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The many faces of controversy.

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"...a hurricane of pain..."We’re still making our way through the "United 93" reviews (which, despite their surprising sameness in sentiment, we still find more interesting than the film itself). David Segal at the Washington Post was at the Tribeca premiere, and writes about the surreality of the first 9/11 Hollywood blockbuster:

The theater was filled with relatives and friends of those who died that day, and at the end of the film, the section where they sat — in rows of seats in the balcony — dissolved into a collective wail of grief. Have you ever heard 100 people crying at the same time? Sounds simply don’t get any sadder.

And evenings don’t come much stranger. This was the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival and that meant that alongside the deadly serious business of this horrific national tragedy was the utterly silly business of a hip movie premiere. These two elements, let the record reflect, don’t mix well. It was like a showdown of crass versus poignant. A squadron of public relations aides were in combat mode, chaperoning celebrities down a red carpet and introducing them to correspondents from shows such as "Entertainment Tonight." There were paparazzi on hand by the dozens, not all of them happy with the level of talent.

"All B-listers," said one, grimacing a little as he struggled for a better view of Tom Selleck, Carol Kane, Gabriel Byrne and Steve Buscemi. "They said Halle Berry was supposed to be here, but I think she bailed."

Ah, that makes us laugh through our tears…or are we weeping through our laughter? David Usborne at the Independent presents a more removed report on the premiere and on Paul Greengrass‘ involvement in the film. And over at the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller attempts to canonize the film in essay form.

Thus it follows that the real measure of the force of "United 93" may
not be box office receipts or tallies of Oscar nominations — much as
the film’s makers would doubtless appreciate such compliments — but
rather how long it retains this status as an event, not a movie. As a
dampened finger in the cultural wind.

At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell commends the film’s refusal to go for an easy jab at the administration, and, after making fun of Roger Ebert‘s dubbing "American Dreamz" "daring" for it’s heavy-handed presidential depiction, finally wondering "Is there nobody in Hollywood who can make light of the U.S. president without resorting to spitballs and silly faces?"

In a piece from last week in the London Times, Garth Pearce talks to Tom Hanks about how the "Da Vinci Code" controversies will affect his standing as weeper king of the world, not realizing that Hanks completed his transmutation to plastic long ago, and now can be cleansed of any controversy simply by being run through a cold rinse in your typical household dishwasher.

In the New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller writes about Deepa Mehta‘s "Water" and the violence it was met with while in initial production.

At the San Francisco Chronicle, Ruthe Stein checks in on Eric Steel’s Golden Gate Bridge suicide doc "The Bridge" (which is, full disclosure, an IFC Original), which had it’s premiere at Tribeca and which screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival on Sunday. Steel’s doc attracted controversy before it got out of production, with Bridge officials claiming Steel misled them with regards to his intentions behind filming on the famous landmark. Stein checks out crowd reactions.

Loie Hayward, a 59-year-old legal secretary from San Francisco in the audience, said she had mixed feelings about "The Bridge’s” depiction of people jumping to their deaths. "But I’m just about as much a voyeur as anyone else is.”

Paul Lewis in the Guardian presents the following list of the ten most controversial film ever made, lifted from Time Out‘s just-published "1,000 Films That Change Your Life" guide.

1. "Salò" (1975) Pier Paolo Pasolini
2. "Natural Born Killers" (1994) Oliver Stone
3. "Crash" (1996) David Cronenberg
4. "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) Martin Scorsese
5. "The Devils" (1971) Ken Russell
6. "Pretty Baby" (1977) Louis Malle
7. "Birth of a Nation" (1915) DW Griffith
8. "Straw Dogs" (1971) Sam Peckinpah
9. "Monty Python’s Life of Brian" (1979) Terry Jones
10. "Bandit Queen" (1994) Shekhar Kapur

And at indieWIRE, a controversy far less salacious but just as heated: Eugene Hernandez reports on Monday night’s Tribeca panel discussion on changing distribution platforms with Steven Soderbergh, Ashwin Navin of BitTorrent, Todd Wagner of Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures and the MPAA’s Dean Garfield.

+ A Red Carpet Tragedy (Washington Post)
+ Cinema tackles terror: Courage on a day of death (Independent)
+ ‘United 93’: More than a movie. It’s a choice. (Chicago Tribune)
+ Old slurs die hard (Toronto Star)
+ Welcome to the dark side (London Times)
+ Film Ignites the Wrath of Hindu Fundamentalists (NY Times)
+ Golden Gate Bridge suicide film draws crowd at festival (SF Chronicle)
+ Torture, necrophilia, and a very naughty boy: the films that shocked us (Guardian)
+ TRIBECA ’06: In a Time of Change for the Movie Business, Talking About Emerging Distribution Platforms (indieWIRE)

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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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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….


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.


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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