Saturday, December 31, 2016

Catholic Skywalker Awards 2016 - BEST IN MOVIES

With 2016 coming to a close, it is time for us to choose what the best entertainment of the year was.  And just as the Academy Awards have their "Oscars", so too the Catholic Skywalker Awards have their "Kal-El's"

 I have gone through as many movies as possible this year. There were several that I missed and so was unable to place. 

Below are a list of movies that are NOT on this awards page because I had not gotten a chance to see them

Jason Bourne
X-Men: Apocalypse
The Legend of Tarzan
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Now You See Me 2
The Boss
Miracles from Heaven
Deepwater Horizon
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
The Shallows
Kubo and the Two Strings
How to Be Single
Office Christmas Party
Money Monster
Hell or High Water
Free State of Jones
Manchester by the Sea
God's Not Dead 2

So of the movies  I've seen this year, here are the winners:

(My appreciation and judgment of a film should not be taken as a recommendation. Choosing to watch any of these films is the reader's responsibility)


Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

There is no doubt that I am in the clear minority in my love for this movie.  And I can't think of a single other person I've read who would put this as their number one film of the year.  But I stand by this decision with any critical integrity I can muster.

In a conversation I had with my friend Rick O., we agreed that unlike even the best Marvel movies, the films of the DCEU are ABOUT something.  Man of Steel dealt with large issues of identity, family, and clashes of cultures.  Batman v. Superman deals with fallen human nature, man's place in the universe, God and the problem of pain, civil liberties vs. justice, trust vs. suspicion, and what it means to be really human.  And it tackles all of these things in a way that does not feel out of reach for a film that is based on the premise of two superheroes punching each other a lot.

I have watched and re-watched this film several times and it gets better with each viewing.  Even my original dislike for Jessie Eisnberg's choices for Lex have grown on me.  I can see in it now the toxic false-masculinity that fills the character.  He feels powerless so he lashes out at his objects of hate: Superman because he sees him as stand-in for the God he hates and Batman because he is a reminder of everything Lex could be but is too weak to be.

And I stand by all of my original observations about how this movie has the best cinematic Batman, how the visual spectacle is amazing, how it creates an epic scale in plot and theme, that it raises religious issues in a respectful and entertaining way, that its emotional core is primal and solid, that the performances are top-notch, and that this movie is ultimately a strong story about raising us from darkness into the light.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not just a great super hero movie.

It is a great movie!

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Hacksaw Ridge
Captain America: Civil War
The Accountant

Zack Snyder*- Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

My respect of Zack Snyder as a director increased greatly with this film, and I already held his talent in high regard.  As I wrote in my review for the film: "Man of Steel was very much an atypical Snyder film, with its hard lighting and non-stationary camera work in physical locations rather than green screen.  In Batman v. Superman, the director melts the Man of Steel aesthetic with sometime closer to what we've seen of him in 300 and Watchmen.  Surprisingly both styles blend very well.  I love the fact that Snyder forces his actors to put on real muscle bulk.  Even in the midst of fighting CGI monsters you always have a concrete sense of the heroes' strength.  The action sequences were high-octane, visually rich moments."  

On how he uses the camera I wrote: "But what director Zach Snyder skillfully does is keep the camera at street level as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) races through the chaos to his friends at the Metropolis' branch of Wayne Financial.  This scene is tense and harrowing.  Even though I saw it in the previews, the shot of Bruce running straight into the dust clouds still give me that visceral flashback to all the footage from 9/11.  And by keeping the camera at street level, Snyder visually sets up the contrast of perspectives between our main heroes:  Superman (Henry Cavill) is isolated from humanity because he is so far above and Batman is filled with fear and rage by all the damage felt below."

