The Directors Guild of America nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in TV, Commercials and Documentary Films for its 69th annual DGA Awards have been unveiled. The list includes Matt and RossDuffer A.K.A. The Duffer Brothers for the extraordinary work on the Netflix smash hit Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers resurrected the visual storytelling styles of cinema from the 70’s and 80’s with their homage to the magical films from Steven Spielberg and novels by Stephen King.
The DGA nominees for Dramatic Series include:
THE DUFFER BROTHERS
Stranger Things, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” (Netflix)
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, “From the Ashes of Tragedy” (FX)
Westworld, “The Original” (HBO)
Game of Thrones, “The Battle of the Bastards” (HBO)
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, “The Race Card” (FX)
While I would love to see the Duffers win and I think they deserve all the awards for their work, I think Miguel Sapochnik will just barely edge them out as “The Battle of the Bastards” featured the greatest medieval battle sequence in the history of film and television.
Part of what made the Netflix original series Stranger Things such a smash hit when it debuted last summer was it’s appeal to audiences of all ages. It spoke to older generations who came up during the 70’s and 80’s, people who grew up during the 90’s raised on 80’s cinema, and even the youngest of today’s millennials. But when the series was originally conceived as what was then called “Montauk”, The Duffer Brothers had plans to make the show much less kid-friendly telling Vulture:
“The Eleven character, the kind of powers she has and to have a young protagonist that’s violent — it’s not E.T. It’s not a happy situation. She’s killing people, and brutally murdering them. The original pilot was much more violent. It was originally like an R-rated thing.”
“Winona’s character was like, ‘Eff this, eff that!’ It felt a little bit unnecessary. I don’t feel like we sacrificed anything by toning it down a little bit.”
The original pilot also featured the death of Barb but as we saw, the creators made the choice to push that back a bit and flesh her character out a little more before buying the farm. It’s a good thing they did because if they hadn’t, Barb (Shannon Purser) may have not become the beloved character she is today.
The final episode also included a longer, grosser version of when Chief Hopper (David Harbour) pulled the tentacle out of Will’s mouth but Netflix had the Duffers cut it shorter. The decision to scale back the violence and profanity was smart, however. I would have liked to see Winona Ryder drop a few f-bombs. It’s a nitpick, but one of my only complaints in the series (which I absolutely love) was when Joyce said “Screw you” to Dr. Brenner in the opening scene of the final episode. It didn’t feel genuine and interrupts me from suspending my disbelief in that moment, reminding me I’m watching a television show in the middle of having a magical experience like watching E.T. or Jurassic Park for the first time again. Here is this sick, twisted man who performs experiments on children asking her for help after her son has been taken by an interdimensional monster thanks to his research. Joyce should have lunged across the table and bit out his jugular.
The cast and the creative team behind the Netflix smash hit Stranger Things were in attendance at the BAFTA Tea Party as well as the Golden Globes this weekend. While everyone was careful not to reveal anything about the upcoming sequel season which will drop on Netflix later this year, we did get a few interesting tidbits regarding the follow-up.
Executive Producer and Director Shawn Levy reiterated what we’ve already heard while promising Stranger Things 2 will continue to deliver the same magical Spielberg-like storytelling established in the first season telling Vanity Fair:
“Season 2 is bigger and potentially darker in its stakes. The threat, which in Season 1 was to Will Byers, has grown. That’s all I’m going to say! But, I will say Season 2 has a bigger cast and is definitely loyal to the kind of magical storytelling that we established in the first season. It’s character-based and still about our core group of characters.”
Finn Wolfhard, the brilliant 14-year old actor behind Mike Wheeler, talked about the advantage the actors now have knowing who their characters are and how growing up a little bit since the first season is going to help them evolve in season two:
“Now that we’ve done a season, we know exactly about our characters. We are very conscious of them and can take them to the next level. I think we’ve grown up a little bit, and our characters have too. They have been through a lot and have used those experiences to help them grow and to be stronger in Season 2.”
Possibly the most interesting bit of information came from The Duffer Brothers themselves. While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, Matt Duffer revealed that one of the clues dropped in the announcement trailer for season two has changed:
“This is very cryptic but one of the clues in the teaser has changed because casting.”
