Top Ten SNL Skits

I grew up watching Saturday Night Live. I would stay up late at night, when I wasn’t supposed to be up, just to watch my favorite comedians. SNL is well over thirty years old now, and its really hard to pick the best ten skits, so I’m just going to stick with my ten favorites. There are definitely more, but I’m limiting this to ten, or we’d be reading all day, because ideally, I could do the top ten of each season, or even each decade. I tried not to pick the classics that everyone else picks, but the ones that especially resonated with my childlike silliness.

 

Samurai Delicatessen and Hotel /John Belushi

This is one of the first skits I remember seeing. I didn’t know who John Belushi was, and I’d never really watched the show that closely, but this one just caught me up, and I was thoroughly tickled. This is probably hella racist, but in my defense I was about 14 at the time, and this is very clearly a parody of Toshiro Mifune’s character from Seven Samurai, rather than a critique of Japanese culture in general. Watch Chevy Chase’s perfectly calm reaction to being confronted with two angry, fighting, samurai.

 

Land Shark/Cast

This skit still makes me laugh uncontrollably to this day. Just the idea of sharks getting smart enough to realize that all the food is on land, and knocking on doors, announcing what they are, and people letting them in! This is of course a straight up parody of Jaws, which came out in 1975, and was one of the biggest movies of the 70s.

 

James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub/Eddie Murphy

I showed this one to my mom, a few years ago, and its the first time I’ve ever seen her giggling, but still kind of outraged, as she kept asking why it had ever been made. I explained to her that its just how the mind of Eddie Murphy works. He had so many great skits, from making himself up as a White man to clock racism, to a parody of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, that it was really hard to pick just one of them.

 

 

The Continental/Christopher Walken

I loved it whenever Christopher Walken appeared on the show, because I hoped for an episode of The Continental, which was about a horndog, who was always trying really hard to get this one women to spend the night with him. She always managed to escape, usually while giving him his comeuppance.

 

 

Church Chat/Dana Carvey

A perfect parody of little, old, chastising church ladies. The Church lady was fearless in her critique of perfectly innocuous things, that nobody else was ever angry about, and you just know she had a purse full of Kleenex, and peppermints.

 

 

Black Jeopardy/Chadwick Boseman

I’m still laughing about this because it was so timely, and  the Black Jeopardy skits are all ridiculous. I could have listed the one from 2016, which featured Tom Hanks,as Doug, because that was one of the more political versions, but I went with this one, because I like the idea of T’Challa, from Black Panther, starring in a game show about African American vernacular, and winning.

 

 

Ed Grimley/Martin Short

Ed is, for some reason, one of Martin Short’s little known SNL characters, and I don’t know why, considering that this character even had his own cartoon show. I like Ed more than any of Short’s other characters because he’s just sooo weird. He also reminds me, not a little bit, of Pee Wee Herman.

 

 

Sprockets/Mike Myers

Mike Myers is probably one of the greatest SNL cast members on the show, and he has a lot of great characters to choose from, from Linda Richman to Wayne’s World , but his character, Dieter, from Sprockets, this Germanic, avante-garde, parody of German art culture in the 80s was the funniest for me. It was really really weird, and being the strange girl that I was I was delighted by it.

 

 

Space: The Infinite Frontier with Harry Caray/ Will Farrell

Will Farrell has so many great characters to chose from, but I wanted to pick this little known fellow, who was this incredibly clueless host of a talk show, who was barely aware of what talk show he was on, let alone what the topic was. He said such bizarre things to his guests, that the most fun part was watching his guests try not to laugh at him. I didn’t know until much later that this was a parody of an actual sports telecaster!

 

 

Buh Weet Sings/Eddie Murphy

This is one of the classic sketches from the Murphy years. I couldn’t leave this without adding a second one from him. I remember knowing all the wrong words to the songs he was singing in this sketch. This was a parody of the little racist Sambo character from the original incarnation of The Little Rascals, called Our Gang, from the 50’s, and that was actually how the character spoke. Was it racist? Hell yes! Was Murphy’s  parody funny as shit? Hell yes!

