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The critics’ gig.

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No review for you.
It’s April, and a little early to cast about for annual trends, but if last year was the year of the Box Office Slump, this year is well on its way to being the year in which the Critics Were Cast Out. 11 films so far, including two this past weekend, "The Benchwarmers" and "Phat Girlz," and it’s beginning to seem like what used to be the kiss (off) of death — not daring or bothering to offer advance screenings of a film for critics — apparently doesn’t matter much to anyone anymore, as few of the film in question are having much trouble finding decent box office biz, at least for the opening weekend. It’s like when you’re just out of college and being part of a threesome seemed all wacky and hip, but gradually you realize that you have less and less in common with Audience these days (and to be honest, you never got Studios to begin with) and then Audience and Studios are spending an awful lot of time together, and suddenly they’re talking about getting a one-bedroom together, just the two of them, and Audience hugs you and says "no hard feelings, we’ll totally all still hang out, right?" and wonders if maybe you should start dressing more your age.

And where is this metaphor going again? Ah, yes, to the Orlando Sentinel‘s Roger Moore, who, at his blog Frankly My Dear…, details how he was accidentally not uninvited to an advance screening of "The Benchwarmers," and who wrote a nasty review that was also the only one out there; it was carried by Knight-Ridder papers across the country. At which point Sony starts with the outcry:

And with the calls from Sony, come the lies. The review is "bogus," they tell one editor. "Unauthorized." That I "disguised" myself to get in (a roped-off row for "press" is not exactly incognito) to another. That KRT subscribing papers have to "pay" extra to run the review.

Incidentally, in his late review of "Phat Girlz" at the Boston Globe, Wesley Morris writes that:

When movie studios refuse to show films to the press before opening day, it usually means they stink. In the case of ”Phat Girlz," which wasn’t screened for critics, I’m convinced it’s because the studio didn’t see the movie.

This is a disarming and, in its own way, delightful vehicle for its star and executive producer, the comedian and actress Mo’Nique. Who could hate this movie?

Who knows? This could spawn a near-future era of antagonistic, espionage-based reviewing, in which critics sport fake mustaches and trench coats and creep into screenings of "Big Stan," only to be bounced back out onto the sidewalk in a tumble of tweed and brittle bones by sharp-eyed, ‘roided-out publicists: "Damn you, Sarris, we said WE’RE NOT SCREENING FOR CRITICS!"

In the LA Times, Mark Olsen interviews Phillip Lopate, who recently edited "American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now":

The question we’re sort of dancing around is this: Does film criticism matter?

If you’re a writer, as I am, you may feel it’s great to have this interesting, distinguished prose being generated. As a reader, I try to situate film criticism as a part of American letters.

I want to dodge your question by giving two answers. If film criticism no longer matters as much, I hope this anthology will be seen as a valuable tribute to what once mattered terrifically. If film criticism continues to matter, let it spur on future film critics.

Lopate will be at REDCAT in LA on Thursday, on a panel with Manohla Dargis, Richard Schickel and Kenneth Turan.

At, Lisa Nesselson of Variety responds to friend’s request for pithy advice for the would-be critic in a way that’s frank, funny but far from pithy.

In closing, I’d say the privilege of being a critic really kicks in when I get to write "the Variety review" of an important film and I feel like I really, truly, am the "right" person for the job. I’m enormously proud of my reviews of "Bowling for Columbine" and "Irreversible" (both written on tight deadlines in the pressure cooker of Cannes) and I’ve been told that my review of "Memento" has helped other people understand the film.

But I have colleagues who just crank out copy, figure one word is as good as another and everything they write will be glanced at at best and then discarded, so why knock yourself out? Variety always wants to know what’s "hot" (a word I would retire, if I had the power…). But why would anybody who aspires to make movies or act in them for the long haul ever want to be "hot?"

In his introduction to the debut issue of Undercurrent, the new magazine just launched by the International Federation of Film Critics, editor Chris Fujiwara writes that

Film criticism, at least in English, seems often in the position of
apologizing for its own existence, pretending to be something else, or
wishing it were something else. Undercurrent wants to be a place where
film criticism can dispense with alibis.

Honestly, while what we’ve looked over so far on the site is admirable, we don’t think this particular form of dense, academic-influenced criticism has ever been in danger — the small but impassioned crowd that would read a near shot-by-shot analysis of "The Wayward Cloud" isn’t going anywhere. It’s the great, more personal and more populist writing in papers that you come back to, week to week, that we do worry about.

+ The movie Sony re-HEALLY doesn’t want critics to see (Orlando Sentinel)
+ In ‘Phat Girlz,’ empowerment is entertaining (Boston Globe)
+ Sort of a critics’ revue (LA Times)
+ Advice to a Would-Be Film Critic (
+ #1 4.2006 (Undercurrent)

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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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