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DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: December 22, 2006

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By Christopher Bonet

IFC News

[Photo: “The Good Shepherd,” Universal Pictures, 2006]

A round-up of the best (or worst) $10 you’ll spend this week.

“The Case of the Grinning Cat”

Everyone’s favorite French documentarian Chris Marker is still making films at the ripe old age of 85, and his latest is as politically concerned as any of his groundbreaking films from the New Wave years. Shortly following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, portraits of grinning yellow cats began popping up throughout Paris. In this exposé on the nature of art, politics and freedom of expression in this post-9/11 world, Marker remains as sharp and witty as ever as he hopes to find an answer to the mysterious grinning cat.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Curse of the Golden Flower”

Zhang Yimou follows up his earlier 2006 film “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” with another wuxia film that is noted as being the most expensive production from mainland China to date. As with “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers,” Yimou’s latest is visually stunning while suffering in the story department. Be warned: the film is a lot more interested in plot than action, so if you’re expecting lots of fight scenes ala “Hero,” you’ll be disappointed.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“The Good Shepherd”

We can probably all agree that Robert De Niro is one of the greatest American film actors ever, though his roles over the past decade may have made us forget that (“Analyze This” franchise, anyone?), so we’re excited that his latest film will also feature him directing for the first time since “A Bronx Tale,” a film that we’re fond of. Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie join the cast alongside De Niro in this story of the formation of the CIA, but we’re most excited to see Joe Pesci’s first screen appearance in eight years for. Joe, it’s about damn time.

Opens wide (official site).

“Letters from Iwo Jima”

Clint Eastwood’s companion piece to this fall’s “Flags of Our Fathers” came out of nowhere to snag the National Board of Review’s film of the year and has been praised by numerous critics’ circles, putting it at the forefront of the awards season race. Simply put, we’re excited to see this following the disappointing “Flags,” and Eastwood’s decision to film the characters completely in Japanese rather than the forced English of last year’s “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Night at the Museum”

Director Shawn Levy directs this family-friendly action adventure film based on Milan Trenc’s popular children’s book about a bored museum security guard who accidentally releases an ancient curse that causes the animals and insects to come back to life. Ben Stiller goes everyman in his role as the security guard and Robin Williams plays a president for a second time this year, this time diminishing the good name of our favorite rough rider Teddy Roosevelt.

Opens wide (official site).

“No Restraint”

Alison Chernick’s documentary chronicles the latest project from performance artist Matthew Barney, the film “Drawing Restraint 9,” which included the use of 45,000 pounds of petroleum jelly, a factory whaling vessel and traditional Japanese rituals and which came out in theaters earlier this year. The weird gets a whole lot weirder when “Dancer in the Dark” actress, world-renowned Icelander and Barney-SO Björk enters the project.

Opens in New York (official site).

“The Painted Veil”

Naomi Watts reteams with her “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” director John Curran in this 1920s period film that tells the story of an adulterous married woman whose life undergoes drastic changes when her husband moves them to a remote village in China undergoing a health epidemic. The film’s already nabbed screenwriter Ron Nyswaner the Best Adapted Screenplay award from the National Board of Review and Edward Norton an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Early reviews say it’s a spectacular production, but to us, it looks a bit like your average Merchant/Ivory film.

Opens in New York and Los Angeles (official site).

“Rocky Balboa”

Cinephiles everywhere muttered a resounding “What the fuck?!” when news broke last year that Sylvester Stallone was reviving his “Rocky’ and “Rambo” franchises. We here at IFC News are in love with all things retro, and nothing spells “so bad it’s good” better than a throwback 80s film for the VH1 generation. Repeat after us: “‘Rocky V’ plus ‘Rocky II’ equals ‘Rocky VII: Adrian’s Revenge!'”

Opens wide (official site).

“Venus”

Remember a couple of years ago when Peter O’Toole reluctantly accepted that honorary acting Oscar after saying he still had a chance at earning his first after eight nominations? Well, it seems like O’Toole may have another shot this year, as he’s been getting heaps of praise for his latest film in which he plays an aging, forgotten actor who develops an obsessive friendship with a teenager. A bit creepy, maybe, but here’s hoping that this will finally lead to an O’Toole Oscar win.

Opens in New York and Los Angeles (official site).

“We Are Marshall”

Personally, we’ve reached out limit on uplifting sports movies. We tolerated this summer’s “Invincible,” but “We Are Marshall” has a lot more adversity to overcome. First off, it’s directed by McG, best-known for the painful-to-watch “Charlie’s Angels” franchise, and here making his bid for Seriousness. Second, its tragic premise and inspirational story about fortitude and courage are marred by tired football movie clichés. Third, Matthew McConaughey. ‘Nuff said.

Opens wide (official site).

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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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