Does the survival thriller have what it takes to top the nominations that separate Emmy sweethearts from Emmy juggernauts? Bill Desowitz interferes.
Squid Game was a huge global phenomenon in 2021: The Korean-language survival drama is Netflix’s most-watched series of all time, reaching more than 140 million homes and racking up 1.2 billion viewing hours in its first month on the streamer. The violent satire of capitalist greed and economic inequality is based on a survival game show run by wealthy elites that pits desperate contestants against one another in a deadly battle for a $38 million jackpot. Each episodic competition revolves around a child’s play or other forms of nostalgia: red light, green light; Dalgona, a popular Korean street snack from the ’80s; tug of war; and marbles.
The show has definitely struck a chord during the pandemic, leading to a slew of Squid Game Halloween costumes and cosplay parts; a musical spoof “Saturday Night Live” starring Rami Malek and Pete Davidson; and YouTuber MrBeast’s “$456,000 Squid Game In Real Life!” video. Meanwhile, director Hwang Dong-hyuk and the cast of Squid Game have already translated that popularity into the success of the awards season, with 22 voting boards recognizing the series and big, history-making wins for stars Lee Jung-jae, Jung Ho-yeon, and O Yeong-su.
With all this momentum, “Squid Game” is poised to become the first Korean-language series to make an impression at the Emmys, with Netflix highlighting the show as part of its FYSEE installation space at Raleigh Studios. “Squid Game” was also the focus of the streamer’s Pan-Asian Emmy nominee event on May 16, which featured the director and stars in a panel discussion. This was done in conjunction with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
In addition to the acting and drama series categories, where “Squid Game” has garnered most of its pre-Emmy wins, Netflix will be submitting the series for 13 craft awards — the kind of table-running push that could potentially earn 456, 218, and companies in league with recent nomination-short juggernauts like Game Of Thrones, The Mandalorian, Watchmen, and The Crown.
What crafting categories does Squid Game compete in?
According to the Netflix Awards FYC website, “Squid Game” is nominated for the following Craft Emmys:
- Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series (One Hour) (“Stay with the Team”)
- Outstanding Contemporary Costumes (“VIPS”)
- Outstanding Single Camera Photo Editing for a Drama Series (“Gganbu”);
- Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling (“One Lucky Day”);
- Outstanding main title design
- Outstanding Score for a Series (Original Dramatic Score) (Composer Jung Jae-Il, “Red Light, Green Light”)
- Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music (Jung Jae-Il, “Way Back Then”)
- Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program (One Hour or Longer) (“Gganbu”)
- Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) Series (“VIPS”)
- Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) (“VIPS”)
- Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Single Episode (“VIPS”)
- Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series, Anthology, or Movie
- Outstanding Stunt Achievement (“Stay with the Team”)
Let’s take a closer look at some of these categories, looking at those where Squid Game has the most certain path to victory – and those where it’s a little less certain.
Production design and costumes: the advantage of being contemporary
The production design and wardrobe of “Squid Game” are colorfully retro to the gameplay (highlighted by circle, triangle, and square symbols) in contrast to the drabness of the series’ dystopian society. Production designer Chae Kyoung-sun has previously won the ADG Contemporary Series award for her massive, custom-designed room, which can accommodate six full-size playsets. The formal language and color palettes were inspired by fairy tales and the sets were built around the notion of chaos and confusion. The submitted episode “Gganbu”, dedicated to the survival of all marbles, is notable for its recreations of a suburban neighborhood that evoke childhood nostalgia.
In addition, Cho Sang-kyung’s costume design for the lavish “VIPS” episode is another sure contender. She went beyond the attendees’ teal tracksuits and the guards’ pink jumpsuits and net masks to explore the more glamorous wardrobes of the distinguished partygoers, which included silk suits and gold animal masks.
The perk of going contemporary naturally avoids the more splashy period or fantasy/sci-fi competition of “Bridgerton” (Netflix), “Pachinko” (Apple TV+), “Severance” (Apple TV+), “Stranger Things” (Netflix ), The Book of Boba Fett (Disney+), The Gilded Age (HBO), The Great (Hulu) and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video). That said, there’s still plenty of contemporary competition this season from such premier contenders as Emily in Paris (this year’s Netflix CDG winner), Euphoria (HBO), Hacks (HBO Max), Ozark ( Netflix) and The Flight Attendant (HBO Max).
Visual Effects: A recent rule change
The “VIPS” episode also offers good opportunities for visual effects, sound editing and sound mixing. South Korea’s Gulliver Studios performed the stunning VFX work on the glass bridge in VIPs, working with reflections and colorful lighting to conjure up a deadly high-wire Vegas circus act. Added to this is the brilliant explosion of flying glass shards after the players skillfully reach the other side of the bridge and smash the remaining glass tiles. This is accompanied by the sound team’s heavy use of percussion and the shrill scream of shattering glass.
One benefit of Squid Game is the fact that it enters the newer single-episode visual special effects category (launched last season as a supporting visual special effects replacement, with first prize going to Star Trek: Discovery). . As the title suggests, the VFX only covers a single episode and excludes TV movies. It is also considered a non-competitive area award, meaning the episode is judged solely on its own terms and not in comparison to the other nominees, with the aim of achieving at least 90 percent approval.
By entering the single-episode category, Squid Game avoids direct competition from such heavyweights as Foundation (Apple TV+), Loki (Disney+) and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+), Boba Fett ‘ and ‘Stranger Things’.
Camera and editing: in tough competition
“Squid Game” also excels in cinematography and editing. Cinematographer Lee Hyeong-deok was submitted for Stick to the Team, in which the players scheme against each other, leading to a food shortage murder, a riot and the start of the tug of war. The episode is graphic, intense and unforgettable because of the flickering lights during the nightmarish and bloody uprising.
Editor Nam Na-young, meanwhile, excels in the dramatic nuances of “Gganbu,” which pairs players for the deadly game of marbles. It’s a slow burn of tension and despair against a retro neighborhood backdrop that evokes deceptively warm childhood memories.
However, Squid Game faces tough battles in the face of fierce competition among the leading contenders of the drama series. For cinematography, there are previous nominees Bridgerton, Euphoria, Ozark, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well as newcomers like Pachinko, Severance, The Gilded Age, and Winning Time. : The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” (HBO). “Pachinko” cinematographers Florian Hoffmeister and Ante Cheng deliver an expansive visual opulence by following four generations of a Korean family who immigrate to Japan, jumping back and forth with no distinction of time periods. But “Euphoria” upped its game for Season 2 as cinematographer Marcell Rév switched to film and experimented with Kodak’s revived Ektachrome format to revive faded memories.
In terms of editing, the competition includes the blockbuster “Succession” (which won for Season 2 in 2019), the finale of “Killing Eve” (BBC America) and “Ozark”, the return of “Better Call Saul” (AMC). and “Stranger Things” as well as newcomers “Pachinko”, “Winning Time” and “Yellowjackets” (Showtime). “Succession” is of course the favourite, for it delves menacingly deeper into psychological and mythological territory, but “Pachinko”, “Winning Time” and “Yellowjackets” all play ambitiously with time to explore their won complex psychological drama: the Korean one Immigrant experience, the cultural impact of the Showtime Lakers, and a nightmarish descent into barbarism for a high school girls’ soccer team.