And all the while, Snyder never forgets to tell you the emotional story at the heart of this movie.  He succeeds brilliantly in Batman v. Superman where Gareth Edwards failed miserably in Rogue One: he tells the story visually.  This can be seen best at the end of the battle between our main characters and Superman says that oh-so-important name.  In that moment, Snyder shows the desperation in Clark's face, the confusion and vulnerability in Bruce's and his visual call-backs in that moment to the murder of Bruce's parents immediately put you into Bruce's head and heart space.  In that moment, all his childlike pain and rage come to him and he can see it all reflected in Clark's eyes.  And all of this is captured by how Snyder uses the camera to tell his story.
(*Snyder won a Best Director Kal El in 2007 for 300)

Michael Bay - 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Mel Gibson - Hacksaw Ridge
Joe and Anthony Russo - Captain America: Civil War
Damien Chazelle - La La Land

Ben Affleck - Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

As I wrote in my review: " I know I may get some hate for this, but Ben Affleck's Batman is the best representation of the comic book Batman I have ever seen on the big screen.  This is not a knock against Michael Keaton or Christian Bale.  But Affleck's Batman is a grizzled, war-scared veteran of the war on crime; he is a hulking wall of muscle that seethes with righteous rage, and he projects a sharp intelligence."

Watching it again, I picked up on even more.  Bruce is always wearing a mask even with those closest too him.  That is why the performance is so key so that we can see all those layers.  And Affleck never loses his performance when he's wearing a literal mask.  The moment he first sees Superman face-to-face, we see the fear in Affleck's eyes.  And this helps us understand so completely Batman's reaction to Superman, because he makes Batman feels something he doesn't usually feel: fear.  And while it is almost unthinkable to imagine Christian Bale smiling while in the bat outfit, Affleck's Batman smiles the smile of superiority that only a master strategist like Batman could pull off.  While Affleck's performance is not the showiest, it is the strong human heart that holds this great movie together.

John Krasinski - 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Ryan Reynolds - Deadpool
Chris Pratt - Passengers
Taron Egerton - Eddie the Eagle

Emma Stone** - La La Land

La La Land is a movie with a serious flaw.  But Emma Stone is not one of them.  One of the best things she does in this movie is show you the difference between her as an actress and her as a real person.  Most actors accomplish this by overacting when playing the character and then being more precise when being the "real" person.  But Stone does not take the easy way out here.  When she goes into "performance" mode, she does it with all the intensity of a real performance.  But she still gives us shining glimpses behind the curtain to the "real" person underneath.  Not an easy task, but she pulls it off marvelously.  On top of that, she is flawless in her dancing skills and takes her character to dramatic emotional arcs.  And all the while she uses her natural charisma and humor to bring us on her heartbreaking journey.
(**Stone won a Best Supporting Actress Kal-El in 2015 for Aloha)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead - 10 Cloverfield Lane
Amy Adams - Arrival
Amy Adams - Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Jennifer Lawrence - Passengers

Robert Downey Jr.*** - Captain America: Civil War

From my review of Captain America: Civil War"This is the best performance Downey Jr. has done as Tony Stark.  He has been funnier and more charming, but he has never been this intense.  You can feel his anxiety as he sees everything slowly slipping towards destruction and Downey Jr. makes you twist inside the way Tony does.  I really think he should (but won't) get an Oscar nomination for this."

Having re-watched this performance, I can see even more what Downey Jr. has done with the role.  He has taken the cumulative history of the character as he has been battered around in the last five movies and makes us feel those scars.  Tony has grown a conscience that is tearing him apart.  It is heartbreaking to watch his desperation as his shining dream of the Avengers begins to escape his grasp.  And when you can see how he hates himself for not being able to stop his attack on Captain America all the way to the end.
(*** Downey Jr. won a Best Supporting Actor Kal-El in 2008 for Tropic Thunder)

John Goodman - 10 Cloverfield Lane
Jon Berthnal - The Accountant
Dan Fogler - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Jai Courtney- Suicide Squad

Viola Davis**** - Suicide Squad

Davis won a Kal-El previously for her work in The Help.  In that movie, she made quiet virtue seem strong and appealing.  It is a testament to her range as an actress that she can play the cold-blooded Amanda Waller with that same believability.  You get the feeling that she could stare down Hannibal Lector until he blinked.  Calling her evil is too simple.  She is ruthless, but Davis fills her with an absolute sense of self-righteousness.  She knows that she does evil, but Davis shows us that she doesn't care because she thinks its for a good cause.  And when that tough exterior begins to crack, it serves to makes us feel the stakes she faces are insurmountable.  
(****Davis won a Best Actress Kal-El for 2011's The Help)

Haley Bennet- The Magnificent Seven
Alison Sudol - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Gaal Gadot- Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Keira Knightly - Collateral Beauty

Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

I have already written extensively about all of the wonderful thematic elements written into the movie Batman v. Superman.  But the execution of that incorporation is truly remarkable.  The symmetrical nature of the plot (look at the first and last moments of the story), the balance of action and drama, and the depth of character are fantastic.  The fantastic use of subtext in the first meet between Clark and Bruce is delicious.  And the script plays with contradictions as if they are completely natural.  I love how Lois says, "I'm trying to say thank you, I'm trying to say there's a cost."  Her gratitude and her dread mixed completely.  

