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DID YOU READ

Clash of the (indie) titans.

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"I don't want you to ask me for anything ever again."
This was quite a weekend for film if you were in New York, what with Cristi Puiu‘s critically adored "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" at the Film Forum (our New York Film Festival review is here) along with "Army of Shadows," and of course, you could pick your version of cinematic Asian femininity: demure Korean revenge-obsessive, languid Taiwanese pseudo-Bardot, or waifish Cantonese recovering addict (all of these films being strategically released together and during the first weekend of the Tribeca Film Festival to insure minimal attendance: "Lazarescu" apparently pulled in a fat opening weekend haul of…$5880).

We’ve seen "Lady Vengeance" twice since the New York Film Festival (review here), not because we like it so much (though we do like it) as much as that we’re still trying to sort out what we think of Park Chan-wook. Two years after "Oldboy" picked up the Grand Jury prize at Cannes, Tartan Films seems content to aim "Lady Vengeance" at the fanboy crowd, smacking a Harry Knowles quote there at the top of the poster. Have we already wiped our hands of Park as a quality director? That seems to be the point of Nathan Lee‘s review in the New York Times, which is so devoted to bashing Park that it scarcely has space to actually tackle the film at hand.

We’re of the opinion that "Oldboy" is studded with scenes that are undeniably virtuoso, but is also based on what turns out to be such a ludicrous plotline that we feel like smacking upside the forehead anyone who tries to argue that the film manages any kind of grand statement about revenge. "Lady Vengeance" is better than "Oldboy" — it’s less silly, more pointed, and yes, we can buy that it has something to say about the foolishness of convincing oneself that revenge is for anything other than personal satisfaction. But…what of it? We still love the gleaming pop quality of the first 45 minutes, but once Park settles in for the grim, messagey slog of the rest of the film we could care less. It’s the end that really sticks in our mind; done with all his gothic revenge sequences, Park indulges in a moment of weary, well, sympathy for his heroine that’s worth more than a dozen bloody pairs of scissors lodging between someone’s vertebrae.

And "Three Times" (review here) is simply as lush a slice of pure cinema as you can imagine. Which is probably why people have walked out of or fallen asleep at it at both of the screenings we’ve attended. We can understand — Hou Hsiao Hsien‘s film are far from audience-friendly in their pacing. But for fuck’s sake, suck it up — some of those scenes are what movies were invented for.

We’re in the minority in loving Olivier Assayas‘ frustrating, fascinating last film, "Demonlover," which "Clean" is pretty much nothing like. Briskly straightforward, "Clean" is the story of a former rock star girlfriend/hanger-on Emily Wang, whose drifting life of bouncing from low-rent gig to cheap hotel room to next heroin fix with her once-famous boyfriend is interrupted when he dies of an overdose and she’s jailed for possession. Out after six months, she weans herself off the drugs and tries to get her life back in order enough to be allowed to see her son, who lives with his grandparents in Vancouver.

Assayas wrote the part of Emily with his ex-wife Maggie Cheung in mind, and it’s a bit of a loaded gift. Emily is a role any actress would kill for: She swans around in fabulous rocker-chick outfits, she has occasional breakdowns, fiends for pills, is alternately selfish and snobbish and vulnerable, and hell, even gets to sing. But she’s also past her prime, and the film’s most cutting moments have nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with the humiliation of being too old for the role in life you’ve set aside for yourself.

Cheung is very good, but if the film was written to both dirty her up and bring her down to earth, it fails. Cheung, who seems to have become more beautiful and more remote as she’s rounded 40, may have been the subject of one of the most memorable aestheticizations of a female ever committed to celluloid in "In the Mood for Love." But even stripped of makeup and working tables at a Chinese restaurant in Paris, she never seems less coolly iconic, her striking, luminous looks never believably slipping by unnoticed in the background. It’s by no means a terribly quality for a star to have, but, in the context of this, Assayas’ attempt to offer Cheung up to the world as a Serious Actress, it’s almost a detriment — her Emily may be a drug-addled wreck who’s lost anything, but it’s hard to truly believe that oceans wouldn’t still part for her if she asked.

Open in limited release.

+ Clean (IMDb)

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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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