season finales and upfronts (even if FX had theirs in April), but as the TV schedule has evolved there is now big new stuff coming every month. Or every week as it feels right now.

This week’s “Out of the Box” is another case of giving great daytime event style with all the pattern and color. The Hulu upfront dominates our sartorial picks and there’s also some Met Gala post-party runoff. Elisabeth Moss has been crushing it with her corridor outfit posing of late on Instagram and this is another case of the amazing eye of super stylist Karla Welch. Here she’s working the Hulu brunch in color block Ted Baker and you know that collar is right up my street.

Also if you haven’t done this already then check out Jada Yuan’s fabulous interview with Moss for NY Mag including some A+ jewelry buying advice from January Jones. The thing with events like this is they often give good wedding guest cocktail dress inspiration (as long as it isn’t too fancy) and this is ideal for this time of year. Case in point is Samira Wiley wearing a floral Carmen Marc Valvo frock and I’m glad she went with a colorful shoe too.Rounding out the Handmaid’s Tale cast is Alexis Bledel in pattern clashing Saloni Resort mixing flowers with polka dots. I love everything about this look right down to her purple strappy sandals and the short tuxedo style jacket.The Hulu bash had full foliage to pose in front of and this works wonders with all the summery fashion on display including Mindy Kaling in this Sachin & Babi gown. Now just get me a cocktail to enjoy.I love the drama of Mary Katrantzou dress and Michelle Monaghan – another Karla Welch client – is serving up plenty of that here. Casual is one of several shows returning this month (May 23) and Tara Lynne Barr’s colorful shorts go a long way in making me ignore how bland those sandals are. Great pedicure though. Kerry Washington was one of our Met Gala highlights (and someone who paid attention to the theme) and here she is the day after at the Bronx Children’s Museum Gala wearing striped Carolina Herrera.

This is giving me circus tent feelings and I mean that in the best possible way. All you need is Keri Russell in her Rag & Bone tails and we’ve got a theme.Speaking of which and as I have a fondness for a getting ready behind the scenes photo diary here is one from Keri Russell’s makeup artist Tina Turnbow for Coveteur

Giving a closeup of Russell’s incredible eyeliner and revealing that Matthew Rhys almost ended up with something similar. Also this is a very adorable shot. Now for a couple of outfit changes for the post-Met parties including Zendaya switching out one D&G incredible print for another. So much ladysuit love with this double-breasted sleeveless take.

And I just realized we’ll be getting a whole lot more Zendaya red carpet action soon with the Spider-Man promo tour.Bookending “Out of the Box” this week with more Karla Welch delights and Ruth Negga changed from ethereal Valentino into edgy leather Valentino. Negga is serving up great posing face whereas Dominic Cooper is giving slightly tipsy vibes. Having seen the amazing Mamma Mia! wrap party pictures this makes sense.

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