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The week’s critic wrangle: Then again, maybe not…

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Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain and arty post-Communist allegories.January has yet to disappoint as one of the most disappointing months for film (or, rather, simply half-hearted, in a very post-blackout drunk coitus disinterested breakfast conversation fashion). There aren’t any particular releases worth focusing on this week, so we thought we’d continue to just meander through:

The New York TimesManohla Dargis and Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek express variations on the same sentiment in their respective reviews of "Tristan & Isolde" and "Last Holiday," something along the lines of "When did every movie get saddled with the obligation to break new ground?" (Maybe, unfair an expectation as it is, around the time apparently imperishable DVDs popped up everywhere and we started wondering why anyone would go to the theater to see "National Treasure" instead of just ordering in a pizza and re-watching "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (but they did, bewilderingly, go see "National Treasure" anyway, something that makes us never want to have children we may eventually feel the need to sedate with two hours of loud noises and shiny things)). Dargis:

Critics often complain that Hollywood has nothing new to offer, but part of the appeal of the old studio system was the regularity of its offerings. One Fred and Ginger movie looks pretty much like another Fred and Ginger movie, only "Swing Time" is better than "Top Hat." We want movies to be different, but not radically so, which helps explain our enduring love for genre and stars. There is something reassuring in the knowledge that a film with Brad Pitt will at least give us the pleasure of his company (though of course you could end up falling asleep to "Meet Joe Black"). Just as there is something undeniably pleasant about an entertainment like "Tristan & Isolde" that delivers exactly what it promises, no less, no more.

Zacharek wouldn’t make the argument that she enjoyed Queen Latifah-vehicle (and Alec Guinness-vehicle remake) "Last Holiday" as much (and indeed, Dargis hated it), but she is charmed by what she sees at the film’s anachronistic spirit, and she addresses those who would complain about the contrivance of the very movie-ish plot point on which the film turns — the misdiagnosis that leads Latifah’s Georgia Byrd off onto her exuberant new lifestyle.

But Georgia can’t go on that dream vacation — she can’t eat the gourmet pork fat, and she can’t get the groovy guy — until after she gets that bad-news diagnosis. It’s a hurdle the movie has to leap to get to the good stuff, and we have to jump along with it. Maybe the greatest sin "Last Holiday" commits is demanding our innocence, and that’s the last thing we want to give up. There’s something in us that wants to make sense of that brain scan, so we can prove to ourselves that we can’t be taken in by folderol. But if we can’t move past logic, we miss all the eating, the talking, the laughing. We miss everything we supposedly came to the movies for.

Elsewhere, the New York PressMatt Zoller Seitz does some meandering of his own after reviewing "When the Sea Rises." Zoller Seitz (who we should probably be referring to as simply "Seitz," except, when you’re given anything resembling two last names, you really must make use of them) surveys the year end lists and suggests that, while "Brokeback Mountain" is a fine film, "it’s not the year’s best movie – not by a long shot – and to say so is, in some sense, to mistake social significance for art." He’s similarly reserved about "A History of Violence," and mildly points out that critics have always been prone to awarding socially significant films more praise than, when their immediacy has faded, they deserve.

Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader makes his review of "Match Point" (which he likes) into a compare/contrast with Woody Allen’s 1989 "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (which he doesn’t).

Both Dargis and the Village Voice‘s J. Hoberman have pieces saluting MoMA‘s rare screenings of Béla Tarr‘s famously 450-minute long "Sátántangóa."

And, in a farther off place, both Hollywood Elsewhere‘s Jeffrey Wells and The Hot Blog‘s David Poland swoon for the Wachowski brothers-scripted "V for Vendetta," not due out until March 17th. Wells:

"V" is one of the most politically audacious mainstream Hollywood films ever made because it really lays it on the line — there are dark echoes of 9.11 and 21st Century neocon power dreams and hard-right fanaticism all through it, and yes…the good guy does blow up a building or two.

And Poland, never one to be afraid of the grand gesture himself, proclaims in these mid-January days that "’V for Vendetta’ reaches past the purely visual and may well be the best film of 2006."

+ Young Lovers in a Cave Can’t Escape the World (NY Times)
+ "Last Holiday" (Salon)
+ Another Day, Another Genre (Chicago Reader)
+ Finding Beauty in the Miserable and the Mundane (NY Times)
+ Béla Tarr’s Marathon Masterpiece Casts a Devilish Spell (Village Voice)
+ Vendetta Days (Hollywood Elsewhere)

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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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