Saturday Night Live: The Best of Will Ferrell, Volume III

Considering that even the biggest stars “SNL” has ever produced only have one ‘Best of’ collection to their names, it’s a testament to Will Ferrell’s versatility that Universal is giving him his third compilation (well, that and the fact that Ferrell is bar none the biggest star “SNL” has produced in 20 years). From the looks of “The Best of Will Ferrell, Vol. III,” however, it’s starting to look like they may be coming close to the bottom of the well. The set is funny, mind you – it includes arguably the best cheerleader skit of all, at the chess match – and you can never go wrong with a “Celebrity Jeopardy” skit. They even include the oddball “Do You Like Luxury?” skit, which only Ferrell could make funny. However, the inclusion of a “Lawrence Welk” skit is a big minus (that should have been saved for a “Best of Kristen Wiig” DVD, God help us), and the “Inside the Actor’s Studio” skits are only as good as the honoree, and while Abby Elliott has her good points, her Drew Barrymore impression does not leave much of a…well, you know. The warm-up performance of Green Day singing “East Jesus Nowhere,” with Ferrell rocking the cowbell and even taunting Billie Joe (“Does this song ever end?”), is a great extra, though. Pity they couldn’t get him to do an audio commentary; those have always been as entertaining on the other best-of DVDs as the skits themselves.

Click to buy “The Best of Will Ferrell: Volume III”

  

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TV/media in the 2000s: 10 (or so) key voices in left/right political media

Politically speaking, the aughts have been one long, strange trip. Just think about what we’ve seen this decade: a disputed presidential election in 2000, the largest terrorist attack in world history occurring on U.S. soil in 2001, followed by two wars, the partial erasure of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast, a congressional changing of the guard, the election of the first African-American president as well as the first with a foreign-sounding name, and the probable passage of a health care package which, depending on your point of view, is either historic, a mystery, a bit of a sham, or the first step on the road to a Stalinist U.S. of A.

Bubbling beneath all of this has been a series of remarkable changes in the world of media — television, movies, radio, and this thing we call the Internet — that have had a fairly profound impact on politics and, therefore, on real life. What follows are my choices for the ten most interesting and/or influential figures in the realm of political media. To try and slightly compensate for my obvious liberal bias (my side is far more facty, I tell ya!), I’ve got five spots each for conservative and liberal media figures respectively and I’ll be alternating and counting down from the bottom.

#5 Conservative

Trey Parker and Matt Stone — It’s possible that most regular viewers of “South Park” have little idea that Parker and Stone are self-described Republicans and I’m sure most of you don’t think of it as that much of a political show, even though rather subtle and often quite penetrating and/or infuriating thoughts about politics run through many, if not most, episodes. That’s because, like all great satirists, they are just as good at poking holes in the pretensions of their own side as that of the opposition, and their social liberalism puts them so at odds with the increasingly extremist faction that now controls much of the Republican party that some could easily mistake them for liberals. Actually, right now it’s easy to imagine them ditching the party indefinitely, along with any number of smart fellow conservatives who have already done so publicly.

parker-stone

Still, conservative and/or anti-liberal messages are often found on episodes of “South Park,” including attacks on such personal friends of the pair as George Clooney. Indeed, as early as 2001, famed blogger Andrew Sullivan described himself as a “South Park Republican.” (Sullivan is now one of those smart conservative ex-Republicans I mentioned above.) And, of course, there was no stronger, and certainly no funnier, attack on the antiwar efforts of the American left than “Team America: World Police” which had marionette versions of Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, and Janeane Garofalo working in tandem with North Korean madman Kim Jong-il in his plans to destroy Western civilization.

Since the film’s release in 2004, more doctrinaire conservatives have tried to follow suit with such liberal-bashing comedies as “An American Carol” and “The 1/2 Hour News Hour,” a truly wretched attempt to craft a conservative alternative to “The Daily Show,” but only Parker and Stone have been able to bash liberals and their ideas and make targets like Alec Baldwin love it.

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You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush

Given how brutally Will Ferrell skewered George W. Bush during the 2000 election, you’d think a one-man show in which Ferrell celebrates the end of Bush’s two terms with 90 minutes of proudly partisan buffoonery would be a can’t-miss prospect — and during the limited live run of “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush,” that may have been true. On DVD, however, Ferrell’s salute to the former Commander-in-Chief provokes more chuckles than guffaws, due at least in part to the fact that, despite his many contributions to late night comics’ monologues, Bush’s presidency really wasn’t all that funny. Taped shortly after Bush yielded office to Barack Obama (or, as Ferrell’s version of W. calls him, “the Tiger Woods guy”), this performance initially had the power of pent-up catharsis to get it across; now, however, it’s mostly just a faintly humorous, somewhat painful look back at a period of American history pockmarked with war, terrorism, economic turmoil, and a horrific natural disaster. Ferrell’s squints, frat-boy chuckles, and screams of idiotic rage just can’t keep up with it all, although the show’s more brazenly surreal moments (including a dance with Condoleezza Rice, played here by the fearless Pia Glenn) offer pleasant reminders of just how far he’s willing to go for his comedy. If you really loathed Bush, you’ll probably want to own it — or at least watch it — just to have one last laugh at his expense, but otherwise, this is a pretty lukewarm roast.

Click to buy “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush”

  

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Bush gets Stoned in new GQ interview

Admit it: you were too busy drooling over Megan Fox on the cover of the October issue of GQ that you completely forgot to check out director Oliver Stone’s candid interview about his new film, “W.” It’s all right if you haven’t, because the brief chat can also be found online, and let me tell you, it’s well worth reading. Though it may seem like Stone is gunning for the incumbent president with his self-proclaimed political satire, the veteran director actually appears to have a good understanding of the man. In the article, Stone admits he’s cut from the same cloth as Bush, and if it weren’t for the fact that he took a completely different route growing up, he may have turned out the same way. Oh yeah, and “Vietnam drove out whatever arrogance [he] carried.”

The rest of the interview covers everything from the difficulties of making such a film to his long-running problems working within the studio system. Posted below are some excerpts, but to read it in full, click here.

On his first choice for the lead role:

“Originally I went for Christian Bale. We did some rigorous prosthetic tests and spent a lot of dough—thousands and thousands of dollars—and then Christian said, “I just don’t feel like I can do it.” I met Josh and liked him. He was more rural Americana. But man, he was scared shitless.”

On why “W” could be considered a comedy:

“Well, it has to be done with an ebullience and a certain fun, because the guy is goofy. He’s a goofball! And I think he endeared himself to people because he couldn’t get anything right. Kubrick was an idol of mine. I grew up on “Strangelove” and movies like “Network,” and they made a big impact on me. So yeah, W. is a satire.”

On the state of his Mai Lai massacre project, “Pinkville”:

It can probably only come back if UA would give us the movie without paying them the money they’ve already spent. We started to make the movie. I mean, we built a whole village in Thailand! We have tons of stuff sitting in crates! There’s $6 million against the movie. And I don’t have that kind of money. They didn’t even pay all the bills. They stuck us with a bunch of them.

First they kept cutting our budget. We had our locations, we had our actors, we had everything picked out, and it was a very reasonable plan. Then Bruce Willis walked, and they were thrilled, because that gave them the final excuse to call it, even though we got Nicholas Cage. That was three weeks before shooting and right before Christmas. Let me remind you, that’s 120 Americans and 500 Thais put out of work right before Christmas. It was a cruel, heartless decision, and it was probably made because “Lions for Lambs” was perceived as a mess, a failure, and we were linked to these Iraq movies that weren’t working.

  

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