“Saturday Night Live” begins its 46th season this week, just as the 2020 presidential campaign enters its home stretch (streaming on Peacock, which will also stream the complete SNL library starting Thursday).
For the season opener Oct. 3, Jim Carrey has been enlisted to portray former Vice President Joe Biden. Alec Baldwin, who in recent seasons has been portraying President Trump—a role for which he’s won an Emmy—provides our expert recommendation this week. He was cagey about what his role this season might be but made no secret of what he will do if Mr. Trump doesn’t emerge victorious from the election.
“I’m going to take the bow of my lifetime,” he said.
Here’s what else is streaming this week:
New Release: ‘Dick Johnson Is Dead’
To pitch the idea of a film about her father dying over and over again, filmmaker Kirsten Johnson first had to shoot his funeral. One of his former patients said a few words. His best friend sobbed uncontrollably. Dick Johnson, very much alive, watched as it was filmed. “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” out Friday on Netflix, was awarded a special jury award for innovation in nonfiction storytelling at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
The film is sold as a documentary about a filmmaker making a movie about her father, a retired psychiatrist in the declining years of his life. But by merging scenes of what is happening and what will happen—fiction and nonfiction—the movie unfolds like a memoir of a father and daughter making the most of the last of their time together.
In real life Mr. Johnson suffers dementia. In the movie, though, he suffers from a lot more: a tumble down a flight of stairs, for example, with blood pouring out of his head, directed by his daughter.
“The funeral was a proof of concept,” says Ms. Johnson. “Can we merge crazy things, which are the real church that he really has attended for 50 years, his real friends, and then a multicamera shoot in which we film his funeral before he is dead? It was very consciously this blending of what is real and what is not yet real.”
An Expert Recommends: ‘WALL-E,’ ‘Cars’
Alec Baldwin is the host of “Match Game” (Hulu) and has frequently portrayed President Trump on “Saturday Night Live” (Peacock), which kicks off its new season this weekend. Here, he recommends a pair of Pixar films he discovered with his kids. Edited from a transcript.
“If I told you the premise of ‘WALL-E’—about a small robot left on the abandoned Earth, a spaceship containing a human colony—you might think maybe it’s a four-panel cartoon or something. It’s tough to get your hands around. And then you watch it and you go: Oh my God, this is one of the most original children’s films I’ve ever seen in my life. I emailed the director, Andrew Stanton, and said, ‘I know that you did this a while ago, but I’m just coming upon this now because of my kids. It’s like one of the greatest movies ever made. I love this movie.’ He wrote me back and said, ‘I stand in line behind you at the coffee shop in our neighborhood.’ I wound up doing the same thing with Owen Wilson because of Lightning McQueen and the ‘Cars,’ movies. My kids had every single—I mean, Lightning McQueen shower curtains, bath towels, all the wardrobe you could imagine. It was just insane. So I wrote Owen a love letter. I said, ‘Can you believe how this lives on in generations of kids?’ My kids are obsessed. These movies have a really powerful effect on these kids.”
New Release: ‘Monsterland’
“Monsterland,” a new horror anthology series that premieres Friday on Hulu, looks at characters at the ends of their ropes, the monsters they interact with and the decisions they make that, according to creator Mary Laws, forces the audience to question who the real monster is in each episode.
From a young single mother raising a daughter with violent tendencies to a teenage son caring for his sick parent, “each of our characters makes some kinds of disastrous decision in each episode, and this series is really trying to unveil the ‘why’ of that, to see closer into our humanity through the lens of these sort of monster stories.”
“Monsterland” is based on “North American Lake Monsters,” a book of short stories by Nathan Ballingrud. Ms. Laws says she was particularly drawn to the collection’s characters—blue-collar workers, lonely kids, parents going through a divorce—just struggling to get by. Unglamorous? Yes, but also the kinds of people she says she could relate to.
“Those are the kinds of characters that I want to write,” she says. “And those are the kinds of characters I want to put on people’s televisions and in peoples’ homes.”
New Release: ‘The Boys in the Band’
“The Boys in the Band,” a new film that began streaming this week on Netflix, is about a birthday party, an unexpected guest who pushes the evening sideways and a group of gay friends in pre-Stonewall New York.
It’s a story that’s been told before. Mart Crowley’s play of the same name made its debut in 1968 and was followed by a film in 1970. In 2018, producer Ryan Murphy and director Joe Mantello launched a stage revival with a cast that included Zachary Quinto, Tuc Watkins, Andrew Rannells and “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons. The same crew returns for the new film.
Mr. Mantello says he was hesitant to take on the project when Mr. Murphy asked him to direct, initially considering it “this antiquated piece of theater that didn’t have anything to do with my life.” But when he unpacked the material further, he began to see a way to present it as something timeless, and to look at it through a different lens. When it was originally presented in the 1960s, it was a reflection of that period, he says. Today, it’s something else.
“It allows us to look at these characters in the context of a very particular time when something was about to explode,” he says. “That’s a different way into the play as opposed to 1968, where it was the first and only play to put gay men’s lives center stage.”
Illustrations by Rob Wilson
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Appeared in the October 1, 2020, print edition as ‘.’