My excitement for Christoph Waltz hosting SNL was tempered with some measure of fear because, as we all know, this season has been a little slumpy. Waltz is such a likable and accomplished performer that I felt concerned that the writing would fail him, that we’d watch him flailing around in a jokeless DJ Booth or helplessly stranded in The Situation Room, maybe wearing a large hat with a pair of deelyboppers on it. I would want to reach into my television and save him if it wasn’t working out. But that wasn’t the case. Maybe because of Djesus Uncrossed, maybe because of Waltz pulling off a jaunty dance while begging “Mama let me fly,” or just maybe because of seeing one of my former SNL character nemeses, Regine, get accidentally doused with a glass of what I hope was SUPER chilly white wine, this episode was probably my favorite of the season.
It was The Wizard of Oz in 1939 that provided Hollywood with its most enduring depiction of the divide between the head and the heart. In their desperation to gain the organs they lacked, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man proved themselves willing to endure any indignity, from flying monkeys to grabby munchkins. No task was too great, no road too yellow or too long. Everything was worth it in their tireless quest to appear either smarter or more caring.
The Wizard of Oz didn't win the Oscar for Best Picture — the trophy that year went to some overheated epic about wind. But in many ways the shared journey of the Scarecrow and the Tin Man toward wildly disparate goals presaged every stupid Academy decision for the next 70-plus years. When given the chance, the Oscars always trip themselves up lunging for hearts or smarts, never rewarding actual artistic achievement when something tear-jerking or historical is there to get in the way. Hollywood, as one or two (million) people have blithely commented, is a wildly insecure town, its denizens desperate to be thought of as both relatably human (they are not) and inspirationally erudite (ditto). The Oscars, more often than not, reflect this; the final tally saying more about how the voters wish to be perceived than anything about the movies themselves.
As in — the cast of The Avengers was just announced as presenters at this year's Oscars (Sunday! February 24! On ABC!) Why? Well, in the spirit of the continued MTV Movie Awards-ification of the Academy Awards, why not have the dudes from the third biggest movie of all time show up at your party? Also, Seth MacFarlane is hosting, which, roughly speaking, means the only way the Oscars could get under the impressively diminutive "low-brow mass-market appeal" bar they've set for themselves this year would be to open the show with Spuds MacKenzie simultaneously high-fiving Andrew Dice Clay and Vince ShamWow while, below them, the nerd from the Bar Refaeli Super Bowl ad sits on all fours sloppily munching down an XL plate of day-old nachos from Detroit Metro Airport's Chili's Express.
The new issue of Vanity Fair has an oral history of Pulp Fiction, but if you hate physical media and also paying money for things, don't worry: There are some juicy excerpts available on the magazine's website right now. As for why Vanity Fair decided to do the oral history at this present time, 19 years after the movie, I figure it was either to coincide with Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained’s Oscar run, to beat the the rush on the 20th anniversary, or to free us from the tyranny of the "only years ending in ‘5’ or ‘0’ are worth commemoration" fallacy. And I choose to believe it's the latter one, and I applaud VF for their courageous pioneerism on this very important issue. On to the anecdotes!
2013 is going to be incredible, if for no other reason than because this will undoubtedly be the year the cultural discourse shifts from simple discussions of "race" or "racism" to the majestic land of "how we talk about and react to race in mixed settings." While ideas of a "post-racial" society are but a single cute step below thinking the world was going to end on December 21 on the "awwww, that's cute" scale, what we are in 2013 is post–"race and things typically associated with a single race existing only within that racial silo." Finally.
As 2012 came to a close, a few things in the media's racial-discourse sphere took place that hinted the cup was set to runneth over. In December, we had a black sports commentator call a black quarterback essentially "not black enough," and the result was supporters of all races coming to the defense of the Third Griffin, telling this black commentator that he had no right to define what was black. And then, to top it off, he was reprimanded by his superiors, many of whom are white. Bonkers. In the past, passing judgment on a matter like this, whether against or in favor, could really only come from other esteemed blacks, because who else had the right to comment on what was "black" and what was not? That, as was made evident, is no longer the case.
