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‘Fargo’ or ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’? You Have to Pick a Side: IndieWire Emmys Endorsements (Limited Series)

Dear Emmy voters: If you have any doubts over who to vote for this season, let us make the case for these fine series, performers and creators.

Fargo v People v OJ limited series


Limited Series

“American Crime”
“The Night Manager”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

IndieWire’s Vote: “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

As the great Ed Harris once said, “You gotta take a side.” And this year, you’ve got to choose between “The People v. O.J. Simpson” and “Fargo.” Sure, “The Night Manager” was a solid throwback thriller and “Roots” justified its reimagining with one helluva run (while “American Crime” remains a dangerously misguided acting exercise), but these two standout entries would be easy choices if they weren’t competing against each other. Noah Hawley’s second season was even bolder than his first, but we’ve got to stick with our TCA pals and back “The People.” Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski’s anthology did what many deemed impossible by making O.J. relevant again, and the craft applied to recreating this story was impeccable throughout. Between two period projects, only one speaks to the moment — even if they both spoke beautifully.

READ MORE: Why Julia Louis-Dreyfus Deserves Her Fifth ‘Veep’ Emmy: IndieWire’s Emmys Endorsements (Comedy)

TV Movies

A Very Murray Christmas George Clooney Miley Cyrus

“A Very Murray Christmas”
“All The Way”
“Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”

IndieWire’s Vote: “A Very Murray Christmas”

We’ve made no bones about our admiration for Sofia Coppola’s Netflix holiday film, just as we’ve noted our skepticism regarding a few other projects on this list. Frankly, “A Very Murray Christmas” is the only movie nominated that stuck with us for longer than a few days after watching, as well as the only entry we’d want to return to, year after year. The smokescreen that is Christmas may distract people from this earnest engagement between Bill Murray and his audience, but Coppola’s lens never fails to paint the picture in its many, many shades. Sure, it’s a bit sad for the holidays, but people get sad during the holidays. And this isn’t just to be watched then.

READ MORE: Why the Emmys Should Crown ‘The Americans,’ Not ‘Game of Thrones’: IndieWire’s Emmy Endorsements (Drama)

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Sarah Paulson v. Kirsten Dunst - actress

Kirsten Dunst, “Fargo”
Felicity Huffman, “American Crime’
Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grille”
Sarah Paulson, “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Lili Taylor, “American Crime”
Kerry Washington, “Confirmation”

IndieWire’s Vote: Kirsten Dunst, “Fargo”

Perhaps it’s because if there’s any lock in these categories, it’s Sarah Paulson winning Lead Actress. Or perhaps it’s because as much as both actresses deserve the trophy, only one still hasn’t ascended to the ranks of “awards darling” just yet. Or perhaps it’s simply because when, gun to our head, we’d choose Dunst’s wholly original, range-proving, and downright addictive performance as Peggy Blumquist on “Fargo” over Paulson’s admirable, weighty depiction of Marcia Clark in “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Not to discredit her work at all, but Paulson was perfectly cast as Clark and brought much of her previously seen talents to the part. Dunst was eye-opening as Peggy, not because we doubted her capabilities, but because the character was limitless — bouncing between the stereotypical MidWestern housewife to a murderous, rage-filled sociopath. Moreover, Dunst’s work was so grounded in the idea that Peggy was a long-suffering symbol of her era — it’s amazing how personal and specific the character came off.

READ MORE: Marcia Clark and Sarah Paulson Compare Notes: O.J. Simpson, Hair, Feminism and Curse Words

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

THE PEOPLE v. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY “The “Verdict” Episode 110 (Airs Tuesday, April 5, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

Bryan Cranston, “All The Way”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”
Idris Elba, “Luther”
Cuba Gooding Jr., “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Tom Hiddleston, “The Night Manager”
Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

IndieWire’s Vote: Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

How does one vote against Bryan Cranston? Well, what felt previously unimaginable (unless you joined the McConaissance during the “True Detective” v. “Breaking Bad” battle of 2014), now seems damn near mandatory. That’s how impressive Courtney B. Vance was as Johnnie Cochran in “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” It’s fitting, too, considering Vance’s portrayal of a lawyer so overly spoofed, a sincere portrayal was impossible to imagine — until he did it. Vance gave Cochran the three-dimensionality no one else could, finding truth in a man long depicted solely as a showman. Give him the gold.

