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The week’s critic wrangle: My dog is like a red, red road.

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A little abrupt this week, we’ve had an unexpectedly busy day.

Kate Dickie.
+ "Red Road": Generally fondness for Andrea Arnold‘s surveillance camera directorial debut, part of a (planned, at least) three film rule-bound set called Advance Party. "No one does poetic British miserabilism with more remorseless hyperrealism than the Scots," writes the LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor, "and Arnold…directs with a precociously sure touch and a taste for raw, graphic sexuality that’s rare in a woman director, yet feels organic to the film’s paranoid, loveless milieu." Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE finds the film "combines elements of both no-nonsense realism and Foucaultian paranoia to produce a unique, not soon forgettable drama." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon reviewed the film at Sundance and declared it "dynamite, the kind of sexy, paranoid, creepily atmospheric picture that invades all your senses at once." He also points out the "this is the first thriller I’ve ever seen with a female protagonist in the prototypical noir hero role of pursuer and sexual aggressor."

At the New York Times, A.O. Scott writes that Arnold’s "style of shooting and editing is like a more artful, more expressive adaptation of the fuzzy, haphazard movements of the surveillance cameras… Her deft juxtaposition of sound and silence — the City Eye cameras have no accompanying ears — adds to the atmosphere of paranoia and dislocation."

Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club likes the look of the film, but thinks that "there appears to be an underlying struggle between the movie Arnold wanted to make—an elliptical study of obsession and voyeurism—and the necessary backstory that [executive producers Anders Thomas] Jensen and [Lone] Scherfig provide." Nick Schager at Slant finds that "Red Road" is "a hybrid of Dogma verité aesthetics and manipulative storytelling, a conflict her intermittently bracing film never properly reconciles." And Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader shrugs that "filmmaker Andrea Arnold kept me intrigued, but beyond a certain point the movie’s ambiguity fades into indifference."

No one seems to like the ending, which is labeled as everything from "pat uplift" (Taylor) to a conglomeration of "Sundance hallmarks — in particular a familiar dialectic of abjection and redemption" (Scott).


"We'll see how long that lasts."
+ "Year of the Dog": General fondness as well for Mike White‘s prickly portrait of Peggy, a single, middle-aged dog owner (Molly Shannon). According to Manohla Dargis at the New York Times:

It’s a film about what it means to devote yourself to something other than your fears and desires, to shed that hard, durable shell called selfishness. It is, rather remarkably, an inquiry into empathy as a state of grace. And if that sounds too rarefied for laughs, rest assured, it’s also about a stone-cold beautiful freak.

Also pleased is Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, who goes so far as to say that the film "deserves the same admiration accorded Joan Didion‘s exceptional memoir The Year of Magical Thinking…the depth of loss felt by Peggy for [her beagle] Pencil is expressed with observations just as acute and honest as any in Didion’s lauded account. And an amazing, translucent Shannon is fearless too in exposing Peggy’s naked sadness."
Ella Taylor at the LA Weekly adds that "[s]o oppressive is Peggy’s world — Year of the Dog is the best evocation I’ve seen of how much worse it is to be depressed in a sunny climate — that when she finally loses control, it feels more like catharsis than madness, and a form of dissidence from the American way of converting every aspect of life into work."

At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir calls the film "an enjoyable, patchy, rambling affair, a series of bittersweet comic sketches strung together with thin wire," while Dana Stevens at Slate suggests that despite "small inconsistencies of tone" the film "succeeds in so many other ways. Year of the Dog asks how far we should be willing to go for the love of animals, and for that matter, for love itself. The movie’s sophistication lies in the fact that White isn’t sure there’s any one right answer." Nathan Rabin at the Onion AV Club calls Shannon’s performance "revelatory" and writes that "[l]ike a distaff Marty, Dog indelibly chronicles the emotional thaw of a woman seemingly resigned to living life quietly on the sidelines until fate spurs her into action."

Nick Schager at Slant calls the film "sweet if somewhat slim," adding that  "if its style is a bit derivative and its reserved humor tends to wax and wane, the film is nonetheless reasonably playful and charming, and benefits immensely from a sterling lead performance by Shannon." Rob Nelson at the Village Voice is a bit ambivalent, writing the "unlike [Todd] Solondz‘s, White’s humor isn’t merciless. If anything,  Dog’s bark is more like a lonely howl; its comic bite never breaks the skin, and its kisses are sloppy."

And we’d be remiss to not mention Peter Sarsgaard, who gives a memorable performance Stevens sums up thusly: "Sarsgaard excels at capturing a type I’ve never seen portrayed in a movie before: the passive-aggressive, ambiguously gay celibate."

We quite liked the film ourselves — hopefully we’ll finish up our languishing review tomorrow.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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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.

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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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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.

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