30 April 2011

The Risks and Benefits of Trailer Abstinence

I have a new goal for the Summer Movie Season. No trailers. As best as I can I'd like to avoid seeing any footage of some of the summer's biggest releases including THOR (2011), Transformers: Dork of the Moon (2011) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Swallows, Fart 2 (2011). Actually as an exercise in avoiding advertising alone this task will be exceedingly difficult.

Why the Hell Do You Want to do That?

Gene Siskel famously didn't like watching movie trailers. He wanted to go into a film with as honest of an opinion as possible in order to give a review with as little bias or hype as he could. I appreciate the same idea. Trailers tend to give away plot points, action pieces, jokes and even actors that could create skewed expectations going into a film (hell I made a whole post about that a while ago). I decided that my goal is to go into these flicks as fresh as possible, let the action drip down my eyeballs like eye-drops at the eye doctor. That was terrible.

Trailers especially affect comedies. Hearing the timing of jokes the first time around is vital to a comedy's success and a good trailer can ruin that very well. Action flicks tend to have the same problem - we're not as enthralled by that explosion if we've seen it on TV a thousand times.

So Why This Summer?

Thanks for asking, self. I've already seen some trailers for THOR, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), X-Men: First Class (2011) and Green Lantern (2011). Actually, trailers will generally be the turning point if I'm on the fence whether or not to get pumped for a film. On paper X-Men: First Class seemed retarded and Green Lantern seemed awesome. In trailer form X-Men: First Class looks thoughtful, action-packed and well-cast as well as an interesting experiment in taking the classic superhero movie (X-Men [2000] started this fucking trend anyway) and placing it in a different, distinct time period, while Green Lantern looks rushed, messy and full of shit. Needless to say, by abstaining from trailers I relegate myself to watching all flicks crap and good.

Recently there's been a lot of fanfare over Dork of the Moon, but I've proudly avoided it so far. At this point I generally know what I'm getting into with Bay and Co's third outing with the Transformers and any trailer whatsoever wouldn't affect my decision to go see this movie (and then write 5-6 reviews of it). Under that assumption I'd rather be surprised by the cameos, jokes, awesomeness and even the general tone of the film.

The Hangover 2 (2011) in particular strikes me as a film that will indelibly rely on surprises to be an effective comedy. At this point I'm trying to avoid commercials for it as well, quickly changing the channel when it comes on. I am an enormous fan of the first film, and from what little I've heard the second is very similar in plot structure so it really needs a series of shocking events to sustain its watchability. Actually the first teaser was just about perfect in wetting my appetite. The discordant rhythm of Jay-Z's "Reminder" echo through the surrid scenery and shots of the Brad, Zach and Ed that exist perfectly to both recall the fun of the first film and ask how the hell did they get into the situation they're in now. It drips in such sleaze that guarantees a step-up in everything that made The Hangover (2009) incredible. I don't need any other trailers. I will see it based on this alone.

I'd actually chalk up Bridesmades (2011) to the same degree tho it's an unproven franchise and one that could probably win me over with a good trailer that I haven't seen. That's certainly a tougher film to get behind although the recent character posters have peaked my interest.

What Comes Next Then?

So if you are to join me in my Trailer Ignorance there's a few things to do. First and most easy, fight the urge to click on that tempting New Transformers news and YouTube links. That should be fine. Second is avoiding the commercials on television. This is a bit trickier but when watching the TV alone changing the channel shouldn't be a big deal. If you've got friends over just scramble and fight for that remote from the host and then change it. Or run out of the room screaming with your fingers in your ears.

Perhaps the most difficult avoidance of Trailers however is in the theaters. At some point you're probably going to have to see some of these movies and needless to say they'll be playing some trailers for other Summer Flicks during THOR, Something Borrowed (2011), Jumping the Broom (2011), you know, all the blockbusters. You've basically got the option of either showing up to every movie late and risking missing some opening credits (not bloody likely...you couldn't arrive late enough to miss every trailer) or just sit there in the theater screaming, eyes closed and fingers in your ear. Either option is equally sane in an advertisement-driven society so feel free to do whatever.

Anyway, I'm pumped for this summer. The superhero films look pretty quality (except for that one that looks really retarded) and there's even some good-looking fledgling properties like Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and Super 8 (2011). It's also going to be basically identical to 2009 with installments of the Hangover, Transformers and Harry Potter franchises. I'm also looking forward to such underhyped films as Horrible Bosses (2011), Bad Teacher (2011) and Everything Must Go (2011). So turn off the trailers and just see what's out there!

Your What the Fuck Moment of the Week: Extreme Couponing

I've managed to catch this terrible show on TLC the past few weeks called Extreme Couponing. Everything about this show is moronic, soulless and terrible. It has caused such an ire to grow within me that I am compelled now to rant and rave about it as Your What the Fuck Moment of the Week.

For those of you who have never watched the program, every week it features a new insane human being who compulsively uses coupons to save a couple bucks at the grocery store. Actually typically they save 90+% of their shopping totals, often in upwards of a few grand. The concept for achieving this feat every week is actually pretty simple and also completely needlessly excessive.

The driving idea is that after literally 30 - 40 hours of research a week the Couponer will find some compounded deal like a coupon for a dollar off some laundry detergent that is already at half-price. Doing so actually renders a positive monetary yield, that is, they're able to make money off their purchase. After scouring hundreds of magazines and products the Couponer does this literally a few hundred times with different products which builds up enough of a positive yield that cancels most of the other products that they couldn't get for free. Virtually every product they buy has some kind of discount, it's a conceit that limits their shopping to only on-sale products. Afterwards the Couponer obviously boasts that they have trimmed hundreds of dollars off their purchase.

This is so obviously stupid to me. The trick is simple enough - con a grocery store out of their money by manipulating their sales and coupons by doing what no sane person would do - buy 90 Aspirins and 40 Bags of Fritos on a discount. Naturally the savings aren't really impressive when you realise that if they would just buy one thing of detergent like a normal human they could spend only a few bucks instead of hundreds. You may argue that this is negligible due to the savings, but the amount of time spent researching and collecting the coupons could also be spent you know...working a job.

