For those of us who tend to celebrate the arrival of Saturday night with loose pants, a snack, and a worn-in spot on the couch, there's been a steady date available for the past 40 years. He's starting to be a bit paunchy around the edges and sometimes makes questionable fashion choices, but he's always there for us—Saturday Night Live.
The cool argument these days is that the sketch comedy institution has run its course—it can't be counter-culture, youthful, or even relevant in this digital age when a meme or video can make it 'round the world in thirty seconds. But does it need to be? When you're an institution, you can show up and phone in a few efforts. If you do that too often, you'll find yourself a memory, but who among us gives an even, balanced, and perfect effort every week at any of our jobs (both the paid kind and the cleaning spit-up kind)?
I am still tuning in happily for one of the few TV shows that I actually do watch live. For me, it's the promise that somewhere in that hour and a half there might be a laugh. I don't know about you, but I find that the older you get, a really great laugh is harder to find, and all the more treasured when you do find one.
SNL is absolutely wrapped in nostalgia for me; I can measure the stages of my life based on which cast I spent Saturday nights with—late nights babysitting, spending my fifteenth birthday with Wayne and Garth at the movie theatre, a cheerful spot in many a dateless weekend, watching with friends in university and repeating the best bits over and over, falling asleep in the middle after the first baby was born.
Here are my top all-time favourite hosts:
Everyone in the Five Timers Club
I was the very last convert to hop on the JT bandwagon owing to my distaste for boy bands, but he won me over on SNL.
Despite the turmoil of his personal life, the man has both amazing comic timing and is just. So. Damn. Handsome. I would watch him open an envelope.
She just seems to be having so much fun doing it, which is the right idea for a great host. Sometimes you can sense their discomfort with the whole experience, which isn't fun (or funny) for anyone, but Emma brings it, even when the sketch material is, well, sketchy.
Whenever people remark to me, "SNL wasn't that good this week!" I always think, "But what ninety-minute sketch show did you write, rehearse, produce, and put on this week?" By its very nature and creation, it's going to be uneven, loopy, possibly dangerous (live TV presents the deliciously dangerous possibility of anything happening or going wrong), and sometimes not the best way to spend your time. But the rest of the time, it's a live wire, balancing a wide selection of comedic styles, breeding the next generation of stars, and the joy of watching cast members trying to keep it together when the material gets to them—which some say bothers them the most of all, but to me it's the ultimate test of the material. If they're still laughing, I'm probably laughing too.
What more do you want from a steady date?
With so many positive and interesting reviews around for the sci-fi actioner Snowpiercer, I just had to give it a try. Firmly categorized under "Dystopian Future," the film follows the few fortunate souls who boarded a luxury train that circumnavigates the globe, and are the sole survivors of a new ice age that has claimed the rest of the world.
Of course, things tend to get a bit weird when you live on a train for seventeen years and can't get off to stretch your legs...ever...so, being the horrible species we are, a harsh caste system emerges that is rife for revolution. Enter Tilda Swinton as The Minister of the Train. If this all sounds a bit comic bookish, that's because Snowpiercer is based on a French graphic novel. Sometimes material translated from graphic novels to the screen can lack three-dimensional characterizations, but take a look at Tilda's performance here and tell me you don't want to see more. Her screen time is relatively short, but her scenes absolutely crackle with brilliance.
The role of The Minister was originally written for a man, but there is no trace of that intent in Swinton's performance. She simply enters and her character takes over—both literally and for the audience. As usual for Swinton, she is nearly unrecognizable under her character's costume and affectations, but it's the performance that is so riveting.
As bleak portraits of our future go, Snowpiercer is watchable if a bit predictable. The hubs and I both guessed several plot twists before they were revealed, and we thought up a better ending (IMHO) than what the film offers, but it does a serviceable job of creating a new world, which is really all one can ever ask for from a piece of entertainment.
If Alec Baldwin can take home an Oscar for a five-minute monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross (see the NSFW or little ears performance here), then maybe a little gold man can go home with Tilda as well.
There’s an entire genre of film and TV that I avoid — mostly — if at all possible. The older I get and the more that real-world fears are presented (and exploited) for entertainment, the more I stick my Halloweenie head in the sand when it comes to horror and even some action-thrillers (usually the kind involving children or dogs being hurt).
I’ve tried to love being scared, but the truth is, for me, Halloween is just that day where you spend a lot of time waiting to take off your hot, itchy, ill-fitting costume and dive into the bowl of candy. And as an adult, I tend to skip straight to the candy part. I’m not trying out for the Grinch Who Stole Halloween — I really get what’s fun about costumes and parties and candy (have I mentioned candy?). But I’ve never really understood what’s so great about being scared on purpose. It’s like hitting yourself in the toe with a hammer on purpose and feeling great when you stop.
You have my confession, and now I’d like to present my top 5 “Halloweenie” TV treats. Because they’re just scary enough. All are guaranteed to go well with a bowl of candy.
1. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: If you don’t feel for Linus as he awaits the Great Pumpkin on Halloween, alone in the pumpkin patch, you have watched too many scary movies and are desensitized. Safe for kids? Definitely.
2. The Witches: Film adaptations of Roald Dahl’s stories are hit and miss, often because they fail to bring along the slightly wicked tone of his original tales. The special effects in this one are definitely low-rent but the tale is wickedly intact. Safe for kids? I’d go ages 6 & up. Some scary witch stuff.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: yes, the MOVIE. Not the epic Sarah Michelle Gellar TV show. They are completely different experiences and both very fun in their own way. Bonus: the movie has Luke Perry at the height of his Perry-ness. Safe for kids? pre-teen & up.
4. The Monster Squad: No one believes the kids of the small town when movie monsters come to life and start coming after them. Safe for kids? Ages 7 & up. Some actual scary moments with the Wolfman, plus an ending that still makes this big kid cry. Just a sniffle!
5. Psycho: (Original 1960 film) When the scariest thing you could do was imagine what horror lay ahead. Safe for kids? No. Good to screen with your teens — you can tell them it’s a credit in film study.
I can’t be the only Halloweenie out there — what are your favourite semi-scary movies to curl up with while you raid the leftover candy?
These last-minute Halloween treats would also go nicely with your movie.