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DID YOU READ

Man is something to be surpassed.

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"Let's start with the big question, where'd you go?"
Bryan Singer‘s possibly gay, possibly Jesus superhero tale opens inescapably on Wednesday, and coverage is reaching a crescendo, particularly in the Australian press, which seems to feel more proprietary over the Aussie-shot epic than the US press, which in general seems a little tired of the damn thing.

A quick run-through: At the Sydney Morning Herald, Phillip McCarthy recaps the gay thing while (in a piece from last week) Sacha Molitorisz tackles its sequel, the Christ-metaphor thing, while also wondering whether Singer can possibly make Superman relevant to modern audiences:

It’s a valid question. Superman’s values of "truth, justice and the American way" resonated during World War II and the Cold War, but sound arrogant and unilateral in the wake of two Iraq wars. His superpowers seem old-fashioned and simplistic in an age when the misunderstood mutants of X-Men perfectly embody the Zeitgeist. The 68-year-old Superman has X-ray vision; X-Men’s Rogue absorbs the memories and life force of anyone she touches.

At the Australian, Cefn Ridout looks over the extravagant sets built for the film: "To re-create the Kansas farm where Clark Kent spent his childhood, set workers constructed 7km of road and planted 15ha of corn, then willed it to grow to the required 2m during a seven-year drought." With things like improbable corn (okay, and extravagant special effects) pushing the film’s budget to over $200 million, it has a lot to live up to at the box office, including the general hopes and dreams of Hollywood. According to the BBC, "To date, summer ticket revenues are $1.37 billion (£753m), up one percent on last year but down eight percent from 2004. Audiences figures are down 14% on two years ago."

Michael K. Hardy at the Boston Globe ponders Superman’s long-term cross-media appeal. Two theories:

"He’s the ultimate immigrant," said Al Gough , the co-creator, with Miles Millar, of "Smallville." "Superman comes from another planet, grows up in Kansas, then finds success in the big city. He represents the best of what we want to be."

Peter Flynn, who teaches a class on comic books at Emerson College, called the Superman story a secular mythology. It’s a mythology tailor-made for teenage boys, the target audience for comic books.

Jeff Jensen‘s cover story at Entertainment Weekly touches on some similar territory:

The larger question remains: In an era of the vengeance-driven Batman Begins, how relevant is a values-driven Superman Returns? Early versions of the script included nods to a post-9/11 world, but Singer and his writers chose to cut them, feeling it was too much too soon for Superman to address. Still, they do present their hero as a citizen of the world, not just an avatar of ”truth, justice, and the American way.” Singer, who has two more Superman films in mind, believes that the character’s cool lies in his universality. ”Is Superman relevant?” he asks. ”Look around. Aren’t we crying out for him?”

Elsewhere, both Jim Emerson at RogerEbert.com and Adrian Turpin at the Independent gather together reference lists of other cinematically adapted superheroes and their powers (the latest to join the list — Iron Man, whose own showcase/potential blockbuster has been given a tentative release date of summer 2008, according to E!‘s Joal Ryan, who also reports that director Jon Favreau is looking for "someone with experience but a low profile" to star). And on the evil side, Jeannette Walls at MSNBC notes that Kevin Spacey has claimed Enron’s Kenneth Lay as the inspiration for his Lex Luther.

Apologies if this roundup is a little rote — despite the early positive reviews that indicate this might be the better blockbuster of the summer, and the ease with which Superman as a cultural icon lends himself to all kinds of silly pseudo-academic analysis (see "he’s the ultimate immigrant" above), and our general soft spot for Singer, a competent, smart pop director, we find this film utterly uninteresting. We’re not quite sure why. Maybe Superman is just too goofy, in his dashing red underoos. Or too boring. Or maybe it’s the look of the film, like the cast and set were all lightly honey-glazed. Or maybe it just looks joyless and preening. Where’s our dumb fun, dammit?

+ How gay is Superman? (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ Back on a wing and a prayer (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ Able to leap tall orders (The Australian)
+ Superman can ‘rescue Hollywood’ (BBC)
+ Staying power (Boston Globe)
+ Greatest American Hero? (EW)
+ Superheroes: Men in Tights (RogerEbert.com)
+ Superheroes: The power list (Independent)
+ "Iron Man" Can in 2008 (E! Online)
+ Green Beret regrets revealing Aiken encounter (MSNBC)

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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!

via GIPHY

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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