It's just this parade of excess. These people's houses contain closets filled with Soda 2-Liters and garages filled with toilet paper and cans of beans. They're saving money at the expense of acquiring possessions. It's a spiritual deathtrap. It's not even spending, it's just HAVING. This is the epitome of American Consumerism. It's not even about money anymore nor the use of products. It's about hollow acquisition under illusory pretenses of saving a few bucks. It's an exercise in purposelessness. At the end of the day these people are saving hundreds of dollars but that's only the face of couponing. Underneath they are wasting tremendous amounts of time in planning and preparation, limiting their families meal choices (for example quality meat and fruit is rarely on sale) and filling their houses with products and clutter they will never use. We may mention again that they are basically scamming grocery stores, causing them to suffer as well from thousand-dollar purchases that amount to nothing.

Perhaps I'm overreacting but this kind of thing is just evil to me. It's consuming without reason. In fact, it's not even having things for the sake of having them, it's having things for no reason at all. It's idle time wasted in order to buy crap. We live in a society where not buying things renders people crazy. We praise these Couponers and give them a show that treats their savings as victories in the battle of spending. They can consume more while spending less so they must be our society's heroes. We praise them for their saving skills instead of investigating their severe mental obsessions. Whoever consumes the most is the champion. Basically the fact that no one considers this show to be insane is very insane. We have become complacent towards our consumption and acquisition of material products until this breaking point when we're almost completely apathetic. It's a miserable state that offers no real honour or spiritual fulfillment.

Well, now that my blood is sufficiently boiled and gears sufficiently grinded we can just relax and watch Hoarders.

24 April 2011

The Long Halloween Vol. II: Easter

O the bright sunny glowing spring morning when you wake up to find this basket filled with eggs and candy which somehow symbolises the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ - this is Easter Morning. Commercialised Easter is one of the more bizarre of the Commercialised Holidays. I get Halloween - that's all pagan. Christmas in addition to being a major Christian Holiday has enough general goodwill and spirited bullshit to pass off a nice sense of giving and cheer. What is Easter, though? It's generally should be one of our Darker Holidays - we're celebrating the great sacrifice and martyrdom of our main dude JC and his subsequent resurrection, which is a good thing. It's a more complex emotion and driving theme than dressing up and getting drunk or even just giving and joy. You'd think we'd have run out of Pagan Festivities by now.

Fuck that, just paste a bunny on the thing, call it a Spring Rejuvenation and call it a day. Jelly Beans for all! I cited it last year, but South Park's "Fantastic Easter Special" (S11;E5) is still required viewing for doing the best job connecting all the Easter Paradoxes better than I ever could. There aren't a whole lot of Easter-specific Films or Television Specials, especially compared to Halloween or Christmas. Easter may actually have retained too much of its religiosity - Easter Season isn't spent shopping for costumes or buying trees or other secular pursuits. The Easter build-up is pretty much Lent, Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and if you're a Participating Christian there is this edge of seriousness rather than the lightness of other Holidays. Sitting in church also makes for difficult films. Still, the large Secular portions of Eastern haven't really been mined...until now!

A Google Image Search for "Hop" yields so many shots of fields harvested for beer

Hopping Movies:

If you're looking for a good Easter Flick this day I'd say you've got the choice between The Passion of the Christ (2004) or...Hop (2011). Both should get you into the Spirit pretty equally. Also if you're a Jew you may check out The Ten Commandments (1956) in honour of Passover, which ends tomorrow. I believe they used to show that movie on TV on one of these nights, actually.

Anyway, until this year we really didn't have an Easter Movie the same way we had Christmas Movies. Hop has changed all that, and it actually may quickly become one of the highest-grossing 2011 films so far (any one else notice how pathetic this year is? This should unfortunately drive more 3-D releases actually). While it may not really be a particularly great film, it offers that Secular Popular Holiday Debunking that Easter was just craving (c'mon - you really want to watch a dude get his ass kicked for two hours tonight or that cuuute widdle bunny wabbt?!). Actually, I'm enjoying this interpretation the best.

Gooey Mooey Foodies:

Somehow because of the Rabbits involved we decorate Eggs. Great. Anyway, don't eat those eggs, but instead munch on chocolate (including the lagomorph variety), jelly beans and of course, Peeps. Peeps are Easter. I despise Peeps. They're disgusting. They come in two flavours as is my understanding, yellow or pink (I think there's also blue. Who orders Peeps online? That is what I would like least in the world to receive by mail). So you can get either nauseating neon coloured Bunnies or nauseating neon coloured chicks. Wonderful. Wonderful times.

So beyond the candy-filled morning (celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord by seeing how many Sugar Marshmallows you can fit inside your mouth before 9 AM!) and the possible toy (My parents starting doing this - I'd find a Beast Wars or Street Sharks figure in my basket...they actually did get me Waspinator for Easter too, what the fuck guys, no Dinobot? Did Dinobot outsell for Easter? Holy shit.), typically there are some better things to eat and do once the day gets going. Lamb comes to mind. Other than that, just be generally penitent and your Easter will be as spectacular as mine used to be.

Fuck Waspinator. Even in the show they agreed that a giant bee should be retarded. You know he had two heads, right? A cool normal head and then the retarded head. No one ever used the cool head.

22 April 2011

Because it's....FRIDAY! A Much Deeper than Necessary Analysis of Rebecca Black

IT'S FRIDAY! More specifically it's a Friday in April in the year 2011 CE which necessitates playing the ultimate Friday song at the loudest possible volume. Loverboy? Hell no, it's time for some "Friday" baby - sing it, girl!

Ugh. Wow. Um...yikes. Is it still Friday? Okay then, okay, okay. Let's keep listening to that again. Rough. Rough stuff. Okay that's shit. So needless to say, let's examine every little possible facet of this girl and her terrible song.

Rebecca was born the day after Batman & Robin (1997) came out in theaters. I'm not sure if we should blame overzealous Clooney fans in the hospital for her idiocy but we might as well. Put that in your mind though, her birth month also included Con Air, Face/Off and Speed 2: Cruise Control. Shit. In late 2010 her mommy approached the ARK Music Factory with the intent to producer her song, which the company wrote for her. Just so we're clear, ARK's official YouTube channel is "trizzy66" and "Friday" counts for 83% of the channel's 136,765,171 as of April 22, 2011. This is really just the tip of the Shittiness Iceberg.

