Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Would Like An Orange Julius

I am fully aware that this is my third post out of my last five discussing mid 90s to early-00s Saturday Night Live sketches (given how sparsely I update this blog nowadays, that's probably about half my total output for the year thus far). It wasn't be design or anything, I just happen to post when the feeling strikes me and that feeling this time just happened to be in the form of a long forgotten sketch guest starring Sylvester Stallone from 1997.

In his over 40 year career in film, Sylvester Stallone has earned many accomplishments from Oscar-nominated writer/actor, to action icon, to notable softcore porn star, and Boxing Hall of Famer; unfortunately comedic actor is definitely not one of them. Try as he might, his few forays into (intentional) comedies have been nothing short of disastrous. Thus, it comes as a bit of a surprise that his hosting of the premiere of the 23rd season of SNL in 1997 turned out (at least in my memory) to be a pretty solid episode and featured the above "Orange Julius" Sketch; one of my all time top ten favorite SNL sketches.

Everyone has different senses of humor, but my favorite types of SNL sketches are usually ones that end up surprising you with their direction. Often times I find too many lazy sketches where it's entirely reliant on a cheap sight/costume gags or just the irritating mannerisms of the main character (re:almost every Kristen Wiig sketch). I do like those types of sketches in moderation, and if done well, but often a good sketch for me is one that is more based on dialog and the interaction/give and take between the actors; plus a little dash of the absurd doesn't hurt either. I've previously written about this in my post about my all time favorite sketch "Census Taker".

As with the "Census Taker", the "Orange Julius" sketch for me really hits all the right notes for a great sketch. You gets a little suspicious if the sketch is just going to go for some cheap laughs when Stallone comes out with the shirt in the fly, but the sketch quickly devolves into a hilariously surreal exercise in futility with Stallone's Leon trapping Ferrell's pitch perfect computer purchasing straight man into an increasingly frustrating, almost Kafkaesque, episode where he ends up being pressured to buy a vending machine. It's Stallone's performance that really makes the whole thing work. I find his character to be one of the most fascinating one shot characters in memory with all his nuanced quirks from constantly referring to his supervisor by the wrong name or saying one computer is "boss" while the other is "for gays", his inability to pronounce Pentium Processor, to insisting the commander of the Enterprise was Cpt. Clark. You're not sure what exactly his deal is. Is he suppose just supposed to be a bad employee? Insane? Mentally challenged? Just really into Orange Juliuses? He manages to be both infuriatingly inept yet sympathetically earnest as a salesman; and his melodramatic, senseless, meandering speech at the end actually comes off a little bit genuinely sad. Fortunately he gets a happy conclusion that befits the insanity of the sketch.

I don't know, maybe I'm devoting way too much word count to a forgotten sketch that most likely bombed almost 14 years ago; but I can't deny it definitely left a last impression on me all these years later. Also, I never actually had one of those Orange Juliuses, from what I've read they sound pretty good.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Picture This!

One of the things I've been doing with my extra post law school "down time" has been getting around to knocking out some of the more obscure titles in my casual quest to see every Best Picture winning film. It's not really a motivated goal or anything and I doubt I'll ever muster enough enthusiasm to rent and watch "The Broadway Melody of 1929" or "Cavalcade"; basically it comes down to if my local library has it for rent and if I can't find anything better to do. That being said I recently watched, over the span of a week, "How Green Was My Valley" and "Mrs. Miniver", Best Picture winners of 1941 and 1942 respectively and two of the most forgettable and lowest regarded Best Pictures this side of "Crash".

While both pictures essentially lived up to their mediocre billing and ended up being hard 3 star ratings, one of the things I noticed was the male lead for both films Walter Pidgeon

bore an noticeable resemblance to...

"Mad Men" star Jon Hamm (especially when he's all Draper-ed up). It seems lately the Hamm-ster has been trying to leverage his TV success into setting up a big screen career, but it remains to be seen if he will ever come close to putting up the impressive feat of headlining consecutive Best Picture winners. Looking at his upcoming IMDB credits ("Sucker Punch", "Bridesmaids") at least 2011 may be a wash.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Have My Cake...

It is with much excitement and pleasure that after years of searching (well, really more like an hour of searching two years ago and then randomly searching for it recently and immediately finding it) I was able to find the "Sexy Cakes" sketch from Patrick Stewart's classic 1994 appearance on Saturday Night Life, one of my all time favorite SNL sketches.

I remember during my brief obsession with finding this sketch, I almost contemplated uploading a crude homemade reenactment of it using still pictures and voice over just so younger audiences could have had some sense of it beyond transcripts (my threat to do a similar reenactment of the "Hi-C and Turkey" sketch starring Danny Aiello from 1996 if no one uploads it still stands).

The sketch itself is a pretty funny concept but still fairly one note (an erotic cake maker only makes cakes of people going to the bathroom); what really sells it is Stewart's performance. From start to finish he treats his oddly perverse baker with the dedication and gusto that the show just doesn't get from the other 90% of their guests who awkwardly stumble through scenes with their eyes transfixed on the cue cards. The bulk of the humor comes from his unyielding, singular idea of sexiness (namely women going to the bathroom) and his effusive enthusiasm, bordering on titillation, about the supposed sexiness of his creations; contrasted with the disappointed and confused reactions of his customers (also want to note that Rob Schneider as the subdued straight man is sort of an odd choice). Additionally, that fact that the sketch doesn't overstay its welcome and has a nice, well defined ending with a comedy beat (the inability to end a sketch properly is the biggest problem that sinks good sketches) raises it to the level of an all time classic in my book. Sure, nowadays Sir Patrick is all game for comedic cartoon voice over work and cheeky cameos, but this sketch was one of the first to really come upon the inspired formula of using his distinct authoritative voice and classically trained acting abilities to do surreal, often times dirty, comedy.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Witty One-Liner I Would Give About Recently Dismissed BYU Basketball Player Brandon Davis From My Opening Monologue If I Hosted A Late Night Show

"Hey did any of you hear about that basketball player from BYU, Brandon Davis? One of the best players on the team but he got suspended for apparently violating the school's strict honor code of having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Yeah, that's right...And here I thought that the Mormon Church encouraged missionary work!

Stick around after the break, we'll talk to George Hamilton about his new movie..."

As for my own personal thoughts on the matter; I have to say that BYU showed some exceptional integrity in staying true to their policies given the season they are having and the potential ramifications of losing one of their top players (in fact they just got crushed by New Mexico and probably lost their chance at a 1 seed). Is their code (which, among other things, bans drinking coffee and tea, foul language, beards, and sandals) unduly strict and unrealistic relative to most colleges? Probably, but then again it's what they believe in and what all the players agree to follow; and with all the stories of crooked coaches, compromised programs, and academic improprieties in the big business of college sports, BYU's actions are at the very least respectable. For me the bigger question is: how the hell do they manage to convince any good non-Mormon recruits to come and play there (seriously given their moral handicaps, their 1984 undefeated college football championship must be one of the greatest sports accomplishments of all time)?