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Daily Reads: What Makes a Great ‘SNL’ Host, Why Don Draper Won’t Die, and More

Daily Reads: What Makes a Great 'SNL' Host, Why Don Draper Won't Die, and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. What Makes a Great “SNL” Host. Hundreds of celebs have hosted “Saturday Night Live,” but not everyone is suited for sketch comedy. Noel Murray of The A.V. Club finds out what makes for a good “SNL” host:

The Ability to Read. Some hosts are better readers than others. Kevin Hart is a funny comedian, but when he hosted “SNL” recently, he raced through his lines so quickly that it was hard to understand some of the jokes. Blake Shelton did okay as host a couple of weeks ago, but read his lines in a kind of twangy monotone that made every one of the characters he played come across as more or less the same. The people who’ve done surprisingly well on “Saturday Night Live” in recent years — like Drake, or Anne Hathaway — brought a real vitality to their line-readings, coupled with a willingness to adjust their voices to the characters they’re playing. Read more.

2. Female Submission in Film. Fifty Shades of Grey” is just the latest film in recent memory to exploit female submission. The Mary Sue’s Julia Alexander wrote about why this troubling trend.

This has become the new wave of sexual provocation in film. Where the use of gaze as directional technique had its faults, at least it wasn’t overly dangerous. The ideas being perpetuated by these types of films have a direct effect on the audiences going to see them, and their raw success will create the ripple effect within Hollywood. There is a difference between voluntary sexual submission shared between a couple and the forced submission that comes with a fear of not being desired by a certain type of man. “Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t BDSM; it’s abusive submission. “The Boy Next Door isn’t an erotic thriller; it’s a glorification of the worst kind of submission a woman or a man can be subjected to — rape. Read more.

3. All Nicholas Sparks Movies Ranked. All of the Nicholas Sparks films follow a tried and true formula, so can any one be better than the others. Vanity Fair’s Kate Erbland says yes, and she ranked them from worst to best.

“The Notebook.” The gold standard. Sparks’s love of love has never been more apparent than in this big, gorgeous, gauzy Nick Cassavetes feature. Although all of the hallmarks of Sparks’s work are represented here—mad parents, dumbstruck young people, dunderheaded mix-ups, swans, wood-working—the over-the-top package works because it’s precisely the kind of rich fantasy that the romance genre needs on occasion. Punctuated by electric chemistry between its leads, Ryan Goslingand Rachel McAdams, and the kind of overwrought and impulsive tone that approximates love itself, “The Notebook” is so wild that it actually works. Read more.

4. “Fifty Shades” Doesn’t Challenge, But This Does. “Fifty Shades of Grey” might feature BSDM in a major motion picture, but it’s not really breaking taboos. For an example of a film that does that, Matthew Weddig of NPR looks at “Y Tu Mama Tambien.”

“Y Tu Mamá También” uses its sex scenes and their explicitness purposefully to comment on sexual culture, and specifically the notion of machismo — a sense of pride in one’s masculinity, linguistically linked with Latin American culture. The two young male characters’ projected bravado is betrayed by sex scenes that reveal their attempts at sexual pride to be little more than jealousy or insecurity. Despite their prideful boasts about the women they’ve slept with and their code of sexual ethics (which feels like a precursor to what’s now often tagged as bro code), Luisa has to walk them through every sexual activity they fumblingly attempt. Read more.

5. Djimon Hounsou’s Thankless Roles. Djimon Hounsou is a talented actor, but with “Seventh Son,” he’s played sidekick to the white lead for the eleventh time. Alison Willmore of BuzzFeed looked at the sidekick roles and ranked them based on which ones actually gave him something memorable to do.

“Gladiator.” Housou’s role as the Numidian Juba in Ridley Scott’s brawny Best Picture winner is his most classic and perhaps most stereotypical sidekick role, but it’s also, admittedly, his most memorable. Scott is good at portraying how bonds form between men who are better with action than words, and the trust that builds between Maximus and Juba is sketched out with elegant efficiency, with the two men sharing moments of understanding over the families they hope to see again. If Juba’s around more as Maximus’ loyal helpmate and pep-talker rather than as a character in his own right, the pair’s friendship has some genuine heft to it, and Juba gets extra points for nabbing the film’s nifty last line. Read more.

6. Don Draper Is Not Going to Die. Mad Men” is gearing up for its final episodes, and many wonder if it’ll end with Don Draper biting it. Esquire’s Matt Patches says it isn’t likely:

“Mad Men’s” final act appears situated for redemption and understanding. Peggy is on the road to becoming the next Don Draper, but she’s aware (I’m pulling for a Joan and Peggy team-up). Don could climb back, do something right that doesn’t involve being the most successful ad man in America. A recent theory that Draper could stand in for Alcoholics Anonymous founder “Bill W.” and found the recovery organization is my kind of crazy. There’s still hope for Draper, despite all the nastiness. He’s a product of his time that he can’t sell anymore. Why kill him? Life is the harder sentence. Holding back those tears looks painful. Read more.

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