This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


The week’s critic wrangle: “The Lookout,” “Killer of Sheep.”

Posted by on

The power... is yours!
+ "The Lookout": Much love for Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s turn as a young man recovering from a serious head injury in "Out of Sight" screenwriter Scott Frank‘s directorial debut. He’s "convincing as one of cinema’s most difficult archetypes: the reactive protagonist whose complex emotions are visible to the viewer but invisible to his fellow characters," writes Matt Zoller Seitz at the New York Times, who finds that there’s a lot to like in the Kansas City-set neo-noir, even if it doesn’t like up to its hype as the product of "one of Hollywood’s great unproduced scripts." Robert Wilonsky at the Village Voice calls him "worth the admission all by his lonesome. He allows that there are moments when "The Lookout" "feels like an early screenplay from a veteran writer… but when considered as a whole, when appreciated and absorbed from hypnotic start to thrilling finish, The Lookout works." Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club laud’s Gordon-Levitt’s "magnificently subtle piece of work." He notes that "there’s nothing terribly original about The Lookout," but lauds the fact that its thriller elements are "ultimately in service of a better understanding of the characters. Usually, it’s the other way around."

"’The Lookout’ is so refreshingly straightforward that at first you may not know what to make of it." writes Stephanie Zacharek at Salon. She’s very fond of the film, comparing it to "a well-made garment turned inside-out: The structure, the dialogue, the characters — these aren’t just part of the movie. They are the movie." Ella Taylor at the LA Weekly speculates on what the film would have been like in the hands of one of the other directors who’d been attached to the long-gestating project:

In Sam Mendes’ hands, the movie would have been too clever and referential by half, while David Fincher would have sucked the warmth out of it. Either of those directors would have made shorter, snappier work of the heist than does Frank, who does a perfectly competent, if unremarkable, job.

She does like the film, declaring it "funny, tender and littered with elegantly written characters played by actors cast for goodness of fit rather than star wattage." At New York, David Edelstein finds the writing "razor-sharp" and the filmmaking "whistle-clean":

As a fan of sharp razors and clean whistles, I enjoyed The Lookout—yet I did feel let down by the climax, which ought to have been blunter and messier and crazier and more cathartic. It sounds churlish, I know, but a thriller with a hero like Gordon-Levitt’s Chris should be more of an act of sympathetic imagination. The payoff needed to be more brain-damaged.

A writer at Slant (the byline was left off) praises the authenticity of Gordon-Levitt’s performance while finding the heist elements of the film "something of a standard-issue, sub-Elmore Leonard caper." Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly is one of the few who doesn’t like the acting, writing that Gordon-Levitt "comes up with such a moody Method assemblage of twitches, tics, and guilty Memento mannerisms that he’s not much fun to watch." Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE is scornful:

Veteran screenwriter Scott Frank’s directorial coming-out is a bricolage of screen-tested "indie" junk — a "smart, complex" performance from Gordon-Levitt, a beardy Jeff Daniels, exhaustingly competent filmmaking suffused with low-key melancholy — which is to say it risks absolutely nothing, and never threatens to be unexpected.

And Armond White at the New York Press is more so, sighing that "The Lookout is so fatuously contrived it is the first movie that actually made me pine for the loss of Robert Altman; fearing we’ll never see real-life observation on the screen again," and adding in typically combative fashion that "[t]t takes a highly naive, cynical performer—or a doltish film critic—to find this nonsense interesting or surprising."


"And if my life is like the dust..."+ "Killer of Sheep": Charles Burnett‘s legendary 1977 student film, a portrait of a family getting by in Watts, finally comes to theaters in a restored 35mm print, and sets the critical community thumbing through its thesauri for appropriate superlatives. "I think the writer and filmmaker Michael Tolkin was right when he said that if ‘Killer of Sheep’ had been made 20 years earlier in Italian, it would be dissected and argued over and memorized in every film-school classroom," muses Andrew O’Hehir at Salon. "But the world Burnett captures on the streets of Watts, circa 1976 — this was his thesis film at UCLA, shot on weekends, over the course of a year, for about $10,000 — is at least as distant to most contemporary viewers as the postwar slums of Rome or Naples." "[T]here is more to neo-realism than formalist gestures; context counts too, and much like the characters in Rossellini’s ‘Open City,’ Stan and his family are casualties of war," adds Manohla Dargis at the New York Times. "This may be Mr. Burnett’s most radical truth-telling. In ‘Killer of Sheep,’ the characters’ identities as African-Americans are material and existential givens, while poverty is the equal-opportunity destroyer."

J. Hoberman at the Village Voice digs up the paper’s original coverage of the film, a blurb "filed by a callow part-time third-stringer" (Hoberman himself). He adds:

In retrospect, it can be seen that the two great independent features of the late ’70s were Killer of Sheep and Eraserhead. Perhaps when someone writes the reception history of American independent cinema, it will be explained how and when  Killer of Sheep—which had its original screenings at museums and underground showcases—came to be considered not just a good but a great movie, placed on the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 1990. 

Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader calls the film "conceivably the best single feature about ghetto life that we have," while David Denby at the New Yorker writes that "the movie itself has the bedraggled eloquence of an old blues record."

At Slant, Ed Gonzalez declares that "What distinguishes Killer of Sheep from films like Do the Right Thing and Clockers is its absence of malice despite its acknowledgment of the oppressive forces of a white capitalist society. Music plays an important role in the film. But while Burnett’s musical choices often address the plight of black people in America, the music is drunk on hope and reinforces the joy of Burnett’s sad images." Chris Wisniewski at indieWIRE is reluctant to heap more praise on the film and overraise expectations, "not that it doesn’t deserve it, but because the film’s brilliance is so singular and modest." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly calls the film "one of those marvels of original moviemaking that keeps hope of artistic independence alive."

And Armond White at the New York Press, one of the film’s longtime supporters (he’ll be appearing with the film’s Saturday New York screening), writes that:

[T]he political biases that favor Italian Neorealism (and Iranian films and Army of Shadows) don’t work in favor of African-American filmmakers who dare to claim serious artistry. The life on view in Killer of Sheep can neither be fetishized nor sentimentalized. It’s a one-of-a-kind, quietly powerful American masterpiece.

Watch More

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

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

Watch More

Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.

Watch More