 

 

Honorable Mention

Billie Crystal’s Clueless Talk Show host of Fernando’s Hideaway, who somehow managed to get a hit song based on this famous catchphrase:

 

Top Five Guest Stars

Christopher Walken

 

Alec Baldwin

 

Jeff Goldblum

 

Justin Timberlake

 

Tom Hanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part One: Favorite Movie Martial Artists

In anticipation of Into the Badlands, coming to AMC this Sunday, lets talk:

I’ve been watching Martial arts movies since I was a kid. Sitting with my brothers on  Saturday afternoons,  watching Chinese people fake kick each other, with bad English dubbing. Yeah, I watched all of them: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, The Five Deadly Venoms. The Flying Guillotine, Drunken Master, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and of course, anything with Bruce Lee in it.

The plots were often ridiculous, but occasionally profound, and surprisingly, one could learn a lot about Chinese culture and history. For example, at twelve years old, I knew nothing about the enmity between China and Japan. In The Chinese Connection, there’s a scene when Bruce Lee’s character tears down a sign outside of a Martial Arts school that reads “No Dogs or Chinese Allowed”. My mother had discussed segregation with me, so on that level, I knew that the sign was wrong, I just didn’t know why, but I wondered why the Japanese and the Chinese hated each other in Lee’s movies. (I wouldn’t find out why until I researched the topic myself. For certain, it was never mentioned in any of my high school history classes.) Watching Chinese action movies was also the first time it occurred to me that racism and bigotry was a global phenomenon. That the situation between Whites and Blacks in America was not an  entirely unique phenomenon and that other cultures we’re dealing with similar issues.

But most of the time, the movies were just fun and funny. Afterwards, my brothers and I would decide who got to play the iconic White Haired Villain, (as the oldest, this role often fell to me), then pretend to beat each other up with fake punches, in an attempt to prove whose Kung Fu was better, or try to reproduce those dubbed voices, as we  protected our teacher’s honor or avenged our murdered fathers. Since we were  forbidden to actually hit each other, all our fights were always fake, anyway.

During the eighties, we discovered Japanese Ninja movies and dutifully set about procuring  throwing stars, and tearing up our mother’s walls by  throwing them all over the place. (We, of course, were never allowed to throw them at each other because they were actually sharp. Its all but impossible for kids to get these things now and I wonder whose bright idea it was, to sell them to kids at the local Chinese shop, for a dollar each. Incidentally, I got really good at throwing them. Holla  atcha Blackgirl Ninja, who is not actually allowed to hit you.)

Watching a good Martial Arts movie is like watching a ballet or a ballroom Mambo. The levels of speed, power and grace are found nowhere else in Action cinema. For every Baryshnikov or Gregory Hines, there’s an Action movie equivalent, who is a joy to watch.

These are my favorites, in no particular order:

Chow Yun Fat:

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The “Fatboy” first came to my attention in the movie The Killer, more than two decades ago and followed by other “gun fu” movies like Hardboiled. I haven’t seen everything he’s done, and I’d kind of forgotten about Chow Yun Fat, as a martial artist, after he started making American films. But he came back on my radar after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I loved the character of Li Mu Bai, and I particularly liked his graceful and intelligent fighting style. There’s no wasted movement and despite how lethal the character seems, the style is surprisingly meditative to watch.

Bruce Lee:

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Who doesn’t know about Bruce Lee, and what affect he had on the American public, back in the day? A surprising number of Black Americans were influenced by and admired his drive, wit and philosophy, even now. For many Black people, Lee’s philosophy was our first introduction to thinking critically about race on a global scale, about movies, Hollywood, and how all of it related to the martial arts. Bruce  was also an incredible presence on screen, as well. His speed and fierceness, often informed by his righteous indignation against the bad guys, was simply awesome to watch. Watching a Bruce Lee film is just a highly emotional experience for many of us.

Tony Jaa:

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I’d read about Tony in some martial arts magazine, long before I saw his first movie, The Protector. He reminds me of a much grimmer version of Jacke Chan. Like Jacke, everything you see him do onscreen, is actually him, not a stunt person and not CG, which makes his movies all the more fun, but not especially funny.

Donnie Yen: 

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The first time I saw Yen was in Once Upon a Time in China, fighting Jet li with bamboo poles. I just had to know who that guy was and I’ve been following his career ever since. I haven’t seen everything he’s done, but I’m working on it. My favorite movies with Donnie are Ip Man and Iron Monkey. Donnie takes his roles very seriously. He looks sharp, fast and totally committed to kicking his opponents ass.

