This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


“The King of Kong.”

Posted by on

"It's absolute brutality."
If a whole universe of meaning and countless reams of undergrad theses can spring from a novel that tracks one day of the meanderings of a man in 1904 Dublin, then, in theory, there’s no reason why a documentary about crossword puzzles or Double Dutch can’t offer the same. But most of the films that have followed in the footsteps of "Spellbound," which found nail-biting suspense and a revealing cross-section of America in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee, skate by on the preciousness of their subject matter, offering peeks into pockets of subculture that are almost uniformly entertaining if lightweight, innocuous enough that only the most grumpy of critics would grumble about them.


Seth Gordon‘s "The King of Kong" is set in the world of competitive classic video gaming, and it could have been another example of the quirkumentary, if Gordon hadn’t stumbled onto a struggle between two men that can only be described as epic. The battlefield is Donkey Kong, which we’re assured by a series of talking heads is among the most difficult 80s arcade games, the prize is the record for high score, and the competitors are so good they defy fiction (though they’ll get their chance at that, as Gordon is now attached to direct a narrative version of his film). On one side, there’s Billy Mitchell, the "Video Game Player of the Century" and classic gamers’ big celebrity/demigod. He set his first high score at Donkey Kong at a 1982 Life Magazine shoot, when he decided to punish a pretender to the throne (Steve Sanders, who becomes one of Mitchell’s best friends) by publicly challenging him and obliterating his score. The heavy-browed Mitchell has shoulder-length locks, a remarkably well-endowed wife who’s a sight gag unto herself, and a hot sauce empire. He is comically and fantastically villainous, holed up in Hollywood, FL, where he conducts the war to protect his record via covert phone calls and packages dispatched by minions.

His challenger is Steve Wiebe, a Seattle-area failed musician turned fired Boeing employee, a vague, good-natured family man who resembles a blurry Nathan Fillion, who has never distinguished himself at anything in his life, and who decided to work toward the Donkey Kong record during his unemployment to create some kind of goal in his nebulous day-to-day existence. Practicing in his garage while his children clamor around him, he records himself breaking Mitchell’s record and sends the tape in to Twin Galaxies, the Ottumwa, IA-based hall of video game records, calling down a small-scale firestorm of gamer drama and the roundabout opposition of Mitchell himself.

There are other memorable characters, among them Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day, who acknowledges that he’s running the organization now more out of sense of obligation to its small but dedicated community than out of any personal enjoyment. There’s Robert Mruczek, the put-upon referee who screens hours of tapes of people playing in order to confirm scores. And there’s our personal favorite, Roy Shildt, an agitator who goes by "Mr. Awesome" and who still harbors a grudge over an unacknowledged ’80s achievement at Missile Command.

Packaged with era-appropriate graphics, "The King of Kong" kicks off with a quick trip through the backgrounds of its two adversaries and of Twin Galaxies, but settles in to something less obtrusive as its story unfolds, with the exception of some funny but ham-handed music choices (including "You’re the Best"). What truly separates "The King of Kong" from films like it, and what makes it almost exceptional, is that it circumvents the tired homily recited by so many other doc directors getting a chuckle at the expense of their subjects — laughing with, not at, et cetera. There is never a question of or an apology for the imminent importance of gaming in the lives of these people, a fixation that, as one tells the camera, has nothing to do with enjoyment and everything to do with having one’s name on that record board. Gordon is unfailingly gentle with his subjects, even, in a way, with Mitchell, who comes across as a right bastard, but also as someone well aware of his role as the community’s larger than life superhero, the one who makes money, the one who got the girl. In challenging him, Wiebe posed a threat to entire fiercely protective group that bristled at the arrival of a self-taught ringer from out on the West Coast, someone they’d never heard of, someone who wasn’t one of them.

On his way out to Florida to prove himself in a tournament and hopefully face down his Kong nemesis, Wiebe is asked innocently by his young daughter about why people are willing to destroy themselves to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. There’s no reply — it is, on a larger scale, no lofty goal. But Wiebe, hunched over his arcade cabinet on a stool for hours, is a curiously noble figure, one who’s struggled against unlikely odds and long-haired adversaries to prove that there is something in his life at which he’s the best.

"The King of Kong" opens in limited release on August 17th.

+ "The King of Kong" (Picturehouse)

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