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DID YOU READ

2006: The Year in Blurbs

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By Michelle Orange, Matt Singer, R. Emmet Sweeney and Alison Willmore

IFC News

[Photo: “The Departed,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 2006]

As the year-end wrap-ups and round-ups roll in, they all seem to groaningly agree that it’s been a pretty mediocre year at the movies. Not that there weren’t plenty of notable losses, highlights, events, performances and screenings — here, we look back at some of the personal bright spots and other memorable moments of the year in film we don’t want overlooked.

The Alamo Drafthouse

For those of you who’ve heard about it but haven’t been, I’m here to tell you: you haven’t seen a movie until you’ve seen it Alamo Drafthouse-style. A small but growing Texas chain, the Alamo — which also created the ingenious Rolling Roadshow, where classic movies are shown in the locations that inspired them — shows movies the way God intended, assuming God is a very lazy film nerd who likes to eat and drink while watching his movies. The Alamo’s presentation involves the most important innovation to moviegoing technology since the stadium seat: food and drink served to you via waiter throughout your movie. No having to miss parts of the movie to hit the concession stand and, more importantly, lots and lots of booze. Once you’ve seen “Talladega Nights” at the Alamo you’ll never want to see it any other way. I’m waiting for a New York branch with bated breath. —Matt Singer

Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed”

Stealth move of the year: while Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon fretted and fumed and furrowed their smooth movie-star brows as a cop-turned-mob mole and a mob mole-turned-cop in Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited return to the crime epic, two former leading men-turned-scene stealers walked off with their movie. Alec Baldwin, who’s been so much fun to watch since he’s been freed from Hollywood jawline roles, plays Captain Ellerby, the head of the Special Investigation Unit and the only character who seems to have not been informed that the weight of the world is resting on his shoulders — thrilled to have cell phone surveillance ability in their first big attempt to nab Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello, he seizes shoulders in glee: “Patriot Act, Patriot Act! I love it, I love it, I love it!” And I would happily watch a movie that simply followed around Mark Wahlberg’s Sergeant Dignam, the foulest-mouthed Statie in New England with, deservedly, all the best lines. The two have one hilarious back-and-forth in front of Ellerby’s squad (“Go fuck yourself.” “I’m tired from fucking your wife.”), while everyone watches and wonders why they aren’t getting to have such a good time. —Alison Willmore

“United 93” opens the Tribeca Film Festival

When it was announced in March that “United 93” was not only going to have its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival but have a place of honor as the opening film, a queasy debate, fueled by emotion and anxiety, was sparked. That a film could provoke such a reaction is the hope of any festival programmer, but in the case of Paul Greengrass’s attempt at a faithful recreation of the hijacking of United flight 93 on September 11, 2001, the circumstances were without precedent, and the heated anticipation was extremely conflicted. Tribeca, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year, was created in the wake of 9/11 in an attempt to revitalize the devastated lower Manhattan neighborhood; almost all of the screenings take place within blocks of where the buildings fell, and as the opening drew closer, festival-goers had to ask themselves whether they were ready for the experience. The fear, of course, was that the movie would be badly handled, but even the best-case scenario was a wrenching one. Filled with trepidation, many attendees to the April 25th opening set up meeting places with their companions in advance, in the seemingly likely event that one of them would leave what is now being hailed as one of the best movies of the year before it ended. —Michelle Orange

Betty Comden, 1915-2006

On November 23 of this year, Betty Comden passed away. Along with her artistic partner Adolph Green (who died in 2002), she wrote “The Barkleys of Broadway” (1949), “On the Town” (1949), “Singin’ In the Rain” (1952), “The Band Wagon” (1953), “It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955) and “Bells Are Ringing” (1960). Read those titles again and try not to crack a smile at any number of Technicolor memories. Have any screenwriters/lyricists ever had a run like this? Comden-Green wrote “Moses Supposes” from “Singin’ In the Rain” and the similarly cadenced “Saturation-Wise” for “It’s Always Fair Weather,” both tunes building up a rhythm by repeating the conversational patter of gasbag experts, a speech therapist in the former, an ad executive in the latter. They turned callow business-speak into joyous, destructive art. She and Adolph had the luck to be paired with Vincente Minnelli on many of their scripts, as his sharp and colorful compositions were a perfect fit for Comden-Green’s cutting wit. The duo had a much longer and successful career as lyricists on Broadway, winning five Tony awards, but my memories of her will be forever tied to Astaire and Kelly getting’ their shoes shined and acting the clown. —R. Emmet Sweeney

