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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

SNL Recap – Zach Galifianakis and Jessie J

Zach Galifianakis is hosting SNL for the second time in two years and last year, he was excellent.  He gave one of the best monologues I can remember, which was basically part of his great stand-up act, and he’s adept embodying oddball characters.  He’s promoting The Hangover 2, which I’m strangely excited about, and I wonder if we’ll see a reference to that movie or if any of his co-stars will show up.  Either way, I’m excited about the return of Galifianakis.  I wonder if he’ll shave his beard again.

I apologize to the legion of Jessie J fans out there – if they exist – but I have no idea who she is or what kind of music she makes.  But I’ll give it a shot and see if it’s any good.  It’ll be fun to come to a music artist without any prejudices or preconceptions.

Okay, let’s get to it.

Cold Open – Kenan Thompson and Jason Sudeikis as Greg Gumbel and Jim Nantz in a “selection Sunday” parody, where instead of showing the brackets for March Madness, they’re doing brackets for the craziest people.  On Moammar Gadhafi: “He looks like Tony Shalhoub had a baby with ET.”  Pretty clever idea and the writing already seems sharper this week.  Armisen is on, doing his great Gadhafi.  Another Gadhafi joke: “A fat sleepy baby in a ton of blankets.”  Samberg is doing Dick Vitale, the most annoying sportscaster who has ever lived. which is actually pretty spot-on.   “He’s like Stanley Tucci snorted an aderrall.”  Kristen Wiig as Melissa Leo…wow, I guess Leo did a good job making herself known outside the indie world by being crazy at the Oscars.  “Nicolas Cage, who always looks like he just witnessed a murder.”  And of course we have Bill Hader as Charlie Sheen on his live webcast, saying that the pyramids were built by the Wayans brothers.  This was easiest the most enjoyable and consistently funny cold open in months.  Great concept, delivered well.  8.5/10

Monologue – “All week I was thinking to myself: don’t screw this up, fatty.  Actually that was a text from my mother.”  Zach actually looks pretty good, like he’s shed a couple pounds.  “I wear a lot of Axe bodyspray.  But I live in a black neighborhood and it’s called ‘Ask’ bodyspray.  And if you don’t get that joke, you’re not racist.”  “The only time it’s good to yell out ‘I’ve got diarrhea’ is when you’re playing Scrabble.”  Wow, Zach is just crushing this monologue right now.  I really think SNL should always let comedians do their routines.  If they’re gonna hire a comedian to host, they might as well let them do what they’re best at and Galifianakis does one of the greatest droll and matter-of-fact deliverers ever, almost on a par with Steven Wright.  Zach takes off his clothes and he’s dressed as Annie and singing “Tomorrow” while doing his big board shtick, ripping off the pages that saying things like, “I was bullied as a teenager.”  Then the next one says: “By first graders.”  So much energy, so much commitment, great jokes…folks, this is how you do an SNL monologue.  Best of the year so far, easy.  9.5/10

The Talk – Abby Elliott, Vanessa Bayer, Kristen Wiig, and Nasim Pedrad as Leah Remini, Sara Gilbert, Julia Chen, and Sharon Osbourne respectively on the View rip-off morning talk show.  Pedrad’s Sharon Osbourne and Elliott’s Remini are my favorite impressions, they’re really good.  Everyone is reverential of Osbourne and everything she does, with Remini calling her “a human Albert Einstein.”  Elliott tripped over a couple of lines, whoops.  This skit is pretty funny, but it’s already a bit long and we haven’t even had Galifianakis yet.  There he is, as a man wearing a “View” t-shirt and asking when Barbara Walters is coming out.  Bill Hader comes on the show as Steven Tyler.  I haven’t seen American Idol this year and I don’t plan on it, but Hader’s Steven Tyler is pretty good, not one of his best impressions.  Galifianakis is being massively under-utilized in this skit, which is its biggest weakness.  It started strong, but wound up being pretty mediocre.  5.5/10

The Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy – I never know what to call it when it’s a film, but it’s not called a digital short.  Either way, this is one of those, which is about four comedians that all have their own catchphrases and sign-off lines.  Glad to see Paul Brittain as Goran, the Croatian comedian.  Kenan doing the “eatin’ dookie’ bit is hilarious and I wonder if Kenan has found the best character for him: a bad comedian.  Bobby Moynihan wonders why he can’t get a McDonald’s breakfast and Zach Galifianakis just plays his airhorn over and over again.  Love seeing Seth Meyers in a skit, as “Boston Powers.”  I love it when they have skits where almost every castmember participates and gets a chance to create a character.  This was not the greatest short film ever, but it was pretty good and I enjoyed myself.  7/10

Next Week – Elton John is hosting and is the musical guest. on April 2nd  Wow, that’s a lot of Elton.  Good thing he’s an amazing singer/pianist.  Don’t know how he’ll do with the rest of his duties, but I’m sure it’ll be memorable.

