Have you ever heard of hirudotherapy? It was this thing old medical practitioners used to do with leeches. Bloodletting. Anyway, tonight might've been Saturday Night Live's way of getting some old blood out of the way in favor of the new. Not that it was bad blood, just blood that needed to move on. The series often goes through periods of quality-level fluxuation, and necessary change has been a long time coming. Saturday night's finale episode of SNL marked the changing of the guard. Many of the show's current stalwarts are taking their final bows in 8H — Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and (we're fairly certain) Jason Sudeikis — and to top it off, Seth Meyers is set to leave mid-season 39 for the Late Night desk. Times, they are a-changing. The 39th season sounds sure to bring many changes to the NBC sketch show.
Host Ben Affleck joined the Five Timers' Club with far less pomp and circumstance than recent inductee Justin Timberlake, and spent the majority of his monologue making a terrible joke about how marriages are hard. Har har har, right, wife/actress Jennifer Garner? The banter between the two winced its way to the finish line and mostly just made me feel like I should start calling him Grandpa Ben.
Because, man, grandpa humor was the name of the game tonight for a majority of the sketches. There were several sketches surrounding gay people (with varying levels of success as far as comedy goes). A video sketch "Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings" was a laugh, but Grandpa Ben was in full, cringeworthy glory during the "New Beginnings" camp sketch. Sure, we got that the point was admirable and a good premise for the ha-has (Look at how ridiculous those people who think you can convert gay people are!), but ultimately it fell flat with how one dimensionally (read: unfunnily) it played out. Its redeeming qualities were in short supply.
We'll tell you someone who's cup had runneth over Saturday: the mustache budget. Seriously: 'staches were in high demand for nearly any sketch Affleck seemed to be in. Slap on a bit o' them face hairs, Sally, and watch the funny fly!
"Weekend Update" proved to be a comedic sure thing of the night, even if it was a bit tired overall. Which was surprising, considering the show had to bid farewell to Stefon (Stefooooooooooon! Noooooooooo!) AND had the pleasure of Amy Poehler's company. Lord, I love a two-person "Update" desk. I do. I actually clapped and yelled "yay!" aloud in my room when I saw Amy — one of my favorite funny heroines — return to the desk that made me fall in like with her. And while the "Really?!?! With Seth and Amy" bit was not at all as punchy as once was (Again with these stale jokes! So many jokes tasted like communion wafers and those things are the worst), it ultimately didn't matter because Amy stayed for the rest of the segment! Hooray! Any time I can bask her hilarious glow, I'm game.
And without her, Seth might not have run after Stefon, resulting in the pay-off to what was perhaps the worst Stefon bit, ever. (I really wanted to like it, too! But it really just wasn't that funny.) It didn't matter though, because what came next was magical Stefon left "Weekend Update" to marry Anderson Cooper. And Seth, realizing that he loved Stefon, ran after him. Risking life and limb to the infamous AC360-spinkick? That love is true, y'all.
It was the perfect way to honor and send-off a character. At the nuptials there were dozens of Stefon's club friends (DJ Baby Bok Choy to the rescue!), past characters from Stefon segments, and Affleck himself (who appeared in the original Stefon sketch as his brother)! Ultimately, Stefon ran off into the sunset of studio 8H with Seth, where the happy couple were cheered on by several recurring "Weekend Update" characters. It was really quite lovely. I'll suffocate you in the folds of one of the Furkels. ...That's Fat Urkels. And you know what they say about those guys: "After you’ve been with one of those guys, you’ll ask yourself 'Did I do thaaaat?'"
The real clunkers of the night were the painful Funeral of Greg Pulino, and the Engagement Picnic sketch, which I will spare you the trouble of having to endure in printed word. Kate McKinnon once again proved that her physical comedy prowess is the thing to beat during her scene-saving moments during "Primadonna." The sketch was fine, I got what they were going for.
But the highlight sketch-wise was the return of the former pornstar/current aspiring salesgals duo that is Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong in the Hermés Handbags bit. Yeah, I know the sketch is a tad formulaic, but it's a damn good formula that makes me laugh every time. It surprises me how strong the recurring sketch is, but I'm into it: let them sell all of the things!
Kanye West debuted some new songs, and some very aggressive staging for two of his new songs: the pithily-named "Black Skinhead" and "New "Slaves." Well, Ye, tell us how you're really feeling these days, eh? That said, the production on the songs is amazing, but I kept wanting to apologize to Kanye for making him mad? Please don't yell at me, Kanye! I want to watch your little performance piece. Look, I even caught the Lou Reed stuff! But honestly, production value aside, I can't imagine any radio station's going to have an easy time playing these tunes. No wonder his new album is going to be titled Yeezus — you'd have to be.