READ MORE: How to Build a Contender: The Winning Formula for ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’

Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie

Olivia Colman as Angela Burr; single - The Night Manager _ Season 1, Episode 6

Melissa Leo, “All The Way”
Regina King, “American Crime”
Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Hotel”
Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Hotel”
Jean Smart, “Fargo”
Olivia Colman, “The Night Manager”

IndieWire’s Vote: Olivia Colman, “The Night Manager”

We. Love. Olivia. Colman. The “Broadchurch” veteran has had our hearts for a while now, but she truly knocked us back in “The Night Manager.” Colman ramped it up in a few key scenes, elevating her character far beyond your standard handler and making us invest equal attention in Colman’s pet owner in the cat-and-mouse metaphor dominating the series. It’s rare an actor can truly tower over everyone and everything else in a scene without chewing scenery, but Colman pulled it off and then some.

READ MORE: Supporting Actor/Actress Predictions and TCA Roundup — Screen Talk, Emmys Edition

Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie

Sterling K. Brown v. Hugh Laurie - supporting actor

Jesse Plemons, “Fargo”
Bokeem Woodbine, “Fargo”
Hugh Laurie, “The Night Manager”
Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
David Schwimmer, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
John Travolta, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

IndieWire’s Vote: Hugh Laurie, “The Night Manager”

Talk about a who’s who of 2016 TV: All six of these nominees gave incredible performances, breaking out on the scene in a big way — like Sterling K. Brown and Bokeem Woodbine — or redefining themselves, like David Schwimmer, John Travolta and, yes, Hugh Laurie. Laurie has always made a grand villain, in part because so many viewers got to know him as an asshole antihero on “House.” (just look to “Tomorrowland,” “Monsters v. Aliens” or even “Street Kings” for his many maleficent looks). But his work in “The Night Manager” calls for far more subtlety than his previous antagonists, and Laurie finds it. He balances on the tight rope demanded by his faux-philanthropist weapons dealer with equal parts charm and menace, only tipping to the latter in key moments. It’s not easy to root against any actor you’ve grown to love for nearly a decade, but Laurie makes you forget about his past selves for the betterment of the series. Just don’t forget his range when it comes time to vote.

READ MORE: 2016 Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie

Directing In a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine; single- The Night Manager _ Season 1, Episode 5

Susanne Bier, “The Night Manager”
Noah Hawley, “Fargo” – “Before the Law”
Anthony Hemingway, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” – “Manna From Heaven”
Ryan Murphy, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” – “From the Ashes of Tragedy”
Jay Roach, “All the Way”
John Singleton, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” – “The Race Card”

IndieWire’s Vote: Susanne Bier, “The Night Manager”

Quantity over quality isn’t a good argument when it comes to artistic competition, so we’re not going to make it. Yes, Susanne Bier directed all six episodes of “The Night Manager,” but she also did it so impressively that voters will be wowed no matter what episode they pick apart. Tasked with creating a world worthy of James Bond, Bier gorgeously captured every second of the lengthy limited series for a visual bounty we’d never forget. But her efforts went beyond that. They embodied John le Carre’s characters and created an edgy attitude few other thrillers found without going dark and gritty. Lavish style doesn’t often pair so well with life and death, but Bier made “The Night Manager” into a TV event better than the last Bond.

READ MORE: ‘The Night Manager’ Is Thrilling and Boasts One Director: Susanne Bier

Writing In a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

The People v. O.J. Simpson John Travolta David Schwimmer

“Fargo” – Noah Hawley, “Palindrome”
“Fargo” – Bob DeLaurentis, “Loplop”
“The Night Manager” – David Farr
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”  – D.V. DeVincentis, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” – Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, “From the Ashes of Tragedy”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” – Joe Robert Cole, “The Race Card”

IndieWire’s Vote: “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” – Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, “From the Ashes of Tragedy”

Credit where credit is due: Getting the ball rolling on “The People v. O.J. Simpson” may have been the most difficult part. People who tuned in for a garish spectacle had to be kept while more critical skeptics had to be won over. Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski’s pilot somehow managed both, hitting just the right tone from the first chord. Even the decisions they made in not including certain aspects or characters was key, as “The People v. O.J. Simpson” felt like a smooth operator before we could ever imagine how good it was going to get. And yet, it was already great, right from the start.

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