TV

On SNL, Brad Pitt's Dr. Fauci Finally Says What He's Really Thinking

Pitt's cold open was a sincere tribute to Dr. Fauci's role on the coronavirus task force, mixed with a healthy dose of shade

The second episode of Saturday Night Live at Home aired this weekend, with cast members once again putting on performances in their own homes.

There were a number of highlights, including Kate McKinnon reprising her role as the crazy cat lady of Whiskers R We (not to be confused with her upcoming role as Carole Baskin), and Kyle Mooney staging a surrealist nightmare-party populated by ten different versions of himself. But probably the most notable segment was Brad Pitt's cold open as Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

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TV Lists

Was “Saturday Night Live at Home” Better Than the Usual Show?

In a world increasingly moving away from traditional TV formats, maybe this is the way the show should be.

When's the last time you actually watched an episode of Saturday Night Live all the way through?

If you're younger than 60, you probably consume the iconic short form comedy show mostly in clips shared on the Internet. It used to be that fans would have to watch the entirety of the broadcast to see the few comedic gems amidst the mediocre filler, but now all you have to do is wait for your social media algorithms to decide which skits are worth your time. This has had the affect of making SNL much less about the flow of the entire show and much more about the individual skits and bits. Now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, this is more true than ever.

For the first time ever, SNL aired a special non-live version of the show this past weekend. All of the skits were pre-recorded in the comedian's various homes. Tom Hanks hosted, which only consisted of an opening monologue, introducing the musical act, Chris Martin, and a good-bye. Tons of famous SNL alums and other regulars made appearances, including Larry David, Alec Baldwin, Fred Armisen, and more.

This version of SNL was not the polished, high-budget production audiences are used to. Instead, it was simpler, messier, and incredibly charming. One might even argue that in removing all the usual frills of the show, the "At Home" version allowed the brilliant comedic talent of the SNL cast to shine in a way that isn't usually possible.

One thing is definite: We got way more viral, ultra-sharable clips than usual. So maybe this is the future of skit comedy: shorter, simpler bits ready to be shared online. Whether you preferred this version of SNL or not, it's definitely worth checking out some of the show's highlights.

5. Tom Hanks Opening Monologue

Tom Hanks hosts 1st remote 'Saturday Night Live' at home l GMA www.youtube.com


4. Larry David as Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Address - SNL youtu.be


3. Kate Mckinnon RBG Workout

RBG Workout - SNL youtu.be


2. Zoom Call

Zoom Call - SNL youtu.be


1. Quarantine Masterclass With Timothée Chalamet

MasterClass Quarantine Edition - SNL youtu.be

TV

Leslie Jones Shines in "Time Machine"

In her Netflix special, the "Saturday Night Live" alum calls on twentysomethings to have more fun—for America's sake

Leslie Jones performs at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. for her Netflix special "Leslie Jones: Time Machine."

Netflix

Leslie Jones has zero chill. That's what makes her such a thrill to watch.

On her new Netflix special Leslie Jones: Time Machine, the raucous Saturday Night Live alum uses equal amounts of joy and rage–sometimes simultaneously–to show how tough it is to always be on the edge of laughing or screaming, especially in these extremely stressful times.

At the start of what will likely be a breakout year, thanks to a role in the upcoming Coming 2 America and a gig as the host of the Supermarket Sweep reboot for ABC, Jones doesn't just embrace intensely living life to its fullest—she wants more people to do the same.

"Twenty-year-olds, y'all suck," Jones says, adding that if 20-year-olds are still having fun during tumultuous times, the rest of the nation finds it comforting. "You better enjoy your damn 20s."

These days, too many twentysomethings aren't enjoying themselves, Jones says. She jokes about how so many in that age group are stressed and talk about being offended, teasing the twentysomethings in the audience about making serious choices and dressing appropriately. "You literally only been through high school," she says. "What's wrong, boo, you didn't catch Pikachu?"

What goes unsaid, though, is that the youth have plenty of reasons to worry about their futures. Legitimate unease hangs over Time Machine, symbolized by Jones' Nipsey Hussle t-shirt—which she never comments on, but which makes a similar point in almost every frame: All is not well.