Gordon Liu:

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Liu was one of the actors I grew up watching, having seen most of his films, with no idea that I was watching a legend. The first time I saw him was in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which I saw many times as a child and, at least in my house, we spoofed pretty often. It was the first time I had any idea that Shaolin was even real. Up to that time, Kung Fu was just something people did in movies, and The Shaolin Temple was not a real place. For me, Gordon Liu was my Shaolin rep.

Jackie Chan:

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One of my all time favorite martial artists, I’ve seen nearly every movie he’s ever starred in and even I few I shouldn’t ever have watched, as not all of them are good movies. Every now and then Jackie likes to do a serious and grim character, but I prefer his affable, goofy characters. If you’ve never seen a martial arts movie before, I would suggest starting with Jackie Chan’s Legend of Drunken Master (to be reviewed in part three of my little series).

Toshiro Mifune:

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I wasn’t introduced to Mifune until I was an adult. In fact I hadn’t watched very many Samurai films at all, beyond Shogun, which he also starred in. What do you want to guess was the first film I saw him in? That’s right. Seven Samurai! I was really surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did because I was prepared to be bored. Mifune shines in this movie. He is surprisingly funny, possibly insane, but very likable, talented and loyal to his friends. Since then, I’ve  seen him in many roles but I always come back to Seven Samurai as my favorite.

Sonny Chiba:

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Our mother would not allow me to watch The Streetfighter the first time it played on TV. She said I was too young, after she watched it first. I wasn’t allowed to see it until I was about 14 or 15, and I get why. She had no problem with us watching Bruce Lee movies, but Sonny Chiba ain’t Bruce Lee.  He doesn’t try to be handsome, charming, witty, funny, none of that. This man is seriously grim and his attacks brutal. He doesn’t try to be pretty or graceful. He’s sort of like a human pit bull. I never get tired of watching Chiba’s movies but I do have to be in the right mood. These are not happy, lighthearted  films and I love that.

Michelle Yeoh:

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As much as I love Summer Glau, my heart belongs to Michelle first. Michelle, who is sometimes called Kwan in Thailand, also has a dancer’s past. The first time I saw her was in Wing Chun, which is still one of my favorite movies with a female lead. Chinese action movies didn’t seem to have the same kinds of issues with having female action stars that Hollywood did. Michelle is very quick and graceful on screen, she doesn’t try to overpower her male co-stars, she prefers to outwit them, and  can hold her own with any of them. If you want a good idea of just how far she’s willing to go, then watch her first movie with Jacke Chan titled Police Story.

Jet Li: 

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I’m not sure there are enough words to express how much I love watching Jet Li’s movies. The movies may occasionally be awful, but he never makes a bad move in them. It’s my understanding that he is an actual martial artist,  having won several Wu Shu tournaments in China, and that he got his name, Jet, from being so fast. He has a brave, bold, fighting style, occasionally funny, witty,  fast, graceful and always fully committed. I’m always up to watch a Jet Li movie. From Once Upon a Time in China, to Fist of Legend, to Forbidden Kingdom, Jet always  brings his “A” game.

Honorable Mentions:

Zhang Ziyi

Cheng Pei Pei

Anita Mui

Note:

I am not a martial artist or a purist of  action cinema. I listed these artists by the names which I first encountered them, and the movies by the titles, under which, I first watched them. I’m merely an enthusiastic observer of martial arts movies. I know a lot of the tropes and can recognize differnet styles when I see them,  (Japanese vs. Chinese,  or Tiger vs Crane or Monkey, for example) but only from movies and documentaries. I’ve never been to a tournament, I don’t know anyone in that life, and I’d like to keep it that way. There’s movies and  there’s real life, and I’m not trying to conflate the two, or act like I’m an expert.

If you’re a purist who has a beef with any of the things I’ve said, you’re gonna have to take it to your own blog, because you won’t get a platform here. If you have a correction, on some point of order, however, then it’s okay to inform me in the comments.

And feel free to encourage me to post more on this because you’re gonna get it anyway.😃

My Ten Favorite Monsters

I have a confession to make. I am an unrepentant Monster-Lover.  I have loved them since I was a kid and I just can’t help myself. I’m always up for watching  a new one, a new version of an old one, or just one of the classics.

Now, my criteria for this list, is that it has to be a straight up monster, although, it can be humanoid or have been human at some point in the past. There is, however,  no Frankenstein monster, werewolves or vampires on this list, even though I like them too. I’ll have to show them some love in another post. There are so many monsters to choose from, that I just stuck to the most inventive ones I’ve enjoyed, of the past 20-35 years or so.