Scared Straight – Ugh, one of my least favorite recurring sketches.  This and the Target lady are the two skits that make me roll my eyes and cringe.  This is the skit where Kenan Thompson yells in peoples’ faces for six minutes.  Hilarious.  This time Galifianakis comes on with him, dressed as Hannibal Lecter, as a guy who used to be an accountant for Nabisco before he started eating people.  Galifianakis is trying his best, but he can only do so much with a skit that’s just not a strong one.  If I wasn’t doing this recap, I would just fast forward right past this.  Couldn’t we have more Paul Brittain and Jay Pharoah instead of this?  The audience seems to be enjoying this, at least.  To be fair, this is one of the better installments of this skit.  3/10

Digital Short – Zach Looks For a New Assistant.  Galifianakis is interviewing children for the position of his assistant.  It looks like the kids have no idea that this is a joke.  One kid says he like’s Usher and Galifianakis goes, “Usher is Justin Bieber’s dad, right?”  Galifianakis picks up a stapler and uses it as a telephone until the girl informs him that it’s not a telephone.  Then he uses a fart machine, trying to get one kid to laugh, but the kid just keeps shaking his head and going, “not funny.”  This was a quick, clever, and very Galiafanakis-ish short.  7.5/10

Jessie J – Well, she’s attractive even though she’s dressed like an idiot and wearing so much make-up that she looks like she’s trying to emulate Jocelyn Wildenstein’s style.  She has a nice voice, but this song is not good.  It’s so disposable.  It seems like she was cynically designed by record execs.  “We want Amy Winehouse, but a with a little bit more of a hip hop bent.”  Or like they said, “We want Lily Allen part two.”  This is silly.  3/10

Weekend Update – I could use some Stefon in my life, especially since the show won’t come back until April 2nd, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen.  Seth Meyers starts off with a couple of weak jokes about Obama’s bullying and the NFL lockout, then a pretty solid joke combining the Pope, Jesus, and Watson the computer.  Kristen Wiig comes out as Julie Taymor to talk about getting fired from the Spider-man musical and she’s singing the opening of The Lion King.  I feel bad for Julie Taymor, sort of.  I’d probably feel worse if she didn’t come across as being incredibly pretentious.  Or if I liked a single one of her movies.  Wiig isn’t doing anything outrageous here, which is fitting because Taymor isn’t an easy person to impersonate.  Meyers says there are claims that she doesn’t know anything about the source material, which she refutes.  “I know everything there is to know about the Spider-man.”  “I know Spider-man’s secret identity is Peter Jessica Parker.”  Then she sings a song called “Rise Above,” which is pretty funny.  Wiig is always on point when she’s singing.  Moving on.  “According to a new study, men with deeper voices are more likely to be suspected of a cheating in a relationship.  Also suspected?  Men with suddenly high voices.”  This is a good one: “Police in Alaska are warning visitors to not approach any wild moose after a woman who tried to pet one was kicked in the chest.  ‘No, yeah, we know,’ said absolutely everybody else.”  Andy Samberg comes on as “Liam, the teenager who just woke up.”  The weird thing is that Samberg looks just like me when I would wake up in the middle of the night ten years ago.  He’s supposed to talk about Obama’s energy policy, but instead he talks about the dreams he just had.  This is not the best Update guest or the best Samberg character.  While singing about Peter Falk and wet dreams to the tune of “Oops I Did it Again,” Samberg almost loses it, which is enjoyable because Samberg almost never breaks character.  He’s got one of the strongest constitutions on the show, but he almost broke for a second.  Seth Meyers ends Weekend Update on a serious note, with a plea to donate money to the Earthquake-relief efforts in Japan.  Classy move.  Not the strongest update of the season, but certainly pretty good and fairly short.  6.5/10

Noodles – Galifianakis and Wiig play parents who have to inform their kids that Noodles, the dog, has died.  They tell their three kids – played by Pedrad, Moynihan and Elliott – that he’s on a farm somewhere upstate eating avocados fresh from the tree.  Pedrad picks up on the lie and says that unless there’s been a drastic climate tree, there’s no way there are avocado trees upstate.  The parents keep changing their story, trying to get the kids to believe that Noodles died.  “Noodles was killed by the Latin Kings.”  “The Latin Kings haven’t been active in this area for years.”  “Okay, Noodles hung himself.”  Galifianakis and Wiig then tell the truth: Noodles died from auto-erotic asphyxiation and then explain the practice to their children, complete with a copy of his dog porn magazine.  Then Hader brings the dog back, informing everyone that the dog isn’t dead, but was merely in a coma.  Then it gets even weirder, with Kenan as the voice of Noodles, singing “Luck Be a Lady.”  This skit definitely gets bonus points for being so bizarre, but it was slow going for a while and there weren’t that many laughs.  6/10