Rounding out the evening was a performance by Ian Rubbish (a.k.a. Fred Armisen)'s band "The Bizarros," featuring all the leaving lads, and Taran Killam. A bevy of performers showed up, including Fred's Portlandia co-star Carrie Brownstein, Kim Gordon, Aimee Mann, Steve Jones: basically, it was impressive. And that's just the people I could name on sight! Adios, dear Fred. It was thoughtful and clearly meaningful to him — and a nice way of officially confirming his own departure. The tears at the end of the episode were hard-won for these three men who've spent so many years with Lorne Michaels' merry band of comedy misfits. The show will be very much changed without them.
Now, someone get me Lorne's number because someone needs to tell him to put SNL writer John Mulaney on that Weekend Update desk, stat!
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Like many, the Star Wars films are near and dear to my heart. The original trilogy utilizes archetypes like a set of Legos, clicking each part together so the end result is the epitome of adventure storytelling. The heroes, the alien worlds, the quest to destroy the Death Star—it's mythology 101, and Joseph Campbell would be quite proud.
But George Lucas doesn't appear to be. Since the 20th anniversary re-release of the films, Lucas has been tinkering with the cuts of the film, upgrading old special effects, fixing dialogue quirks, swapping out actors into spiffy "Special Edition" cuts. These are the versions Lucas insists we watch—so much so, that you won't find the "original" trilogy anywhere.
As we all know, this made fans very, very mad.
With the introduction of the prequel trilogy, more changes came. Lucas felt the urge to connect his six-film saga in a more fluid manner, manipulating Episodes IV, V and VI (as they are now referred to) to reference films produced twenty years after the fact. Through modern technology, Hayden Christensen could now appear as a ghost in a movie that came out two years after he was born. Lucas was determined to make Star Wars one unified story, fandom be damned.
As we all know, this made fans very, very, very, very mad.
So it became a joke. George Lucas would never rest until everything people loved about the originals was obliterated and wiped clean. The upcoming Blu-rays make that clear. Today, my friend Mike Ryan at Moviefone did some detective work and confirmed that, yes, the versions set to debut in glorious high definition have once again been "improved" by the Force powers of Darth Lucas, including additional CG critters in Jabba's Palace, a new Krayyt Dragon noise emitted by Obi-Wan to scare off Tuskan Raiders in A New Hope and a Darth Vader "NOOO!" callback at the tail end of Return of the Jedi. Add on a few lightsaber improvements and you've got a whole new set of films—primed and ready to piss off fans.
But here's the thing: it's not our place to get pissed off. Yes, Star Wars might be the reason that people love movies, that budding filmmakers spent countless hours making Super 8 films in their backyards, or that lads and lasses have something to talk about with their parents after so many years. But in the end, the films weren't made for any of those people. They were made for George.
George might tell you otherwise, but in the end, they're for George.
See, George Lucas the lanky USC student wanted to make experimental films. He loved technology, the art of filmmaking, and building stuff. It's never been more apparent than in his 1971 film THX-1138—a movie that feels more like an impressive exercise than a compelling look at futuristic society. The reason Star Wars dabbles in archetypes so unabashedly is because it was the easiest way to make a big fun space movie, a project for Lucas to flex his special effects muscle. He wanted to dazzle us (and himself) with the latest and greatest, incomprehensible technology. He did, and it won us over.
He continues to do so, but now we're angry.
In the wake of all the Lucas-inspired rage, vocal Star Wars fans have been equally battered by another presence: the naysayers. They call SW fans "nerds," who care too much about a singular movie that, in the scope of film history, is just a movie. That's not cool either—it's fine to love something with a passion, but what most fans forget is that they'll forever have the Star Wars that they love, because they'll never forget it. While Lucas will continue to play in his sandbox of technical wizardry, forever toying at what he considers an incomplete set of films, fans will always have the memories of what they saw that first time. No ILM staff member can ever change that.
I once had an English teacher tell me that no art is created for an audience—that, if it is true art, it can only be for the artist him or herself. That's a semi-truth. George Lucas is an artist who strives to make his long-lasting work into a modern marvel, no matter what time period one is watching it in. The film will never be complete. He will be forever tortured by its imperfections. That's cool—let him. Star Wars is George Lucas' movie and no one else's. The flip side is that what Lucas wanted was to design something to be watched, enjoyed, embraced. For that reason, no matter what, fans will always have the Star Wars they love.
In their heads, just not on Blu-ray. Why get mad about that?
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches and @Hollywood_com