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NYFF: “Capote.”

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"It's the book I was meant to write."Joan Didion once wrote something about how, no matter what they say to assure you otherwise, writers never have your best interests in mind when they convince you to talk to them. She puts it much better, and we wish we had the quote on hand, but it’s been a while since we carried "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" with us wherever we went (oh, you wish we were kidding — also, we suspect the line is actually in "The White Album," anyway). Early in Bennett Miller‘s "Capote," Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the titular writer, arrives at the house of Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper, who’s as always so compelling one wishes he would get allotted more than ten minutes of screen time per film). He’s looking for information on the crime Dewey is investigating — the brutal murder of a family of four — for an article in the New Yorker, credentials that didn’t go nearly as far, at his first meeting with Dewey, as they would have in New York. Now he, accompanied by his good friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), pre-publication of "To Kill a Mockingbird," sets out to charm. He gossips, he entertains, he drop celebrity names, and then, shamelessly, segues into a story about his mother’s death. That wins over Dewey’s wife, who demands of her husband that he give the two whatever they need. "These are good people!" she says, but the camera cuts to Hoffman’s face: held high, closed, but triumphant, even a bit smug. Truman Capote is not good people — in many ways, he’s a right bastard.

Miller’s film, from an excellent script by Dan Futterman, based off Gerald Clarke’s biography, assumes audiences are familiar with Capote’s pivotal "nonfiction novel" "In Cold Blood" — the underlying certainty of the man’s brilliance is left unspoken to counterweight the complicated and not-so-flattering portrait the film presents. It begins with Capote already well established as a writer and a society fixture — he goes to Kansas on a bit of a whim, and is initially out of his element, but soon inveigles himself into the reluctant good graces of the locals and, eventually, the two murderers.

It’s Perry Smith, the one who did the actually killing, who catches Capote’s eye. Half Indian, polite and intelligent, an orphan from a terrible background, he hopelessly intrigues Capote, and their relationship is the dark, complex heart of the film. Capote sets out, in a sense, to seduce Smith’s story out of him, but ends up getting more involved than he ever planned, becoming something between a friend and a vampiric figure, cajoling and bullying him for the sake of his book ("Sometimes, when I think how good my book could be, I can hardly breathe," he tells a friend) and sometimes stepping in, getting the pair a lawyer for their appeal, only to then disappear for months and not return the otherwise completely alone Smith’s pathetic letters. It’s hard to guess how Capote really feels about Smith beyond seeing him as source material; both Keener’s Lee and Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood), Capote’s long-term lover, try to sound him out, but it appears that he doesn’t know himself, though he once eloquently lets slide that "It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house, and one day I went out the front door and Perry went out the back."

Hoffman’s performance is a tour de force — there’s no way he won’t be nominated for an Oscar. But it is so very much a virtuous act that sometimes the film seems to grind to a halt around him while he struts and frets, while generally outstanding actors like Keener and Greenwood are pulled into his orbit.

We’re totally rambling on, but this is a hard film to get one’s thoughts in order for. It’s very smart, and in the end very well done, but much of it is as icy as the bleak Kansas winter landscape elegantly shot in the opening sequences. The myth of journalistic remove, perhaps — in the end, we’re just as caught up as Capote in what happens to Perry Smith. By that time, for him, it was too late.

"Capote" opens in limited release on September 30.

Click here for all the NY Film Festival reviews thus far.

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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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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 and the IFC app.

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