Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Video Games

This past Saturday, Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe hosted SNL for the first time. Indie darling Lana Del Rey was the musical guest. You can watch the show here. Here's how it went:

The cold open was a fairly amusing Mitt Romney sketch skewering his comments regarding firing people. Of course, it went too long, but it wasn't terrible.

Daniel's monologue was really funny. I loved his run on the Harry Potter books/movies, including his comment that the books are for children, of course, he was joking. He referenced past Harry Potter sketches, and nixed potential sketches, such as Dumbledore running a Pottery Barn, a new character called Harry Pothead, and the Jersey Shore Hogwarts class.

Up next, a commercial parody for Ricky Gervais' hosting gigs. The premise is that he's not only hosting the Golden Globes, but also the Kids Choice Awards, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and the BET Awards. Jason Sudeikis does a great job with this impression.

The first live sketch of the night is The Target Lady, played by the incredibly talented Kristen Wiig. I know some are tired of this sketch, but I thought this installment in the recurring sketch pretty entertaining. Daniel plays a mullet-sporting muscle-bound coworker who's got a thing for Kristen's character. Bill Hader adds laughs with his creepy manager role. Best quote of the sketch: "Pull your pants back up, I can see your forest!"

"You Can Do Anything", a talk show sketch hosted by Vanessa Bayer and Bill Hader, focuses on the "incredibly high self-esteem of the YouTube generation". Vanessa is a photo blogger, Bill, an independent filmmaker. Their three guests take turns showing that they have no training or education in their chosen profession, but that doesn't stop them from declaring that they're the best at what they do. This sketch comes off as a little bitter - maybe it's the writers way of fighting back against the YouTube videos like "Sh*t Girls Say" - which some argue are funnier than SNL. Best line of the sketch: "I tried and therefore no one should criticize me."

Then we have another filmed sketch, Spin the Bottle. Daniel plays a germaphobe who's caught in a cruel game he can't seem to escape. With hobos.

We get another live sketch, a knock off of the Jersey Boys musical, Delaware Fellas. Citing the high ticket prices for Jersey Boys, Delaware Fellas seems to be the next best (and affordable) option. And Joe Biden is a fan. Keenan Thompson steals this one with his choice of accent.

The Harry Potter sketch is centered around a bored and bitter Harry hanging out at Hogwarts 10 years after eliminating Voldemort. Bill Hader does a spot on Professor Snape. Fans of the books/movies will appreciate this one. Everyone else will be a little lost.

Now for the controversial part. Usually, the musical performances are a nice break from the comedy, giving us a chance to just sit back and enjoy the artist and their song. No such luck here. Lana Del Rey caused quite an uproar with her performance of the song "Video Games". First of all, she's a beautiful girl. Long red hair perfectly cascades over her shoulders, she's wearing a delicate white lace gown, and her face is oddly angelic. She starts the song in a somewhat surprising lower tone of voice, then switches to an almost whisper. She's working a shy girl persona, and I have to admit it is sort of fascinating, but only because she's so distant and aloof. Then she runs into several rough spots, vocally, and her use of corny hand choreography while walking around in circles playing with hair is eventually off-putting. At times, she's just talking over the music. To be honest, the melody of the song has been done before - which in itself is no crime. The official track is way overproduced, making her vocals a lot more palatable than they are on this live broadcast. Check out the official video for the song here. The overall online response seems to be negative, but that could be because of her backstory - which many have a problem with. More on that later.

Weekend Update features Kim Jong Un's two best friends from growing up, played by Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer, doing their usual whispering criticism of their "friend". The highlight was Daniel playing Casey Anthony's adopted Yorkshire Terrier. After discussing Casey's recent internet searches, he asks "Where was Sarah Mclachlan on this one?" He describes life with Casey as "rough", which gets a huge laugh. He reveals Casey has a new boyfriend, Dragon, and says they met at a booty shaking contest.

Then they did a somewhat disappointing sketch, which takes place in the future, making fun of how we live in the year 2012, including using the internet to send emails, wearing layers of clothing, and having indoor bathrooms. Oh and apparently, Taylor Swift assassinates someone in the future, and wolverines are domesticated household pets.

Kristen Wiig is featured in a series of campaign ads as Glenda Okones, which are actually attack ads on herself.

Next, we have the Jay Pharoah Show, where he basically resorts to doing celebrity impressions, such as Denzel, Will Smith, and Chris Rock. His guest is Daniel Radcliffe, but he has no idea who he is. Jay closes with his Tracy Morgan impression, which is sadly not as good as the others.

Lana Del Rey's next performance is a song called "Blue Jeans". What surprised me is that she had no costume change between performances. It was the same exact dress. It's strange to me, because most performers change outfits for the second song. Lana's vocals are no better this time around, switching from bellowing to whining. Billboard.com did a really good article about the controversy surrounding this new artist, check it out here. My take on it is, changing your public image is nothing new. Lady Gaga is very open about her transformation - the Marry the Night song and video is all about that. But, what I think people are upset about it is the apparent attempt to hide her former persona, like this other incarnation of her never existed. On Lana's twitter page, she says, "I have everything I want - money, notoriety, and rivieras." Maybe this is just another attempt to get buzz going about her. Some are reporting that she was just nervous. I didn't see "nervous", I saw a lack of preparation, showmanship, and general performance skills.

The last sketch was Kristen Wiig harrassing Daniel via an exit poll, which was really funny.

The last offering is another commercial sketch, this time for the Headz Up app - an app that tells you what's happening right in front of you, like a car coming towards you, so you never have to look up from your phone. Somewhat amusing.

Overall, there were some standout moments, but what people will be talking about it Lana Del Rey and her polarizing persona.

What are your thoughts? Tweet me!