And the story works so well because it gives you an unsolvable problem that has to be fixed: make Batman and Superman mortal enemies and then allies in a believable way.  Bruce's speech is key here: "He has the power to destroy the entire human race and if there is even a one percent chance then we have to take it as an absolute certainty."  But there is nothing that Superman could ever say that would remove that one percent (certainly not the words he see said with his foot on his throat, though that helped).  Instead, Superman does the only thing that could possible remove all doubt as to his love for the world.  And it is so explicitly Christological that it actually gives a wonderful cinematic reference to explain the Gospel.

Eric Heisserer- Arrival
Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick - Deadpool
Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle - 10 Cloverfield Lane
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely- Captain America: Civil War

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One is a wonderful technical achievement and no one does alien creatures like the Star Wars universe.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Captain America: Civil War


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Again, Rogue One used some fantastic special effects.  Though some complained about the use of CGI faces, I thought it was amazing.  And the space battles alone were worth the price of admission.

Doctor Strange
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Captain America: Civil War

Michael Giacchino***** – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Giacchino is, I think, one of the most gifted composers working today.  And if anyone is taking up the John Williams baton, I'm so glad its him.
(Giacchino won a 2009 Kal-El for Best Score for Up)

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
La La Land


"Audition" - La La Land

What makes this song work so well is that the melody pervades the entire film.  And it isn't until the final act that lyrics are given and they bring out so much of the film's emotional strength.


Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

The costume design, particularly for Batman and Wonder Woman were amazing.  I especially love how Batman's costume is the closest thing we've seen to the traditional navy and gray in the comics.

Doctor Strange
Captain America: Civil War
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Below are the list of all the films of 2016 that I have seen, ranked in order of excellence:

Absent Friends (repost)

On this night of New Year's Eve,
I do much very much believe
that we should try to make amends
and call to mind our absent friends.

A year has past and all the while
they stood with us in times of trial
and joy for what fortune sends
even though they be absent friends.

Yet pulled and torn from one another,
though loved as dear as sister, brother.
The bonds we make, life often rends,
and fills our lives with absent friends.

But friends, though distant, are always near
they live in minds and hearts most dear
in deeper ways than man comprehends
So raise a glass to our absent friends.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Farewell to the Fisher Princess

photo by Riccardo Ghilardi

I have just received news that the actress Carrie Fisher has died today.

Like most people I would imagine, my memories of Fischer are primarily of her as Princess Leia.  While this made her a film icon for all generations, I don't know how trapped she felt by the role.  Some like Harrison Ford ran away from it.  Others like Mark Hamill embraced it.  I think she may have done a bit of both.

Fisher was also a highly respected script doctor, someone who is called in to fix movie scripts in production.  She had a hand in films like Sister Act, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer.
On top of that she was born into Hollywood royalty being the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

I do not know if this would be a pleasing tribute to her, but to me she will always be Princess Leia.

Carrie Fisher was one of the first fictional characters to create in my mind the archetype of womanhood.  I was a bit too young for the more hormonal reaction that many had to her outfit from Return of the Jedi.  But even as a boy I understood that in the entire trilogy there was something unmistakably feminine about her.

At this point in my childhood, the princesses of storytelling were just "girl stuff."  But I connected to Leia as a person who wanted to share in the adventures.  Yet she was never "one of the guys."  She brought the much needed presence of womanhood to the story.  She was not like Han or Luke but she was every bit as important and as heroic.

Even when I was young, though I thought girls were "icky," I understood that there is a natural romantic connection between men and women.  And in what romance my tiny heart could understand, Leia was a part of that.