Rebecca Black in a Greater Pop Culture Context:

Before we fully dive in here I really think this whole thing is actually a very interesting ordeal. Rebecca Black is actually pretty difficult to make fun of because every single thing about her is so obviously stupid. It's not like other massive Pop Culture objects of ridicule like Jersey Shore or Sarah Palin that have lots of genuine supporters as well as clear points of parody that they both were willing to exploit. "Friday" is the most disliked video in YouTube history (2,277,260 and counting, an 88% disapproval rating) and has so many obvious faults across every imaginable influential demographic - its popularity is exceedingly negative, truly lying in Infamy rather than prostigidy.

I think it's interesting that she's really only gained this fame through the internet. I haven't heard "Friday" once on a single radio or television station but it's on the minds of Pop Culture junkies everywhere. It's a sign of Pop Culture literally caving in and eating itself. It is so bad for the sake of bad, any enjoyment is completely ironic. It's a sure element of zeitgeist only because it is so inconceivably terrible that everyone needs to listen to it. Rebecca Black isn't like Justin Bieber or Twilight which are just preteen fads. She's a completely talentless girl thrust so suddenly into the spotlight because of her lack of talent rather than the contrary. She's not an idol or a sensation. She's a national joke - the meta-joke then becomes a reevaluation of fame: Is she any less worthy of the spotlight as long as she's getting the spotlight? If the aftereffects of fame through talent and fame through lack of talent are virtually identical (besides a swelling of negative criticism she is still a household name and still wealthy [tho she is giving lots of it away supposedly], the results of her 15 minutes is congruent) is this a sign of a truly postmodern society fueled on irony over sincerity? Needless to say the answer is yes.

Learn the Days of the Week with Rebecca Black!

Alright, so why is this thing so bad? Well, firstly the song has some of the most simplistic lyrics in a mainstream pop song ever. Just for kicks, skim this over. Here is the most painful chunk:

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today is Friday, Friday (Partying)
We we we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwards

Again as you can see, the problems here are so blatant that I have difficulty pointing them out. It's the most basic concept of Friday imaginable. No mention of Frige at all nor ABC's successful TGIF Line-up in the mid-90s, I mean, what else is there to say about Friday? Oh that it comes after Thursday. And before Saturday. And Sunday of course is afterwards. Actually the use of afterwards is slightly off here; according to this (I had to look up in three dictionaries [including one...in print] before I found a differentiating definition) the correct use should be simply "afterward." But then of course who's to take grammar lessons from a girl saying "We we we so excited." That's actually probably acceptable; if it's spoken fast the human ear tends to blur "we're" into "we" pretty well but when Rebecca sings it so flat and clear along with WRITTEN LYRICS IN THE FUCKING VIDEO it just highlights her grammatical difficulties. That's awful.

We're so excited. Please don't give up school for this.

This Bitch Needs More Auto-Tune

Rebecca has one of the flattest, boring monosyllabic styles of singing I've ever heard. AND she actually does have some Auto-Tune use in the song! I'm just thinking of Ke$ha without the magic voice box and...and Rebecca needs something. Actually Auto-Tune is not going to help your voice if there's no inflection, no passion or variation.

I think it was actually awesome then when Stephen Colbert covered the track on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon he purposely (Wait...I hope so) sang without much spirit in a very flat style. Here is that track. By the way, why the hell does NBC keep screwing itself like this - not allowing awesome Viral Videos like this to go online to everyone? I have to give you a backwards YouTube link like this. As if DarthMikael69 is really ripping them off. NBC has some incredible quality that it just doesn't get out there due to some really stymie Internet policies. That's the topic for a whole other post though. For now let's just enjoy Jimmy Fallon adeptly covering every terrible kid song produced for hopefully the next decade.

As for her body language and physical performance, Rebecca is also terrible. She has this awkward uncomfortable sway through it all that really matches well with her flat awkward singing. You can tell she's just a suburban kid suddenly for some reason in the national spotlight and she really just wanted to make a song for her friends to do whatever they think "partying" on a Friday is (popcorn, jammies and up until 11 O'CLOCK!!!11!1!@). It's insane.

Rebecca Black in a Societal Context:

I think "Friday" is an emblematic song for many problems facing typical American teenagers. What's the roughest decision of the day? Front seat or back seat. That's about it. It's an era of security, helicopter parenting and smart phones completely devoid of serious problems. I want to see Rebecca Black's Libyan equivalent right now (that's probably excessive, Bryan). But really, it's such utter garbage devoid of true artistic pain or depth. I mean, even Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" is about something. Rebecca is just about nothing, and not a commentary on nothing either, it's not wholly nihilistic. It's just trash.

No, you haven't had enough yet.
I also find a couple of her other lyrics an interesting commentary on the state of American Society. She opens with "Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs / Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal / Seeing everything, the time is going / Ticking on and on, everybody's rushing." Note the urgency with each dull task as well as the complacency. Her life is built into a routine driven by socio-cultural factors to act in a certain way that conforms to a Consumer-based model of American Life. Her only freedom really comes on Friday when she cuts loose, ducks the bus stop only to arrive at a greater challenge - Front Seat or Back Seat?

This becomes actually one of the only things in her life she can actually choose. This also pertains to Rebecca herself. She didn't choose her song lyrics, her fame, her image or her criticism. All she is left with is Front Seat or Back Seat - the most meaningless decisions possible. We can note that in the lyrics she never decides - she is stuck on the choice and then gives up - after all, it's Fucking Friday. Friday liberates her from the dull choice and she creates a third option - Partying, Partying Yeah. Fun Fun Fun Fun.

Wait, Now What is this Black Guy Doing Here?

Halfway through this song this random Rapper comes out driving some car through an urban environment (contrasting with the obvious suburban location, tone and image of Rebecca) and has this cute little rap. The song quickly fires back to Rebecca finishing at some Suburban House Party. I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out the purpose of this number in an otherwise very Chick Pop-y song.

The easiest reason is that the Black Dude in the video is the Co-Founder of ARK Music Factory and the writer of "Friday," Patrice Wilson (whose name I actually had a difficult time tracking down). Mr. Wilson obviously wanted to piggyback on Rebecca's incoming success and the best way to do that and get out there himself was to actually appear in the song itself as well as in the Writing and Producing Credits. The problem is that the rap part has no place with the tone of the song other than to drastically increase the ironic absurdity.