My best guess is that the final episode of season two titled “The Lost Brother” is now “The Lost Sister” with the casting of Danish actress Linnea Berthelsen, who plays Roman: an emotionally damaged, magnetic young woman who suffered a great loss as a child. Although she does not live in Hawkins, she is mysteriously connected to the supernatural events at the lab. I’m probably wrong but my theory is that Roman was originally conceived of as a male character. Matt Duffer said the change came due to casting and other than “Mad Max”, “The Boy Who Came Back to Life”, and “The Pollywog”, there aren’t any other titles besides “The Lost Brother” that refer to a character. “The Pollywog” remains a mystery but it’s safe to say nothing has changed regarding the first two episode titles.
Stranger Things 2 picks up a year later in the fall of 1984 and will explore the consequences of Will Byers’ week spent in the upside down as well as the interdimensional portal which is still open at the Department of Energy. The characters are said to be struggling with the desire to return to a sense of normalcy and maybe the impossibility of it.
The series has added Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings), Paul Reiser (Aliens, Mad About You), Linnea Berthelsen, Dacre Montgomery (Power Rangers), broadway star Sadie Sink, and Brett Gelman (Jobs). You can check out descriptions of their characters here. The new characters are said to be compelling but first and foremost in service to the core group of characters introduced in season one.
Stranger Things 2 stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb Mclaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, and Noah Schnapp.
It’s happening! The creators of Stranger Things,The Duffer Brothers and Executive Producer Shawn Levy as well as the cast including Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McClaughlin, and Noah Schnapp are now live on Instagram and Facebook answering questions as part of a Q&A from today’s SAG screening.
Since the Netflix smash hit Stranger Things became a pop culture phenomenon, the creators of the series, The Duffer Brothers, have done their best to stay out of the spotlight and focus on the second season of the series set to debut later this year. Until now the Duffers have only done a few interviews including one with CBS, another at the White House, and a Samsung live event as well. Fans who are eager to hear more from the creators are in luck as later this afternoon, The Duffer Brothers along with the cast will be answering questions as part of a Q&A from today’s SAG screening.
I’ll have a link to the live stream up later today.
2016 was an incredible year for television. Between AMC, FX, HBO, and Netflix, there’s so much great television it’s impossible to catch everything but I did my best, only missing Atlanta and The Night Of as I was too obsessed with some of the other shows on this list. I also have personal issues with shows that feature flat cinematography and a lack of color so I’ll probably never get around to seeing The Night Of but thanks to the recent Netflix drama The OA, I got to see just how fantastic of an actor Riz Ahmed is because Rogue One clearly didn’t do him justice.
Now before I dive in I want to give an honorable mention to Better Call Saul. It was just barely edged out by number 5 on the list but I feel the need to express my love for the series which focuses on Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) back when he was Jimmy McGill, Esq. vying for the love and acceptance from his brother Chuck (Mike McKean). Being a prequel to Breaking Bad, it does a great job standing on its own as a completely different series. It took the first season to find its legs but quickly hit its stride early on in season two becoming one of the best shows on television. The series also features incredible performances from Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, and Patrick Fabian.
5. The Crown
The Crown is absolutely superb. The show manages to capture the reverence and majesty of the royal family with its tremendously talented cast, incredible direction and cinematography, breathtaking production and costume design, along with an epic score from Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams that captures the power and emotion of the choices made by Queen Elizabeth II. It is the most expensive television series produced in history due to its lavish sets and on-location shoots in the UK and Africa. The series also features exceptional performances delivered by Claire Foy and John Lithgow as Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill.
FX’s anthology series based on The Coen Brothers film Fargo returned for a second season that turned the clocks back to 1979 when a butcher’s wife has an accident that thrusts her and her husband into the middle of a mob war in the Midwestern United States. The series features standout performances from Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Patrick Wilson as well as a chilling performance from Bokeem Woodbine.
3. The Americans
The FX series The Americans has been the most under-appreciated show on Television since it’s debut back in 2013. The series follows a family of Russian spies posing as a Suburban American family living in Washington, DC. In the beginning, the series focused on the parents as their love for one another seemed challenged by a deteriorating loyalty to their homeland after becoming comfortable in the United States and wanting to keep their children away from their life of espionage. But as the series has gone on, their daughter has (spoiler alert) been brought into the fold per orders from “The Center”, fostering a level of tension that rivals that latter seasons of Breaking Bad. Living across the street from an FBI agent doesn’t make things any easier either.