For Jones, one major reason times are tougher is texting. "Who invented texting?" she screams after admitting that texting led to a recent breakup. "It wasn't a woman... Texting shows you exactly how crazy a b*tch really is. Yeah, ladies, it's in writing now."

Her dramatizations of some of her one-sided text conversations show Jones at her best. They start out with rage and declarations of "You need to respect me," which quickly turn into: "I am so sorry about that text. It was unnecessary and immature. But that's why I love you, bae. You know that I'm passionate."

Jones proposes an app that will judge your texts and ask if you are sure you want to send them. "You are at 85 percent crazy right now," she imagines the app would say. "While you're texting the one that you love, your face is not supposed to look like that."

She offers a few moments of fleeting seriousness, from cutting women some slack for sometimes cracking under societal pressure to calling for more than six weeks off for maternity leave.

To pull the whole show together, Jones wishes she could tell her younger self not to worry. "I wish I had a time machine to go back and tell my 20-year-old self it's going to be OK," she says, before imagining a conversation between her current, successful 52-year-old self and the 21-year-old version struggling to make ends meet in Compton, California.

Is it a heartwarming moment? Sort of. It doesn't quite go as planned, and Young Leslie doesn't understand her older self's warning to stop Aaliyah from sleeping with R. Kelly.

In the end, it does reinforce her message–the same one she screams at the twentysomethings wearing sensible sweaters to her show: We all need to enjoy ourselves more. We can start with Leslie Jones' morale-boosting and laugh-out-loud funny Time Machine.

TV

"SNL" Tried to Make a Point About White Nationalism—and Failed

Will Ferrell dressed as a Native American for SNL's Thanksgiving episode, and it gets worse.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, 'tis the season for Saturday Night Live to feature skits depicting the potential awkwardness surrounding our family dinners.

During his fifth turn as an SNL host, Will Ferrell was the centerpiece of a skit entitled "First Thanksgiving." He portrayed a grumpy, skeptical man meeting his granddaughter's boyfriend for the first time at their family's Thanksgiving dinner. The only issues with the skit are that his family is supposedly Native American, his granddaughter is Pocahontas, and the visiting boyfriend is John Smith. Melissa Villaseñor, Beck Bennett, Maya Rudolph, and Fred Armisen also star, none of whom are indigenous. Non-Native actors in these roles causes enough concern (and, honestly, is never OK), but even more eyebrow-raising are the additional problems woven in the script.

The skit attempts to flip white supremacy on its head, as Ferrell's character—decked out in a long wig and full traditional Native attire—represents a fervent Republican, full of allusions to President Trump's white nationalist ideals and his policies. When Ferrell suggests everyone around the table share what they're thankful for, he begins: "I'm thankful for our land, and our great and mighty chief. And let's hope he finally builds that wall." When the rest of the family asks where he's been getting information on the "palefaces" invading their land, his response is plain and simple: "Fox" (but a literal fox, get it?) Then he teases Pocahontas for getting her news from "a peacock" (NBC, we presume). Pocahontas defends the European colonizers—or "illegals," as Ferrell's character so distastefully nicknames them—saying, "They're just regular, hard-working people seeking refuge."

The skit doesn't outwardly mock Native people, but in its ill-conceived analogy, it suggests that we're supposed to be on the "Republican" side of this story; white people are positioned as the "immigrants" who are bringing over "diseases and guns." Ferrell's character is supposed to be mocking Trump supporters, but he still makes valid arguments against colonization. As one Twitter user explained, it "accidentally suggested the white nationalist crowd has a point." It's a bad look to say the least.

While this skit was surely well-intended, the execution was very poorly realized. To use the exploitation of Native Americans as a vessel for jokes about right-wing ideals is extremely dangerous and offensive, however accidental. The skit made light of the genocide that decimated Native peoples, not to mention it only brushed over the massive age gap between Pocahontas and John Smith: Rudolph's character points out that Smith is nearly 30 while Pocahontas is 12—close to their real ages at the time—and everyone is just OK with it.

