Television fans are a unique set. We're the type of people who devote hours upon hours a week to our fictional, televised friends. We laugh at their jokes and cry when they cry because our favorite shows are just so darn good. But the intensity of the laughter and the tears is all thanks to the fact that we regard these characters as something of a family. We know them. We understand them. We love them unconditionally. And actors deserve recognition for being able to elicit that level of a reaction from their fans. Naturally, when they're not given their due, we're forced to react, well, emotionally. How, exactly, will we react? That depends on the actor in question. Next up is Saturday Night Live's most valuable player: Bill Hader.
Notice how I didn't say Kristen Wiig? Yes, the actress formerly known as Gilly might be the sketch comedy show's biggest breakout since Tina Fey, but there's only one player that makes us laugh until we turn white like an albino who looks like Susan Powter. And that's Hader, the man who introduced us to characters like Vinny Vedecci, Greg the Alien, and, of course, Stefon.
The comedian has played his SNL stint well — unlike other stars of the sketch comedy show who wear out their camera-hogging welcome faster than you could say "Mango," Hader's SNL stardom has been a slow burn. Though he first captured our attention seven seasons ago with his scarily accurate Vincent Price impression, Hader has managed to shine in the background while buzzier players like Wiig or Andy Samberg grabbed the spotlight and the headlines. Hader built himself up as the reliable cast member — the go-to player for all your impression needs (hello James Carville, Alan Alda, and my personal favorite, Keith Morrison), the comedian who would shine life into even the most cringe-worthy sketch (see: Any of "The Californians"), the actor willing to play the straight main while other cast members yukked it up for the audience. (And look no further than last season's "Who's On Top" to see that Hader can still get laughs in that role.)
And then, strangely enough — despite being a welcome presence on both Saturday nights and the big screen (thanks to memorable bit roles in films like Superbad, Tropic Thunder, and Pineapple Express) — Hader officially became an SNL star courtesy of a long-forgotten character from a long-forgotten 2008 sketch. Two years after Hader first played Ben Affleck's disturbed screenwriting brother, Stefon, the character reemerged on Weekend Update and became the hottest thing since New York's hottest club, Trash. He. Had. Everything. Midget puns, a life more bananas than Charlie Sheen's brain, and the ability to make the stoic consummate professional Hader laugh at his own jokes. (Or, should we say, SNL writer John Mulaney's jokes, which were often changed last-minute in an attempt to trip up Hader during the live show.) The character has become so popular, even those fully aware of SNL's past at the multiplex (remember It's Pat? We'd like to forget about it too) were clamoring for a Stefon movie.
But there's a good chance Hader would never agree to it. Not only because that movie was already made in 2000 when it was called Requiem for a Dream, but because it's difficult imagine that Hader would prefer to change his status from small-screen comedy hero to big-screen sell-out, regardless of the green temptation. And that's exactly what makes him so damn appealing — the man is a true artist. So much so, that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences anointed him with the honor of becoming only the second male cast SNL cast member nominated for an Emmy. (Comedy superstar Eddie Murphy was the first back in 1983.) Cue my reaction to the Emmy news: Now, I'm realistic. I'm fully aware of the way the Academy works. I realize that Hader should consider the nomination itself a win, an acknowledgment of hard work well done that will still be deemed less worthy than performances by the entire Modern Family cast. But, please, Emmy voters. Give Hader his due. Because, if you don't, I'll sic DJ Baby Bok Choy on you.
Not only that, but while he distracts you with his little ravioli hands, I'll head over to a dingy East Village basement where I'll form my party army. That's right — I'll call up a man and dog who served time for Cookie Crisp thievery, a Renaissance Fair king holding a half-eaten turkey bone, and an emotionally scarred grandmother shaking her head over an H&M ad. Then, after imbibing a considerable amount of moonshine made in a bathtub by a William Taft impersonator, we'll prank call that fast-talking guy from the FedEx commercials and Gunther from Friends. From there, we'll go to New York's hottest club, Smash, where party-goers can wear several layers of scarves and talk to a straight bartender who knows far too much about Marilyn Monroe. And after we've eaten the club offering of peanuts and the last Junior Mint in the pack that gets stuck to the bottom of the box, we'll come to your house and knock, knock, who's there? Black Uncle Sam! Telling you that he wants you to give Bill Hader a much-deserved Emmy.
So, please, make it happen, will you?
[Image Credit: NBC]
More: SNL: Taran Killam and Bill Hader to the Rescue 2012 Emmy Awards: See the Full List of Nominees! Emmys Idle Threats: Give Amy Poehler an Emmy or the Waffles are Gonna Get It
In the 2006 animated blockbuster Happy Feet an alienated emperor penguin named Mumbles found empowerment through tap-dancing and in so doing managed to both attract a mate and stop the overfishing that imperiled his Antarctic habitat. Directed by George Mitchell – the same George Mitchell who gave us the post-apocalyptic Mad Max trilogy and the almost despairingly bleak Babe: Pig in the City – Happy Feet paired its broadly conventional narrative with a darker sensibility not often seen in talking-animal fare.
