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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: Cinderella Pants.

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060305_cinderellaman+ "Cinderella Man": A subtle film, this is not. "Schmaltz" and its kindlier brother, "sentimentality," seems to be the operative words here. Roger Ebert says "There is a moment early in "Cinderella Man" when we see Russell Crowe in the boxing ring, filled with cocky self-confidence, and I thought I
knew what direction the story would take. I could not have been more
mistaken." He’s the only one even remotely surprised by any of the plot twists in this, by all accounts, archetypal Ron Howard Uplifting Movie. He also likes it the best.

How much others liked "Cinderella Man" hinges on their tolerance for being manipulated. At Slate, David Edelstein says that "It’s schmaltzy — but it’s schmaltz veined with foie gras," but also admits that, as much as he was a sucker for this film and for "A Beautiful Mind," he always feels a little dirty afterward. Anthony Lane at the New Yorker, who, underneath the elegant cynicism is a big softy himself, also pegs the film as brutally manipulative, then blames the acting from Russell Crowe as boxer James J. Braddock and Paul Giamatti as his manager Joe Gould for making "it seem a better and more bristling film than it actually is." Everyone else is impressed by Crowe, save LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor, who finds him and most of the film’s other major players to be "calamitously miscast."

Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek, certainly not one to indulge her inner sap, unsurprisingly hated the film. So did Ella Taylor, while the New York Press‘ Matt Zoller Seitz seems far more affected by it than we would have expected. He, along with Taylor and Edelstein, notes the odd anti-welfare tinge the film has — Braddock is ashamed to be seen in the welfare line (seriously, it was the Depression!) and Braddock’s friend, played by the very talented Paddy Considine, is a would-be union organizer who, as Taylor puts it, is cast "as a bit of a pinko, know what I mean, and a drunk to boot."

It’s hard to tell what La Manohla, with her Mona Lisa smile of a review, really thinks of the film, other than that it tows the aforementioned schmaltz/sentimentality line (and maybe that’s wise — reviews will slide off this film like Teflon). But she does find that Crowe and Giamatti have lent more complexity to "Cinderella Man" than its creators intended:

One of the satisfactions of "Cinderella Man" is that, in the end, the story that unfolds inside the ring is not the same one that Mr. Howard,
his screenwriters and the composer Thomas Newman seem keen to sell.
Their Cinderella Man is the decent little guy who affirms what movie
people call the triumph of the human spirit. The story Mr. Crowe tells,
with Mr. Giamatti riding shotgun as a gleeful Mephistopheles, is that
of a man who, having sampled the blood of others, clearly enjoyed the
taste.

060305_travelingpants+ "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants": Roger Ebert likes the film (he does tend to like everything these days, as Stephanie Zacharek seems to dislike almost everything), which sounds like a well-done, not surprising but also not too condescending tween flick. Or, as Dana Stevens in the New York Times puts it: "’The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ has plenty of plot twists that grownups will see coming a mile away,
but that’s no reason to deny its pleasures to the less jaded younger
set." Oh, and a name check from Ebert:

Tibby [played by Amber Tamblyn] has perhaps been watching IFC too much and possibly envisions herself at Sundance as she heads off to the Wal-Mart clone with her video camera.

IFC, motivating the disaffected and summer retail-entrapped! Howard, you got nothing on us.

060305_lordsofdogtown+ "Lords of Dogtown": Never mind, Roger Ebert doesn’t like everything: "Not only is there no need for this movie, but its weaknesses underline the strength of the doc." The doc would be Stacy Peralta’s 2001 "Dogtown and Z-Boys," which tells the same story of the rise of street skateboarding in non-fiction form. A. O. Scott disagrees, finding "Lords of Dogtown" "from start to finish…pretty much a blast," and speaking of an authentic feel to its construction. The LA Weekly‘s Scott Foundas is put off by the sense that the film,

which was scripted by Peralta, seems a movie made by an entirely different person — by someone looking at the material from the outside in, as though Peralta fed his own experience into some screenwriting software program that homogenized everything into threadbare clichés about the innocence of youth and the pressures of success.

The only saving grace, for him, is Heath Ledger‘s scene-stealing turn as the Z-Boys’ erratic, charismatic manager Skip Engblom, a performace A. O. Scott also admires (he suggests it’s "a demented tribute to Val Kilmer’s performance in ‘The Doors’").

Stephanie Zacharek, again with the hypersensitivity to obviousness, is irritated by director Catherine Hardwicke‘s heavy-handed means of showing how hard life was for the Z-Boys, growing up in SoCal poverty. But she’s entranced by a few sequences of beauty, particularly the scenes in which the boys sneak into the backyards of the wealthy to skate in their empty pools (the state being the midst of a drought): "The kids dip and swirl against these magnificent matte-blue surfaces, like empty bowls of sky. It’s a simple, effective metaphor, showing us how for them, skating equals freedom."

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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