Nothing says Christmas like slaves and whores! Anne Hathaway and Samuel L. Jackson enter the ring for a very NSFW Sad-Off over cocoa and gingerbread while they deck the halls. If you’re still at work, now might be a good time to lug your desktop into the bathroom and plug it in under the sink, because I think this ISFP (is safe for potty). How can you top the sad factor of Les Mis, “the miserable”? Well, slavery’s a good place to start. Plus, the star of Jackson’s movie "had his own sitcom on the WB.” And Hathaway was only a Disney princess because she had long hair; in Les Mis all of that gets chopped off “with a knife” (but Jackson “hasn’t had hair since Unbreakable”). Hathaway might not be able to handle being a black man in the South in the 1800s (or ever), but “When there’s a French whore in the White House, then we can talk.” Then again, though Fantine loses her job, “everybody in [Jackson’s] film has job security, because they’re slaves.” Jackson illustrates this with marshmallows and licorice. Oh, so now it’s a slave house? If Hathaway had known, she “would have made whore town.” Someone, quick, throw together a movie featuring slaves with tuberculosis shaving cancer-stricken puppies, hoping to sell the fur to buy instant oatmeal for their families! The Sad-Off championship title can be yours!
I love Martin Short, but I was still surprised at how good this weekend’s episode of SNL was. This season has been spotty to say the least, and considering the horrific event that happened one day before the taping, it seemed like the holiday-themed show was destined to be like the last two inches of egg nog in the bottle slowly separating in the fridge: Nobody wants it, but abandoning it would be like giving up. Short was featured on the tenth season of Saturday Night — a tumultuous period with some seriously weird opening credits (hot dogs, cockroaches, spray paint) — but, you know, that was 28 years ago, the 62-year-old couldn’t be blamed if he was a little rusty, even if this was his third time hosting. Plus I really didn’t want to see Short playing “Thug #2” or on a “Mission to Mars.” Luckily, we didn’t have to. Plus we got this photo of an embarrassed, post-possible-f-bomb Samuel L. Jackson out of the deal. Everybody wins!
Tracy Flick, Captain Kirk, and Bane make up the points of a love triangle in this broad action-comedy from director McG. Fill up on heavy artillery, CGI schlock, and neck-swiveling double takes while Chelsea Handler salts the rim with her patented zingers about being slutty and drunk. I'll probably watch this eventually, but it should be said that I would watch a movie of Tom Hardy's beard growing for two hours (This Means Fur).
Marvel’s superhero supergroup blockbuster The Avengers hasn’t even opened in the U.S. yet, and has already made enough money to fund every horrible business idea of every adult on the planet (I’m starting a supermarket chain that only sells Cheddar cheese). But that’s not enough to satisfy Samuel L. Jackson, a.k.a. Nick Fury, the superspy that assembles The Avengers, and who has appeared in all of the flicks building up to this here magic moment.
Marvel Studios is riding a nice groove heading into The Avengers, its big, ambitious, years-in-the-making, star-packed, crossover superhero flick. Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man was already a proven entity, and this summer saw the critical and box-office success for Chris Evans’ Captain America ($362 million worldwide) and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor ($448 million); all three figure prominently in the new, much-hyped trailer. Also present, though less accounted for: Iron Man 2's Scarlett Johansson, back in the Black Widow outfit; Jeremy Renner, who debuted as the archer Hawkeye in a three-second cameo in Thor; and Eric BanaEdward Norton Mark Ruffalo as Hulk. Most heartwarming of all: finally, Samuel L. Jackson, as S.H.I.E.L.D. team leader Nick Fury, gets to do more than pop up briefly in secret post-credits Easter-egg scenes. See, he’s bringing the crew together to fight an evil no one of them can handle alone, only they’re superheroes who are used to starring in their own movies, so of course they don’t trust each other. While Thor’s disgraced Norse god Loki is wreaking havoc, lots of snappy banter ensues. Cap America to Tony Stark: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that away, and what are you?” Tony Stark: “Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.” Thor: [hearty Viking laugh]. Anyway, this looks awesome.
It had long been assumed that J.J. Abrams would return to directing duties on the sequel to his 2009 smash Star Trek reboot — and now it’s confirmed. The script is going to be wrapped up by the end of the month, and the movie starts shooting this winter. Apparently Abrams waited to make it official until Alex Kurtzman (the co-writer, alongside Roberto Orci, of the first movie) finished work on his directorial debut Welcome To People and could return to the screenplay full time. Another reason Abrams took so long to commit: He was spending a lot of that time trying, ineffectively, to come up with a hilarious sequel subtitle. Grade: A [Vulture]
Movie star Hugh Jackman will revisit his past glories on the stage with a limited-run show running this fall called Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway, featuring an 18-piece orchestra, musical numbers, and personal anecdotes. The first anecdote Jackman will tell will be about what Professor X is like in real life. Grade: A- [Variety]