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The week’s critic wrangle: The Wind That Shakes My Wife.

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"That what you call a martyr, is it Teddy?"
+ "The Wind That Shakes The Barley": Ten months after it surprised many by winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Ken Loach‘s film about the conflicts in early 20th century Ireland arrives in a few US theaters (and, as it’s being released by IFC First Take, also on VOD). Reviews, as you’d expect given the pedigree, are generally good. David Denby at the New Yorker calls "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" "a beautifully realized work and perhaps Loach’s best film… Refusing the standard flourishes of Irish wildness or lyricism, Loach has made a film for our moment, a time of bewildering internecine warfare." At the New York Times, A.O. Scott writes that:

Radical though he is, Mr. Loach is hardly a romantic, and the deep humanism that informs his best work — a category in which “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” surely belongs — is insulated from sentimentality by the sense that history is a long, bruising fight, a chronicle of compromise and defeat as well as of tentative triumph and provisional hope.

At LA Weekly, Scott Foundas spies some modern-day parallels, writing that it is "a profound consideration of the fog of wars that rage between not only nations but, all too often, within their own borders."

At indieWIRE, Chris Wisniewski finds the scant sketching-in of ostensible main characters Damian (Cillian Murphy) and Padraic Delaney (Teddy) is almost problematic, writing that the film "could easily suffer from its thin characterizations and somewhat conventional plotting, but both actors bring a genuine, earnest quality perfectly suited to Loach’s improvisational sensibility." Armond White at the New York Press (who allows that Loach is "a real artist, albeit a didactic one") does find it problematic, concluding that:

It’s as if Loach abhors conventional dramatic development in order to resist bourgeois platitudes (including the romanticism of Neil Jordan’s failed Irish epic Michael Collins). Damien and Teddy are only identified by what happens to them (medical student Damien is rushed into fighting, athlete Teddy is tortured by prison guards). Who they are as individuals is muddled, almost desultory.

Jeremiah Kipp at Slant sighs that "As a document of the shape of political thought, the film is successful; but as a living, beating heart about a populace living through a time of upheaval and confusion, it’s mediocre," while Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club calls "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" "[b]y far the most spinach-y film Loach has made lately," while also finding that "Loach and [writer Paul] Laverty are still capable of creating moments startling in their naturalism—almost like a window into the past." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon (who interviews Loach in a podcast here) generally likes the film, while shrugging that "I wouldn’t mind Loach and Laverty’s old-line Marxist convictions either if they didn’t tend to create scenes where characters suddenly stand off against each other like ideological positions rather than people." And Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly writes of the end, as the two brothers argue over whether to continue fighting or to lay down their arms: "If Loach had given full voice to each side of this division, he could have made a great film — maybe the great film — about the Irish struggle."


"I'm losin' my finger-lickin' mind over here!"
+ "I Think I Love My Wife": Chris Rock‘s rendition of Eric Rohmer is generating mixed reviews. Fondest is the New York TimesA.O. Scott, admits that Rock "is still, unfortunately, not much of an actor," but still declares that the film works, in part because "[w]ithout making race into a Big Theme, Mr. Rock and [co-writer] Louis C. K. nonetheless pepper the film with sharp insights into the black middle class, taking note of how the consciousness of race remains lodged in the fine grain of daily life." At the Onion AV Club, Scott Tobias similarly notes that Rock "can’t really play anyone other than himself," but finds that the film, "[though] hampered at times by Rock’s limitations as an actor and a director…stays faithful to the spirit of Rohmer’s original, grappling honestly with the uncertainties of settling down and the temptations that lurk outside even the most stable marriages."

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon makes the ballsy argument that, while Rock may be "no threat to Rohmer as a filmmaker," his remake…is, for all its aggressive American obviousness, a much livelier picture than the original." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly disagrees: "Rock…has taken Rohmer’s marvelously probing, psychologically refined, exquisitely yakky, and deeply French movie and turned it into a coarse-talking, race-conscious, tonally challenged life-crisis comedy."

Dana Stevens at Slate decrees that "it’s not a funny movie. At all." She goes on:

There is at least one moment in the film that gets a legitimate laugh, when Rock does a bit about women who dress too provocatively on the subway platform. This openly nasty rant is funny because it resembles Rock’s stand-up style, which uses his natural sweetness as a foil for the expression of some really hostile and aggressive impulses. During Rock’s best stand-up moments, you go, "Wow, this nice guy thinks like that?" Unfortunately, the rest of I Think I Love My Wife tamps down that aggression just enough to let it leach out in the form of laugh-free misogyny.

Armond White at the New York Press writes that "Trouble starts with Rock’s temerity to direct another movie after the disastrous Head of State. Call this one State of Confusion instead because it’s difficult to tell Rock’s directorial ineptitude from a lack of thematic focus." And Nathan Lee at the Village Voice, while teasing us by calling "Pootie Tang" "one the greatest movies ever made" and then not elaborating on the argument, echoes Stevens statement, concluding that "Rock capably directs a screenplay graced with one or two chuckles (‘You stare at a soccer mom too long and they’ll post your name on the Internet’) and soured by a whole lot of misogyny."

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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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