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DID YOU READ

“300.”

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No surrender.
When, in "300," Zack Snyder‘s disastrous tribute to ancient badassery, warriors bawl "This! Is! Spartaaaa!," it’s impossible not to wonder: is this actually meant to be…Americaaaa? "300" is, after all, the tale of how a limited but uberheroic force heads off to fight the unwashed hordes from the Middle East after speechifying about freedom and patriotism, the admonitions of the foolish politicians on the Spartan council be damned. As a political metaphor, it doesn’t line up into anything worth analysis. As the extreme conclusion of every fanboy obsession with hypermasculinity and glorified slow-motion violence, it’s a keeper.

"300" is a film adaptation of Frank Miller‘s graphic novel of the
same name, which is a loose account of the Battle of Thermopylae. At the film’s outset, the massive armies of the Persian Emperor Xerxes are poised to crush the city-state of Sparta; the stakes of this encroachment are never made entirely clear, as King Leonidas (Gerard Butler, who may have the worst agent in the world) not only refuses to negotiate with the Persian messenger who arrives to inform him of this fact, but kicks him into the deep pit the Spartans have apparently constructed in the midst of the city for this very purpose. There’s much about the film’s celebration of Spartan culture that might give one pause, particularly the description of it as the world’s one hope for reason and justice immediately after we’ve been treated to a prologue about how the Spartans throw their runty babies off a cliff and subject their adolescent boys to a routine of beatings and battles with wild animal to toughen them up. Reason and justice must be pastimes left to those other Greeks, like the rival Athenians, who Leonidas sneeringly refers to as "boy lovers." No such homoerotic context for the Spartans, the manliest men to ever wage war in leather speedos.

The corrupt oracular ministry is bribed into refusing to allow the city-state to officially go to war, so Leonidas, after a little nookie from his sharp-tongued wife Gorgo (Lena Headey), gathers 300 of his burliest soldiers and sets up at a pass where the size of the Persian Army will be negated by the narrowness of the space. From there, the film is one lingering skirmish after another with the themed forces of Asia, who arrive packing sky-blackening sheets of arrows, masks, elephants, grenades and an armored rhino. 

"300" does look remarkable, like a Frank Frazetta painting brought to life. The film was, like the last adaptation of a Miller graphic novel, Robert Rodriguez‘s "Sin City," shot against bluescreens, the rich backgrounds filled in during post-production. While "Sin City"’s ultrastylized recreations reinforced the sense that the actors were overlaid into their environment rather than interacting with it directly, most reminders of that separation are gone in "300"; the burnished actors look as real or unreal as their settings. Many of Snyder’s shots were apparently inspired by panels in Miller’s book — these best inform the film in moments like a silhouetted conflict at the top of a cliff, or a sequence in which Leonidas slices his way through a wave of Persian soldiers, the camera scrolling with him like eyes across a page. Snyder’s fatal addiction to slow-motion undermines many of the other action sequences; scarcely a shot can go by without time going elastic for a few luxurious seconds so that we can better appreciate someone’s head being cut off, or some new horde’s yawping approach over a bluff. It’s the visual equivalent of a letter composed entirely in italics, or, given the director’s faith that no smidgen of dialogue is too marginal not to be bellowed, in capital letters.

There are too many jaw-dropping throwaway images in "300" to recount — the man with blade-arms; the Boschian tree of dead bodies; the lesbian amputee harem display; Xerxes himself, who arrives on an immense portable dais looking like a pierced seven-foot Oscar statue. Its audaciousness pushes the film well into that valuable realm of the good-bad; it’s ridiculous, it utterly fails to be the rousing portrait of sacrifice and glory in death it would like to be, and we’d see it again in a second.

"300" opens in wide release March 9th.

+ "300" (Warner Bros.)

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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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