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SXSW 2009: “Bruno” and Kubrick

SXSW 2009: “Bruno” and Kubrick (photo)

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A silence fell over the bus full of journalists that were being ferried from a preview of 20 minutes of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedy, “Bruno,” over to see Sam Raimi’s new horror film “Drag Me to Hell.” The mood was so unexpectedly solemn that one prominent online journalist asked loudly, “Why is it so quiet in here?” to which another replied, “Because we’re all traumatized.” Indeed, what we had witnessed was true to the introduction given by a SXSW/Fantastic Fest staffer who said, “what you’re about to see is rough footage…it’s nasty,” referring to the image quality before adding about the content, “well, not nasty…maybe some of it.” That was an understatement.

If the 20 minutes that were shown in Austin on Sunday were an accurate indicator, “Bruno” may not only best Cohen’s last starring role in “Borat,” but may even be funnier than nearly anything that the comedian did during his HBO series “Da Ali G Show.” Cohen taped a video introduction for three extended scenes from the film, sitting at an editing bay and, almost surprisingly given his desire on “Borat” to stay in character, wore street clothes and spoke in his native British accent. As an audience that included the likes of Morgan Spurlock and New York Times columnist David Carr looked on, Cohen blithely introduced himself as the guy who came up with “Wa Wa We Wah” as a catchphrase and presented Bruno as “a funny old chap.” Though the plot is too unnecessarily complicated to explain here, the gist of Cohen’s latest improvised comedy has his gay German fashion host alter ego losing his job shortly before Fashion Week, which leads to a journey cross-country to Hollywood with the goal of becoming the “biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler.”

When Bruno realizes that an adopted baby could give his career a boost, he interviews parents of prospective babies to use in a photo shoot. The first set of clips Cohen presented was a series of horrifying responses by the would-be stage parents to a line of questioning about how far their infant would go to get the job. Bruno peppered the parents with queries such as, “Is your baby comfortable with bees, wasps and hornets?” and “Would your baby be comfortable being dropped from the fourth floor of a building?” (One particularly ambitious mother shook her head, “Probably.”) Bruno’s baby obsession continued into the second round of clips, which Cohen introduced as taking place in “some ghastly shithole called Texas,” to an approving round of applause from the audience. His character Bruno isn’t so lucky when he struts out on stage for the talk show “Today with Richard Bay,” and announces his love for African-American men in front of a largely African-American audience. To make matters worse, Bruno carts out an African-American baby wearing tight brown leather pants and a T-shirt with the word “Gayby” embossed in gold on the front. He taunts the crowd with claims that he swapped an iPod for the baby and he considers babies to be a real “dick magnet,” but what brought down the house were the photos he then revealed, showing off of his African-American child being swarmed by bees in one and at the center of a mock crucifixion in another, looking like sick and twisted Anne Geddes portraits. Still, Cohen saved the best clip for last, a wrestling match shot somewhere in hillbilly country after he makes a transformation into “Straight Dave,” a heterosexual, army fatigue-clad wrestling promoter with the televised wrestling show “Straight Dave’s Man Slamming Maxout.” I wouldn’t want to spoil what happens, but if you’re suspicious of Straight Dave’s sexual orientation, you’re probably right to be and the scene that follows when Straight Dave is called out as a “fag” involves Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” a wrestling match and spectators wearing shirts with slogans like, “My Asshole’s Just for Shitting.”

03172009_drag-me-to-hell_l.jpgShockingly, it was Sam Raimi’s new horror film that was the tamer part of Universal’s canny double bill at SXSW, though not by much. Billed as a work in progress, “Drag Me to Hell” premiered in front of a crowd with a significant fanboy presence that was riled up by Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles’ rousing introduction and gave Raimi a standing ovation as soon as he stepped on the Paramount stage. What Raimi gave them in return was a strange bit of slapstick (he pretended to mistake a Four Seasons Hotel citation for excessive noise as his speech to the crowd and held his tie in front of his face and said, “who turned out the lights”) and a frightfest that should please any of his devoted fans. Beginning with an ’80s-style Universal logo, the film actually seems as though it could’ve been made during the 1990s, fitting nicely between “Darkman” and “Army of Darkness” with a wacky sense of humor and literally eye-popping scares. Alison Lohman stars as a bank loan manager who gets cursed by a old lady whose home is about to be foreclosed upon, at which point nearly everything she touches seems to squirt blood, goo or some disgusting mixture thereof. It’s a fun little diversion for both the audience and the director, who probably needed to get something like this out of his system before returning to make “Spider-Man 4.”

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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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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