The film’s sequel Happy Feet Two finds Mitchell (co-directing with Gary Eck) both more jovial and more easily distracted. The story begins straightforwardly enough with Mumbles (Elijah Wood) now grown-up and by all appearances well-adjusted ceding the mantle of self-discovery to his son Erik (Ava Acres). Boogie fever has swept the once dance-averse penguin nation but in a cruelly ironic twist Erik has inherited none of his father’s nifty moves. But just as Happy Feet Two appears intent on recycling its predecessor’s basic storyline the film abruptly changes course and embarks on a series of detours that seemed geared more as fodder for throwaway gags and showy set pieces than anything else. The disparate narrative elements while enjoyable in isolation never quite coalesce into a meaningful whole leaving us entertained but unfulfilled.
As before Happy Feet Two features a variety of buoyant song-and-dance numbers with Alecia Moore (aka P!nk) lending her formidable pipes to spirited re-workings of “Rhythm Nation” and “Under Pressure ” among others. Robin Williams returns for double duty as both Ramon a diminutive oversexed Latin lover and Lovelace a fiery Southern-preacher type. (Lovelace later adopts a Rastafarian dialect allowing Williams to achieve the rare culture-caricature trifecta.) His voracious scenery-devouring is all the more impressive given the grandeur of the scenery. Not to be left out of the quasi-Vaudevillian comic shenanigans Hank Azaria lays on a thick Scandinavian shtick as Sven a charismatic Arctic émigré who presents himself as the only penguin in the world who can fly. Azaria is a hoot but the film’s best moments come courtesy of the cast’s highest-profile additions Matt Damon and Brad Pitt voicing Bill and Will (respectively) two tiny krill in search of meaning at the bottom of the food chain.
Completely stripping Catwoman of her "Batman" connections the geniuses behind this comic-book movie--at least as bad as Spider-Man 2 is good--also stripped it of any pleasure. Neither campy a la Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt of the old TV series nor sexy vamp like Michelle Pfeiffer of Batman Returns Halle Berry's Catwoman is well one lost little kitty in the big city. Actually she's Patience Philips--an annoyingly mousy graphics designer for a top cosmetics firm who despite her job has no fashion sensibility no self-confidence and no boyfriend. (Yeah riiiight!) She is befriended by a mystical Egyptian Mau cat which--courtesy of lousy digital effects--often looks disturbingly like Toonces and sounds like Linda Blair in The Exorcist when it meows; moreover its way of befriending Patience is to lure her into a suicide attempt--one of many plot points lacking a rationale. When Patience discovers that the cosmetics firm's villainous owner (Lambert Wilson) and aging supermodel wife (Sharon Stone) are marketing a toxic disfiguring facial cream she is killed--flushed through a drainage system into the ocean. But here comes that darn cat again to revive her as she's lying in sludge and mud. Next thing she knows she's sleeping on her apartment's bookshelf eating tuna by the caseload looking longingly at Jaguar hood ornaments as if they're long-lost relatives and jumping about walls basketball courts and whatnot faster than a speeding bullet. She also takes to wearing a pointy-eared black-leather dominatrix outfit along with too much makeup but at least no whiskers. She also starts sniffing around that foul cosmetics firm which leads to a martial-arts showdown with Stone. What the Oscar-winning Berry doesn't do regrettably is get a CAT scan to see what kind of ailment convinced her to make this lamebrain movie.
I've seen better acting on 7-Eleven surveillance videos than in Catwoman. Berry is cloying in the film's early stages when she's playing insecure lonely Patience and she's more pathetically childlike than anything else. Once she's Catwoman though she's really terrible tilting her head for endless close-ups and giving lots of wide-eyed stares meant to conjure feline curiosity but that more recall George W. Bush's "deer-in-the-headlights" gaze. The screenplay makes a few lame attempts to observe the duality of women in the way Patience changes to Catwoman but it's not there in the performance. Yet Berry's turn is a career-peak gem compared to Stone who can't decide whether to play the power-mad Laurel Hedare as a broad cartoonish send-up or as someone connected to reality. Looking like a vampiric Susan Powter and barking sarcastic lines without a hint of emotional connection to her character Stone is just awful. On the plot's fringes Benjamin Bratt does his best as a police officer (gee what else) who is both infatuated with Berry and suspects her of murder.
The one-named French director Pitof (short for "pitoful"?) supposedly is a digital-imaging expert who has worked with City of Lost Children's Jean-Pierre Jeunet but you'd never know it here. Either he doesn't know much about directing actors or maybe he only gives directions in French. The effects--especially action scenes involving a digitalized version of Berry--move at such a chaotic breakneck pace that she looks completely phony. Plus there's absolutely no sequential logic whatsoever to where Catwoman moves and when--apparently invisibility is one of her superpowers. These awkward clumsy scenes are usually accompanied by distractingly loud music. Pitof's only other directing credit is some obscure French flick starring Gerard Depardieu…one hopes Catwoman will be his last.