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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: “Clerks II.” And there’s a lady. In the water. Also, “Shadowboxer.”

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It’s been quite an inane week here at The IFC Blog; we blame it on this week’s releases, as it is, after all, the week of the Crazy. We’d planned to catch "Shadowboxer" (because Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. is the most awesomely strange romantic pairing we’re ever come across) but couldn’t make the screening, so no reviews from us either. Well, we’d advise you to skip "Azumi" — even with Jo Odagiri in makeup twirling a rose, it’s not that fun.

 

"Did you know Jesus was a Jew?"
+ "Clerks II": Kevin Smith‘s follow-up to the 1994 film that made him famous is apparently surprisingly melancholy or at least touching; A.O. Scott, who notes the "buried spring of pathos that bubbles ever closer to the surface as the movie wanders toward its end," writes that "what makes ‘Clerks II’ both winning and (somewhat unexpectedly) moving is its fidelity to the original ‘Clerks’ ethic of hanging out, talking trash and refusing all worldly ambition. If anything, the sequel is more defiant in its disdain for the rat race, elevating the white-guy-doing-nothing prerogative from a lifestyle choice to a moral principle." At the Village Voice, Dennis Lim says much the same: "hanging over the proceedings are the melancholy musings of a filmmaker
revisiting old haunts while trying to leave them behind for the promise
of something different, if not better." Of course, he’s less forgiving:

This is the kind of movie one expected from Smith after the middlebrow sitcom "Jersey Girl," in which he found himself smacked down by the fans who wanted nothing to do with his move toward domestication. He had little choice but to go back to the Quick Stop; that’s what viewers wanted—another prolonged dick joke sprinkled with comic-shop small talk. Smith’s heart is in it, but it’s sort of a broken heart now; "Clerks II" feels as though it was made by a man who needs a change but isn’t permitted to make one.

Scott Foundas, in the review/open letter we’ve cited before, wishes Smith would venture further than the comfortable, fan-buttressed universe he’s created for himself, but still likes the film a lot.

[T]his is the umpteenth movie I’ve seen this year about guys in their 30s who aren’t quite sure what they want to do with their lives, and it’s the only one that strikes a real chord, because it’s neither an exaltation nor a condemnation of slackerdom, but rather just a sweet little fable about how sometimes the life that you think could be so much better is actually pretty damn good already. That’s a sentiment, I’d wager, as coveted by you, Kevin, as it is by Dante and Randal, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

 

Narf!
+ "Lady in the Water": Ah, yes. Here we go, mean-spirited quote style.

Dana Stevens at Slate (and officially the film critic now?): "I don’t hold it against Shyamalan that his plot is completely preposterous, that his characters (except for Heep) are cardboard constructions in service of the story, or even that his ending traffics in glutinous New-Age clichés about owning your demons and embracing your inner child. I will hold against him that Lady in the Water isn’t scary, that its own inner logic breaks down at countless points along the way, and that its ending is disappointingly literal and just plain stupid."

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon: "’Lady in the Water’ challenges us to believe in the power of myth. But the big challenge here is surviving the tedium of Shyamalan’s meandering inventiveness. What’s supposed to be fanciful storytelling is really just audience punishment."

David Edelstein at New York: "His new movie is like ‘Splash’ reworked by a grandiose Sunday-school teacher."

Scott Foundas at LA Weekly: "’Lady in the Water’ isn’t awful, mind you, but it is a failure, and one that carries itself with such chest-puffing pomposity that many will take pleasure in shooting it down for sport. Conceived as a movie about the power of storytelling, it is a far more revealing (if unintended) study in the power of ego — the work of a filmmaker who has become convinced that his every whim should be abided, and who believes sinister forces are conspiring against him."

Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice, in what’s probably the harshest review of the film: "Nothing will prepare you—not his previous films, not any reviews you may read, not even a lifetime spent watching Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoons—for the rampant foolishness of Lady in the Water. The Village, his last, distended elegy for Rod Serling, is, well, Rod Serling by comparison. It’s as if on some semiconscious level, Shyamalan, who I do not doubt is a serious and self-serious pop-creative original, is calling his own success into question and daring his audience to gulp down larger and spikier clusters of manure, just to see if they will. Or he’s lost his mind."

And Manohla Dargis at the New York Times: "’Lady in the Water’ is one of the more watchable films of the summer. A folly, true, but watchable."

 

Bang.
+ "Shadowboxer": We couldn’t stand "Monster’s Ball" or "The Woodsman," but producer-turned-director Lee Daniels earned our love with the following quote from his interview with Lola Ogunnaike in the New York Times the other day:

His decision to cast Mo’Nique, the proudly plus-size comedian, was met with raised eyebrows all around. Her character, a crack addict, was originally written for an anorexic white woman in her early 20’s who dates a handsome young doctor. Casting Mo’Nique, he said, prompted the film’s writer to remove his name from the credits.

Mr. Daniels remained unrepentant. “My sister was an obese crack addict,” he said. “She had a chicken wing in one hand and crack pipe in the other, and she had the finest white men lined up waiting for her. This is a real person to me.”

Hee! Also, apparently, Mo’Nique plays the love interest of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which earns a double hee: Hee! Anyway, the film seems to have left critics a bit bewildered. Stephen Holden in the New York Times writes that "As it gleefully smashes boundaries and blurs the line between comedy and melodrama, it dares you to collapse into laughter." He goes on to ruminate that:

The intensity of Rose and Mikey’s passion goes way beyond conventional Hollywood sex, and the fact that it is interracial and intergenerational (Ms. Mirren is 22 years older than Mr. Gooding) lends it an extra transgressive kick. I haven’t seen a black man and a white woman make love like this in an American movie since Ellen Barkin and Laurence Fishburne tore at each other in “Bad Company” in 1995.

Dennis Lim has this to add:

"Shadowboxer" appears to have been willed into existence through a potent intermingling of ego and checkbook. To watch it is to ponder how—not to mention why—one even begins to get seasoned, ostensibly self-aware professional actors to perform certain acts onscreen. This is a movie in which at least two people are fucked to death—one with a pool cue, the other by Cuba Gooding Jr.

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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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