The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Liberal Hollywood gives a big Emmy bouquet to 'The Kennedys'

July 14, 2011 |  1:16 pm

Greg_kinnear The conservative blogosphere loves to weep and moan and gnash its teeth about la-la-liberal Hollywood thumbing its nose at right-wing America, whether it's in the form of showbiz types making fun of family values, discriminating against openly conservative actors or trashing the new Sarah Palin documentary "The Undefeated" (Rotten Tomatoes initially had the movie listed in the "fantasy and science fiction" category).

But what are Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood and its fellow conservative websites going to say now that the TV Academy has given a whopping 10 Emmy nominations to "The Kennedys," the miniseries from conservative "24" producer Joel Surnow? As you may recall, the show was unceremoniously booted from the History Channel after a host of liberal activists and historians complained about it being an inaccurate and ideologically biased portrayal of the Kennedy family. (The miniseries ended up being broadcast this spring on ReelzChannel.)

So far Big Hollywood is surprisingly silent, since it would have to engage in all sorts of Newt Gingrich-like verbal contortions to offer a whoop of victory without having to concede that all those liberals in the TV Academy were being surprisingly fair-minded when it came to showing some love for "The Kennedys."

The biggest winner in terms of Emmy nominations was, of course, HBO's much-acclaimed "Mildred Pierce" miniseries, which earned a staggering 21 nominations, including best actress for Kate Winslet and best director for Todd Haynes. The period drama, which offered an uncannily authentic retelling of the original James M. Cain novel, is just the latest example of the talent exodus from Hollywood filmmaking.

Haynes has been making evocative "Mildred Pierce"-style movies for years in the indie film world, but the financing for indie movies has become such a crapshoot that Haynes, like so many other filmmakers, was happy to defect to HBO, where directors are given extraordinary creative freedom and are protected from worries about their projects' box-office expectations.     

It's telling that HBO's other big drama series nomination came for "Boardwalk Empire," which was produced by Martin Scorsese, who surely realized that he couldn't possibly find a way to make such an ambitious period gangster drama as a feature film anymore, certainly not if he wanted someone as quirky as Steve Buscemi in the leading role. HBO also landed a best miniseries/made for television movie nomination for "Too Big to Fail," which was directed by Curtis Hanson, who despite his stellar track record as a feature director ("L.A. Confidential" and "8 Mile") has found it difficult to get work in today's comic-book crazed industry.

"Too Big to Fail" also provided plenty of screen time for the kind of dramatic actors (James Woods, William Hurt and John Heard) who are rarely seen today on the big screen, where good jobs for serious older actors are in short supply, unless you want a bit part in "Transformers" or -- if you're British -- enjoy hanging out around Hogwarts. 

So the Emmy nominations were cause for great celebration in many quarters -- the one glaring snub, as with the Oscars nominations earlier this year, being that the leading role drama nominations all went to white actors, except for Taraji P. Henson, who earned a nomination for her role in the made-for-TV movie "Taken From Me: The TIffany Rubin Story." But no one snubbed "The Kennedys," which goes to show that even in liberal Hollywood, if you make a controversial miniseries about a glamorous American family beset by tragedy, you can still smell the roses at Emmy time.


Television review: 'The Kennedys'

Politics and perception play roles in moving 'The Kennedys'

'The Kennedys' miniseries premiere sets ratings records for ReelzChannel

--Patrick Goldstein

Photo:  Greg Kinnear, right, as John F. Kennedy and Barry Pepper as Robert F. Kennedy in a scene from the Emmy-nominated miniseries "The Kennedys." Credit: Zak Cassar / Kennedys Productions/ReelzChannel