Curtis Hanson, who made a jolting thriller called "Bedroom Window" (1987) in Baltimore, is best known for directing the sensational "L.A. Confidential" (1997), the wise, original comedy "Wonder Boys" (2000), and Eminem's quasi-autobiographical film debut, "8 Mile" (2002).
But Hanson did his best work since then for HBO this year -- a gripping, lucid adaptation of "Too Big to Fail," Andrew Ross Sorkin's incisive account of the American financial meltdown of 2008. It received 11 Emmy nominations today, including nods for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie and Outstanding Direction for Hanson, as well as nominations for William Hurt for his stirring lead performance as Hank Paulson and Paul Giamatti for his eloquent supporting turn as Ben Bernanke.
Hanson's "Bedroom Window" star, Elizabeth McGovern, also won an Emmy nod, for her lead role in "Downton Abbey" -- and so did Hanson's "L.A. Confidential" star, Guy Pearce, for "Mildred Pierce."
Movie talents dominated certain categories. That's because adventurous directors, writers and performers consider HBO or Showtimes more comfortable creative homes than the major studios these days.
I thought indie-film director Todd Haynes' "Mildred Pierce" was labored. But Emmy nominators found it terrific -- they lavished this James M. Cain adaptation with 21 nods (including "Pierce's"), with Haynes and Oscar-winners Kate Winslet and Melissa Leo leading the list.
"Cinema Verite, " HBO's rueful, riveting account of the making of "An American Family," won ten nominations, including nods for the "American Splendor" directing team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman ("Splendor," of course, starred Giamatti as Harvey Pekar) and for their superb lead actress, Diane Lane.
Laurence Fishburne's magnificent and now Emmy-nominated performance as Thurgood Marshall in HBO's "Thurgood" reminded me of how few opportunities he's had to show off his outsize talent in theatrical movies.
Indeed, the entire Emmy list, with names like Laura Linney and and Steve Buscemi, made me realize all over again that "major" studios -- and a lot of boutique companies, too -- are losing their talents to the small screen.
"It's not TV: it's HBO" used to sound like hubris to me. Not any more -- not when so many distinctive movie talents have gone to cable.
What about you? Do you find yourself wondering why multiplexes -- and even art houses -- aren't showing films as entertaining or involving as "Cinema Verite" and "Too Big to Fail?"