What is with this blend of Chick Pop and Hip-Hop? I blame Xtina again, although Redman actually fits pretty well with that song's theme (Because it's fucking "Dirrty" - Redman belongs in that world and helped secure Christina's new image by initiating her into that world), but I still wonder about the methodology. Do producers believe that they need to expand their base audience into males (black or otherwise) by adding rap verses into tracks otherwise limited to Young Women / Perverts? Instead of uniting demographics I believe it splits them apart - the girls aren't attracted to the hard rap (not always true) and the hetero guys are certainly turned off by the Girl Pop.

That being said, there are lots of rap songs that girls like and they're certainly moreover the ones without many guns or ho's mentioned. I think Katy and Snoop's "California Gurls" is enjoyable by both genders which contributed to its huge crossover success last summer. Others like Jay-Z inexplicably appearing at the start of Rihanna's "Umbrella" leads rap fans in and then just screws them over with Pop for the rest of the song. There have been some interesting developments blending this whole idea lately as collaboration becomes more and more popular.Nicki Minaj's opening rap in "Moment 4 Life" is by far the best part of that song tho she sings the rest and Drake is just terrible. She needs more rapping actually, we get it, you can sing. Do what's unique about you, Nicki. She certainly bridges this male/female standard gap however. Likewise Kanye's competent rapping sandwiches Katy's verses in "E.T." which adds a bit of complexity to the standard format of rapping in that third verse (which you see everywhere from "Friday" to fucking "We Are the World 25 for Haiti"). Actually I'm starting to like how Eminem doesn't trust his singing at all and brings in girls like Rihanna and Skylar Grey to fill in the hooks.

Where the hell was I?

Oh yeah, it's Friday. Time to party.

20 April 2011

Tops: Best Movie Swears

Swearing is pretty awesome. It's jarring, uncomfortable and classless - just the kind of image we're looking for over here at Norwegian Morning Wood. A couple months back I posted a mediocre article chronicling the best attempts at Basic Cable Television to cover up some of the most hideous of words, so consider this the inverse of that compilation.

Now we're not really looking for Nil by Mouth (1997) stuff here, we all know what films have the most swears. I want to see quality over quantity in this post, but needless to say, when weaving the delicate art of dropping vocal bombs, many times they are one in the same. Let's get started in no particular order:

Jules Winnfeild in Pulp Fiction (1994)
There isn't a better Swear Artist than Sam Jackson. He rolls off "motherfuckers" with the command of a professional; driving home the urgency and attitude necessary to justify such language use in the situations he finds himself in. Many may have chosen the classic Snakes on a Plane (2006) line, but that's way too played out. I'm highlighting this underrated Pulp Fiction line, "I'm a mushroom cloud layin motherfucker, motherfucker!" I love how he's able to use "motherfucker" as both an insult to Vega and a fitting descriptor for himself seamlessly, simultaneously conveying an anger righteous enough to drop Atomic Bombs on those who oppose him. Fits in with Ezekiel 25:17. Kind of.

Rocco in The Boondock Saints (1999)
As Connor MacManus notes, Rocco certainly illustrates the diversity of the word "Fuck" in his astonished tirade following his late arrival on a scene where the brothers have double-handedly mowed down an assortment of Russian Mobsters intended as a set-up for Rocco himself (don't try to follow...there's Guns! And Irish Music!). He gets points for memorably stringing together a series of nine Fucks in ten seconds. Marvelous.

Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity (2004)
Ryan Reynolds needs to be in more movies like this - just an R-Rated Asshole out on the town killing people (Deadpool? Shit.) Anyway, his introductory scene both establishes his intelligence and planning along with his foul attitude towards...everybody and an incredible grasp on creative swearing. This is the only "Cockjuggling Thundercunt" on the list and earns its spot through sheer creativity. And they say that you only swear out of ignorance of language - untrue if you can string together an insult like that one. Although it's prevented from embedding, you deserve this in high quality - head over here and check it out.

Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Alec Baldwin probably has his best film role in this movie even though he's only on screen for a few minutes. He's such a commanding presence however that years later it's one of his most notable and acclaimed appearances. He comes in to these terrible Real Estate Salesmen to give a pep talk or whatever but it turns into an emasculating tirade with threats of lay offs but worse still complete spiritual and professional despair. Awesome. My favourite swear here though is responding to Ed Harris' Character who doesn't quite buy the act - he asks Alec his name. "FUCK YOU! THAT'S MY NAME!" It's all business, it's all sales, everything else is horseshit - it's a game of Sharks and Alec's the biggest fucking shark of all. Here's the whole damn thing. I also enjoy "Fuck or walk."

Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass (2010)
"Okay you cunts, let's see what you can do now." I'm a big "Cunt" fan. "Fuck" just doesn't hold that shock value anymore - everybody spouts of fuck fuck fuck all the time and no one really gives a fuck. You drop a casual cunt here or there though - holy shit people are still offended. It's a harsher word really only because it's been less desensitized by modern media. It's also an awful term for women, essentially summing up their entire existence as a vagina to be banged for male pleasure. It doesn't have enough variable uses (as demonstrated by Rocco) to really expand into mainstream vocabulary (even Shit is more versatile). So it's the perfect introduction coming out of the mouth of this apparently sweet 13-year old Hit-Girl. If she says anything else here the bad guys aren't listening to her. Neither is the audience. She's got our attention and it earns a spot for the sheer audacity of the moment - "She said WHAT?!" It's a beautiful moment in high level offensiveness.

Gary Johnston in Team America: World Police (2004)
"Dicks fuck assholes."The marionette's ending speech in Matt and Trey's only live action puppet film (to date...) is one of the best in Movie History. Clearly. It gets points here for string a huge series of casual swears together but also for legitimately justifying American Foreign Policy in easily understood terms. Yeah it's basically a defense of the Bush Doctrine put more eloquently than Bush (or Sarah) ever could. Welcome to the irony of being a South Park Republican.

Harry Waters in In Bruges (2008)
It's hard to pick out the best swear from In Bruges ("YOU'RE AN INANIMATE FUCKING OBJECT!" or "Yankee Fucking Cunt" or many many more). But to settle on one, I'll pick this bit about Harry's (Ralph Fiennes) Cunt-Fucking kids and Ken's (Brendan Gleeson) appropriate responses. Fiennes really is nothing but a cunt throughout this movie, completely unable to control his temper or temper his swearing (tho no one really can perform the latter). Colin Farrell was also underrated in this film until he nabbed a Golden Globe from under everyone's noses. Actually this movie both exhibits the terms Fucking Cunt and Cunt-Fucking. Maybe Cunt's more versatile than we suspected.