As a kid, I most identified with Luke Skywalker.  And the way his relationship to Leia is portrayed in Return of the Jedi had a profound impact on me.  As strange at it sounds with all that we know now, Leia appeared to be in a potential love triangle with Luke and Han.  But with the revelation of their sibling relationship, the intensity of their charity never ceased.  Luke's love for Leia was deep, but in no way romantic in that last film.  That movie showed my younger self in many ways that the deepest core of love is not in the passion of romance but in the selflessness of charity.

In that, Leia helped me look beyond girls as the "icky" other or the object of romantic interest.  Leia, like each woman, was a person who should be offered unselfish love.

That is the main legacy of Princess Leia to me.

And thus in my life it will be the main legacy of Carrie Fisher.

God rest her soul.

Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable 
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

What I like about a Mel Gibson war movie is that he brings both the horrors and the heroism of the battlefield come to life in a powerful way.

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a Seventh-Day Adventist who volunteers for the army during World War II.  But his strict moral code will not allow him to carry a weapon.  He wishes to serve as a medic, but he runs afoul of his superiors when he refuses the weapons part of his training.  Added to this are his overbearing, alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving) and his growing romance with a local nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer).  And his principles are put to the test when he is confronted with potential legal action in training and a ruthless enemy in war.

Director Mel Gibson once again delivers a visually and thematically powerful film.  He is one of the few directors that can incorporate overtly religious themes and images without it feeling ham-handed and preachy.  Most "Christian movies" fail because they choose preaching a message over telling a story.  Gibson knows that his job is to tell a story, but he does not shy away from using the whole world of Christian art, culture, and symbolism to tell that story.

And Hacksaw Ridge brings up the relationship between violence, war, relgious faith, and conscience in an incredibly thoughtful and emotional way.  Too often war movies gloss over the moral consequences of war, even if it is for the noblest of causes.  And Doss is challenged by fellow believers about his absolute non-violence.  It is a good reflection and meditation on how the believer should approach the taking of human life.

Another thing that the story does well that too few war movies do, is that they give the other soldiers in Doss' company distinct looks, names, and personalities.  I remember leaving movies like American Sniper and having a hard time remembering any soldier who was not Bradley Cooper.  But Hacksaw Ridge makes sure that we get to know the individual members of the group starting with Sgt. Howell (Vince Vaughn) who is both imposing and funny in his meanness.  Then there are others that Howell sarcasticlly nicknames like the vain Private Hollywood (Luke Pegler), the gaunt Private Ghoul (Goran D. Kleut), or the bully Private Idiot (Luke Bracey), and so on.  While these characters are supporting characters in the strict sense that they exist in the screenplay to move along Doss' journey, they are at least interesting enough that when the blood and bullets start flying, you feel real peril for them.

The biggest flaw in Hacksaw Ridge is that it feels like two different movies.  The first half is Doss' life and training in the army.  The second half is the battle at Hacksaw Ridge, a patch of land above the cliffed shores of Okinawa that the allies desperately need to take in its battle with Japan.  This wouldn't be as big of a problem except that the second half is far superior to the first.  The first half isn't bad, but the sheer visceral intensity of the second half had me on the edge of my seat.  While the first half does a great job of setting the emotional stakes, I can't help but feel that the battle scenes were cut a little short because of it.  And once all is said and done, the first half feels a little bit too soap opera-y in context of the whole film and its depiction of war.

And those scenes on the battlefield are some of the best I've seen since Saving Private Ryan.  Gibson pushes for bloody ultra violence in a way that does not glorify the violence but glorifies the courage of the men who face that violence.  And instead of only nameless, faceless soldiers flying into the arms of danger, you see characters that made you laugh and connect with enter genuine peril.  And the intensity doesn't relent for a long while.  It was incredible to not only watch Doss' bravery and compassion, but also his on-the-spot ingenuity to save not only his life, but the lives of others.  My mind reeled at his quick-thinking as I imagine myself only freezing in panic were I in his shoes.

The only other weaker point would be the performances.  None of them were bad, but they pushed a little too far.  Garfield played Doss with a quiet intensity that was powerful, but there was something about his accent that kept throwing me off.  And that issue with the accent is a real shame because everything else about his performance is spot-on.  Weaving also chewed the scenery a bit too much but was able to rein it in at the end.  This has been one of my favorite Vaughn performances in a while because it allowed him to stretch not only his comedic but dramatic skills.  Palmer does a nice job as the love interest, but is not given much else to do.  But I was really impressed with Bracey as Private Idiot who could have come off as a simple one-note bully, but is able to add layers under that stoic exterior.