Celebrity Scoop – Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen play the hosts of a Winnipeg-based Entertainment Tonight type show.  Zach Galifianakis is one of their reporters.  They don’t show pictures of people canoodling because that’s the “Canadian way.”  Galifianakis elongates every “o” and all of them, as the skit goes on, are starting to sound more and more Irish rather than Canadian.  Bill Hader comes on as the fashion correspondent.  Basically the skit is based on the stereotype that Canadians are really nice.  This skit is going on really long considering there is only one joke and it was beaten into my head within the first thirty seconds.  This might have been an interesting concept, but there’s not a whole lot to do with it.  This is getting painful.  2/10

Jessie J Again – Wow, that’s some outfit.  What is with modern female singers dressing in underwear?  What hath Lady Gaga wrought?  Not that I’m complaining.  Anyway, once again Jessie J has a really nice voice, even if she’s intent on proving that point a little too much with lots of flashy singing flourishes.  This song is really terrible, though.  As a pop song, it has no hook and it’s difficult to get into a rhythm with it.  Sorry, Jessie J, you’re just not for me.  2/10

Corn Syrup Producers of America – It’s another short film.  This one is at a birthday party, where Kristen Wiig tries to explain to Pedrad that corn syrup is bad, but then gets rocked by Pedrad.  “Should I trust scientists or stay-at-home mom Sheila who drinks wine at 10am?”  This was actually pretty funny and succinct.  I liked it.  7.5/10

The Titanic’s Women and Children – Zach Galifianakis dressed as a woman so he can get into the lifeboat that is reserved solely for women and children and isn’t fooling anybody.  Galifianakis then beats away a man who tries to get into the boat.  It turns out that Galifianakis is the captain.  They read from his journal: “Iceberg straight ahead, I think I’ll blast through that sucker.”  This is just not a good sketch.  But it ends with a pretty bizarre epilogue that I enjoyed.  3/10

Goodbyes – Whoa!  Galifianakis shaved the sides of his head, apologizing for the fact that they didn’t have time for the “Mr. T” sketch.  It’s becoming a recurring thing for Galifinakis to shave parts of his body on SNL…what’s next?  10/10 for shaving his head to look like Mr. T.

Final Grades:

Zach Galifianakis – He was excellent, but he was let down by some of the material.  The Digital Short could have been stronger and I think that was probably mostly his idea, but the monologue was the best I’ve seen all year.  Next time they need to find some sketches where he can embody some more specific characters rather than shoe-horning him into skits that could have been written weeks, months or years ago.  Either way, I’d be happy to see him come back once again.  9/10

Jessie J – Sorry, not a fan.  She was too derivative of other, better artists despite her nice voice.  2.5/10

The rest of the cast – Got to see Paul Brittain, which was a plus, but there was an absence of Jay Pharoah.  The MVP would probably be Nasim Pedrad, who was in a lot of the sketches and made the most of her time.  Wiig is a close second.  Kenan and Hader are tied for third.  Let’s get Stefon back next time, guys!

As for myself, I whipped through this pretty well, so I give myself a 7/10.

What’d you guys think?

10 Responses to “SNL Recap – Zach Galifianakis and Jessie J”

  1. Juan O. says:

    I must say that I had never heard of Jessie J before tuning into the show, but unlike you, I was blown away by her talent! Her second performance was especially great. After the show, I searched for more videos on YouTube and realized that she could DEFINITELY give Lady GaGa a run for her money in the U.S. She’s equally, if not more, talented that GaGa and certainly brings something different to the same crap we hear and see in music today.

  2. TJ says:

    Galifinikas rocked and so did Jessie J, she has made me a fan.

  3. Tom says:

    SOOO wrong about Jessie J it’s untrue. But then look how nasty the graphics are on this site, journalists with no taste aren’t a surprise..

  4. jim says:

    Wow. Opinion of Jessie J raises questions about ability as a critic. I thought she was brilliant and immediately surfed for all the info I could gather on her. If you can’t tell talent like this when you see it I have to wonder. Better get your resume ready.

  5. yoyoy says:

    Also a fan of jessie j having never heard of her before this show. Girl’s got pipes!

    I highly recommend live at the purple onion if you are a zach galifianakis fan… and I hope I’m pronouncing that right.

  6. Brian says:

    Jessie J was amazing. One of the better SNL musical performances.

  7. Jenny says:

    Jessie J is AMAZING, regardless of your opinion I think she is better than 90% of the pop artists out right now. She writes all of her own music and you will never see her on stage lipsynching like many other artists now a days.

  8. Bellis says:

    Over the years, I’ve “discovered” performers in SNL unfamiliar to me and had become a fan: Prince, Terence Trent D’Arby, Edie Brickell, Amy Winehouse, etc

    Jessie J was fantastic! I had never heard of her before an d I am not into that kind of music but I loved her performance.

  9. TEAM JESSIE J! says:

    i disagree with all the haters!!!!!!! Jessie J has a talent..that noone else has she’s unique..and can PROVE she has talent EVERY single peformance,LIVE..pure blessed talent!

  10. Rich says:

    I too though who the crap is this and whoever dressed her should be shot but then was totally impressed. Saying that her songs had no “hook” only shows that you are one of the people that use industry terms that you dont understand.

Quote Unquotesee all »

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin