Middle fingers up for Martin Freeman, our Showman of the Year!
2014 marks our second annual awarding of this title, and the criteria are getting a little more clear. Just like 2013 winner Tom Hiddleston, Martin represents the range of what we appreciate here at Head Over Feels: unquestionable talent, a heavy impact on pop and fandom culture, cuteness, and – above all – a proclivity to burst into spontaneous dance. He’s also got the best face in the business; an endearing fondness for ascots and colorful socks; plus the lovely and equally talented Amanda Abbington for a partner. (Great taste.) And Martin’s kept us entertained throughout the year, from Sherlock‘s third series run in January all the way to The Hobbit‘s Christmas release.
Yes, mainstream fame now belongs to our Fisher Prince Man. (And he’s just going to have to deal with it.) Having adored him since a DVD of the original run of The Office found its way into my hands, I felt a massive swelling of pride (and a few falling tears) to see him standing in front of the house band in Studio 8H. And I’ve got a feeling that Martin Freeman won’t need to introduce himself to American audiences for much longer.
Stuff happens to John and John happens to stuff, on Sherlock:
It’s no wonder the Sherlock fandom is certifiably insane. It’s pure torture that we are only blessed with Martin’s John Watson every three years or so. NINE EPISODES. That’s all we’ve had. It feels like more and it feels like nothing all at the same time. Sherlock Series Three lasted a blissful 12 days, if you went by the UK Schedule, which obviously we did. It was over as soon as it started. Series Three hooked up with us and then refused to cuddle afterwards…but we were fine with it. Sage has said it before, but most of the series felt like a love letter to the fans, giving us everything we wanted and more. We got to see John grieve over losing Sherlock and then his OUTRAGE at his return (poor bb didn’t know what to do with himself). We got to see John fall in love with Mary (she can stay cause she understands that John needs his boyfriend as much as his wife) and subsequently stand by her when her shady past came to light. Is there anything more romantic than “The problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future are my privilege.”? I don’t think so.
The highlight of Series Three, however, was John and Sherlock’s drunken Stag Night. I’m not gonna SAY Martin’s delivery of “Yeah, but am I pretty lady?” tipped the scales in his favor when it came to him winning this honor, but I’m not going to deny it either. I think I can safely speak for Sage when I say we would have watched an entire episode of those drunk idiots gleefully clueing for looks.
Well, now he can say “Fuck you, I won a BAFTA and an Emmy.” Also, I don’t think I will ever forgive the circumstances that made him miss the Emmys this year, therefore denying us an acceptance speech. (FINE. It’s because he was playing Richard III in London. Whatever.) Martin and Benedict BOTH won and NEITHER were there…probably because they knew that their collective wins and speeches would have plunged Tumblr into a black hole, never to be heard from again. Worth it, I would say. (And I think Tumblr would agree.)
Recreating mid-’90s indie magic in Fargo:
There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong with Noah Hawley’s miniseries adaptation of the Coen Brothers’ 1996 film. It could have turned off viewers by re-writing a beloved screenplay, alienated new fans by being too precious about the material, or missed the tiny, moving target that is the movie’s brand of dark comedy. But Team Fargo succeeded by combining serious respect for its inspiration with audaciously doing its own thing. “Its own thing” included casting an internet-famous British actor to take the lead as a Minnesotan sad-sack who becomes a soulless bastard. Cut to Martin being nominated for all the awards.
To begin with, HOW DOES THAT ACCENT COME OUT OF HIM? I might not believe it if he hadn’t DONE IT FOR ME HIMSELF. Yes, this year I got a few minutes with Martin on the red carpet for the Paley Center preview of the show, and I managed to somehow stay upright and vaguely human for the entire interview. We chatted about the challenges of the part (including the dialect) and of the brutal weather on location. I waited until the end to begin gushing about his work on this past season of Sherlock, which he graciously endured and thanked me for. It was because of him that I tuned into the PBS premiere in the first place. (Benedict Whom-berbatch?) He’s my favorite living actor and I’ll be forever grateful that I had the chance to tell him how much I appreciate the humanity he brings to every role. I also want to note that a small group of fans waited just beyond the red carpet and I witnessed their interaction. One such fan – who’d worn a suit for the occasion – held out his hand and said it was a pleasure to meet him. Martin shook his hand heartily, thanked him for coming, and even complimented his ensemble (“Very sharp.”), all without a hint of irony. CLASS. I feel that some interpret Martin’s sarcastic humor as ungratefulness or an unwillingness to engage with the adoring masses. But what I saw was sincere. My hero-worship of him only got worse that day.
ANYWAY, FARGO. If you watched it, you get it. If you didn’t, get on it. Those people didn’t hack each other up in sub-zero temperatures for you to not tune in. Dontcha know.
Taking on Richard III, and our beard fetish:
We weren’t there, as we tragically live in America, but we are SURE he was awesome. Plus, beard porn.
In lieu of being able to share our own experiences, let’s look at Martin’s reviews, shall we?
The Guardian: Martin Freeman is an original, not massively humped Richard, who coolly examines each phrase as if it were a poisoned proposition. Contained and caustic, he gets his way not by seductive snarling; not even exactly by fear, but by careful planning.
The Guardian (again): It’s fair to say that Freeman’s Richard is perfectly suited to the concept. This is no grandiose villain but a dapper, smooth-haired figure who only gradually reveals his psychopathic tendencies. And although Freeman chops up the verse into neat little segments rather than giving us the architecture of a speech, he has the capacity to make each phrase tell: “simple, plain Clarence”, for instance, becomes a withering put-down of his gullible brother.
Variety: He nails the self-satisfied psychopathic side with tiny, well-placed bursts of self-satisfied humour. Even when furious at his loss of control and power, he always keeps the audience with him because he never shouts or loses control.
HuffPo: Martin Freeman has a well-deserved reputation for interesting approaches to text and impeccable comic timing and both those talents are well-used here. He has a great knack for using pauses for dramatic effect and sources of humour, such as when he’s asked to address the nobles, all of whom he will of course murder on his way to the top, the disdain is palpable as he starts “Amongst this princely…heap.”
The Independent: Freeman gives a highly intelligent, calculatedly understated performance, full of witty mocking touches in his rapid line-readings (he refers to “this princely….heap” with a comically fastidious pause) and creating a rapport of shared superiority with the audience over his dupes.
You get the picture.
Hanging with the Not-Ready-for-Primetime Players on Saturday Night Live:
Again, PROUD MAMA.
Due credit to the writers for the most solid episode of this season thus far, but Martin kiiiiiiiillllled it. It was so flawless that Tumblr immediately tried to find a backdoor in to some drama. (“He didn’t mention Sherlock in his monologue! THEY HATE EACH OTHER.”) Personally, I was gone as soon as I saw that blue suit. Hell, I was gone as soon as I saw the promos.
There was dancing and a curly mullet and Taran Killam eating a fish and everyone pretending to care about Charli XCX and our water beds are the beeeeest! The sketches played to Martin’s strengths (being British, nearly everything else) and he seemed to be having a complete blast. My heart won’t soon let go of the image of wee Martin married to Leslie Jones (“Chocolate in the morning, chocolate in the evening, chocolate at suppertime thank you.”) and we even got a Wernham Hogg reunion of sorts.
It says a lot about the popularity of his recent work that Americans were surprised that TIM CANTERBURY could pull off comedy so deftly. Spoiler alert: he can do anything basically, except maybe get you something off that high shelf. We will need Colin Firth for that.
Being a charming, well-dressed doofus on his Hobbit press tour:
First of all, mad props to Martin (or Martin’s stylist) for all the suits he was outfitted in for his Hobbit press tour. There are few things we love more than a nattily dressed British Man. Especially one we can carry around in our pockets.
From bemoaning the fact that he was one of the “six British Actors NOT in Harry Potter” to Jimmy Fallon to going into great detail about the process of getting his Hobbit feet done on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Martin proved to be the ideal late night guest. He was charming, he was effusive about his project and his director, and he was definitely not afraid to bust a move on TV.
Also important: not being afraid to put on some deer antlers and toss rings at someone. After all, as he said, “It was the only reason he was there.” (Also, bless you for your ridiculous games, Jimmy Fallon. Never change.)
I am a diehard fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The trilogy ranks in my top 5 films of all time, and for Christmas this year, my sister bought me the VIP Package to the Trilogy Symphony in April (I DIED). Needless to say, I was super excited about The Hobbit and was more than a little distressed when the first movie was just “meh” to me and I outright HATED the second one. Martin was always the strongest part of the first two movies (his confrontations with Gollum and Smaug being the highlights) but I always felt for a movie called The Hobbit, he was strangely underutilized. I approached our screening of The Battle of the Five Armies with trepidation, but I am glad to report Peter Jackson got this one right. Battle takes a little while to get going, but once it DOES start moving, it hits all the right emotional beats and I found myself crying at the end in spite of myself. Many of those tears were due to Martin’s pitch-perfect performance. I may have many qualms with the Hobbit Series, but Martin’s casting was never one of them. He brings the perfect mixture of sass, mischief, heart, and pathos to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit with an adventurer’s soul. Thorin Oakenshield may have been the true protagonist of Jackson’s Hobbit (you know this to be true) but in Martin’s hands, Bilbo remained the giant beating heart of the series.
Speaking of Thorin, can we just celebrate how wonderful their relationship was? (What’s the ship name? Bilbin? Thorbo? Bagginshield?) I love how the relationship went from Bilbo being a nuisance to him to begrudging respect to complete devotion to each other. All of Bilbo’s motivations in Five Armies stem from helping his friend, from the way he steals the Arkenstone in order to break Thorin of his treasure lust to the way he runs to warn his Dwarf Friends at Ravenhill to their final scene together…
“Farewell, Master Burglar. Go back to your books, your fireplace. Plant your trees, watch them grow. If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.”
Like I said earlier, I didn’t feel at ALL invested in these character relationships, yet I found myself crying as Bilbo bade farewell to his dwarf friends, saying “If you ever pass through Bag End, tea is at four. You are welcome ANY time. Don’t bother knocking!” Ugh.
As we left our screening, Sage and I made our way up 34th street towards our train. As we passed the corner of 34th and 7th, we looked up and saw a GIANT billboard for the movie featuring Martin clutching his sword Sting, looking like the BAMF we’ve always known he was. We swelled with pride for him and our hearts grew a couple of sizes that night.
Congratulations, Martin! We’re expecting big things from you in 2015, starting with an epic Johnlock reunion and ending who knows where. Whatever you do, we’re always watching. And usually crying.