Exec producers: Halle Berry, Vincent Cirrincione, Shelby Stone, Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Cast: S. Epatha Merkerson, Marcus Carl Franklin, Jeffrey Wright
Millions of viewers: 1.8
Why it could win: It is a faithful adaptation of Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Obie-winning play.
Maybe not: With a predominantly African-American cast, it could suffer crossover blues and have limited appeal.
Quote: “What I especially like about the film is that it’s really set in this very heavy cultural point, right before desegregation, and so not only are you dealing with this child’s innocence and living with these people, but also of a period where we were losing our innocence, we were losing our communities, and Nanny kept her community together,” said Merkerson on “Tavis Smiley.”
Critically speaking: “Anchored by a penetrating performance from S. Epatha Merkerson as a surrogate mother-enforcer-counselor at a boarding house, HBO’s adaptation of Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s one-man stage show beams with color and the colorful,” says Phil Gallo, Variety.
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Exec producers: Freddy DeMann, George Faber, Charles Pattinson, David M. Thompson
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Charlize Theron, Emily Watson, John Lithgow
Millions of viewers: 1.3
Why it could win: It’s a daring and offbeat take on the life of a complex and underappreciated star, which might help it stand out.
Maybe not: Reviews were mixed and the film reveals the dark side of Sellers’ life, which might not sit well with voters who are fans of the man.
Quote: “It was the ride of my life. It was extraordinary because it covers all of his life. All kinds of curious elements of it. The ups and the downsides of his celebrity, curious personality and marriages. It was a wonderful thing to do,” said Rush to DVDTalk.com.
Critically speaking: “Director Stephen Hopkins’ nasty, brilliant and wondrously slippery film is less a portrait of a person than of the personae bursting from him like clock-sprung coils. It’s not so much an examination of art as a gleeful plunge into the artifice of moviemaking,” says Gillian Flynn, Entertainment Weekly.
The Office Special
Exec producers: Jon Plowman, Anil Gupta, Paul Lee
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis
Why it could win: The series has long been considered howlingly funny by people who get this brand of wry British humor.
Maybe not: Some people just don’t get it.
Quote: “If you want longevity in this career, one, you have to keep doing good stuff — that’s the most important thing — and two, keep out of the public eye. I mean, I’m sick of my big, fat face and I think I’m brilliant,” said Gervais to DVDTimes.com.
Critically speaking: “Even though ‘The Office’ specializes in what a friend of mine likes to call ‘cringe theater,’ and in almost unbearably melancholic tableaux of office life, the show is also ultimately very generous toward its characters and toward life. It’s a rare combination of genres: a scathing satire that’s also deeply moving without being sentimental,” says Dana Stevens, Slate.
Exec producers: Mark Gordon, Celia Costas
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Cynthia Nixon, Tim Blake Nelson
Millions of viewers: 1.7
Why it could win: It’s a first-class production based on an important figure in American history with acclaimed thesps, all of which makes it a safe pick.
Maybe not: With two other first-class HBO productions on the ballot, there’s a good chance the net’s movies might split the vote.
Quote: “I felt so close to her that I did feel like her a lot of the time. Particularly once you’re in the period clothes, the teeth, wig and all of that. But I think that Ken (Branagh) and I had an extremely warm relationship, and I think that really helped us a lot,” said Nixon to HBO.com.
Critically speaking: “Where other HBO movies this season have challenged, ‘Warm Springs’ encourages you to relax, safe in the knowledge that you’re turning your evening over to people who know exactly what they’re doing,” says Robert Bianco, USA Today.
The Wool Cap
Exec producers: Frances Croke Page, Elaine Frontain Bryant, David A. Rosemont
Cast: William H. Macy, Keke Palmer, Don Rickles
Millions of viewers: 4.2
Why it could win: Macy won for telepic “Door to Door” and there’s a deep affection for this type of work, where the disenfranchised are given equal footing.
Maybe not: Many in the Academy might not have a taste for schmaltz.
Quote: “I’d like to play the guy who looks like the Good Humor salesman, but when he leaves, the entire family is dead, including the pets,” said Macy to Time magazine.
Critically speaking: “Macy, who never says a word, is terrific, and the remake is better than the 1962 original, ‘Gigot,’ in which an oversize Jackie Gleason tried to be Charlie Chaplin by starring in a story, set in Paris, that he had written for himself,” says John Leonard, New York magazine.