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Tribeca ’08: Rednexploitation! “Tennessee,” “From Within,” “The Wild Man of Natividad.”

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05022008_tennessee.jpgAfter a few rounds on the festival circuit, you start to wonder if the road to indie inauthenticity is paved with Southern accents. “Tennessee” is a banner example of the type of film that aims for grit and heartstrings by way of regional blue-collar misery and ends up seeming as genuine as a McDonald’s sweet tea. The second film from Aaron Woodley, who’s actually Canadian — so Canadian he’s David Cronenberg’s nephew — is indeed about Tennessee, along with New Mexico, and the states through which you’d have to drive in order to get from the latter to the former. In “Tennessee,” all marriages are abusive, everyone drinks their liquor straight and someone can be treated for leukemia without losing a hair on his pretty head. The film’s about two brothers who set off on a road trip to Knoxville to find their estranged father, from whom they fled years ago when he started getting rough with their mother. But you don’t watch the film for them. You watch it, with glee in your heart, for Mariah Carey, who plays Krystal, the singin’, cryin’ Texan waitress who’s on the run from her overbearing State Trooper husband, and whose flirtatious mothering of the siblings makes you wonder if the film is going to head into “Y “Tu Mamá También” realms. (It doesn’t.)

05022008_fromwithin.jpgCarey is still uniquely and engagingly terrible on screen — she gives every line a downward intonation, and appears to wage a continuous, Stalingrad-scale struggle not to make eye contact with the camera. But while “Tennessee” is a true wedge of country-fried cheese, it’s also too downbeat and long to be pleasantly good-bad, much less “Glitter”-worthy. At least it’s harmless, which is more than can be said about “From Within,” a horror movie from longtime cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (“Walk the Line,” “Sideways”) that also made its world premiere at Tribeca this year. Set in the oppressively evangelical Grovestown, where they — for real — still burn witches, the film begins with a guylinered teen shooting himself and kicking off a rash of supernaturally induced suicides. (The first being his girlfriend, worth a mention only because she’s played by Rumer Willis, who’s been touted as one of the film’s big names despite essentially having the Drew Barrymore role in “Scream.”) The lynch-happy townsfolk blame the family of the woman they groundlessly killed before for being different — who, it turns out, actually was a witch, and whose craft is fueling the J-horroresque curse killing off the town’s residents. Derivative scares aside, “From Within” has one of the most egregiously awful portrayals of Christianity I’ve ever seen, one so over the top it’d be silly if it also weren’t earnestly ugly — faith is used to justify monstrous hypocrisy, cruelty and an avalanche of white-trash stereotypes. I’m cheerfully atheist and still found myself getting angry on behalf of fundamentalists, and maybe also the Jews in the audience, who had to negotiate the sight of a rednecked-out Adam Goldberg twanging about being an instrument of the will of God (who came to him, naturally, in prison) before setting a girl on fire for refusing to pray.

05022008_wildmanofthenavidad.jpg“The Wild Man of the Navidad,” directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks (who’s also the star), is a welcome palate cleanser, not the least for being in on its own joke. Produced by Kim Henkel, the writer/producer of 1974’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” the film’s a low-budget, lo-fi look at a mysterious creature wreaking havoc on a small Texas town. The pacing’s erratic, most of the cast is blatantly nonprofessional and the monster looks like (and may in fact be) a dude wearing a pile of animal skins and antlers. It’s all part of the deal — “The Wild Man of the Navidad”‘s a deliberate stylistic echo of a ’70s horror b-movie, and while it’s more funny than frightening, it maintains its own oddball Texas-gothic rhythm. Meeks, awash in flop sweat, plays Dale S. Rogers, forced by circumstance to allow people to hunt in family land occupied by the creature. Eyes darting, he nervously takes their money and sends them off to be slaughtered, while in the background his cockeyed Mexican manservant molests Rogers’ wheelchair-bound wife. At the town’s cafe/bar, the grizzled locals swig moonshine and start to wonder where their friends are disappearing to. There’s not an epiphany in sight.

[Photos: “Tennessee,” Lee Daniels Entertainment, 2008; “From Within,” Burgundy Films, 2008; “The Wild Man of the Navidad,” Greeks Productions, 2008]

+ “Tennessee” (
+ “From Within” (
+ “The Wild Man of the Navidad” (

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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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