Coastal Elites

Next up is Dan Levy of “Schitt’s Creek” as a Los Angeles actor named Mark, who’s talking by video conference call to a new therapist. He’s waiting to hear back about whether he got the part that could be his big break: the lead in a blockbuster as Hollywood’s first openly gay superhero. Levy brings great timing and warmth as he recalls the various ways he read for the part, depending on the direction he got from casting agents. But’s disappointed to discover that the way they want him to play it is “Supergay”—the title of the segment—a pandering and flamboyant cliché. Levy is an out actor playing an out actor, and there’s naturalism and honesty to the way he relays this experience and pleads for heightened inclusiveness in production and casting. (And this section is especially relevant, given that the Academy released just new guidelines for best-picture contenders that require heightened levels of diversity in front of and behind the camera.) But then his monologue takes a detour to call out Vice President Mike Pence for his anti-gay stances over the years, and adding this political element feels like a contrived, wedged-in effort to provide cohesion with the other tales.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi." After first completing the arduous 600-foot climb on Ireland's Skellig Michael island, Mark Hamill had hoped that he could avoid having to repeat the trek for additional scenes if he could somehow remain on the summit overnight, thus forfeiting the luxury of room service at his hotel. He suggested sleeping in a tent and 'staying in character.' However, after some inquiries were made with the Irish authorities, he was told by producer Kathleen Kennedy that he was not permitted to pitch a tent because the location is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Issa Rae ’s section, “The Blonde Cloud,” is the most effective as pure comedy, but her presence and perspective make you wish she had stronger material with which to work. The only performer of color amid the ensemble, Rae plays a woman named Callie who’s just come home from a Black Lives Matter protest, an entirely too-brief nod to a massive, nationwide uprising for social justice. Sitting in an expansive living room decorated in cool, tasteful whites and grays, Callie video chats with an old friend from boarding school to tell her a story about the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who had been their classmate. It’s a long and winding scenario in which Callie and her father get invited to The White House with eye-rolling results. Rae is radiant as always—her expert comic rhythms and captivating smile draw you in powerfully—but it’s a wasted opportunity to include her here and have her character be defined entirely by her interaction with a white woman. THE white woman, actually. Rae is such a charismatic storyteller, though, that I laughed more during her monologue than any of the others. She also finds the sweet spot of humorous indignation that eludes her co-stars.

The movie "Little Miss Sunshine" was partially inspired by a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger saying: "If there's one thing in this world I despise, it's losers."

Sarah Paulson , who can do seemingly everything, can’t do much with the poorly defined character she’s given in her segment, titled “Because I Have to Tell Someone.” Paulson plays a YouTube self-help guru named Clarissa who leads mindful meditation exercises in front of a rotating assortment of soothing images, from a field full of gently swaying poppies to a lush forest with a babbling stream. But she finds it increasingly difficult to find peace within herself, and instead goes on a screed about traveling to the small-town farmhouse where she grew up to visit her Trump-loving family. No masks, lots of MAGA hats and Trump signs on the front lawns—not at all like where she lives and broadcasts from in liberal Vermont. As in the Midler monologue, there’s a ton of technique at work as Paulson navigates a wide range of emotions, but there’s just nothing to Callie beyond her reaction to others.

"Black Swan." Natalie Portman not only trained for a year as a dancer to prepare for the role, but paid for the the training out of her own pocket until the film found investors. Aronofsky attributed the film's getting made at all to Portman's dedication and enthusiasm.