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DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: December 8th, 2006

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By Christopher Bonet

IFC News

[Photo: “Apocalypto,” Buena Vista Pictures, 2006]

A round-up of mainstream and indie films opening in theaters this week.

“Apocalypto”

Mel Gibson just can’t seem to escape controversy. Following his visually torturous 2004 megahit “The Passion of the Christ” and his drunk driving arrest this past summer in which he slurred the Anti-Semitic Remarks Heard Around the World comes the release of his latest film, in which he details the fall of the Mayan empire through the eyes of a young warrior. Gibson’s lost some serious credibility marks in the past few years, so we’ll see if “Apocalypto” will be the critical and commercial success he seriously needs.

Opens wide (official site).

“Blood Diamond”

Edward Zwick follows up his extremely mediocre 2003 film “The Last Samurai” with this thriller detailing the illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone. Expect this film to be entertaining at best (mixed in with some decent Oscar-grubbing) with skilled acting courtesy of Leonardo Di Caprio, Djimon Hounsou, and Jennifer Connelly. The diamond industry’s already launched a counter-PR campaign in anticipation of the issues raised by the film.

Opens wide (official site).

“Days of Glory (Indigènes)”

This World War II film details the story of a group of North African soldiers enlisted to fight for the French as a part of an “indigenous” unit. Director Rachid Bouchareb is said to employ every war film cliché in the book for this film, but critics have generally found that the film’s modest budget and culturally diverse ensemble cast (which shared the acting prize at Cannes) allow the filmmaker to explore racial conflicts in a war-time setting.

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

“Family Law”

Argentinean director Daniel Burman (“Lost Embrace”) directs this family dramedy in which an attorney undergoes an identity crisis when he realizes he’s following in the same line of business as his father. Sitcom-like premise aside, the film won the Audience Award at the Mar del Plata Film Festival earlier this year.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Hermanas”

Julia Solomonoff’s debut feature tells the story of two Argentinean sisters who meet in 1984 after being separated for nine years. They discover a lost manuscript, written by their father, which details life in Argentina during the dictatorship and reveals numerous family secrets.

Opens in New York (official site).

“The Holiday”

It’s the holidays, which we guess means another Nancy Meyers rom-com. This time, she enlists Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as women who are unlucky in love, and who switch their respective houses in time for the Christmas holiday. After their exchange, Diaz makes company with Jude Law in a winter cottage while Winslet finds humor in Jack Black and, in the end…you know what happens. With a serious dearth of Oscar-caliber films this winter, it looks like one of these two leading ladies might pull a Diane Keaton on us and nab a nomination. Our money’s on Winslet.

Opens wide (official site).

“Inland Empire”

David Lynch goes digital in his first feature since “Mulholland Drive” and casts Laura Dern, in what’s been called a monumental performance, as a married actress who starts an affair with her co-star Justin Theroux. Standard melodrama be damned — reports on the film call it bizarre even by Lynchian standards. Reviews were mixed on the festival circuit, but expect Lynch fans to rave as they usually do while the rest of us just scratch our heads.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Mr. Leather”

Premiering more than two and a half years after its first screening at the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Jason Garrett’s documentary on South Californian leather culture finally gets a theatrical release. This documentary charts the journeys of nine contestants in the Mr. L.A. Leather contest. Expect bears. Lots and lots of bears.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Off the Black”

Just reading the plot summary for this film gave us the heebie jeebies, but here goes: James Ponsoldt’s feature debut is a coming-of-age story about a young teenager (Trevor Morgan) who, unable to forge a relationship with his own distant father (Timothy Sutton), befriends his school umpire, a (disheveled), irascible drunk (Nick Nolte), who wants the boy to pose as his son at a high school reunion. We…just can’t picture Nick Nolte playing role model to any young person. Four years later and that mugshot still gives us the creeps.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Screamers”

Let’s face it, genocide is ripe fodder for films. From “Schindler’s List” to “Hotel Rwanda,” massive human murder is just ripe for melodramatic storylines and John Williams scores. International documentarian Carla Garapedian goes the “Night and Fog” route in her latest film about the Armenian genocides of the early 1900s and enlists the help of rock band System of a Down as they tour Europe and the US to spread the message. The film includes numerous musical tracks from the band and images of war-torn Armenia.

Opens in Los Angeles (official site).

“Unaccompanied Minors”

A group of kids are stuck in an airport following a snowstorm on Christmas Eve without a single parent in sight. This year’s holiday movies have been awful (think “The Santa Clause 3” and “Deck the Halls,” or don’t) but this latest is in the careful hands of director Paul Feig, known as the creator of the fantastic “Freaks and Geeks” and the director of numerous episodes of “Arrested Development.” Stand-up comedian and “Daily Show” correspondent Lewis Black plays an airport official (and comedic foil), Wilmer Valderrama is a reluctant flight attendant.

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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