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Cannes’ Lonely Boys

Cannes’ Lonely Boys (photo)

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Even a place as exciting and glamorous as the Cannes Film Festival can feel pretty lonely. You’re 4,000 miles from home, you don’t speak the language, and there’s nothing to eat but dried sausage and gherkins. Which makes it the perfect place to see movies like Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park” and Harmony Korine’s “Mister Lonely,” the first in competion and the second in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and both absolutely steeped in the nature of isolation.

Nearly all of Van Sant’s movies examine withdrawn heroes who’ve dropped out from society. His is a cinema of reclusion right on down the filmmography, which includes the emblematic figure of Norman Bates in his controversial shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” In recent years, Van Sant’s focused more on aloof youth, the killers and victims of the Columbine-like “Elephant,” the burned-out rock star of “Last Days.” “Paranoid Park” continues Van Sant’s streak of movies about adolescent estrangement. It follows Alex (Gabe Nevins), a skater with a blank stare and a guilty conscience. As the time-bending narrative unfolds — mimicking a stream-of-consciousness entry in a frightened teen’s journal — Alex is implicated in a train yard murder, one Van Sant recreates onscreen in shockingly graphic detail.

All of Van Sant’s recent movies have hinged more on atmosphere than stories. “Elephant” was filled with dread, “Last Days” with grief. “Paranoid Park” puts its theme right there in the title. To capture that feeling, Van Sant goes more subjective this time around: along with Alex’s narration, the film is peppered with dreamy skateboarding sequences that exist outside the narrative proper. The grainy Super-8 photography contrasts with the rest of the film’s stark imagery (the cinematographer is former Wong Kar-wai collaborator Christopher Doyle, with Rain Kathy Li).

Nevins — who was, maybe, sorta (depends on who you ask) cast through MySpace — is an emotionally distant actor, but emotional distance is practically a prereq for stardom, Van Sant-style. “Paranoid Park” is less immediately shocking than “Elephant” or sorrowful as “Last Days” but in its own quiet way, it surpasses both. Van Sant’s technique is incredibly confident and he’s increasingly comfortable in this slightly avant-garde mode that’s defined his decade of filmmaking. All of his choices, right down to the way he never shows Alex’s parents on camera save for one crucial moment, feel right.

During our interview about his “Mister Lonely” at Cannes, Harmony Korine made oblique references to his dark times and the gratitude he feels simply for being able to make another movie, his first in eight years, and being alive to share it with people (he also compared the experience of being at Cannes to smoking crack, but that’s probably a story for another time). He sounded like Blake, Michael Pitt’s Kurt Cobainish character from “Last Days,” if only Blake hadn’t succumbed to his demons.

“Mister Lonely” doesn’t really address drug abuse, but it does face head-on the solitary lifestyle that might come hand-in-hand with true addiction. It also recreates the feeling of being alone at Cannes in an even more direct way: its subject, a Michael Jackson impersonator (beautifully played by Diego Luna), begins the movie as a friendless street performer, moonwalking for pocket change on the streets of Paris. In his travels, he stumbles upon a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton) who invites him to a retreat her husband (a French Charlie Chaplin, played by Denis Lavant) has created as a safe haven for fellow impersonators.

Like “Paranoid Park,” “Mister Lonely” is less about the twists and turns of that story than the feelings they evoke. And where Van Sant’s movie has its ethereal skating scenes to balance and comment on its main plot, “Mister Lonely” has an entire counter-narrative, one that often dwarfs its main story for humor and memorable imagery. In it, a group of missionary nuns airdrop food and supplies on remote South American villages. On one run, one of the nuns falls out the open door of the plane and falls to the earth below but survives because of her faith. This section has its own misters lonely: the alcoholic priest who flies the nuns’ plane (played to the hilarious hilt by Werner Herzog), and a local adulterer who Herzog councils to stunning effect. The nun sequences might sound like an elaborate gag but they take on unexpected spiritual dimensions and the footage of those nuns falling through the air might be the most uplifting of this year’s festival.

Without spoiling too much, both “Mister Lonely” and “Paranoid Park” end on similar notes, not of happiness or sadness, per se, but of perseverance. The proper response to Van Sant and Korine’s cinematic loneliness isn’t to overcome it but to shoulder it and carry on. Watch them yourself — by yourself.

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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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