I had an argument recently about the effects of watching a Saturday Night Live host visibly read the cue cards. I was arguing that it's distracting and sometimes seems to imply a lack of skill that undercuts anything good the performer is up to otherwise. My opponent countered that the whole point of SNL is the roughshod immediacy, and since the cue cards can change at any point from rehearsals to the taping, we should just accept it as part of the show's infrastructure. Maybe because the topic was already on my mind, I was completely blown away by Melissa McCarthy's performance this past weekend. It's kind of crazy that she was never a cast member, because she's a sketch prodigy. The second-time host's skills made watching sketches like "Million Dollar Wheel" — a basic throwaway — like an informative course in how to cram scripts into your being, into your soul, so that they still feel unpredictable and improvised. A mediocre bit dies between the time it takes to set up and when you first check to see how much longer it can possibly lie on the floor until production's janitor comes to carry it away on a stretcher. McCarthy never let that happen, because she never really allowed you to feel as though you knew what was going to come next.
The cold open kicked off with Bobby Moynihan as Kim Jong-un delivering two pieces of important news: First, the reopening of a nuclear complex that will leave North Korea's enemies "chagrined and discombobulated;" and, second, lifting a ban on same-sex marriage because "it is simply the right thing to do" (his eyes were opened by his gay nephew's weekly book discussion groups at his apartment — the nephew was executed anyway, but not because of that). Jong-un's open-mindedness isn't an indication that he's switched teams, however — so don't go thinking that! — because he's had relations with over 17 million women, whom he provided with their first orgasms ("this is not a joke. You can applaud"). Just as he trails off into his NCAA tournament pool, Dennis Rodman saunters in wearing polka-dot pants, fist-bumps him, and delivers your "Live from New York!" Remember when Rodman blew up a cold open in 1996? I didn't, but there he is, preserved in his boa. It wasn't my favorite cold open of all time, but it was good enough.
As her hit comedy Identity Thief continues to hold strong as the no. 1 movie of the year so far, and with The Heat, her buddy-cop movie with Sandra Bullock, poised to make her doubly powerful at the box office when it hits this summer, Melissa McCarthy is basically owning Hollywood in 2013. And she's showing no signs of stopping. Success begets success, after all, and it looks like she just nabbed her next big role: in St. Vincent de Van Nuys, opposite Bill Murray.
St. Vincent is a hotly anticipated project from writer/director Ted Melfi, produced by the Weinstein Company. The script made the celebrated Black List of Hollywood's top unproduced screenplays, and apparently McCarthy nabbed the role that "all the top comic actresses" were after.
Lizzy Caplan's spoofy commercial "Fashion Film" is like ASMR meets an Anthropologie catalogue. "Sometimes I think to myself in French, and listen to old records from the ’60s. They're way better than stuff today."
With 1,183 members, the actors branch is the largest single voting bloc of the Academy — and also the most susceptible to sentimentality. I don’t mean on-screen tearjerking (although God knows they go for that); I mean that more than any other branch, actors like to root around for the narrative beneath the nomination — the weary veteran finally getting his moment, the shiny-eyed newcomer who emerged out of nowhere, the funny guy who surprised everyone by being serious, the pretty actress who let herself be ugly. This should make for a grotesque and unfair roster of nominations, and sometimes it does, but happily, there are narratives available for any number of great performances. To wit:
Before we begin, it should be stipulated that awards shows are boring. They have always been boring, and they will continue to be boring until the Earth hurtles into the sun, which will almost certainly occur during the 18th hour of 10,464th Annual Academy Awards Psychocast, finally freeing us of the curious need to complain about why we aren't more entertained by famous people trading gold statues and listing their business obligations.
The fact that relatively non-famous person Charlie Day got to host SNL this weekend was surprising — even to Charlie Day. He kicked off his monologue with, “I know that Don Pardo just said it, but I think it’s important to confirm that I’m actually hosting Saturday Night Live. This is happening." In terms of pure comedy chops, Day — who has been an underrated manic force on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (and dare we say, one of the funniest people on TV) for seven seasons — was certainly qualified to host SNL. But the reason Day got the gig presumably had more to do with the fact he recently graduated to the big screen, with scene-stealing work in Going the Distance and Horrible Bosses. Still: Charlie’s not famous-famous, and SNL was probably only willing to accommodate a star of such low wattage because Day is (as we believe we’ve effectively communicated?) goddamn hilarious. So here’s the surprising part: Day’s episode was SNL’s highest-rated in over a month.
Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego? has been optioned by Walden Media as a live-action adaptation for Jennifer Lopez to co-produce and possibly star in. In the new version, top detective Sandiego goes on the run as an alleged thief, and has to be tracked down by her former partner. This is a good time to point out that one fun thing to do, when people ask you what kind of music you like, is to just say, “Rockapella.” Grade: A- [Deadline]
Shia LaBeouf has joined an untitled indie project from new production house Lava Bear Films. Wait, ready for this? The movie revolves around a troubled girl who encounters a 20-foot-tall next-door neighbor, played by LaBeouf. Just that plot description has already entertained us more than Transformers, Transformers 2, and large swaths of Transformers 3. Grade: B+ [Showblitz]
Melissa McCarthy is having an excellent week: On Sunday, she won the Emmy for Best Comedy Actress, and yesterday, CBS picked up a sitcom she co-wrote with her husband, Ben Falcone. (It is, in her own words, “about a woman in her mid-40s who has a spectacular midlife crisis” and “what a midlife crisis means for a woman, which is very different from [what it means for] men.”) If this lucky streak continues, today Melissa McCarthy will probably enter and win a very lucrative raffle. Grade: A [Deadline]
Simon Cowell is working on a stage adaptation of The X Factor for London’s West End, and has reached out to British comedian Harry Hill and comedy music producer Steve Brown to drum up ideas for what such a monstrosity might look like. This is great news for British pop star Cheryl Cole, who now has one more iteration of X Factor from which she can be fired. Grade: D [Deadline]
Bradley Cooper has dropped out of the title role in Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s remake of The Crow due to scheduling conflicts with Paradise Lost — but fret not: both Channing Tatum and Mark Wahlberg have apparently surfaced as possible replacements. And if the competition for the role is decided via a shirtless dance contest in which the two channel their former selves (as a stripper and Marky Mark, respectively), we all win. Grade: B-[HR]
Melissa McCarthy will steal Jason Bateman’s identity in the comedy ID Theft. Apparently McCarthy’s role was originally written for a dude, but Bateman, who is also producing, pushed for McCarthy after seeing Bridesmaids. Good thinking, Jason. Grade: A [Deadline]
When news broke today that Tom Cruise had dropped out of the lead role in Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim — a monster movie presumably starring creatures who peak-a-boo you to death — eyebrows were raised over the fact that his replacement looks absolutely nothing like Tom Cruise. The Wire’s Idris Elba got the call, instantly making the movie more interesting. But Elba is only the latest in a recent string of surprising recastings for the former top gun, who has been jumping on and off projects as if they were Oprah’s couch. In last year’s Salt, for example, the lead role (then named “Edwin” and no doubt possessing a killer smile and the ability to heal drug addiction with his mind) was Cruise’s before he bailed at the eleventh hour — only to be replaced by the not-at-all-Cruise-like Angelina Jolie.
It would seem Cruise’s departures provide a sort of psychological unburdening for Hollywood producers: free of the (diminutive, diminishing) charms of the one-time biggest star in the world, they are able to recast with creative abandon. With that in mind, we pored over Cruise’s slate of upcoming projects and prepared a list of potential outside-the-box replacements for when the star’s interest inevitably Cole Trickles away.