Joey LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980)
By far the best single swearing line I've ever heard in a film comes from Joey LaMotta (Joe Pesci) in Raging Bull. As his brother Jake (Bobby De Niro) has grown farther apart he attempts to call him but on the line he can't summon himself to speak. Joey gets worked up (as Pesci's characters rarely do...) and emits the following: “I can hear you breathing you fuck. You listening, your mother sucks fucking big fucking elephant dicks, you got that?” Read that again. Then watch it:

At first it would seem that the "Fuckings" are misplaced. A more conventional phrasing might be something like "Your mother fucking sucks big elephant dicks" in which "fucking" normally a progressive verb instead becomes attributive adjectives. In fact if we examine Adjective Order (which I'm sure Joey LaMotta pays attention to), we can guess that the first "fucking" is likely a descriptor of the quality of the size of the dicks - they're Fucking Big Dicks. The second "fucking" is a qualifying adjective - Big Fucking Dicks. Paired we have Fucking Big Fucking Dicks. The elephant in there adds a whole higher level of weirdness - it's a rare but effective insult to suck an animal dick, much less an elephant dick, which would be very large, probably larger than a mother's mouth.

Of course the ultimate irony in all this is that Joey is talking to his brother, so that grave insult towards the mother of the guy on the other line is that she is in fact, also his mother. Regardless of our grammatical discussion and any kind of awkwardness, that second "fucking" really makes the line stand-out, it helps the trochaic cadence of the line verbally and for the character provides the anger so well. I give it the honour of Top Movie Swear Ever.

18 April 2011

Tops: Least Annoying Movie Kids

In honour of the recently released Hanna (2011) I thought I'd take a moment today to recognize Children in Cinema. Now, typically stuffing some wiener kid in the middle of an action flick is terrible - they whine and bitch and just slow things down. I'm thinking of War of the Worlds (2005), The Phantom Menace (1999), Superman Returns (2006), Mercury Rising (1998) and just about anything with Haley Joel Osment and the entire cast of the first two Harry Potter movies (especially Rupert Grint - stop shitting yourself, kid).

Yet there are a handful of movies I think with some great kids that actually contribute to the story without so much irritation that gets in the way. For the purposes of this article I'll try to leave out "Kid-Centric" movies like The Sandlot (1993) and Little Giants (1994). Let's begin.

#5: Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) in Home Alone (1990)

I have actually seen this brat in a few "Worst Kid" lists (like this one, whose only real complaint is Culkin's later drug issues - he's a child actor! Of course he's going to have drug issues!) but I find his performance relatively tolerable. He's a bit of an asshole (Possibly more so in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York [1995]), not that cute and plays well tormenting innocent men who only want to rob his home. Is that so wrong, really? The McCallisters can make do. Anyway, he gets the #5 spot from declining my need to punch him in the face after sustained viewing periods.

#4: Lex and Tim Murphy (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) in Jurassic Park (1993)

I have also seen this pair on Worst-Of Lists, and in all reality Lex is dead weight until she inexplicably saves the park by understanding Unix. Other than that and a handy Velociraptor Twarting in the Kitchen she's mostly a screamer and a crier, which is awful. Tim on the other hand has that classic kid mentally - Dinos come to life and rampaging through an island is fucking awesome. Tho they both have their wiener moments they grow on Grant and the audience as well. They react as real kids instead of constantly whining and dragging down the action - instead shit keeps happening to them with no respite. Oooh Chaos at work Dr. Malcolm.

#3: Boo (Mary Gibbs) in Monsters, Inc. (2001)

This could have very easily have gone terribly - having this little cute animated kid in the middle of an eponymous Monster Movie seems terrible on paper. She works well though even though she does do a lot of crying and screaming she does just as much giggling and actually looks cute instead of infinitely creepy like some of Pixar's early work. Ugh that thing is terrifying. Boo is really endearing though and is integral to every part of the story of Monster's Inc., successfully being more cute than irritating. It's mostly that she's actually pretty well behaved if not just curious about a few things and with what could have easily turned into a two-hour "Baby on a Steel Girder" joke is actually a bit more. Yay.

#2: Hit-Girl (Chloe Mortez) in Kick-Ass (2010)

Absolutely the anti-cute annoying kid, she has a maturity beyond her years as exemplified by her swearing and killing skills. Regardless of how to feel about her actions or the integrity of this movie, Hit-Girl ain't a wiener kid and there's hardly a time when watching this film that you feel like you're even watching a little girl (Of course when you step back and realise it's a little girl you may be horrified...and call out bullshit on Mark Millar). She is very entertaining though and doesn't slow the story at all. Actually the characters around her need to slow her down.

#1: John Connor (Edward Furlong) in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

This kid isn't without his detractors, clearly, but I don't see any problemos with this dude. In fact I've already named him my favourite incarnation of John Connor and he's got more balls than Nick Stahl and more...things to do than Christian Bale. Sure he's a punk kid but he's a punk kid who already distrusts authority, knows how to survive on his own and manipulate machines and sustains a strong connection to humanity through his Mother and that Black Guy. He's a jerk-off but a young John Connor needs to be a jerk-off. Besides he handles himself pretty well considering how many people really want to kill him. I'm sorry...robots aren't people.

Bonus: Staying up late the other week watching terrible repeats on SyFy I managed to catch Stephen King's The Langoliers, a 1995 TV Miniseries that is far less cooler than this seems. It stars that dude from The Rock (1996), that other dude from Perfect Strangers and the faggiest little blind kid ever. All he does is complain and whine, he doesn't even complain about being blind, he just bitches about the air being stale and stuff. I loathe him. He needs the Robert Downey, Jr. treatment. Actually I think it's a girl. Ugh who cares, just die.

So that's that. Actually looking at this lot it seems like there aren't really any good kids in adult movies. Don't read into that. Don't get me started on that little wiener from Jerry Maguire (1996) either.

15 April 2011

Super Summer 2011 Jam Preview!

