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The week’s critic wrangle: Proof that the Corpse Thumbsucker is HellBent for Illumination.

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So. Many. Releases! If this is terse, don’t take it personally.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins+ "Proof": It’s possible this stodgy-looking Miramax play-adaptation was made just for Anthony Lane to review. He utterly enjoys himself with all kinds of silliness (he calls Anthony Hopkins‘ character "a math wizard of Dumbledore
proportions"). A particularly worthy selection:

Claire [Hope Davis] flies in from New York, where, unlike
Catherine [Gwyneth Paltrow], she has (boo!) a job, and (hiss!) a fiancé, and (avaunt
thee, Satan!) nice clothes. She despairs of her lank-haired, wonky
sibling, and they soon lock antlers over the vexed question of jojoba
conditioner. Claire can’t even get the patient to eat. "Have a banana,"
she says, becoming the first person to utter that line since Louis
said it to Mowgli in "The Jungle Book." Unlike King Louie,
however, Claire does not follow up her offer with a sprightly rendition
of "I Wanna Be Like You," although you can’t help praying that she
would. This movie needs all the swingers it can get.

Stephanie Zacharek and Dennis Lim both compare the film’s subject matter (math) to it’s creakily mechanical structure and plotting. Manohla Dargis takes issues with the main character: "A martyr to her own choices, Catherine…demands our pity, our attention, our indulgence, our love, while giving little in return but her narcissism."

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (sort of)+ "Corpse Bride": The clear critical hit of the week, Tim Burton‘s return to stop-motion animation is beloved by all. Stephanie Zacharek, Manohla Dargis and Michael Atkinson all find it variations of "exuberant" and "warm": Zacharek particularly gets teary-eyed over the film’s old-school craftsmanship and loveliness, while Dargis is pleased to see Burton’s return to gothy form ("it suggests, despite some recent evidence, that he is not yet ready to abandon his own dark kingdom") and Atkinson points out that, culturally, it’s an unexpected "humble slice of Old World folklore." Matt Zoller Seitz is also fond of the film, though less giddy: "I can’t hold up the movie as an example of Burton’s best."

Lou Pucci + "Thumbsucker": Jessica Winter:

Exiting a press screening a while back, however, I overheard an
otherwise mild-mannered audience member growl, "Another fucking
American suburban teen-angst film." Snip off the expletive and you’ve
got a perfectly fair nutshell of the endearing and well-acted "Thumbsucker," and you can throw in much of whatever’s left of the
Sundance-Amerindie project too ("The Chumscrubber" and "Me and You and
Everyone We Know"
also premiered this year at Park City).

Despite its overt Sundanciness, she’s fond of Mike Mills‘ debut, as is A. O. Scott, who finds it well acted and nicely restrained, a film that "manages to show how calamitous and out of control (and also how thrilling) growing up odd and ordinary can be, without wallowing in its hero’s occasional self-pity or condescending to him." David Edelstein, on the other hand, feels that Mills, despite drawing great performances out of his actors, kills most of the jokes that were in the novel the film’s based on.

Dylan Fergus+ "HellBent": This low-budget horror film about a group of young, hot, gay men who are stalked and slayed (preferably shirtless) by a menacing killer on the streets of West Hollywood claims to be "The first ever GAY Slasher film!!!", a point that we, while no experts, would debate, on the dubious merits of last year’s "Make a Wish," which seemed to play at every LGBT festival in the country, and centered around a woman who invites all of her exes (female) out for a camping trip, provoking much bickering, making out, and mysterious dying. Does that one not count? And is this such a debate-worthy claim to begin with? At this week’s Reverse Shot review trinity at indieWIRE, Michael Koresky points out that "serial killer films have been chockablock with homosexual psychotics from day one," but that "HellBent" is rare in its gay-friendliness, and ultimately good-natured fun. His fellow reviewers Brad Westcott and Suzanne Scott dub it "derivative, predictable, and well, just bad" and "disappointing," respectively. Laura Kern at the New York Times sees it more as a cultural artifact: it "widens the scope a bit by bringing gay cinema one step closer to the mainstream." Jorge Morales at the Village Voice is far from impressed: "I’ve seen spookier reruns of Paul Lynde as center square."

Elijah Wood and Eugene Hutz+ "Everything is Illuminated": One thing everyone can agree on: the music gets way old way fast. David Edelstein (who otherwise thinks the film shows some promise, but is too cutesy and falters at the end): "That lusty klezmer soundtrack made me smile for about half an hour—until I realized that it was ironing out the dissonances, killing the unease we ought to feel in this deceptively verdant landscape. Then I began to wish it were hunting season on klezmer bands." Michael Atkinson (who finds the film "serviceable"): [Director Liev] Schreiber relies
on relentless soundtrack oompah-pah to make the jokes seem like
jokes—until the sniffly climax." Stephanie Zacharek (who thinks that "Schreiber leaves the whimsy faucet dripping for far too long," but likes the last third of the film): "Schreiber overuses some particularly annoying Eastern European oompah music to signal us to the allegedly hilarious absurdity of certain narrative twists, not trusting us to find the humor in this story without musical signposts." A. O. Scott thinks the film spins its wheels a lot but never gets further than announcing its themes, and, less charitably, says that it "suggests that even the darkest page of history can be bathed in a glow of consoling, self-congratulatory sentiment." Hah! And Ella Taylor loved the book, loves the film.

Our own review is here: we actually walked out feeling relatively benign about the film, and disliked it more and more as we thought about it. Eugene Hutz is fabulous, though (there’s a little Q & A with him here on IFC News).

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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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