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DID YOU READ

Intimate Perfection

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By Andrea Meyer

IFC News

Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “Three Times” tells three separate love stories in three separate eras — in the years 1966, 1911, and 2005 — starring the same lovely actress and actor, Shu Qi and Chang Chen, to create a triptych of love in all its intricacy. In 1911, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, a courtesan waits for the sporadic visits of the married diplomat she loves, yearning for their relationship to develop into something more permanent. In 2005, a broody bisexual performance artist juggles her needy girlfriend and a photographer (who also has a girlfriend) on the back of whose motorcycle she finds freedom and release from the drama.

It is the first segment, however, entitled “A Time for Love,” that captures the heart as if by lasso. With stunning, saturated cinematography that recalls the work of Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai and the songs “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Rain and Tears” — music dripping with an innocent romance that seemed to disappear with the era depicted — played repeatedly, the scene is set for a pool hall girl with a repertoire of breathtaking outfits to fall for a soldier about to leave for training. He writes to her. She leaves her job for another. He sets out to find her. They spend a summer evening together. That’s all there is to it. The film is a little slice of perfection that makes you smile and gives you hope — that life is sweet, endings are happy, for every he there is a she.

What Hou has accomplished is no small feat. There are too many celluloid love stories to innumerate and few make us feel anything at all. Those that do more often than not do so through shameless manipulation: A swelling soundtrack; gauzy mood-lighting; an interminable series of obstacles set along the path to the poor lovers’ kiss; meaningful pauses, tears, and secondary characters’ crying, cheering, shaking their butts when lips finally meet. Running breathless through the rain also never hurts — in slo-mo if the footage still doesn’t cut it. But a genuine, simple story that gives you the chills? Not so many of those out there. What does it take to tell a perfect love story? The kind that makes you believe in love all over again?

“In the Mood for Love” (Wong Kar-wai): Hong Kong’s preeminent director of amorous films tells stories of cheating, dumping, breaking up and yearning more often than relationships working out. While this film, true to form, is about a man (Tony Leung) and woman (Maggie Cheung) brought together because their spouses are having an affair, it is one of the most beautiful depictions of love ever made. Besides the sensuality of Nat King Cole tunes and sumptuous images captured by Wong’s brilliant cinematographer Christopher Doyle, the movie is flawless in its depiction of yearning, of the purest passion yet untainted by consummation.

“Before Sunset” (Richard Linklater): The first film in Linklater’s duet, “Before Sunrise,” in which Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy spend one night together in Vienna before he boards a train, is pretty damn charming. But it’s the second, in which they meet again many years later, that touches perfection. Older and wiser now — he is unhappily married and has a child, she is in a tumultuous relationship — Jesse and Celine speak with greater insight about their emotional lives, meandering through Paris first by foot and then by taxi, eventually arriving at her apartment and a scene in which a song, a confession, a careless act, a look, a laugh combine to create a moment of rare perfection.

“Moulin Rouge” (Baz Luhrmann): Many movies are bolstered by one lover who dies, leaving the other alone and doomed to a life of emptiness without that person who remains crystallized in the mind as the romantic ideal. “Wuthering Heights,” “Betty Blue,” “Camille,” “Ghost.” (Not all of them are very good.) As a device, it’s a good one, and one of my favorites is Lurhmann’s portrait of doomed ardor, which meshes lush, frenzied visuals — enhanced by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor’s matinee-idol good looks and likeability — with musical medleys that merge the likes of Elton John, David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, the Beatles and Fatboy Slim, a thrilling (or ludicrous, depending on who you ask) plot and the most traditional of purveyors of doom, tuberculosis. In any case, while the love lasts it is absolutely breathtaking, gorgeous, thrilling.

“50 First Dates” (Peter Segal): No insult to Pete (who you may or may not remember from “The Nutty Professor II” and “Anger Management”), but it’s the concept here (the script is by George Wing) that works magic — executed sweetly by stars with serious comic chemistry, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, as Lucy, a woman who suffered a brain injury that erases her memory every day, and Henry, the commitment-phobe who loves her. The gags are silly (e.g. a smart-assed walrus plays a supporting role), the humor broad, but the premise is transcendent. Every day Henry has to find new ways to make this woman with no memory of him love her — and his efforts are truly inspirational and touching.

“Next Stop Wonderland” (Brad Anderson): This Boston-based indie that was not seen by enough people takes on philosophical territory, the role of fate and destiny, that was mined by the late Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski in his brilliant “Red.” Recently dumped by a loser (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Erin (Hope Davis), holes up at home focusing on herself rather than looking for love. Meanwhile, we follow the life of hapless Alan (Alan Gelfant), a would-be marine biologist whom the film leads us to believe is Erin’s soulmate. The two lives crisscross, never quite making contact, while other potential lovers risk preventing the encounter. When a series of serendipitous events finally land Erin quite literally into the arms of Alan, it is quite simply a perfect cinematic moment. Just try to hold back the tears.

For more on “Three Times,” see the official site.

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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.

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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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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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