Hacksaw Ridge is one of the better war movies I have seen.  The fact that these actors are portraying real men and women filled me with even more gratitude for that Greatest Generation and challenged me to think about how I contribute to the betterment of the world.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Film Flash: La La Land

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Could have been an instant classic but a fatal flaw ruins all the good will.

3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Catholic Skywalker Awards 2016 - BEST IN TELEVISION

With 2016 coming to a close, it is time for us to choose what the best entertainment of the year was.  And just as the Academy Awards have their "Oscars", so too the Catholic Skywalker Awards have their "Kal-El's"

To reiterate:  the reasons for choosing a Superman statue as it's award, and not something from Star Wars are 3-fold:

1.  The Catholic Skywalker Awards will cover movies, television, and comic books.  Superman is an icon for all three.
2.  The pose he has here, revealing his inner hero, is symbolic of the revelation of truth and beauty that we should find in all good art.
3.  It's a statue I actually own, so I can use this photo on my blog.

(My appreciation and judgment of a TV show should not be taken as a recommendation. Choosing to watch any of these films is the reader's responsibility)

And now we here at Catholic Skywalker would like to celebrate the best in Television this year.

There are a lot of wonderful programs out there that, unfortunately, time has not permitted me to see6.

Shows we watch:

Big Bang Theory
Son of Zorn
Kevin Can Wait
The Great Indoors
The Middle
Saturday Night Live
Brooklyn 99
The Jim Gaffigan Show

Legends of Tomorrow
Stranger Things
The Flash
Luke Cage
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Doctor Who
The Walking Dead
Pure Genius
This is Us
Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars

Best Drama:

Stranger Things

A friend of mine said of Stranger Things: "It's like they went back in time and filmed my life!"

Of course that doesn't mean that he was on the run from a shady goverment agency has he hid an escaped psychicly powered young girl whom he befriended (as far as I know).

What he meant was that this show captured the feel of what average life was like in this era.  It was a time when we weren't all connected electronically and we needed to go out into the woods to explore, play, and let our imaginations run wild.  A lot of period pieces capture the aesthetic, and Stranger Things does this wonderfully.  Not only that, but it captured the tone and spirit of that age.  And the show works on three levels to match the three different storylines.

1.  The Kids - I often marvel at the movie ET, to which Stranger Things has many connections.  But one of the things that amazes me is how much that movie captures the adventurous spirit of childhood.  ET only works with a child, because only a child would be open to the magic of ET.  The same is true of Stranger Things.  Only children would be open to the magic and danger that happens when they befriend Eleven.  The world is scary when you are a kid, but it is also fun and full of magic, and this part of the show captures that.

2.  The Teens - My least favorite part of the show captures the tone of all the classic '80's horror films.  These scenes were filmed with subtle differences to make the show feel like Freddy Kruger or Jason Vorhees could jump out at any moment.  And even in this, they played with the tropes, adding depth to characters in places you would never expect.

3.  The Adults - Like something straight out of a John Carpenter movie, the dark and strange world in which the adults inhabit is just as terrifying as the children's world.  But for some reason, their world is almost scarier because of the fact that they cannot see the wonder, only the danger.  This also took some nice and not-so-nice unexpected twists of character that I cannot wait to see play out next season.

Stranger Things isn't just a film about 80's movies and science fiction.  It feels like it is a product of that era.  And that is a big compliment.

-This is Us
-The Flash
-Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Best Comedy
The Middle

The thing that impresses me more than anything about this show is that now its eigth season, a time when most sitcoms are flagging, the show is better than ever.

The lives of the Hecks have never been more complicated.  Or better to say, their lives are messy.  The show is messy because life is messy.  And just when it looks like some kind of normalcy will enter the picture, things get flipped upside down.  