2. Game of Thrones
The book series on which the show is based has the most incredibly realized milieu since J.R.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. What is most impressive is how it manages to pack so much in without feeling overstuffed. The writing on Game of Thrones is so great it makes the writing of most other shows on television look mediocre, even in one of its weakest seasons. The final two episodes of season 6 featured some of the most incredible filmmaking on television including the greatest medieval battle sequence brought to screen whether it be large or small. The final episode brought us the culmination of years of developing storylines with a sequence that hearkened back to Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather.
1. Stranger Things
As soon as Will (Noah Schnapp) rolled the dye and that warm and fuzzy synth kicked in, it was like the show reached out and grabbed me. I knew it was an homage to Spielberg but did this show actually possess that old movie magic on its own? By the time Will and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) were racing on their bikes there was no doubt that it absolutely did.
The Duffer Brothers managed to blend 80’s nostalgia into an exciting and heartfelt supernatural thriller. The series doesn’t just echo the classic films of the 80’s, it’s DNA is made up of them. What is most impressive might be how it all blends together into something unique and refreshing.
Stranger Things biggest strength is its characters. Winona Ryder and David Harbour lead the series with fantastic performances but the series’ core is the friendship between the group of children, most notably the connection between Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). A relationship that mirrors E.T. and Elliot without becoming a rehash.
Winona Ryder and David Harbour lead the series with fantastic performances but the series’ core is the friendship between the group of children, most notably the connection between Mike and Eleven. A relationship that mirrors E.T. and Elliot without becoming a rehash. Brown delivers an extraordinary performance that steals the show and your heart. She packs a powerful and emotional punch into every word she speaks and is able to express more emotion through her eyes than even most adult actors are capable of.
The series is thoroughly engaging from start to finish and spoke to all of my sensibilities as far as what I love about filmmaking and storytelling. From the directing to the music to the production design, StrangerThings captivates the mind and the heart taking you back to the simpler times of the 80’s when movies were hopeful and full of adventure.
12-year old superstar, Millie Bobby Brown has earned her first SAG nomination for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series for this past summer’s smash hit Stranger Things. Brown stole audience’s heart with her extraordinary performance when she channeled E.T. as Eleven, an abused telekinetic young girl who escaped from captivity to discover friendship, childhood, and love. Brown packs a powerful and emotional punch into every word she speaks. She is able to express more emotion through her eyes than even most adult actors are capable of.
Winona Ryder also scored a SAG nomination for best female actor in a drama series for Stranger Things with her harrowing performance as Joyce Byers, a mother whose child has gone missing and will stop at nothing to prove the supernatural force that took him exists.
The child led series has also been nominated for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series.
The Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning on Facebook Live and Netflix made the cut their two best series of the year.Both the superb The Crown and the smash hit Stranger Things have been nominated for Best Drama Series.
Along with the Best Drama nominations, Winona Ryder scored a nomination for Best Actress in a Television Drama for her harrowing performance in Stranger Things as Joyce Byers. Claire Foy has also been nominated for Best Actress in a Television Drama for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II.
More Stranger Things 2 set photos have landed on JustJared. The photos give us our first look at Brett Gelman who plays Murray Bauman, a disgraced journalist-turned-conspiracy theorist who is investigating a cold case in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. Bauman might just be the character the show needs to blow the lid off of the top-secret experiment gone wrong at the Hawkins national lab.
There are also more photos of the kids as well as some of everybody’s favorite cigarette smoking, beer drinking, pill popping, kid hating police chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour). Production is currently underway on the second episode of season two in Atlanta.
Production is currently underway on the sequel to this Summers smash hit series Stranger Things in Atlanta, GA. The second season has been teased as a bigger, darker, yet familiar continuation of the horror mystery sci-fi adventure that will inject action into the series with Aliens and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom cited as major influences. Stranger Things 2 continues the adventure a year later in the fall of 1984 as the Byers family and Will’s friends struggle to reclaim a sense of normalcy after the events of season one. Season two will explore the consequences of Will’s time in the upside down while dealing with the portal which remains open at the Department of Energy.
Thanks to the DailyMail, a few new set photos have hit the web revealing the kids back on their bikes on the streets of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. Another photo also reveals Lucas has his trusty binoculars from Vietnam on hand.