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“Factory Girl,” “20 Million Miles to Earth”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce in “Factory Girl,” Weinstein Company, 2006]

There’s a certain kind of human being who, however ordinary or perhaps merely beautiful in real life, acquires the halo of mesmerizing superhumanity when seen on celluloid — we cannot takes our eyes off them, even if we know in our forebrains that there’s really not much there to see. It’s one of cinema’s unquantifiable mysteries, and Edie Sedgwick, short-lived queen of Andy Warhol’s mid-60s Factory, personified it — she never did anything, couldn’t act or even tell a story well. But everyone, Warhol in particular, had to watch. This is just one of the bizarre, extra-textual things about George Hickenlooper’s biopic “Factory Girl” — Sienna Miller, playing Edie, is a solid, sympathetic actress, but does she have that same unworldly magnetism on film? How could she? If she doesn’t, how does that make sense of why Edie, within the movie’s world, got famous in the first place?

The fact that Sedgwick only occupied the underground art-scene spotlight for a little over a year before getting lost on dope and falling out of Warhol’s favor makes her an even more unlikely biopic topic — but there’s no denying that she has, somehow, proven to be a deathless, Marilyn-style icon of counterculture cool, a reputation built by word of mouth, not by exposure to her nearly impossible to see films. So, Hickenlooper’s film was inevitable, and inevitably devoted to the biopic template. The film does, in any event, a smash-up job freezing a retro-goofy sense of the New York ’60s in amber, and it gives us the most interesting on-screen Andy Warhol yet — personified by Guy Pearce, Warhol is a grandly passive-aggressive faerie queen with a penchant for deflective press-interview ironies and inappropriate confessional booth announcements (“Why do you come here?” the priest asks; “Because it’s a sin not to,” Andy innocently answers).

He’s not just a wig-&-whimper joke here; we get a vivid sense of how his Factory worked, how he retained power over it, how he used people like Edie by simply, martial artist-like, bending with the breeze and letting things spiral out of control away from him. Expect not a grimly realistic portrait of the Warhol scene (much less an analysis of the man’s aesthetics and motivations), and get past the foolishly tall and hunky Bob Dylan simulacrum (Hayden Christensen), and the film does a smooth and sympathetic job at memorializing one of the 20th century’s oddest cultural totems, the only nobody that Warhol did in fact manage to turn into an authentic “superstar,” her cult of vacuity growing larger and more worshipful as the decades pass, while the other Factory workers vanish from memory.

Another nostalgic couch-idyll: Nathan Juran and Ray Harryhausen’s “20 Million Miles to Earth” (1957), not an auteurist relic full of rich subtextual ore, God knows, but best remembered by an entire generation of postwar psychotronic-movie geeks (like me, and like Tim Burton, here gushingly interviewing stop-motion pope Harryhausen in a DVD supp) as one of the preeminent moments in American pop culture when frame-by-frame F/X — so simple and manual in process, so damnably magical in the viewing — rejiggered one’s burgeoning view of the world. Harryhausen’s reptilian-humanoid creature rampaging around Rome still glues your eyeballs; the fantastic tangibility of his creations (from, also notably, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” “Mysterious Island” and “It Came from Beneath the Sea”) is their lynchpin — unlike CG images, Harryhausen’s homely behemoths obey the same laws of movement that constrain the actors, and inhabit the same space, turf, gravity and sunlight. Their three-dimensionality is not illusory, and their hesitant, unblurred motions remain strangely poignant. But for a certain age of cinephile, this lavish DVD package — 50th anniversaried up, with a second disc of interviews and memories and storyboards — is also a ticket to the B-movie gray heaven of the ’50s, down to the way suited men sit on desks, and the stolid hero (William Hopper) lights up after electrocuting the alien from Venus. (Warhol could’ve air-written the moments when an American says “Venus!” and an Italian peasant replies, “Venice?”) You also have the opportunity to toggle between the original b/w and a moldy-beige Colorized version, but who among us would do such a thing?

“Factory Girl” (Weinstein Company) is now available on DVD; “20 Million Miles to Earth” (Sony Pictures) will be available on DVD on July 31st.

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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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