We're fast approaching my favourite time of the year around here at Norwegian Morning Wood - Summer. Skirts, Shades and Sandy beaches, Summer is truly the greatest season of all the seasons. No doubt. Around here we always have a firm pulse on the Song of Summer, the King or Queen Jam that we'll always remember and indefinitely tie to the Summer Months. It's tough to predict who gets the crown, even midway through the season. Last year there really wasn't a doubt, Katy Perry reigned supreme. I'm starting to learn lessons, you never know what's going to drop and make it big, especially with music during which any young new artist can innovate some sound, get airplay on Hot 97, blow up huge and then never be heard from again. So, sticking to my guns and who's been priming recently, here's a breakdown on who we might be jamming our bass to come August:

By the way, when did Dre get jacked?

Em and Dre: Detox drops on 4/20 and I'm sure there are some worthwhile jams on it that are set to blow. Dre's releases so far have been good but not at the calibre of The Chronic. "Kush" is all about weed (huge departure for Dre of course) and "I Need a Doctor" is honestly probably the most Ho Yay song I've ever heard and that's not the way to secure a Summer Jam. C'mon! The Chronic WAS summer, you're all So Cal, Dre! You got this! You may also notice that at this point, Em and Dre are the same person.

Katy Perry: The girl's career since last summer is actually fantastic. She was able to parlay earlier attention-grabbing hits like "I Kissed a Girl" and "Hot N Cold" into the huge similar jam "California Girls" but then stylistically backed off completely with "Teenage Dream" and "Firework," both of which are nearly as popular if not more so. She's basically pulled a bait and switch on the nation, leading us in with this slutty persona then showing us the depth underneath. Ahem. Her latest, "E.T." is a further departure from her normal fare that is so simultaneously bizarre, un-Katylike and awesome that she's set to do just about anything she wants and earn another crown this summer.

Black Eyed Peas: The natural winner of 2009, B.E.P. are set for something big this summer. After some really shitty songs they've actually released a song I like recently and have enough people talking about their terrible Half-Time show to have some publicity and momentum. They've also got a recent album out and plenty of terribly catchy jams to choose from.

Nicki Minaj: Nicki's got some talent but she's still fighting for her own merits rather than just fantastic guest spots. I would call her work on her own Jam last year and this year's "Moment 4 Life" some of her best work and that's coming from her own album. In order to really secure the jam she needs to drop something with the vocal quality of "Roman's Revenge" with the lyrical quality of "Your Love" and the beats of "Monster." Good luck.

50 Cent: Curveball! I think 50's actually set to make a comeback. He's recuperated from getting his ass kicked by Kanye a few years ago and has spent enough time off the charts to learn to appreciate his craft a bit. He actually has some minor singles that are doing better like "Buzzin" and the rising "Down on Me." I want to point out the way he kills it on this "Fuck You" remix. He only spits the first voice then for the rest of an already awesome song we're waiting to hear him again. Leave 'em wanting more, 50, what do you got off Black Magic this summer?

Taio Cruz: There's a chance. He hasn't done shit since last summer. He could be like Flo Rida and really excel at those summer hits. Or just fade out as a two-hit wonder. Actually when this is the best you got, there's no chance.

Rihanna: This girl churns out hits like I churn out posts about SNL and GaGa - it's sick. I don't think "S&M" will carry her through the summer (Think of it as her 2011 "Rude Boy." By the way, anyone realise that no one remembers "Rude Boy?" or "So Hard?" If it's not "Umbrella," Rihanna songs have terrible longevity. That said, her popularity stays consistent and she can grab the first Crown since 2007.

Wiz Khalifa: This is 2011's B.o.B...but shittier. Maybe he's more like 2011's Travie McCoy. "Roll Up" is a decent stepping stone into a decent Summer Jam that really gets people's attention. I would heavily doubt his chances of winning the Crown but he could finish Top 8 if he churns out something awesome.

How to become Queen of Summer? Enter in a Giant Egg
Lady GaGa: Born This Way drops May 23 - there isn't a more prime month to drop a huge album if you're gearing for a Summer Crown. The title track that's already dropped and hit #1 is a great primer for this album which by all indications seems like much more of a lighter party album while retaining a lot of personal sentiment. I still don't think GaGa has matched "Just Dance" but this could be her year more than any other. I feel like GaGa is like the LeBron Era Cleveland Cavaliers - she's come so close every year to a Queen of Summer Crown but continually chokes. Let's just hope that GaGa didn't move to Miami. Does any GaGa fan understand these sports metaphors?

Stay tuned to Norwegian Morning Wood which will recount the Top Summer Tracks every Monday from the first weekend in May all the way to The First Day of School. Summer here we come!

08 April 2011

War of the Months: April

Well, it's the second Friday in April so that of course means that it's time once again for War of the Months, our year-long look at the biggest, best and loudest movies of each month of the Human Year. This is Springtime now baby, and let me tell you, April is a crazy month. Do you know how many deaths and catastrophes have occurred in April? We've got the birth (20 April 1889) and death (30 April 1945) of Hitler, the Columbine Massacre, the suicide of Kurt Cobain, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and President Abraham Lincoln, the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide, the sinking of the Titanic, Chernobyl and the first shots of both the American Revolution at Lexington and the American Civil War at Fort Sumter. Most of this can be seen on this neat quiz here. With all this crazy shit going on, who has time to go the movies?!

Well, no one.

April: Month of Eggs

They're at it again...again!
For a really long time April was this absolutely terrible month for cinema. It was the calm before the Summer Storm and no studio wanted to blow its load in April. Especially you know, with all this tragedy the best they often put out was White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf (1994) and 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998). Ouch. This trend actually continued for the most part unabated until studios started grabbing at a longer Summer Release schedule and started plopping films that may have failed otherwise in the Sun Months as a bit of a warm-up during April. April is sort of like March in this way but it's way spottier, generally has more comedies and when films do well nowadays they're not really moved around in order to capture lightning in a bottle twice.

Lately there has been some big hits like Fast & Furious (2009) and Clash of the Titties (2010) but typically it's a terrible month for quality movies. Well, these are also terrible movies but at least they have some studio support and could potentially be tentpole films. Whereas January and February have traditionally been these dump months for terrible films and March loves the Halfbuster, April has all these really random movies that don't really have a place any other time in the year. Take 1997 for instance where we saw the release of Anaconda, Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion and Volcano. Yep. It's all sort-of good films that aren't absolutely terrible but are pretty awful.

April Bank: Growing Dinero

Truly changing the future of 3-D

Basically all of the Top 10 April Weekend Releases have been in the past two years. There are some exceptions (At one point, The Scorpion King [2002] had the record for the Highest April Box Office Ever. Ouch) but generally this is because April has evolved into this Summer Warm-Up rather than Random Month. The studios have grown more purpose in the past few years in their release schedule, which is really handy while writing this blog.

