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The week’s critic wrangle: “Dahlia,” darling.

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Honestly, she terrifies us.
+ "The Black Dahlia": Sorry, Mr. De Palma, but your "dark side of vintage Hollywood film" is averaging out worse with the critics than "Hollywoodland," with added sighs of disappointment — this one, everyone really really wanted to like. On the plus side, the Village Voice‘s J. Hoberman writes that "Although the action set pieces are impressive, the exposition is sluggish. For all the posh dollies, high angles, and Venetian-blind crisscross patterns, The Black Dahlia rarely achieves the rhapsodic (let alone the delirious)." Wait, that’s the good side? At Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman, also fairly generous to the film, still thinks that "Somehow, it’s all dreadfully old hat…The Black Dahlia isn’t a cheat, it’s just a misfire, but the most surprising feeling it stirred in me was nostalgia for Brian De Palma’s old flamboyance." And there’s the dubious blessing of a rapturous Armond White at the New York Press, who insists that "L.A. Confidential and Hollywoodland—films that pretend to investigate our national fascination with movies—look like child’s play compared to Brian DePalma’s The Black Dahlia," and blames any problems on the "superficial sociology of author James Ellroy‘s source material."

It’s goes downhill from there: Scott Foundas at LA Weekly mourns that the film is "an ideal match of director, writer and subject, and The Black Dahlia has so many of the right moves, you wish the whole thing were better" — she’s one of several critics to pick out Hilary Swank‘s as the notable performance (the tomboy outvamps Scarlett Johansson!), though others aren’t so fond of it. At the New Yorker, David Denby calls the film "overrich and fundamentally unsatisfying"; David Edelstein at New York claims to be "stumped" by it: "I can’t tell you how it ended up such a stiff." Dana Stevens at Slate argues that the Ellroy novel that was "Dahlia"’s basis provides the film’s only worthwhile moments, and notes that "it almost doesn’t make sense to analyze the performances in The Black Dahlia since every actor seems cast in a movie of his or her own invention." For Manohla Dargis at the New York Times, most signs of life involve Swank and her character’s demented Hollywood-aristocrat family. And Stephanie Zacharek at Salon writes that "Mostly, the picture is curiously detached. It’s stylish in the De Palma mode, but not nearly as resonant as those of us who love him hoped it would be." Also:

In the past 10 years or so, I’ve had more casual conversations than I can count in which I’ve had to defend De Palma against charges of misogyny, or claims that he’s just a slick stylist who knows how to push buttons. De Palma does know how to push buttons, but I think what really enrages people is that he pushes buttons they didn’t know they had. He also trusts us, his audience, to do the work of thinking and feeling, and sometimes, through no fault of his own, we balk at the responsibility. In his greatest pictures — "Casualties of War" would be at the top, with "Blow Out" and "Carlito’s Way" hovering nearby — perhaps he’s asking us to relinquish some of our pride as moviegoers, as bright people hip to the trickery of the movie arts, in order to reinforce our dignity as human beings. No wonder so many people hate him.

"That's harmony."+ "Confetti": Mixed reviews for this improvised comedy, most dwelling on the inherent US/British comedy divide. Ella Taylor at LA Weekly is most generous, writing that:

Confetti comes not to emulate, but to rescue us from, the seemingly endless stream of cookie-cutter British comedies — the lazy-minded spawn of The Full Monty — about workers moving on up through soccer, song and dance, or flashing their tits for a good cause. And if nothing else, this affectionately off-the-wall confection offers exuberant confirmation of every suspicion you might have ever had that the English are charmingly eccentric. They’re barking mad.

Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly muses that "Yanks should be proud, I suppose, that American excess and vulgarity provide fodder for a charming Busby Berkeley finale. Equal opportunists, though, might wish [director Debbie] Isitt had set at least one of the three nuptials amid some truly wretched Brit pomp for a change." And Stephen Holden at the New York Times thinks that "’Confetti’ lacks [Christopher] Guest and his company’s shared understanding that each person is a miniature comic planet with its own quirky climate, whirling in its own eccentric orbit."


"The Last Kiss" movie mathematics: Tony Scott lede: "Is 30 the new 50, or is it the new 12?" Lisa Schwarzbaum lede: "If it’s true that, for women, 60 is the new 40, must it follow that, for men, 30 is the new 10?"

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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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