Mexico rules

There they were at the Gotham Awards, arms around each other on the red carpet. There they were on Charlie Rose, discussing which of them is the best looking. Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu are the casual filmmaking kings of the year, each arriving with a film that effortlessly combines genre sensibility with arthouse intelligence. Cuarón’s “Children of Men” is a bleak and brilliant vision of a dystopic future; del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” weaves fantastical imagery with historical horrors; “Babel” spans the globe to paint its portrait of a humanity both splintered and united. Over a decade ago, when the 29-year-old del Toro’s debut “Cronos” opened in scattered US theaters, the director told the Washington Post that there was no “New Mexican Cinema.” One wonders if he’d say the same thing now. Cuarón, del Toro and González would doubtless rather present themselves as three good friends than as the forerunners of a national New Wave, but this is also a year in which Carlos Reygadas’ controversial “Battle in Heaven” astonished and/or infuriated the few who saw it, and Fernando Eimbcke’s delightful debut “Duck Season” combined a Jarmuschesque deadpan tone with fresh, and, yes, Mexican sensibilities. —AW

Coming round to HD

I’ve always been a hard-liner against digital video, bitterly muttering about the muddy ugliness of DV efforts like “Dancer in the Dark” and “Timecode.” Film was still the future of the art, for could video ever produce the colors of “The Band Wagon” or “On the Town”? I thought not. But 2006 softened my stance. Dion Beebe’s work on “Miami Vice” and Gokhan Tiryaki’s on “Climates” is crisp and often stunning. Both utilize the extreme depth of field offered by the new HD cameras, allowing Beebe to frame Colin Farrell’s oily locks flopping in a speedboat in the foreground while the dusky night sky appears with astonishing clarity in the background. Tiryaki’s work is less showy but just as impressive, as director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s setups are stationary, choreographing action inside the frame: a break-up is revealed by a character leaning backwards, revealing his quizzical lover in sharp focus. The most extraordinary effect is achieved in photographing falling snowflakes, which are weighty, detailed, and tactile — and whose dissolve into the ground brilliantly foreshadows the heartbreaking final fade out. —RES

“Borat”‘s Naked Wrestling Scene

From the sacred to the profane we plummet, and indeed it was disbelieving profanity that was muttered under the breath of many a “Borat” viewer when the buck-naked Sasha Baron-Cohen took a faceful of his traveling companion’s balls. In one of the film’s many, let’s say, “echoes” of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” the tall, thin Borat and short, blubbery Azamat get into it after the former finds the latter “borrowing” an image of his Rushmore, his Dulcinea, his Pamela Anderson. Both are naked-not nude-as jaybirds, and the sight of their hairy asses (to start) flailing and floundering through their obscenely ridiculous tussle is a classic “are you in or are you out” moment in a comedy built on its audacity; if you were on the fence, this scene was almost definitely going to traumatize you into a free fall on one side or the other. Most of us, it seems, were in, though the scene itself indicated there was no way to know what we were signing on for: exhilaration is a tricky animal, as many dazed “Borat” viewers found; if there was any doubt, the naked wrestling scene made it clear that, along with clothing, and that last shred of dignity, all bets were off. —MO

“Inland Empire” opens in New York

It may seem like a minor thing (or full-on corporate whoring) but few movie moments this year filled me with as much excitement as the lines down the block outside New York City’s IFC Center not one but two weekends in a row for late-night screenings of David Lynch’s “Inland Empire.” Back in the days of big movie houses and twins, lines for movies were commonplace in New York; in today’s multiplex world, not so much. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing in some ways (i.e. the ones that mean you’ll get a seat for the movie you want), it gave this cinephile a genuine rush to see people waiting, patiently, in the freezing cold, for the chance to see a three-hour art film that doesn’t even make sense to its own lead actress. Take heart nerds: film culture isn’t as dead as advertised. Last week, the IFC Center box office posted a sign: see “Inland Empire” nine times, they’ll let you in a tenth time for free. To the poor soul who does it: kudos and time to reassess that life plan you wrote out in eighth grade. —MS

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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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.

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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!

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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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