And this is still the one sit com on primetime television that I would be comfortable watching with anyone of any age.  At the same time the show still brings the laughs.  In fact, this season has had more laugh-out-loud moments than any season so far.  And all of the actors bring their A-game to the show.  On top of that, the show has been really playing out multi-episode arcs and milking them for some pretty good laughs.  This season has been particularly heart-wrenching and funny to watch how the family has been dealing with Axel's ditzy girlfriend, all culminating with an insane chase through a Christmas yard display.

If they keep this up, The Middle might works its way higher in the list of greatest sitcoms of all time.

The Big Bang Theory
The Simpsons
The Middle
The Goldbergs

Best Actor in a Drama
Peter Capaldi - Doctor Who

After the Doctor regenerates, it usually takes me about a season and a half to get to like the new Doctor.  And Peter Capaldi was no exception.

His first season suffered from the fact that it focused more on his companion Clara than on him.  But this season got things back on track.  And by the middle of this season, Capaldi's power as an actor was on full display.  In the episode, The Zygon Inversion, the Doctor has the humans and the shape-shifting Zygons facing off against each other giving each the ability to potentially genocide the other.  And Capaldi's speech is an amazing feat of acting.  He is alternately flippant, sincere, tragic, comic, cynical, and hopeful without anything ringing false

But what put him over the top was the episode Heaven Sent which is primarily an entire episode with just Capaldi.  And his work is riveting.  By the end, my heart was filled with all kinds of emotions.

And the episode The Husbands of River Song was one of the most delightful of the entire series.  And dare I say that Capaldi's chemistry with River was better than any other Doctor.  I have watched that finale scene over and over again and delighted in it every time.

Capaldi has at least one more season in him as the Doctor and I cannot wait to see what he will do next.

Charlie Cox - Daredevil
Grant Gustin - The Flash
Mike Colter - Luke Cage
Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead

Best Actress in a Drama
Lauren Graham - Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

It has been eight years since Lauren Graham inhabited the character of Lorelai Gilmore and she hasn't lost a single bit of the magic.

It would be simple to play Lorelai as simply the smart and sassy one.  But she is too layered and complicated for that.  Lorelai is constantly fighting her own worst enemy: herself.  She has never lost her rebellion from her childhood and because she hasn't been able to let it go she hasn't been able to embrace the real goodness in front of her.  Graham shows us the heartbreaking inability that Lorelai has to get beyond her parental issues.  It is infuriating and tragic.  All the while Lorelai cracks wise, but Graham shows us that her wit is her armor; she hides behind her clever words.  And this creates emotional distance to those closest to her.

And watching those walls break down is stunning.

But when she is finally able to get beyond all of that, Graham shows us not just with her words but with every tool in her acting arsenal.  Watching her react to Sutton Foster's heart-breaking ballad might be one of the most emotional things I've seen on TV this year.

I think that Lorelai Gilmore is one of the all-time great TV characters and that is largely thanks to the skill and talent of the great Lauren Graham.

Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things
Chrissy Metz- This is Us
Jenna Coleman - Doctor Who
Alexis Bledel - Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Best Supporting Actor, Drama
Jon Berthnal - Daredevil

There have been a number of actors who have played the role of Frank Castle aka The Punisher.  And some have been better than others, not all of them bad.  But Jon Berthnal's performance moves past them all.  And I will never forget what it was that locked me in to his interpretation: it was the way his character drank coffee.

As strange as it sounds, this was such an important key for me to unlock what Berthnal was doing.  For him, Castle was a man on a mission, yes.  But the pain, the anguish, the violence, and the death were all now just another day at the office.  This was a man for whom blood and pain were as commonplace as brushing his teeth or sipping a cup of coffee.

And Berthnal infused Castle with a quiet manly stoicism.  He made him sympathetic but always a little dangerous.  He could snap to the dark side at any moment because he hangs on that edge.  But Berthnal uses every look and gesture to draw you in with his charisma and break you with his pathos.  His monologue in the graveyard alone earns him this place on the list of best of the year: he holds back so much so that you can feel the emotion he isn't showing you.  Excellent performance.

Scott Patterson – Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Jesse L. Martin - The Flash
David Harbour- Stranger Things
Jeffrey Dean Morgan - The Walking Dead

Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Kelly Bishop - Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

One of the things that I have always greatly appreciated about Gilmore Girls is that they never turned Richard and Emily Gilmore into caricatures.  While their ways of high society were strange, even sometimes alien, the show always presented their common humanity.

