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DID YOU READ

SXSW: The end.

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Daniel Spencer.The rest of what we caught at the festival:

+ "The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael": Like a kid who knows his tongue will stick to the frozen pipe if he licks it, knows
it, and yet takes a swipe at the fucking thing anyway, we can’t stay
away from films with a reputation of making people walk out. "The Great
Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael" scored some ink when it premiered at
Cannes solely for that reason, and there’s nothing else to recommend
this smugly nihilistic tale of bored British youth in a small coastal
town who wander around, drink, do whatever drugs they can find, and
ultimately commit a horrendous act of violence. We’ll sate your
curiosity now: if you’ve ever needed to see someone raped first by
three men, then with a champagne bottle, then, fatally, with an
ornamental sword, then this is the motion picture for you. But feckless
misogyny in film is nothing new — far worse is the fact that first-time
director Thomas Clay inserts TVs in the background of several scenes, all playing news coverage of the Iraq invasion. See? The whole thing is a metaphor! How superprofound, Mr. Clay.

 

+ "Inner Circle Line": For about half of Eunhee Cho’s directorial debut (one of the few foreign films at the festival), we were under the impression that main character Youngju’s androgynous roommate Jin, who she disastrously sleeps with out of drunken loneliness one night, was her gay best friend. It turned out that Jin is actually her lesbian best friend — but ultimately the point is the same. Cho’s promising film touches on those favorite topics of indie Asian cinema, urban anomie and isolation, and its four character fall in and out of love, but, in true Chekhovian style, never at the same time. Sometimes soapy and sometimes heavy-handed, the film nonetheless makes great use of its partial setting on the Seoul subway line, which often appears to be the saddest location in the world.

 

+ "KZ": We stumbled into Rex Bloomstein‘s documentary knowing nothing about it, and left more than a little emotionally destroyed — the film sidles up to its subject, Austria’s Mauthausen concentration camp (one of the last to be liberated, and now a memorial to the thousands who died there), as if the filmmaker wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for when he started, which makes the film’s eventual focus all the more effective. Following the tours — groups of students, groups of travelers — the camera lingers on faces as guides somberly list the atrocities that occurred within the camp walls. Eventually, we wander outside the camp and into the homes and lives of locals living in the picturesque village nearby. Some people see the area as merely a pleasant place to live; others, some the widows or children of SS members, struggle with or are fiercely unapologetic about Mauthausen’s legacy. Bloomstein captures some devastating interviews as he returns insistently to the question (and it’s never a condemnation) of how one lives with such a history, none more so than one of the senior tour guides, who is so consumed with the camp he freely admits it’s destroying his life.

 

+ "The Last Romantic": One of the better-received films in the fest, this first effort from brothers Aaron and Adam Nee (they co-wrote, -directed, -edited and -shot the film, and Adam also stars as Calvin Wizzig) is charmingly quirky. The barely stable Wizzig is an aspiring poet who hasn’t actually gotten around to writing much poetry — he comes to New York to get published, and has a series of strange encounters around the city as he wanders without a place to stay or any money. There’s a woman who pays him $20 to pretend to marry her for the benefit of her Alzheimer’s-stricken father; a dancer who acts like a cat (Shalom Harlow); a famous writer (James Urbaniak) and his femme fatale girlfriend (Jane Bradbury, who, in a cute touch, is only ever shot in black and white); and the idealized girl Wizzig spots on the F train. The neurotic, strange Wizzig is sometimes funny but just as often barely tolerable — still, the brothers Nee come up with clever visual indicators that the story is being told as recalled by Wizzig some time later, including playing with the color saturation to create a dreamlike springtime New York that’s as bright and lush as only a memory can be.

 

+ "LOL": Behold the children of Bujalski! Joe Swanberg‘s second feature owes a lot to "Funny Ha Ha"‘s meandering rhythms and seeming non sequiturs that somehow add up to profound character development, and while Swanberg may not quite have Bujalski’s exquisite understanding of everyday awkwardness, "LOL"’s scenes have an aching naturalism to them, particularly as the film builds (or rather, doesn’t build) towards its conclusion. The three young men the film follows are in the process of establishing post-college lives, dabbling in adulthood, and their lives are hopelessly caught up in tools of communication — phones, digital cameras, laptops — that do nothing to aid their understanding of other people, particularly the women in their lives. There’s a keen appreciation for the discomfort of being alone with someone having a prolonged cell phone conversation — often "LOL"’s characters use technology as a weapon of passive aggression, an excuse not to connect with the people actually in the room with them. We weren’t thrilled with the film’s interstitial clips of one of the character’s video art projects, but we can live with it for a scene in which two people sitting on a couch IM about the person sitting between them. Not that we’ve ever done that. Nope.

 

+ "Rank": "Rank" is an IFC doc, so we really shouldn’t be writing about it at all, but we’re worried it’ll get shrugged off because on paper a documentary about professional bull riding sounds forgettable, and it’s not. "Rank" is unexpectedly gorgeous and melancholy, and finds some remarkable subjects, particularly Mike Lee, a 21-year-old born-again Christian from Texas with huge eyes and a massive scar on his head from brain surgery following a bull riding injury, who’s both aestheticized and innately tragic in a way that recalls "Elephant," though we seem to be the only ones who think so.

 

+ "Shadow Company": Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque tackle the history of private military companies, from the formation of Executive Outcomes (lord, what a name) in 1989 to the firms’ current prevalence in Iraq (there’s one "consultant" for every ten soldiers), and back through to the origins of mercenary profession and the complicated ethics behind the use of these private armies. "Shadow Company" is an even-handed throwback to the talking head-based documentary, and exists more to be informative than argumentative, despite a last-act call for more regulation.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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.

via GIPHY

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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com 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….

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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.

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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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