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Serve in heaven, dine in hell.

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"Give them nothing! But take from them everything!"
More "300"? Yes, and we apologize, but no film has managed to stir the masses and provoke the critics quite like Zack Snyder‘s cash-walloping 80 minutes of idiocy. Last week, Variety‘s Peter Bart preeningly held up the film as proof of how out of touch critics were, wondering  "If the established media want to stay relevant, should their critics make a passing attempt to tune in to pop culture? In short, should at least someone on the reviewing staff try to be relevant to both quadrants?" Today in the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein tries to side with the fanboys:

Snyder has learned that film is a subliminal art, in the sense that he uses his visuals to supply the film’s emotional underpinning. In "300," the sky is always dark and unsettled, as if to signal the bitter bloodshed to come. "We tried to make the sky reflect the emotion in the movie, which you can’t do in a regular movie," he says. "That’s what is great about this kind of green-screen filmmaking. It’s not just the actors who matter. Every element in the frame supports the emotion of the moment."

Sadly, our critics, who seemed content with hooting at "300," have lost touch with what makes movies different from other art forms. Hollywood’s mass-audience films are not a literary or an intellectual genre. Never have been, never will be. They are built around visuals and emotion, the two elements that "300" used to capture the public imagination.

Honestly, we were sputtering with fury when we first read this article, but on second read it’s merely an embarrassment, and, beyond that, inane to sweepingly suggest that critics just don’t understand popular cinema — look at the reviews for "Spider-Man" and it’s sequel; for "X-Men" and it’s sequel; for "Pirates of the Caribbean" and… well, not its sequel; for "Sin City," for that matter. As for the cry of "it’s just a movie!", Goldstein lets Snyder speak for himself:

Snyder says he wasn’t perturbed by the nasty reviews. "Nah, I love ’em, they were funny," he says. "The reviews were so neo-con, so homophobic. They couldn’t just go see the movie without trying to over-intellectualize it."

In the same paper, Carina Chocano acidly disagrees:

Someday, maybe, the "entertainment defense" will no longer hold water. But for now, we’re slogging through the era of the completely implausible denial. Like many films that seem to riff on everything without stooping to make a point (which would be just so hopelessly earnest and dorky), "300" proudly claims to be about nothing. Or rather, like another type of purchased pleasure, it claims to be about anything you want it to be. As long as a movie is dumb and violent enough, it can quote whatever cultural allusion is handy, then deny that it did with impunity.

Sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson claims "300" for the geeks at the New York Times, writing that

The less politicized majority, who perhaps would like to draw inspiration from this story without glossing over the crazy and defective aspects of Spartan society, have turned, in droves, to a film from the alternative cultural universe of fantasy and science fiction. Styled and informed by pulp novels, comic books, video games and Asian martial arts flicks, science fiction eats this kind of material up, and expresses it in ways that look impossibly weird to people who aren’t used to it.

Others refuse to allow the film to worm its way around context: Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot writes that "it would be laughable if at this moment all signs weren’t pointing to an imminent Iran invasion by the Bush administration. The racial and political tangle that is 300 is indicative of a muddled culture, one which flaunts political incorrectness as a badge of honor. Postmodern? Try postmortem. Aesthetically and politically, we need 300 like a hole in the head." Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central sighs that "Though you could make the case that Snyder is going for irony in equating these ancient psychopaths with the politics of modern America, the better case is that 300 is an apology for bellicosity so intent by the end to cast history as hagiography that it quails at every moment of useful truth. I wonder if the simple fact that it’s a violent, self-justifying muddle doesn’t make it a decent allegory in spite of itself."

Also, when did a movie’s dumbness become its own defense? We’re bewildered by those who would duck behind the idea that because something is intended for popular consumption, it’s freed from any greater meaning. We don’t believe that "300" will ever be an addition to the canon in any sense other than as a timely cultural artifact, and we don’t think it’s a sign of the crumbling of the intelligent critical community. We are curious about the way it’s become a rallying point for the unexamined moviegoing life — we could care less about Snyder’s motives; the fact that the film is such a draw alone makes it worthy of closer inspection, simply because of it’s bearing on our current dire times.

Over at Pullquote, the cinetrix has thoughts on the film from Ed Koch: "The audience applauded lightly at the end of the movie, but I though it was a ridiculous film and a wasted evening. I tried to get a ticket to see the show on Friday night at a Cineplex which devoted five screens to the movie, but all shows were sold out. I saw it the next day at a different theater, and it was only 80 percent full. Maybe word is spreading. It’s all hype."

+ Film reviewers, moviegoers disagree (Variety)
+ ‘300’: It’s just a movie — or is it? (LA Times)
+ ‘300’ mixed messages (LA Times)
+ It’s All Geek to Me (NY Times)
+ 300 (Reverse Shot)
+ 300 (2007) (Film Freak Central)
+ Bengalis and platforms (Pullquote)

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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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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 and the IFC app.

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