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The week’s critic wrangle: “Friends with Money,” “4,” “On A Clear Day.”

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No longer just "Friends."
+ "Friends With Money": Despite reviews running from warm to lukecold on Nicole Holofcener‘s latest, no one is particularly excited about it, perhaps because hers are not the type of films one gets all giddy standing in line for. She is "a first-rate portraitist and something of a miniaturist," Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times in one of the more fond reviews, though she does suggest that it is "greatly appealing if not especially adventurous, either for its director or for her admirers." In LA Weekly, Ella Taylor muses that "if it lacks the bitchy, enraged vitality of the terrific ‘Lovely & Amazing,’ that’s because it holds true to its more mature mood and theme." Armond White at the New York Press likes the film (and loves Holofcener), but thinks that she overreaches with her themes of class this time around: "[T]he problem goes deeper—too deep for Holofcener to resolve through her usual delicate methods."

David Edelstein at New York outlines the pluses and minuses Holofcener’s deadpan, nonjudgmental style, which he finds makes for many good moment that don’t come together, though he quick to point out that the film is still a remarkable rarity: "Warm, female-centric, socially conscious comedies with juicy
parts—characters you want to talk about—for fortysomething actresses
don’t grow on Hollywood palm trees." Of Ms. Aniston‘s latest indie turn, the Village Voice‘s J. Hoberman (who isn’t thrilled by the film’s episodic structure) writes: "Scarcely a character, Olivia idly phone-stalks her married ex, but she is also something of a saint— remarkably free of class envy and as easily bullied by the men she meets as Aniston is upstaged by the three avidly hard-boiled actresses with whom she shares the screen." And Roger Ebert, after a bizarre "Crash" mention (any excuse, apparently), complains that the film "lacks the warmth and edge of the two previous features" and is "more of an idea than a story," but does also make this great point:

Yes, it’s about how Olivia’s friends all have money, and at one point Jane suggests they simply give her some to bring her up to their level. As it happens, characters do exactly that in novels I’ve read recently by Stendhal and Trollope, but in modern Los Angeles, it is unheard of. If you have millions and your friend is a maid, obviously what you do is tell her how much you envy her. Working for a living is a charming concept when kept at a reasonable distance.


"What goes down better at three in the morning, vodka or blood?"
+ "4": The Reverse Shot troop (Lauren Kaminsky, Michael Joshua Rowin, Jeff Reichert, and Michael Koresky this week) at indieWIRE give Ilya Khrjanovsky‘s "4" the most positive reviews we’ve ever seen them give anything — they even call in an extra writer, as if a full chorus of voices would give their praise more weight. A sample from Kaminsky: "This film does not imitate life, it creates it — it lives and
breathes a little different from anything you’ve seen before, and yet
the result is somehow painfully recognizable." At New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz calls the film "easily the most visceral work of art on screens right now," and though he has caveats, he does write that "For now, I’ll give this film the benefit of every doubt because it’s confident, mysterious and powerful, and because there’s a shortage of films that invite this degree interpretation and engagement." J. Hoberman at the Village Voice and Manohla Dargis at the New York Times are more restrained; Hoberman suggests that "’4”s most provocative quality is its ironic surplus of beauty," while also stating that "least one of the alcohol-infused lies [at the film’s beginning] turns out to be true," which is totally arguable. Dargis sums up the film’s symbolism thusly:

Sometimes a severed pig’s head is just a severed pig’s head, after all,
though sometimes a weeping crone yodeling mournfully about the Volga
River is also a symbol of a grotesque and nostalgic nationalism.

She also writes that while "4" is a "rather remarkable first feature," Khrjanovsky still has a lot to learn.


"You got made redundant — you should just face up to it like everyone else!"
+ "On a Clear Day": LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor likes Gaby Dellal‘s debut feature about an unemployed shipbuilder who decides to swim the English Channel and ends up reaffirming his self-worth, and even she writes that "I can’t defend this film, except as an opportunity for the deliciously mawkish weep some of us require for optimal mental health." Jeanette Catsoulis at the New York Times is also fairly (and less self-deprecatingly) fond, suggesting that "while Alex Rose‘s screenplay immerses itself in idiosyncrasy and redemption, [Peter] Mullan and his director, Gaby Dellal, balance the sentimentality with a healthy dose of working-class vulnerability." Less generous is the Village Voice‘s Michael Atkinson, who, in a rare showing these days, dusts off the snark:

The only asset ‘On a Clear Day’ comes equipped to exploit is Peter Mullan as—and here’s where I lose you—Frank, a disgruntled, laid-off Glasgow dad who decides in his miserable torpor to justify himself by swimming the English Channel. Will he make it?!

But the New York PressMatt Zoller Seitz is unimpressed even with Mullan, writing that "Nine-tenths of Mullan’s acting consists of scrunching up his face to telegraph ‘depression’; the remaining tenth is subdivided between rueful smiles, manic motion and disoriented glancing about (to convey the idea that Frank is ‘lost’)… Even small roles that have ‘scene stealer’ written all over them are so weirdly misjudged that it’s as if you’re watching a film made by space robots that landed on earth last week."

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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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