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DID YOU READ

“The film nobody wants to see.”

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United 93.
In his intro to the Village Voice‘s Tribeca picks (some sounding a little grudging — was 40 an arbitrary goal?), J. Hoberman surveys the sprawl that is the festival’s fifth year and writes that "The festival is a triumph of branding, but has it found its niche? Like the city it celebrates, Tribeca has proven resilient, but like New York, it’s far too sprawling and abrasive to ever attain the grooviness of SXSW or the exclusivity of Telluride. Marketing—yes. Market—we’ll see." He calls the festival "the
first 9-11 memorial, and surely the most upbeat," while referring to opening night’s "United 93" as "the movie everyone I know is afraid
to see."

On that topic, there are now three early reviews out of Paul Greengrass‘ film, two positive and one not. In a measured piece at the Voice, Dennis Lim calls it "at once scrupulous and ghoulish, visceral and sober," and "best understood as a memorial," though he does write that

‘United 93"’s claim to authority is precisely its biggest problem. Greengrass has been grandiose in his public statements: The film aims to arrive at "a believable truth" and may even reveal "the DNA of our times." Its quasi-vérité suggests an implicit fidelity, when what’s in operation is at best imaginative empathy and at worst arrogance, an obviously untenable assertion that this is how it happened.

He seems to be looking at the film with a bit of remove, but it’s still an undeniable recommendation. Less reserved is Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum, who concludes:

Do we need to see this? No. There’s no right or wrong way to remember
9/11, no shame in skipping the movie-fied sight or prize for those who
dare to look. Do we benefit from recognizing, in United 93, that
there’s no difference between those who died and us, in fear and in
courage? Absolutely.

And at The Hot Button, David Poland weighs in:

Ultimately, "United 93" leads to a dozen people fighting for their lives over about 12 minutes. Is there a message about the overall event? I don’t see it. I think that an unflinching examination of the people on that plane might have held deep secrets, even untold. I think that the impotency of the men in the air traffic control rooms around America, especially those who are supposed to have control of our protective forces, might have offered great insights.

But all I see in "United 93" is a beautifully made, well-acted, earnest, well-intended human horror show that brings an event in American history to life, though mostly as a guess.

On the wires today, Claudia Parsons gathers quotes from the family members of those who died on the flight, who seem a fairly supportive and magnanimous bunch.

At his blog, Army Archerd talks to Universal’s Ron Meyer: "And yes, he admits that the studio was ‘very careful’ not only in the telling of the story but in its advertising, that is, the trailer. ‘But everyone (at Universal) felt that this story needed to be told.’ "

And at the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein prepares to take on all comers on the "Too soon?" question:

While I respect the fact that New Yorkers in particular may see this issue in a very different light from the rest of us, I think everyone is looking at this film, made by British writer-director Paul Greengrass, through the wrong end of the telescope. Instead of asking "Is it too soon?" I wish people would say, "What took so long?"

For 4 1/2 years, not a week, perhaps even a day, has gone by without mention of Sept. 11. Our newspapers and magazines have been filled with stories, often illustrated by graphic photographs of the tragedy. Stacks of books have been written. The war on terrorism has been a central focus of our political lives. So many documentaries and TV movies have been made about 9/11 that reviewers now contrast the new offerings the way film critics compare vintage versus latter-day Scorsese films. The playing of never-before-heard tapes detailing the frantic chaos in Flight 93’s cockpit made headlines last week as jurors pondered the fate of Al Qaeda zealot Zacarias Moussaoui.

With emotions obviously still running high, it’s no wonder some people seem so wary of Hollywood weighing in on the subject. But it seems disingenuous for those of us in the media, after having exhaustively explored every possible 9/11-related nook and cranny, to suddenly express outrage or brow-furrowing concern over the specter of Hollywood finally tackling the issue. After all, Greengrass went ahead with the film only after soliciting permission from — and working closely with — the family members of the 40 crew members and passengers on the flight.

It’s been hard for us to put our ambivalence about this film into words — we haven’t seen it and doubt we will, but not out of any particular sensitivity that not enough time has passed, though we don’t buy Goldstein’s arguments that, because there have been 9/11 docs and cheesy television movies, Hollywood’s take is no big deal.

It is a big deal. It’s a feature film, a carefully scripted product with a cast that includes a few, while not famous, certainly recognizable actors. It’s fiction with a gleam of prestige, "based on true events," however well researched, and other than those made-for-TV flicks, which benefit from being in bad taste, there’s been very little in fictional literature, cinema, or television that’s directly taken on 9/11. This is untread ground, partially because of all the tough questions it raises — what is a 9/11 feature to accomplish? Is it entertainment? Is it, as Lim suggests, a memorial, capturing some idea of those midair moments in cinematic amber? Is it didactic, is it sentimental?

We have no doubt that Greengrass’ film is in somber good taste (though we do wish he would quit with the gradiose statements about it and let it stay that way). But ultimately, that’s beside the point…we’ve tried to imagine a fiction film about the events of 9/11 that we’d want to see, and we can’t. There’s just nothing there for us, nothing that filtering events through a dramatic arc and flashy editing could say that the news footage hasn’t said more eloquently.

+ The Top 40 Picks of the Tribeca Film Festival (Village Voice)
+ A Flight to Remember (Village Voice)
+ United 93 (Entertainment Weekly)
+ April 19, 2006 (The Hot Button)
+ Victims’ relatives say 9/11 film not profiteering (Reuters)
+ United on "United 93"? (ArmyArcherd.com)
+ It’s time we looked (LA Times)

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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.

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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…

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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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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.

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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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