Ferrell attempted to redeem the skit's controversy in the end by breaking the fourth wall to give a disclaimer. "If you're anything like me, you know there's a lot of problems in this crazy, crazy sketch," he said, facing the camera under a spotlight. "I mean, white actors playing Natives? What is this, 2014?" So...you're telling me the writers knew this sketch was problematic and racist, but they just ran with it anyway? Ferrell's brief monologue didn't address the colonialism the jokes referenced, instead offering a cliche about contrasting political opinions between family members and delivering an anticlimactic punchline about bowel movements.

Making a joke of indigenous people on television only encourages other white folks to do the same, and it's deeply disappointing to see these well-regarded comedians participate in it. If SNL is supposed to exemplify peak comedy, then they should've been able to convey their intended messages without cultural appropriation; if anything, this only reaffirms why we desperately need more diversity in media. So, this Thanksgiving, please enjoy spending time with your families—but don't forget that you're stuffing your face and watching football on stolen land.

FILM

Kristen Stewart's "Charlie's Angels" Character Is "Definitely Gay"—But Is That Enough?

In "Charlie's Angels," our Bella has finally become a swan. That doesn't mean the film can escape some traps.

Kristen Stewart has the Internet in a tizzy thanks to her role in Charlie's Angels, and her performance as Sabrina has a lot of people questioning their sexuality (or celebrating what they already knew).

Thanks to the omnipotence of the Internet, Sabrina's queerness isn't in question. According to Out Magazine, in an interview with PrideSource, the director Elizabeth Banks confirmed that the character is "definitely gay in the movie."

That doesn't mean that Sabrina is exactly overt about her sexuality in the film, though—there are no lines in the script about her sexual orientation. According to Banks, this was purposeful. "When I cast [Kristen Stewart], I just wanted her to be… I just felt like she's almost the way Kristen is. I don't feel there is a label that fits her," she told Digital Spy. "The only thing that was important to me was to not label it as anything. It's fine if the media wants to label it, I think that's OK, but I didn't do that. I just let her be herself in the film."

Apparently, Stewart "wanted to be gay" in the movie, though she's also not hung up on labels. "I just think we're all kind of getting to a place where—I don't know, evolution's a weird thing—we're all becoming incredibly ambiguous," she said in an interview in which she also clarified that she doesn't exactly identify as bisexual anymore. "And it's this really gorgeous thing."

This philosophy feels aligned with our current moment, where the boundaries of sexuality, gender, and other paradigms are constantly blurring and shifting. On the other hand, there's a fine line between refusing labels as an act of protest and refusing labels as a way of ultimately obscuring identities, thus winding up back where we began.

Is Charlie's Angels queer-baiting? It's definitely going too far to say that a film is queer-baiting simply for coding a character as gay without explicitly addressing their orientation, but Banks's and the film's treatment of Sabrina's queerness still raises questions. How important are labels, and is our end goal to normalize them or disintegrate them completely?

In liberal Hollywood circles, perhaps it's enough to express queerness as an implicit character trait, but in a world that still threatens LGBTQ+ people's rights, there's a dearth of characters that are out and proud. On the other hand, queerness and relationships aren't anyone's entire identity, and they shouldn't have to be, onscreen or off.

Despite Banks' insistence that her film is newly "woke," Charlie's Angels has always toed the line between regressive and revolutionary. According to Vulture, "You could chart a mini arc of corporate feminism onto the Charlie's Angels franchise." The film is about three attractive women who are empowered because they do the bidding of an invisible commander, after all, and what could be more reminiscent of the corporate world's rapid consumption of the girl-boss illusion? A capitalist enterprise hasn't improved simply because it's being run by a woman, after all, and a film isn't feminist just because it features female characters in positions of power. "What's so depressing about the new film is that the most radical thing it can think to do to update this concept is to hint that Charlie has actually, this whole time, been a lady," the article continues.