1.Alien

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Released in 1979 and starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Yaphet Kotto (outside of Star Trek, the first Black man I’d ever seen in a space movie), and  Veronica Cartwright.

We’ll start off with an easy one. The Icon. I distinctly rmember seeing the trailer for this when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and being frightened by it. I didn’t actualy watch the movie until I was in my teens and considered old enough to handle it without Mom-Supervision. I think I’ve seen this movie dozens of times over the years and it has never lost it’s impact, no matter how many crappy sequels Hollywood insists on making.

The monster was created by H.R. Giger. In the first movie the monster’s motives are largely unfathomable, but it comes in at number one because every Outer-Space Horror movie monster since this film, have been nothing but cheap retreads of this one. Why watch any of those when you can just watch the original?

A word about Yaphet Kotto’s character in this movie: Yeah, he’s the first Black man I ever noticed in a movie  that’s set in outer space. He’s also a total dick. He’s a petty, selfish, sarcastic, bitchy asshole but when the crap starts flying, he steps up to bat and becomes totally badass, with a flamethrower. You can’t possibly like him, but he’s got your back, so you kinda have to.

2. Pumpkinhead

imageReleased in 1988, the only important person in this movie is Lance Henriksen, (who does not spend as much time onscreen as I would’ve  liked), portraying a father named Ed Harley. After his son is killed in a motorbike accident, Ed makes a deal with the local witch to avenge the boy’s death and naturally, it backfires, horribly.

I kind of sided with Ed on the whole revenge thing, except, that only one of the people in the movie killed his boy and it was an accident. Okay yeah, the guy who does it is a total d-bag, who probably shouldn’t have run away afterwards.

Pumpkinhead moves to the top of this list because he’s a nasty, malicious fuck, who takes great pleasure in stalking and killing his prey. It’s one thing to be eaten by a shark or mauled by a bear. They’re just doing their thing, with no ill intent towards you. That is not true of Pumpkinhead. He very much wants to hurt you and he very much likes it.

3.The Thing

imageA John Carpenter movie that was released in 1982 and based much more closely on the John W. Campbell short story, than the Howard Hawks version from 1951, which I consider unwatchable. (Well, I can watch it, but not without uncontrollable laughter.)

Quite possibly, the most perfect Horror movie ever made, with the most frightening and insidious monster ever put to film.  It only comes in behind Pumpkinhead because I just like Pumpkinhead as a personality. Pumpkinhead has a sense of irony and whimsy. The Thing (or as my friends and I called it, when we were kids, The Thaang,) is scary as hell but too unfathomable in it’s intentions to make it number one.

We will pretend that the 2011 prequel does not exist.

4. The Blob/The H-Man

imageimageBoth versions of The Blob, from 1958 and 1988, and the one version of The H-Man (1958) make it to number four because sneaky, amorphous creatures, that dissolve you alive, are just pants-shittingly scary.

The 1958 version holds up to current standards of scariness, but I do prefer the 1988 version. The special effects are just so digustingly awesome, that it’s hard not to like  this movie.  It’s also an amazingly fun movie, as it turns the typical Horror movie conventions on it’s head.

I’m still too scared of The H-Man to make it all the way to the end of the movie. I made the horrific mistake of watching it late at night about a year ago and I aint been right since. Just thinking about this movie gives me the screaming creeps as The H-Man is nothing more than runny, sentient mucus. The key word in that description is sentient.  It’s The Blob, with intent.

5.Tremors

imageTremors was released in 1990. I remember going to see this movie, for free at some college event and having a remarkably good time. The movie was fun and funny and instilled in me a deep love for Kevin Bacon. It also starred Michael Gross from Family Ties, Fred Ward and, of all people, Reba McEntire, who has a song in the end credits that I had a Hell of a time trying to put it on my Ipod.

The monsters in this movie are both sneaky and relentlesss, with a certain amount of sly cunning. They actually learn from their mistakes and yours, so you can’t kill them the same way twice. To kill them, you have to be inventive and that just makes them smarter, something which gets specifically addressed in the movie. The characters in the movie insist on calling them Graboids. They’re, basically, massive slugs with multiple, snake like mouths, that move by traveling under the ground and this movie is not shy about showing them to you.

I love the idea of the characters in a movie trying to name the creatures that will eventually be eating them. Plus, The Graboids is a  horrendously  cheezy name for a monster movie  and why didn’t its makers just name it that?