And in this revival, Kelly Bishop has given her best performance as the character.  As the newly widowed Emily, Bishop gives a tour-de-force study in grief from a character that has spent her entire life exercising control of her emotions.  Emily is lost and doesn't know how to be lost.  Without Richard she has no pillar to lean on.  And when Lorelai rubs salt into that wound, Bishop shows us the pain percolating behind her refined exterior.

And Bishop also uses this exterior to extract some of the best laughs of the show.  The simple act of  walking around in a t-shirt and jeans is shocking because of the formal nature that Bishop has built up for Emily.

And it is her emotional journey during this revival that was the real heart of the show.  I have never cared more about Emily Gilmore because of Bishop.

Mandy Moore - This is Us
Emily Brett Rickard - Arrow
Deborah Ann Woll - Daredevil
Melissa McBride– The Walking Dead

Best Actor, Comedy
Neil Flynn - The Middle

Mike Heck has often been the silent, stoic member of the Heck clan.  And that in and of itself has not changed.  But Neil Flynn has a fantastic job this season of showing the funny and touching side of even the most stoic of fathers.

My favorite moment was the time when he tried to charm the bursar at Sue's college.  It was a goofy side to Flynn that we haven't really seen.  And the juxtaposition of this performance to the rest of his interpretation of Mike is hilarious.  

And at the same time, Flynn brought even more depth to Mike.  His frustration after the bursar scene is palpable and then when he simply says, "I'm your dad, I should know how to fix this and I don't know how," is heartbreaking.  So far this year, Neil has done some of his best work on television.

Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Johnny Galecki - The Big Bang Theory
Kevin James - Kevin Can Wait
Jeff Garlin - The Goldbergs

Best Actress, Comedy
Patricia Heaton - The Middle

Frankie Heck is one of the most infuriating mothers on TV because she embodies all the foibles of suburban moms.  She is constantly a person who thinks the grass is always greener on the other side.  She builds up family events in her head more than they should.  And she never gives 100% of her effort to anything.  

And what makes Heaton's performance so wonderful is that despite all of this, we love her.  She gives Frankie a real relatable heart.  All of her faults are only exaggerated versions of the faults that most of us lower-middle class Americans experience.  

And unlike her character on Everybody Loves Raymond, Heaton has wild mood swings and is the unstable one in the family.  This season has been particularly fun watching her twist inside as she seethes about Axel's dim-witted girlfriend and then ride the emotional seesaw of her fractured relationship with him.

At a time when many actors in sitcoms begin phoning in their performances (I'm looking at you Jason Segel in How I Met Your Mother), Heaton is just hitting the gas.

Wendy McLendon-Covey – The Goldbergs
Kaley Cuoco – The Big Bang Theory
Cheryl Hines - Son of Zorn
Melissa Fumeto - Brooklyn 99

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
Kunal Nayar - The Big Bang Theory

Raj is infuriating and pathetic.  We should either abandon him to pity or disdain him.  But Nayar makes us see his vulnerable side and exploit it for laughs.  Watching him try to juggle a relationship between two attractive women until it ultimately blows up was like watching a slow train wreck, all the while Nayar turns a slow-motion tragedy into a hilarious piece of television.

Stephen Fry - The Great Indoors
Tim Meadows - Son of Zorn
Terry Crews - Brooklyn 99
Simon Helberg - The Big Bang Theory

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy
Eden Sher - The Middle

Sue Heck in college is one of the most delightfully dorky things to watch.  The cynicism of college life is hard to overlook and yet Sue brings her adorkable spirit to even the most disaffected corners of college.

Sher makes sure to give Sue an innocence without her coming off as stupid.  On top of that, she has become a brilliant physical comic who uses her entire body to sell a joke.

And she also has shown some touching range.  One of my favorite moments in the entire series is when she reaches over to her best friend Brad and says with a reassuring smile, "I know."  It was simple, subtle, and heart-warming in the way that Sher has done for years as Sue.

Haley Orrantia - The Goldbergs
Melissa Rauch - The Big Bang Theory
Chelsea Peretti - Brooklyn 99
Mayim Bialik - The Big Bang Theory

Stay tuned next week for the CatholicSkywalker Awards for Best Movies of 2016