Anyway, the aforementioned Fast & Furious is April's reigning champ with a $70,950,500 opening weekend. You can check out the rest of the list here, none of which are surprising. There are some comedies like #3 Anger Management (2003) and #4 Scary Movie 4 (2006) as well as edgier flicks like #7 A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) and #10 Sin City (2005) as well as the Random-As-Fuck films #8 Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009) and #9 Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010). Really besides Fast & Furious and Clash of the Titties, April is an atrocious month, its average opening in the Top 10 is above only September and January.

The best April Box Office Ever was 2010 on the heels of a string of high profile films like Clash of the Titties, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Date Night and Kick-Ass. 2009 was similar with but 2008 was dismal. As you can see, it's one of the worst on record. In terms of our derby April is the worst yet - that 2010 gave a respectable $752,592,389 but April's average is far lower and 2008's dip below $500 million is pathetic.

Best Movies Ever Released in April

For all its Box Office Atrocities April actually has some decent flicks, mostly cult comedies, some just personal favourites. I'm not sure whether or not to rank Shaun of the Dead (2004) which was released in the UK in April but September in the US and likewise Harry Brown (2009) which was released in November in the UK and April in the US. AND toss in Exit Through the Gift Shop which had a US release in April and March in the UK. Let's just say all these movies are great and move on. Also take in how many great flicks 2004 had:

#10: The Girl Next Door - 04/09/2004
#9: Kill Bill Vol. 2 - 04/16/2004
#8: Hellboy - 04/02/2004
#7: A Mighty Wind - 04/16/2003
#6: American Psycho - 04/14/2000
#5: Observe and Report - 04/10/2009
#4: Friday - 04/25/1995
#3: Forgetting Sarah Marshall - 04/18/2008
#2: Adventureland - 04/03/2009
#1: Mean Girls - 04/30/2004

Honourable mentions around to Josie and the Pussycats (2001), Bad Boys (1995), Hot Fuzz (2007), and Field of Dreams (1989). Other significant films from the month include Grindhouse (2007), Identity (2003), and United 93 (2006). Among the cult comedies I mentioned include Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay  (2008), Stick It (2006), Malibu's Most Wanted (2003), National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002), The Sweetest Thing (2002) Joe Dirt (2001) and PCU (1994). Also I wanted to point out two films from my childhood, The Sandlot (1993) and Beethoven (1992). Yeah, with that big doggie. Woof.

So that's April. Pretty shitty. Next up is May...which will be ridiculous. Go mourn some anniversary.

04 April 2011

Because it was on TV: The Changing Roles of SNL

We here at Norwegian Morning Wood are big SNL fans. From the very early days to the present (ignoring a good chunk of the 80s) the program is an institution, always on the pulse of zeitgeist and has remained the springboard for the careers of some of the funniest people in Hollywood. It's such a panoply of talent that it attracts some of the biggest names in Politics and Entertainment to hose or even drop by for a quickie guest spot. It has maintained this in part due to the solid relationship (mostly) it has with some of the biggest names in show business such as Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and Bill Murray.

I do find it interesting however to critique the current brand of SNL product. Now firstly, I refuse to believe that it has lost its splendor. It is as least as bad as its ever been. There is however, a large portion of the cast without break-out potential, which may be detrimental to this run's overall success. There isn't really a player in the current line-up that deserves really big movie stardom. That said, they are all exceptional at sketch comedy. Thus we're in this situation that posits SNL as less of a springboard show and more of a genuine sketch comedy show.

Many of the current Featured Players have been on the show for some time now. It seems like it's tougher for them to break out (which is bizarre considering that the show has much greater exposure on Hulu and vH1 than it ever did before) or that they have no desire to. It's impossible to gauge their own desires but considering that many of them have appeared in middling to bad films there is always that goal that just isn't met right now. So, without adieu, let's go through the cast alphabetically:

Repertory Players:

Fred Armisen
Tenure: 2002 - Present (Tied for 5th All-Time)
Role on SNL: Fred can play anything very effectively. He's extremely versatile. He can play almost any race from Moammar Gadafi to Barack Obama as well as characters ranging from intense parody to the subtly outrageous. He's also a ridiculous hipster.
Chances of Breaking Out: They're decent, hes probably got the longest exposure of any cast member and appeared in tiny roles in movies as far back as Eurotrip (2004) and Anchorman (2004). He hasn't really been able to sustain anything long-term though besides the awful IFC show Portlandia. That said, the fact that he has a sort-of successful show on another channel is the best indicator that Armisen may have the best chance at getting out of the current SNL.

Abby Elliott
Tenure: 2008 - Present
Role on SNL: Abby is slowly moving this year from just being the cute young girl on the cast to some actually funny characters. Anyway, by now her role is really just filling female roles instead of anything exciting.
Chances of Breaking Out: I just can't believe that this came from Chris Elliot's balls. It's a bit early to tell whether or not she's that much more than just a cute face but she's done nothing to immediately capture the nation's attention.

Bill Hader
Tenure: 2005 - Present
Role on SNL: Bill is like Fred Armisen, he can play about anything. He's primarily a character actor, though and is able to throw himself completely into whatever zaniness is called of him. This is exceptional for a sketch comedy show. He's the closest SNL has right now to a male Glue.
Chances of Breaking Out: Like I said, Hader is a character actor. He's been fantastic in movies like Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Tropic Thunder (2008) and Adventureland (2009) but doesn't really have the chops to center a movie around his character. He's ready to break-out but needs a vehicle to prove his chops. Actually I think that he's such an impressionist and character actor that people have difficulty identifying with who he really is. Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and even Rob Schneider had these readily identifiable personal traits that audiences could reliably expect in a film, giving them popularity and anticipation. Can you name one significant personality trait of Bill Hader?

Seth Meyers
Tenure: 2001 - Present (4th All-Time)
Role on SNL: Seth has been the Head Writer of SNL since 2006 as well as the Weekend Update anchor. He rarely appears in sketches outside Weekend Update these days but serves as an anchor to the show and provides some consistent tongue-in-cheek deadpan delivery in SNL's most traditional and remaining funny segments.
Chances of Breaking Out: It's hard to say. He doesn't have the charisma of Tina Fey to turn his writing experience into a whole new show like 30 Rock nor has he really seemed to have any intention of leaving. At this point his brand is more suited towards a talk show like Jimmy Fallon or otherwise some program similar to The Daily Show or Weekend Update. That said, I'm not sure why he would ever leave Weekend Update where he is comfortable to do something similar.