6. Grabbers

imageNot to be confused with The Graboids of Tremors, this movie is an Irish-British monster film, released in 2012. It has the inventive premise that you can not be eaten by the giant squid-like, aliens of the movie, as long as you stay really, really drunk. Which does not mean the monsters can’t just kill you in some other horrific manner, like swatting you into a tree.

The monsters are suitably scary, the characters are engaging and it was fun to watch the drunken citizens of this small town, keep stumbling out of the local Pub, to be killed by the aliens, no matter how hard the drunken Constables tried to keep them all sloshed and indoors.

7. Slither

imageReleased in 2006, and starring Nathan Fillion from Firefly (Yes, I am a Browncoat, thank you very much!), Michael Rooker from Everything Ever Made, the lovely (and surprisingly funny) Elizabeth Banks, and the hilarious Gregg Henry.

This was directed by James Gunn and I enjoyed his Dawn of The Dead remake, as well.

This is, hands down, one of the funniest alien-zombie-worm- monster, mashup movies I’ve ever seen and the only reason it comes in behind Grabbers, is because of sheer whimsy, on my part. Nathan Fillion is incredible, but the top funnyman is Gregg Henry, a profanity-spewing, loudmouth coward. He gets every single one of this movie’s best lines.

Even though it was made just a few short years ago, it has the classic feel  of the best of the eighties Horror-Comedies, like Fright Night, Evil Dead II, and They Live. It’s cheesy, doesn’t stint on the gore and slime, and the monster is an inventive mashup of The Blob, a Body Snatcher, and those little worm creatures from Night of the Creeps. This entire movie was designed to be fun and it is.

8. The Host

imageThis Korean made movie was released in 2006 and turned into a surprise favorite for me. I wasn’t expecting it to be intentionally funny. I wasn’t expecting pathos, sociopolitical commentary or to clearly see the monster. I thought it was going to be one of those J-Horror films, where the monster is implied, for budgetary reasons.  All my expectations were gloriously turned upside down.

A young girl being raised by her slacker father, gets snatched by a monster, created from toxic sludge. Her bickering family members have to come together to save her and kill the monster. I didn’t expect to like the characters, but I grew to care very much for each one of them, including the little girl.

The main reason it makes this list: you get to see the monster, right away, up close, and personal and it is awesome!

It’s also one of the strangest looking monsters I’ve ever seen. It  has multiple mouths like an Alien, a tail like a fish, it runs on two legs like a T-Rex and is huge, fast and stealthy. The best moment in the movie is when it rampages through a public park, eating whoever it pleases, in broad daylight. There is no shame in it’s game.

9. The Mist

imageReleased in 2007, directed by Frank Darabont, (who also directed The Shawshank Redemption and The Walking Dead),it has the added distinction of being Melissa McBride’s debut film. (That’s Carol, ya’ll, from The Walking Dead.) It was adapted from a novella by Stephen King, so scary was not going to be an issue with this movie.

It makes the list for the sheer number of monsters in it, including all of the human ones. The movie hews very close to the book, except for the ending and every one of its monsters is inventive, scary as Hell and well realized by the special effects. The most frightening monsters are the dog sized, spider creatures that contain their victims in corrosive webbing, but my favorite was The Leviathan. Beyond being fucking HUGE, it’s mostly indescribable and I wished I’d gotten a better look at it, but the film isn’t called The Mist, for nothing.

10. Jeepers Creepers

imageStarring Justin Long and Gina Philips, released in 2001 and directed by the problematic Victor Salva, this movie would seem to be your typical slasher movie. At least that’s what I expected when I walked into the theater but this is another movie that turns basic Horror movie conventions on it’s head.

The two lead actors are a likable brother and sister, bickering their way across America’s heartland, on their way home from college. They’re accosted and stalked by a road-raging maniac, who is slowly revealed to be inhuman, as well. This comes in at number ten because of the pointless addition of the magical negro, portrayed by Patricia Belcher but is otherwise a solid creature feature.

I just find the idea of an inhuman monster, that knows how to drive, deeply funny, for some reason. This movie also bears the unusual distinction of being set in the sunny, Midwest. There aren’t very many homegrown, Midwestern monsters in movies and I don’t know why because some parts of the flyover states can feel every bit as remote as the Antarctic.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Gargoyles, Godzilla, Deep Rising, Cloverfield, and The Descent.