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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: “Hard Candy,” “Kinky Boots,” and “The Notorious Bettie Page.”

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It’s a weekend of naughty titles attached to not-so-naughty films.

Ellen Page.+ "Hard Candy": "Not to sound like Michael Medved here, but really: Isn’t there a statute of limitations for the rape-revenge genre?" wonders Rob Nelson at the Village Voice, who finds it half bemusingly guilty pleasure and half "pure torture—to watch, some will say." In the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas suggests David Slade‘s film is somewhere between the traditions of "Death and the Maiden" and "Funny Games," and writes that, despite lacking the sense of humanity of those films:

[L]ike its eponymous confection, the movie gets lodged in your throat and sticks there for a while, admittedly more for its aggressive shock value than for anything it has to say about the greater implications of vigilante violence, the information superhighway’s rampant sex culture or the slipperiness of cyber identities.

He also labels the ending acts of the film "monotonous." And Manohla Dargis at the New York Times writes that "Viewers who find torture entertaining, even in the age of   Abu Ghraib, may find this watchable. Not so those of us who, like an acquaintance, get pretty bored with people in trapped-in-apartment movies having philosophical debates while fearing for their privates."

 

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Joel Edgerton.
+ "Kinky Boots": Stephanie Zacharek at Salon suggests that "You could do worse if you’re looking for a gentle pick-me-up: ‘Kinky Boots’ is a sweet-tempered, mildly entertaining picture. But there’s that word mildly…" She finds that "Kinky Boots" and the recent comedies like it don’t live up to their Ealing predecessors, but do "offer a showcase for performers whom we often think of as "serious" actors to do light comedy, to loosen up and have fun." In the New York Times, Stephen Holden shows more spark than we might have ever seen from him in a review:

Lola’s being black lends her an extra layer of alienation and insight
into oppression, which automatically translates into an extra layer of
nobility. In one scene, she deliberately loses an arm-wrestling
competition with a bully to allow him to save face. That’s what I call
saintly.

Look at you, Mr. Holden! He also calls the film a "product stamped on an assembly line." And at the Village Voice, IFC’s own Matt Singer grumbles that "’Boots’ is unforgivably tame; only foot fetishists (or possibly Imelda Marcos) could get off on such desexualized, PG-13-rated fare."

 

Gretchen Mol.
+ "The Notorious Bettie Page": Pulled-quote style…it’s time for us to head home.

David Denby at the New Yorker: "‘American Psycho,’ [Mary] Harron‘s nastily satirical thrill-kill drama, came off as inordinately proud of its own heartlessness; it was all curdled smarminess and gleaming surfaces sprinkled with designer blood. This movie, however, is lively and sweet-tempered and often funny."

J. Hoberman at the Village Voice: "Not for nothing is this movie opening on Good Friday. It can be as boring as church. There’s no snake in Bettie’s Eden and no narrative to Harron’s movie. It’s more of an altar piece: Our Lady of the Garter Belt, the Fastidious Bettie Page."

David Edelstein in New York: "By no means is ‘The Notorious Bettie Page’ a pinup anthem. Its tone is semi-parodic, with lurid black-and-white cinematography and brassy, tongue-in-cheek music. But Harron stops well short of camp. There’s a hint that Bettie goes in for stylized S&M because of how she was sexually damaged: She bombs in Method-acting classes; she seems incapable of doing all that psychological plumbing. She’d rather be a clown, doffing her clothes, pulling saucy faces, and wagging her finger as she mock-disciplines other trussed-up models."

Ella Taylor at LA Weekly: "As played by Gretchen Mol, whose natural radiance is all but drained of its animal energy by her vague, unfocused acting — the vacantly agreeable smile never leaves her doll-like features for long — Page comes across less as the free-spirited, instinctive bohemian Harron clearly means her to be than as a good-natured provincial noodle to whom life merely happens as she wanders from one potentially adverse situation to another, spinning dross into gold by accident."

Reverse Shot
‘s Michael Koresky at indieWIRE: "Couched in truth as it may be, Harron’s approach drains Bettie Page’s aura of anything even remotely resembling eroticism; rather than trying to recreate the excitement or sexual energy of Page’s iconic images, Harron settles for safe, distancing irony. For all its sexual individualism, ‘Bettie Page’ assumes a rather condescending air of its own: Page is a sweet-faced kewpie doll angelically dolling out whack-off material for the pervs who are into leather and chains."

Armond White
at the New York Press: "Scenes of Page failing her acting-class exercises are doubly strange because of Mol’s own unsuccessful bid at stardom. (The film’s notion of female exploitation is complicated by Mol’s history in which a poking-nipple Vanity Fair cover is her claim to dubious fame.)"

Stephanie Zacharek
at Salon: "’The Notorious Bettie Page’ is a true feminist movie, but one that avoids cant and facile theories about victimization. Harron and [screenwriter Guinevere] Turner find a great deal of friendly good humor in the Bettie Page story."

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "If the inner Bettie remains somewhat out of focus here, even to the beatific finale, it’s largely because what made her a sensation — both in the 1950’s and the 1980’s revival that made her into a modern cult figure — wasn’t her acting aspirations or the religious convictions that might have pushed her to leave modeling, but that she was a genius of the body. It’s a truism of art history that while men act, women appear, smiling demurely away from the gaze of the viewer. In many of her photographs, by contrast, Bettie looks straight into the camera with a grin that is by turns twinkling and devouring, and flips that old truism on its head by turning her appearance into a performance. She knows what you want; she wants it, too."

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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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