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DID YOU READ

End-of-the-year blurbs.

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Future noir. Favorite blog of the moment: Armond Dangerous, dedicated solely to "parsing the confounding film criticism of Mr. Armond White."

And here — our end of the year in blurbs:

"Rocky Balboa" (Opened December 20th, wide)
Not nearly as embarrassing as one might have secretly hoped — in fact, it’s functional and fairly entertaining. Then again, we could spend two hours just contemplating what’s going on with Mr. Stallone’s eyebrows these days.

"Curse of the Golden Flower" (Opened December 21st, limited)
"The most expensive Chinese film ever made" is going to become a meaningless epithet if there’s a new one every year. "Curse of the Golden Flower," which reunites director Zhang Yimou and former lover/muse Gong Li, is a profound demonstration of the astonishing amount of extras and brocade one can purchase for $45 million dollars. Those in search of nouveau wuxia are going to be disappointed — the film is a gothic royal family drama set in the Tang dynasty, and while there is an epic and bloody battle sequence, most of the film’s jousting is done with dialogue. Gong plays a sort of stylized variation of her character in 1990’s "Ju Dou"; she’s once again trembling with repressed rage, trapped in a loveless marriage with a powerful, cruel husband (Chow Yun-fat as Emperor Ping) and engaging in a pseudo-incestuous affair. The machinations veer into camp and the film as a whole seems vaguely inexplicable, existing mainly a depiction of aristocratic excesses that make "Marie Antoinette" look provincial — observe how many servants it takes merely to convey to the empress her hourly medicine. Still, Gong looks beautiful if far from serene, and seems perfectly capable of destroying whole kingdoms with an impervious tilt of her gold-bedecked head. 

"The Good Shepherd" (Opens December 22nd, wide)
Matt Damon continues in his career niche as the psycho schoolboy, this go-round playing Edward Wilson, a character based on James Jesus Angleton, chief of counter-intelligence in the early days of the CIA. The film, which represents Robert De Niro‘s second turn behind the camera, bounces around between the Bay of Pigs debacle and Edward’s Yale years and eventual recruitment, aiming for dark truths about the terrible personal and moral sacrifices that are made in the name of patriotism and loyalty but arriving at a portrait of the agency’s intrigues as nothing more than an all-consuming international pissing contest between unhappy well-educated men. Which may be its point, too. Motivations for many of the overabundance of characters remain a mystery; the big reveal, on the other hand, you’ll see coming for over half of the two hour and 40 minute runtime, during which you can also ponder why anyone would think they could believably cast Angelina Jolie as a fragile, needy housewife.

"Children of Men" (Opens December 25th, wide)
We didn’t have any expectations going into Alfonso Cuarón‘s "Children of Men" — it premiered at Venice, it opened all over Europe and…nothing. None of the chatter than precedes every film worth its while and plenty of others that aren’t. It’s a mystery, because "Children of Men" is one of the best films of the year and certainly the most believable dystopia ever envisioned in cinema. The film’s barely stable near-future London is grimy and alive and just graspably on the horizon; Clive Owen is, as always, excellent as a noir hero waiting out the apocalypse. But what’s really stunning are two unbelievable long-take sequences that left us completely gobsmacked — in what most would say has been a grim year at the multiplexes, it’s enough to make you excited about movies again.

"Perfume" (Opens December 27th, limited)
Stanley Kubrick reportedly called Patrick Süskind‘s novel unfilmable. (Funny enough, director Tom Tykwer cites another Kubrick quote in his interview with Aaron Hillis on the IFC News
site, saying that "Kubrick said that if it can be thought of, it can be
filmed.") "Perfume" made us wonder if that was less, as most assume,
because of the novel’s famous, impossible-to-translate-to-screen
olfactory descriptions, and more because when put on screen, the story
just seems so damn silly. It’s more than worth seeing for the visuals, which could knock you into a stupor; no feature has ever been so elaborately art-directed, from large-scale envisionings like a teeming 18th century Paris to small details like a character’s extravagantly awful teeth. "Perfume" is extremely loyal to its source text; to a fault, really — Süskind’s dark fairytale prose is more evocative than Tykwer’s flashy, empty storytelling, and it’s never good when, in the midst of the grandiose finale, you find your mind wandering back to the author’s phrasings. Slick as all hell, and heartless, too.

"Pan’s Labyrinth" (Opens December 29th, limited)
Our NYFF review is here.

And we’re out. Happy holidays, all, we’ll see you in the new year.

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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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