Similarly, a film isn't pro-LGBTQ just because it tacitly implies a character's queerness. It's true that queerness is becoming more widely accepted and less stigmatized overall, though. (Stewart herself just gushed about wanting to propose to her girlfriend, Dylan Meyer). That means that we should be working towards representing more radical politics and more underrepresented identities onscreen, not just erasing all identity politics now that bisexuality has been subsumed into the realm of acceptable traits, and not just calling a film feminist because it stars a couple of women.

Feminist or not, Stewart's performance (and costume choice) are so strong that her character's existence is ultimately a victory even if the rest of the film falters. She's even been branded a Hollywood Chris, after all; maybe that even means that someday, our Hollywood Chrises won't be all white.



TV

Phoebe Waller-Bridge Brings Her Brand of Psychopathic Raunch to "SNL"

The "Fleabag" writer shines brightest (in her usual vulgar way) in her opening monologue.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has had a successful past few years, to say the least.

The Emmy-winning writer of Fleabag and Killing Eve brought her brand of unfiltered brashness to the SNL screen this Saturday in an episode that felt like a victory lap. Still, while worth watching for any Waller-Bridge fans, the show wasn't quite able to live up to the level of comedic brilliance we've come to expect from her.

The best part was probably Waller-Bridge's opening monologue, in which she stated that everything she writes has a "grain of truth" to it, discussed genit*lia for several minutes, and definitively explained why Fleabag's "Hot Priest" is so hot: It's because he actually listens. She discussed psychopathy, which is brought to the fore on Killing Eve, and theorized that she herself might even be a psychopath (or at least, everyone she knows is). She closed with some killer lines like, "Back then horny women were to be burned at the stake. Now they're given Emmys!"

Phoebe Waller-Bridge Monologue - SNL www.youtube.com

Unfortunately, the rest of the show took a slightly downward turn following that monologue. While it might be a bit harsh to call SNL an "aging, decrepit beast that should've been put out of its misery seasons ago," as Vice did in its review of this episode, several of this show's sketches faltered dangerously. Last week's debut episode was promising with its clever depiction of the Democratic presidential candidates, but then again, those jokes kind of write themselves.

At least this episode, despite no shortage of lackluster jokes, we got to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge use many different accents and play a couple of memorable roles, including a psychopathic war wife who gallivants around with Hitler in the sketch "Words of the War." That sketch was possibly one of the episode's best, mostly thanks to Waller-Bridge's excellent deadpan and the scene's escalating absurdity. Weekend Update was also a highlight, featuring Kate McKinnon's lovably aggressive Elizabeth Warren, a well-placed Pete Davidson joke, and a flamboyant Chen Biao, played by freshman cast member Bowen Yang. "Mid-Day News" was also excellent, bringing racial politics and stereotypes to the fore as South Floridian news anchors try to determine whether the criminals they're reporting on are black or white.

Weekend Update: Chen Biao on US-China Trade War - SNL www.youtube.com


Mid-Day News - SNL www.youtube.com

On the other hand, the odd sketch "Royal Romance" made fun of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry but never quite hit its stride, and its jokes pushed the boundaries between satire and racism. Then there was the painful "Kaylee, Crystal, and Janetta," a sketch which featured four women at a bar. Perhaps meant to be a subversion of the super-feminine, stereotypical Sex and the City type of girl gang, characters portrayed are loud, tattooed, mullet-wearing, totally unfeminine, and frequently violent women. But that sketch doesn't seem to do many favors for any of them, instead asking the audience to laugh off a sequence where they each attack an ex-lover, refusing the kind of self-aware nuance that makes Fleabag such a standout example of how to write a "difficult woman" character.

Kaylee, Crystal & Janetta - SNL www.youtube.com

It's hard to say exactly why SNL has struggled so much over the past few years. Comedy writing is incredibly hard, but with all the absurdity in the modern era, we need excellent satire now more than ever to put it all into perspective. Still, the show could benefit from more diverse perspectives, more boundary-pushing and nuanced comedy, and stronger characters—the latter of which, specifically, Waller-Bridge is so good at creating. One has to wonder what would've happened had Waller-Bridge been able to write a few sketches herself.