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Doc Corner: Emmy Awards Go to Meryl Streep, Ava DuVernay, and Somebody Close to an EGOT

Like sand through the hourglass, the Emmys gave out far too many trophies. I actually forgot that the television Academy’s ‘you’re not famous enough’ ceremony was on last weekend – because who wants to see RuPaul win an Emmy? Hello, anybody? Good call, Emmy! – and so my planned pre-Emmy focus on some of the documentary/non-fiction titles proved poorly timed. However, I thought we might look through the winners of the unfairly forgotten ceremony since at least in these categories, the voters are often forced to choose new winners every year. Meanwhile, the televised telecast could be a repeat and, truly, would anybody actually notice?

O.J.: Made in America, Meryl Streep, and which winner is just a Tony away from en EGOT after the jump.

I will be perfectly honest with you: I still don’t entirely understand how the Emmy documentary categories work. They split the top award for doc/non-fiction into “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series” and “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special”. Which makes enough sense, but then they throw in a special jury-awarded “Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking” award, which features nominees apparently not good enough for the Academy-wide voting body.

But then try and wrap your head around how Vice can appear in a category named “Outstanding Informational Series or Special”, while a movie that appeared on Vice (that would be Vice Special Report: A House Divided) can get its own citation in another category. Likewise, ESPN’s 30 For 30 is nominated for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series, yet OJ: Made in America doesn’t qualify as its own series except for in the Exceptional Merit category. Like everything else with the Emmys, this feels like a very complicated maze for categories they seem determined to prove nobody cares about (not a single one of these gets a primetime ceremony slot despite featuring bigger and bigger names.)

Okay, but what actually won? Well, did you know Common is now only a Tony Award away from an EGOT? It’s true! He has won several Grammys, an Oscar for Selma and now an Emmy for the original song “Letter to the Free” from Ava DuVernay’s 13th. That Oscar-nominated documentary also took home Best Writing and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special. DuVernay won a statue for both, but joining her (and three others) on stage for the latter was two-time Oscar-winning editor Angus Wall (The Social Network and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) who I guess helped produce 13th. The more you know!

In a twist of fate that only the Emmys elaborate categories and rules could facilitate, the big “is it TV or isn’t it?” debate around Ezra Edelman’s OJ: Made in America (and 13th for that matter, given it is a Netflix film) was not actually replicated at the industry’s TV award show. Edelman’s enthralling series, which controversially won the Oscar over DuVernay’s film, took home Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Picture Editing. It’s presumed inclusion in 30 for 30’s documentary series nomination couldn’t help that long-running ESPN series win. That category went to Planet Earth II, which also took the documentary cinematography award in a spread-the-wealth list of results.

That BBC series’ win also kept out Netflix’s much-buzzed The Keepers out of a win. The makers of that terrifying six-part tale of Catholic abuse might have a reason to gripe given The Jinx and Making a Murderer previously won here and – just between you and I – it’s better than both. Oh well.

Curiously, O.J.: Made in America also didn’t take home the Exceptional Merit category. That award went to Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin’s LA 92 from National Geographic. A surprise, surely, although a neat one considering the overlap of material. As I noted when reviewing Whose Streets several weeks ago, I haven’t seen this one due to location issues, but I am even more intrigued. It’s also worth asking if the film will be eligible for the Oscar - who can really keep up with eligibilities there? LA 92 also beat out one of my top five of the year, Barak Goodman’s Oklahoma City.

Other nominated films that we have reviewed here at Doc Corner include the messy Amanda Knox and the unadventurous The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years from Ron Howard, the latter of which won for its sound editing. And despite multiple nominations and the obvious emotional pull of Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens’ HBO doc went home empty handed (Fisher also lost her posthumous guest actress in a comedy bid).

And lastly, we may have been disappointed that the Emmy nominations were extremely light on nominations for Mark Harris’ fascinating doco-series Five Came Back (which we once pinged for Oscar glory before the Academy changed its rules in the wake of Made in America), but the Netflix miniseries did walk away from the weekend with a win for Meryl Streep’s narration. She has only ever lost once with the TV Academy and this year she beat out four men: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Ewan McGregor and Liev Schreiber (twice).

More Emmy talk here.

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Reader Comments (5)

I don't know why the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences even has Emmy rules when it's clear the organization winds up doing whatever the hell it wants anyway.

Common should team with Lin-Manuel Miranda if he truly wants to complete that EGOT. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Not doc related but re: Creative Arts Emmys. Stranger Things, Veep and Big Little Lies all won casting, which makes them the frontrunners for drama, comedy and limited series (Veep already was the frontrunner anyway).

I take this as a good sign that Nicole Kidman will indeed win that Emmy she so much deserves. Up until now I was assuming Jessica Lange would win. She still might, but with Sarandon nominated and BLL winning casting (thus, likely, limited series), I have more confidence than ever in Kidman. I also hope Alexander Skarsgård pulls off an upset in Supporting Actor.

And congratulations to Alexis Bledel for bucking years of precedent a winning Guest Drama Actress (she is WAY too young compared to previous winners in this category). Melissa McCarthy won Guest Comedy Actress so it was a big night for Gilmore Girls fans! :)

I can't imagine how they'd win Tonys (maybe as producers?), but I find it very appropriate that rappers should strive for EGOs, like Common did.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Carmen, and yet THE NIGHT OF won four tech awards. I've long suspected that was the spoiler for BLL in miniseries considering its about men.

September 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Who is Common?

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDerek Syllers

@ Glenn - That's a great point. BLL and ITNO are prob duking it out for limited series, but luckily for Kidman no leading ladies in ITNO to give her palpitations. xD

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

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