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Tribeca! Part deux.

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Stan the man.
A more promising round this time:

"The Road to Guantanamo"
Directors: Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross
Winterbottom’s Silver Bear winner brushes by Tribeca on its way to a US theatrical release slated for June 23rd, one of the higher-profile Middle East-focused films in a festival heavy with them. Fleet and imbued with an extraordinary sense of urgency, "The Road to Guantanamo" isn’t a film you can really like or dislike — it’s intended to provoke a sense of outrage and, in that regard, it’s extremely effective. Winterbottom turns the story over to Ruhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, the "Tipton Three," British-born Pakistanis who on a trip back to Pakistan for a wedding made a detour into Afghanistan just before the US bombings started. Rounded up with surrendering Taliban forces, they ended up being held at Guantanamo for two years without ever being charged. Interviews with Ruhel, Asif and Shafiq are intercut with actors depicting the events as described, rather like "The Thin Blue Line" without Errol Morris‘s remove or (mostly) the stylistic coyness of his reenactments. It’s sometimes uncomfortable that the film so unquestioningly follows the Tipton Three’s account, particularly in the vaguenesses surrounding how they unthinkingly ended up in Kabul, but the details of their time in Guantanamo ring unavoidably true.

"Lonely Hearts"
Director: Todd Robinson
Robinson’s not the first to wrangle the murderous couple of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez onto the big screen, but he’s the first to have such a personal angle — his grandfather, Elmer C. Robinson (played in the film by John Travolta) was one of the detectives who caught the infamous "Lonely Hearts Killers." The film is a distinctly glossy affair, with Fernandez being played by Jared Leto (with faux receding hairline) and Beck being played (with panache, if nothing else) by Salma Hayek. That Beck was in reality quite obese isn’t as much an issue as the fact that the film just ignores Hayek’s fully vamped-up period piece beauty — when a voiceover informs us that while the pair were out conning wealthy single women, "Martha played the role of Raymond’s spinster sister perfectly," while the camera pans over a décolleté Hayek sprawled in a vintage gown, it’s bewildering. Still, Hayek’s psychotic turn is fun for a while; the police side of the story, tying in the unexplained suicide of Robinson’s wife to the investigation, is rote and creaky, with James Gandolfini and Laura Dern wasted in sketched-in supporting roles.

"East Broadway"
Director: Fay Ann Lee
Proof that an Asian American filmmaker can make as awkward and formulaic a romantic comedy as anyone in mainstream Hollywood, "East Broadway" is notable for being the film that was meant to be B.D. Wong‘s directorial debut, until reported "creative differences" between Wong and writer/star Fay Ann Lee led to Lee stepping up to also helm the film and Wong requesting his name be removed from the credits (despite playing a supporting role). "East Broadway" is a retooling of the Cinderella story, with Lee playing Grace Tang, a second-generation gal with aspirations toward high society who, thanks to a case of mistaken identity, soon has all of the Upper East Side believing she’s a Hong Kong heiress, including dreamy Andrew Barrington, Jr. (Gale Harold). The film neatly sidesteps all potentially interesting issues — Class barriers innately impermeable? Dodged! Romantic lead may have an Asian fetish? Ducked! — in favor of a standard mix of screwball comedy and stagy dialogue. When Grace admitted to being obsessed with "Grease" as a child, and Andrew asked her to sing a song from the movie, we bailed.

"First Snow"
Director: Mark Fergus
Mark Fergus’ directorial debut is not terrible, but it’s wholly unremarkable, a competent first film that happens to be mildly expensive-looking and star Guy Pearce. Pearce plays Jimmy, a slick Albuquerque salesman who happens upon an honest-to-God fortuneteller (J.K. Simmons) at a pit stop out in the desert who reluctantly foresees his death around the time of the titular turn in the weather. Simplistic meditations on fate and death are balanced by Pearce’s grounded performance and a somewhat interesting development about Jimmy’s past.

"Color Me Kubrick"
Dir: Brian W. Cook
More a collection of sketches than a film, but gleefully enjoyable sketches. You couldn’t call Brian Cook’s film a biopic; when we meet Alan Conway (John Malkovich) he’s already quite adept at passing himself off as Stanley Kubrick in order to drink for free and bed attractive young men, and he never really goes anywhere from there. It doesn’t matter — the pleasures of watching Malkovich enjoy himself as Conway enjoying himself as varying over-the-top interpretations of a Hollywood director are innumerable. Conway wasn’t even that familiar with Kubrick’s oeuvre, but he did know the important thing — that everyone has a script, or a band, or a fashion line, or a secret belief that they should star in films, and that their vanity could equal plenty of gratis meals. Cook mixes in references to various Kubrick films, most notably in the use of music, with Kubrick’s most famous choices underlying deliriously incongruous scenes of Conway conning his way around London.

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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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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.


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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