Bobby Moynihan
Tenure: 2008 - Present
Role on SNL: Moynihan is terrible. He reminds me of a less funny Horatio Sanz who is fat but doesn't use it to his advantage like Belushi or Farley did. He can't center a sketch and is really a role player more than an anchor.
Chances of Breaking Out: Moynihan will be like a Mark McKinney, Jerry Minor or already mentioned Horatio Sanz. You'll never hear from him again when he leaves, probably shortly. Tho he was in that Colbie Caillat video.

Andy Samberg
Tenure: 2005 - Present
Role on SNL: Oh Andy. In winter of 2005 during your freshman year we got so excited that SNL was funny again with "Lazy Sunday." Finally, SNL was cutting edge again, it was relevant again. For the next few years Samberg and The Lonely Island's Digital Shorts input was the single funniest part of the show. This is Samberg's role though, he's really much better at Saturday Night Taped, though his impressions and live role has gotten better. Chances of Breaking Out: The problem with The Lonely Island is that they can't carry their very specific brand of humour throughout a feature film. They failed with Hot Rod (2007) and MacGruber (2010) and it's tough to find a bigger outlet than where they are now. The thing is, Andy excels at quick, goofy music videos and spoofs. If he ever left SNL I doubt he would find success in much more than a Funny or Die account. He isn't that good of an actor to sustain anything longer but is intensely funny with stuff you don't have to think about. Five years ago I would have called out Andy for instant breakout success but I'm doubting him now.

Jason Sudeikis
Tenure: 2004 - Present
Role on SNL: Sudeikis is strange on SNL. I feel like he's best as the straight man amidst Hader, Samberg and until this season, Will Forte. Like Hader though, he's really not that funny on his own and hasn't developed a very solid persona in his long tenure with the show.
Chances of Breaking Out: I'm kind of torn here. He's been in more films recently, Hall Pass (2011) being the most significant, if middling one. I don't think he'll fade into TV guest spot hell like Chris Parnell but there's not a chance he attains Will Ferrell or Jimmy Fallon - level popularity. I could see him landing a long solid television gig like Phil Hartman did but he can't anchor a show like Phil. He's really not genuine enough, his humour has too many camera winks to ever land on something significant other than a sketch show.

Kenan Thompson
Tenure: 2003 - Present (tied for 7th All-Time)
Role on SNL: Kenan has settled into a nice gig after some shaky starts but sometimes I still feel like he's playing at Nickelodeon level, yelling out All That characters. He's like a Tim Meadows - he's a black guy that doesn't necessarily play black all the time like Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy did. He has a great range and has a keen awareness for what's funny but he does tend to be awfully self-aware of his goofiness.
Chances of Breaking Out: If Good Burger (1997) didn't do it, I'm not sure what can. That said, continuing with the Tim Meadows analogy, Kenan will stay on SNL a few more years then attempt to translate into movies, but I don't think he can actually pull off a role like this.

Kristen Wiig
Tenure: 2005 - Present
Role on SNL: Kristen is the closet SNL has right now to a solid performer like Phil Hartman or Will Ferrell. She has the unique ability to make terrible sketches watchable. She's probably the most talented of the cast and tends to let the funny flow without pretension, winking or otherwise catering to anyone. She's the only woman on the cast that can have sketches effectively built around her and like Hader and Armisen can play just about anything.
Chances of Breaking Out: Kristen is the female version of Bill Hader. She's already been in tons of very funny films like Knocked Up (2007) and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) but other films like Extract (2009) and MacGruber haven't done that well. She's too much of a character actor to hold an entire film together but excels at the supporting roles.

Featured Players:

Vanessa Bayer and Paul Brittain
Tenure: 2010 - Present
Roles on SNL: I grouped these two together because they serve the same purpose. Bayer is another one of the seemingly endless parade of women SNL has hired in an attempt to replace Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph but Bayer is much more likely destined to be a Victoria Jackson or Ellen Cleghorn. Brittain is also fairly innocuous, there is nothing distinctive about him besides his ability to play foreign guys. It's possible he steps into Armisen's shoes...but he can't play black.
Chances of Breaking Out: None.

Taran Killam
Tenure: 2010 - Present
Role on SNL: I didn't give this guy much credit at first but look at him keep up with Jim Carrey here. He's got an energy and fearlessness that is rare for a Freshman on this cast. It's early to tell but he could replace Forte as easy as he has in "What Up With That."
Chances of Breaking Out: High I think, actually. He needs to pay his dues for a few years and fight for a spot once Hader and Samberg leave for terrible careers.

Nasim Pedrad
Tenure: 2009 - Present
Role on SNL: Nasim is a babe. Besides that, she's doing slightly less than Abby Elliott is right now. None of these girls have the balls of Poehler or Molly Shannon or the self-effacing tendencies of Ana Gasteyer. While the early-2000s may have been the glory days for SNL women, it's a boys club besides Wiig right now. Nasim needs to prove her hilarity.
Chances of Breaking Out: Porn?

Jay Pharoah
Tenure: 2010 - Present
Role on SNL: Jay Pharaoh is a very funny guy. He's an incredible impressionist and was hopefully brought on to do a ridiculously good Obama impression along with Will Smith, Jay-Z and Denzel. He's a perfect plug for a sketch show to perfectly impersonate anyone (black) the show needs to.
Chances of Breaking Out: The problem is that Pharaoh is excellent at impressions and stand-up. He can't turn into another Frank Caliendo where that's all his show is. Again, he's a perfect fit and fills a great role on SNL but it's tough to picture much of a career for him in movies or television after.

So that's my indictment of the entire cast. I believe they work well together and know how to play to each others' strengths to make a very effective sketch comedy show. In doing so however, they have negated almost all their chances at sustaining careers like Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase and Jon Lovitz among others. It's not that SNL is that less funny that it ever has been. It's just that the players aren't budding movie stars anymore. It makes for a better show in what SNL is trying to do - be an awesome sketch show instead of a Hollywood Training Ground.

Helen Mirren and Foo Fighters - this Saturday at 11:30 pm EST.
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