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The week’s critic wrangle: Let’s hear it for the ladies.

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Naomi Watts.+ "Ellie Parker": Scott Coffey‘s micro-indie was expanded from a 2001 short that starred a friend of his, the then-struggling actress Naomi Watts. It’s one in a long line of "Hollywood is Hell"-type films, and several critics note it’s brief nods to "Play It as It Lays," "The Day of the Locust" and "Living in Oblivion." Melissa Anderson at the Village Voice notes another film connection:

[W]here this trifle fascinates most is in its connections to David
‘s masterpiece ["Mulholland Drive"]. With the sunny, can-do attitude of Betty Elms,
Ellie [Watts] dons a lavender hoopskirt to impress the dissolute Russian
producers during her callback for a risible Civil War pic. And like
abject Diane Selwyn, Ellie is sexually betrayed, catching her boyfriend
(Mark Pellegrino, who played the hit man Diane hires to kill Camilla
Rhodes in MD) in bed with a low-level casting assistant (Jennifer Syme,
who died in a car crash and to whom Lynch dedicates MD).

Anderson finds the film a bit slight and clumsy, a sentiment echoed by Michael Koresky at indieWIRE, who likes it even less (of the reviewers he’s paired with, Kristi Mitsuda is exhilarated by its bleakness, and Nicolas Rapold thinks it’s all very community access sketch showish). Ella Taylor at LA Weekly acknowledges that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but that it still works, for what it is ("If you
still want to make it in the business after seeing this, you’re a very
sick puppy.").

Both Stephen Holden at the New York Times and Andrew O’Hehir at Salon like the film considerably. Holden calls Watts’ performance "a small, brave acting tour de force," and notes that "Ellie Parker" explores the dark, underlying psychological wear of auditioning and acting. O’Hehir devotes quite a bit of ink to getting all kinds of gushy, pointing out that the film is "one of the most proudly and genuinely low-budget features I’ve seen in a long time," as well as "the sharpest, most authentic portrait of Hollywood life made in the last several years."

Despite the interesting reviews, we think we’ve reached our limit on inside-the-industry satires for the year (and this most certainly was a year for the topic).


Sarah Silverman.+ "Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic": If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the many interviews with Silverman out there today (including one on our own site, by gum), our nation’s critics attempt to give her some context. Who is this Sarah Silverman?

J.R. Jones at the Chicago Reader: "The Los Angeles Times has compared Silverman to [Lenny] Bruce, a critical
cliche but in this case highly appropriate."

Ernest Hardy at the LA Weekly: "Silverman has been predictably compared to Lenny Bruce, but she’s more like an amped fusion of Dave Chappelle and Sandra Bernhard."

J. Hoberman at the Village Voice: "In the realm of stand-up Jews, she’s neither a Lenny Bruce philosopher nor a Sandra Bernhard performance artist. Borderline tiresome, Silverman’s racial and sexual obsessions might suggest Jackie Mason with a pretty face. But really, she’s a verbal Jerry Lewis, shamelessly willing to say anything."

A.O. Scott at the New York Times: "The
tradition she wants to join is that of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor,
and in some ways she faces greater challenges than they did."

Matt Zoller Seitz at the New York Press: "Silverman specializes in the sorts of jokes that got Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay in trouble 15 or 20 years ago."

Enlightening? Well, the critical consensus is solidly mixed — pretty much everyone likes Silverman, enjoys her jokes, but finds the movie mixed and a little tiresome (if any feature with a 70-minute runtime can be accused of being too lengthy). Also, it’s universal: the scattered songs throughout? Sucked.

The dissenting voice is Roger Ebert, who, in a somewhat odd negative review, dissects what he finds wrong with the film and Silverman’s delivery in an almost scientific way. Summing it up: "I liked everything about it except the writing, the direction, the editing and the lack of a parent or adult guardian."



Keira Knightley.+ "Pride & Prejudice": Can a Jane Austen movie by a guilty pleasure? Because that’s really what we’d call the appeal of Joe Wright’s new adaptation, for all of the talk of its high aims of social realism, and that may be why every critic seems to love it despite itself. Ella Taylor at the LA Weekly admits as much:

Elizabeth and Darcy may start out the very embodiment of the class and gender wars, but they end up its happy (and, not so incidentally, loaded) resolution. Even as I chortled at the virginal ending, in which the sun rises between two sets of puckered lips, I was tickled to see Lizzie having her feminist cake and eating it too.

Stephen Holden is far less abashed:

In its final
minutes, it makes you believe in true love, the union of soul mates,
happily-ever-after and all the other stuff a romantic comedy promises
but so seldom delivers. For one misty-eyed moment, order reigns in the

Roger Ebert similarly felt a warm, glowing, warming glow ("an almost unreasonable happiness"), while David Edelstein at Slate admits he had his doubts after seeing the purplish advertising campaign for the film, but deems it "marvelous," particularly liking Donald Sutherland‘s performance as the harried Mr. Bennet, and Keira Knightley‘s as Lizzie. Stephanie Zacharek at Salon and Jessica Winter at the Voice are both pleased with the film as well.

Anthony Lane at the New Yorker may have the most interesting review of all. Underneath the typical froth he works himself into attempting to channel Dorothy Parker is a true and injured sense of the proprietary over Austen (we feel a bit sympathetic, having written many a paper about many an Austen novel). Lane makes plenty of fun of how "Jane
Austen has been Brontëfied" (our favorite line: "He
has donned a long coat, which sways fetchingly in the mist; obviously
it was copied from a Human League video of the nineteen-eighties, but
I’m damned if I can remember which one."), but his ultimate issue may be this:

question is not whether the director was justified in that
transmutation but whether he had the choice; whether any of us, as
moviemakers, viewers, or readers, retain the ability—not so much the
scholarly equipment as the imaginative clairvoyance—to see Austen
clearly. Maybe we are doomed to view her through the smoked glass of
the intervening centuries, during which the spirit of romance, and the
role of the body within it, have evolved out of all recognition.

Fair enough. After reading so many overwrought reviews we wondered if we’d been too hard on the film ourselves (we certainly enjoyed it, regardless) in our expectations for a version of a book that may be impossible to capture. But then we thought back to Matthew MacFadyen‘s Darcy striding out, shirt half unbuttoned, into a field at an extremely lavender, soft-focus dawn to find Knightley’s Lizzie already there, telling him that she couldn’t sleep, and we think no, it’s true, this is a very silly film. Deliciously silly, but, like, silly.

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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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