- More reasons to love Emma Thompson
- You’re not ready for Big Little Lies
- The world’s most adorable commencement speech
- Living for Sunny Hostin’s View
- A history of Oprah as an ally
- Enough is enough
Emma Thompson in So Goddamn Good in Late Night
I don’t, like, need to tell you that Emma Thompson is magnificent in Late Night. She obviously is, as she is Emma Thompson and magnificence is simply a state of being, intrinsic to her biology: She breathes, she sleeps, she smiles when happy, she cries when sad, she is magnificent. Facts are important in these precarious times.
And yet, there is that thing. It’s the same thing that there is with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams and Angela Bassett, where you go to see them in a new project and expect them to be good because they’re always good, but they still somehow surprise you with just how good they are. That’s been true of Thompson for decades—that whole labored and wonky magnificence bit I just put you through—but it’s especially true in Late Night.
For starters, this is another example of spectacular casting. Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, the first female host of a late-night talk show who, after 28 years as a trailblazer, is being forced out for younger blood—a slight she won’t stand for. She is mercurial and exacting—she refers to her writers by numbers—and shades her narcissism with an intimidating lack of compassion. Horrific to encounter in real life; fantastic to watch Emma Thompson play on screen! She asks one writer how his baby is. That baby is now 27. When she asks where one writer she remembers is, she is informed that he died. In 2012.
Interestingly, considering what you might expect from a woman in her position in the industry, she dislikes other women. In fact, it’s been so long since she hired a female writer, the women’s bathroom had been designated the pooping bathroom by the all-male staff. When her reputation for hating women starts to drum up bad press in conjunction with her looming ouster, she makes an overt diversity hire, Mindy Kaling’s doe-eyed Molly, who has no idea what she’s in for.
Kaling wrote the script, which Nisha Ganatra directed, with Thompson in mind, and bless her for that. It’s a character and performance that will undoubtedly be compared to Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, which is at once expected, reductive, and high praise. Imagine being likened to one of the greatest film turns of our time.
In truth, delivering on expectations is Late Night’s strongest suit. The whole thing does feel like The Devil Wears Prada, and moves breezily because of how fastidiously it hits those familiar notes. The humor and commentary about sexism and gender politics in the workplace is on the nose, but you kind of want it to be, especially with Thompson and Kaling delivering the zingers. There’s even a romantic subplot that you know is going to aggravate the hell out of you but you go along with anyway. See! Just like Prada!
Every Time I Gasped at 'Big Little Lies'
I have seen the premiere of Big Little Lies season two! In fact, I’ve seen the first three episodes! Lucky me! I have written a formal review! Read it! I need the page views!
All that said, I will not spoil any of what happens in those episodes here. Instead, I will tease you with a list of every time I gay-gasped while watching the screeners.
- When Meryl Streep’s instantly iconic fake teeth are revealed.
- When Reese Witherspoon appears! Blessed moment.
- When the moms are forced to sing the Otter Bay Elementary School song at an assembly.
- When it seems like Madeline Martha Mackenzie is about to implicate herself in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal.
- When college was described thusly: “You know what kids do at college? They drink. They fuck. They mull over a sex change.”
- The first time Laura Dern says, “My Amabella was bullied last year.”
- When Meryl Streep tells Reese Witherspoon she doesn’t like her because she finds short people untrustworthy!
- When Reese gasps in response!!
- And then calls Meryl rude!!!
- The first Robin Weigert, Iconic Therapist sighting.
- When Sufjan Steven’s "Call Me By Your Name" song starts playing.
- When Madeline Martha Mackenzie screams, “I don’t care about homeless people!”
- The return to the outdoor wine bar with the fireplaces.
- The last line! I’m not gonna tell you what it is!
All of this, and I didn’t even get to mention that Amabella has an anxiety attack over climate change because that doesn’t happen until episode three. (That’s the only spoiler, I swear!)
An Iconic Graduation Moment
When it comes to Kevin Fallon 2 a.m. YouTube rabbit holes, the most common category of binges is, of course, actors giving acceptance speeches, followed closely by iconic Broadway shows’ Tony Awards performances. It’s a tough race for the bronze—celebrity interviews on Ellen put up a close fight (I don’t know why! I just like them!)—but it’s probably famous people delivering commencement speeches winning because, when viewed under just the right amount of Riesling buzz, they will make you both guffaw and cry.
I believe I’ve already pointed readers of this newsletter to Jennifer Garner’s instant-classic commencement address this year. (“When it comes to Halloween costumes, go funny over sexy. Why would you dress like a flirty nurse when you could be a mailbox?”) But, oh, what I would give to witness this upcoming one.
It was announced this week that Jenny Slate, the comedy cherub best known for Obvious Child and Parks and Recreation, would be addressing the graduate of the Cuttyhunk Elementary School in Massachusetts. Yes, graduate. As in one. Congratulations to Gwen Lynch, this year’s lone graduate of the one-room schoolhouse that goes up to 8th grade, for your exclusive seat at my favorite pop-culture story this year.
It’s Time to Stan Sunny Hostin
What if we all stopped devoting so much press to the Voldemort of The View—you know the one, she’s the daughter of a father—and started giving due attention to the actually valuable discourse being put forth on the show. I am talking about the show’s secret, underappreciated weapon, the Queen of Logical Thought and Reasoned Patience, the best justification for tuning in to that show these days. I am talking about Sunny Hostin.
If you watch the show regularly, or, frankly, even just catch it when those clips of She Who Must Not Be Named go viral, you’ve seen many examples of Hostin displaying what I just described, not just an intellect and justly-formed strong opinions, but an openness to dissent that doesn’t judge or vilify—even when she has the facts to back up her own thoughts.
In any case, the reason for all of this fawning is her words during a Hot Topics segment this week about the bishop who encouraged Catholics not to participate in Pride Month activities because they allegedly run contrary to Catholic morals and are harmful for children. “I know Jesus would be attending that Pride parade,” Hostin says. Watch the rest here.
Oprah’s Decades of Allyship
On the subject of Pride and religion, I am jumping at any chance, but especially this chance, to praise our lord and savior, Oprah Winfrey. Fun facts about me: My phone case is a headshot of Oprah. A framed photo of her receiving her Medal of Freedom hangs in my apartment. I am already curating a list of which episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show to show the royal babies—I have newborn twin nephews!—when they are older.
In any case, reporter Yashar Ali posted a Twitter thread this week spotlighting video clips of The Oprah Winfrey Show stretching back to the ’80s in which Winfrey gave a platform to members of the LGBT community to be heard and understood. The first clip is from 1997 after Winfrey had appeared in Ellen’s groundbreaking coming-out episode of her sitcom. An audience member criticizes her for taking part in the episode while purporting to be a Christian, as she says supporting the gay community is antithetical to the Bible’s teaching.
Winfrey’s response is incredibly moving, as are the other clips in the thread. I encourage you to watch.
One Last Thing
While we’re talking about Pride Month, these guys can go ahead and fuck right off.
What to watch this week:
Pose: The premiere will make you cry, then burst with joy, and then vogue.
Big Little Lies: Duh.
Last Black Man in San Francisco: A Sundance darling that deserves your attention.
Younger: My favorite Just Plain Fun summer TV show.
What to skip this week:
Black Mirror: The new season is decidedly “meh.”
Dark Phoenix: “Better than X-Men: Apocalypse” is the low bar being applied to this one.