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The week’s critic wrangle: The Unfinished Emily Rose.

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Ms. Lo and Mr. Redford go west(ish).+ "An Unfinished Life": Roger Ebert gets all meta while reviewing Lasse Hallström‘s latest:

The typical review of "An Unfinished Life" will mention that it was
kept on the shelf at Miramax for two years, and is now being released
as part of the farewell flood of leftover product produced by the
Weinstein brothers. It will say that Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman
are trying to be Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. It will have no
respect for Jennifer Lopez, because she is going through a period right
now when nobody is satisfied with anything she does. These reviews will
be more about showbiz than about the movie itself.

Yes, yes, yes. We’re thinking you’re wrong about the Eastwood thing, though, Roger — we haven’t seen that comparison anywhere, probably because, as everyone does point out, Freeman’s been doing the wise sidekick thing long before he was given grizzled codgers to play off of. Ebert perversely likes the film, simply because he finds it works for him — Stephanie Zacharek expresses similar sentiments, though she’s admits there something of a novelty factor to its appeal: "The picture is outrageously
predictable and somewhat poky, but there’s also something admirably
bold about the way it so adamantly demands we swallow its hokum." Armond White, who we’d half expected to declare the film a masterpiece, tosses in an inexplicable comment in at the end of a column he devotes largely to other films, saying that he was going to give "An Unfinished Life" an A for effort until he watched the new Criterion release of 1950’s "The Flowers of St. Francis" and remembered what a real quality film was like. Mark Holcomb at the Village Voice is also almost impressed with the film’s resolutely by-the-book Hallmark plot developments. Stephen Holden‘s totally our boy with this one though:

High on the list of the year’s corniest symbolic acts in a Hollywood movie is the freeing of a grizzly bear from its cage in the contemporary western "An Unfinished Life." And what exactly does the liberation of the beast from a makeshift rural zoo signify? In this solemn, sentimental bore of a movie that suffocates in its own predictability and watered-down psychobabble, it presages Oprah-worthy healing and imminent family togetherness after years of strife.

All in all, an uninterested bunch, and for good reason — "An Unfinished Life" is getting such a half-hearted release that no one’s going to find it until it becomes a standard of weekend afternoon cable TV, at which point all can admire the way that J.Lo’s fetching sundress/cowboy boots combinations (gritty! homespun!) are exactly what the hipster chicks are wearing in Brooklyn as we speak. Oh, and as we pointed out before, our review of the film is here.

Surprisingly more interesting, at least review-wise, is…

Jennifer Carpenter apparently impressed all with her screaming abilities.+ "The Exorcism of Emily Rose": It’s marketed as your typical late-summer supernatural schlock, but apparently there’s more at work in Scott Derrickson‘s semi-directorial debut about a priest (Tom Wilkinson) being prosecuted for attempting an exorcism on a 19-year-old girl (Jennifer Carpenter) who may or may not have been possessed, and who died as a result. A. O. Scott calls it both "a fascinating
cultural document in the age of intelligent design" and "propaganda disguised as entertainment," a film that supposedly gives fair weight to both possibilities but really sides with faith over science.  David Edelstein seems both amused and a little angered by everything the film suggests:

Derrickson claims in interviews that "Rashômon" is one of his favorite movies and that "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" gives both sides of the court battle their due. If you believe that, I have a grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary that you might want to buy. We do get flashes—almost subliminal ones—of the prosecutor’s version of events, but he’s a close-minded prig whose mere facts are far outweighed by extended sequences that leave no doubt whatsoever of Emily Rose’s demonic possession.

("Rashomon" is also the most fucking over-cited film out there, and we’ll hazard a guess that half the people who toss it out haven’t actually seen it, it’s just become a shorthand term for presenting more than one point of view. We direct you to low culture for examples.)

Roger Ebert‘s impressed by the film’s attempt at complexity, and shares his own theories: "You didn’t ask, but in my opinion she had
psychotic epileptic disorder, but it could have been successfully
treated by the psychosomatic effect of exorcism if those drugs hadn’t
blocked the process." And we’ll give the last work to Michael Atkinson, who gets a little bodily functions-obsessed in his review:

The screenplay, in which contemporary characters use phrases like "forces of darkness!" is another type of spoor altogether. (M. Night Shyamalan could’ve squeezed it out after a chili dinner.)…If you can manage a dozen or more piss breaks during the ecumenical wrangling, you’ll come out ahead.

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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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