Nollywood, Bollywood and a Little Bit of Hollywood

Nollywood, Bollywood and a Little Bit of Hollywood (photo)

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A little lightness this week to offset last week’s doom and gloom in theaters; love is in the air, as we enjoy imported romance alongside some family friendly animation and docs on the film industry and its players.

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“The Beaches of Agnès”
While most people commit their memoirs to the page, Belgian octogenarian auteur Agnès Varda has constructed a nostalgic visual document of her life, times and work. Flitting between past and present, Varda assembles a collage of memory and experience channeled to us through whimsical reconstruction, archival photographs, home movies and abstract compositions (including a room where the walls are entirely comprised of 35mm prints from her failed stab at fantasy, “Les Créatures”) that frame the rich tapestry of her life in her own inimitable style.
Opens in New York.

“The Girl From Monaco”
Courtroom drama meets bedroom farce in this breezy multigenerational romantic dramedy from French co-writer/director Anne Fontaine. Veteran thesp Fabrice Luchini stars as Bertrand Beauvois, a slick defense attorney who’s a smooth talker in the courtroom, but a fumbling neurotic in the bedroom. Fortunately, he has his buttoned-down bodyguard Christophe (Roschdy Zem) to rely on for advice with the ladies when the trial of Bertrand’s life is complicated by his burgeoning relationship with weather girl Audrey (former real-life celebrity weather girl Louise Bourgoin). In French with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.

“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”
With the spectacularly poor “Titan A.E” now a distant memory, Fox Animation has given Pixar and DreamWorks something to think about, with their Blue Sky Studios delivering a succession of solidly entertaining animated hits in recent years. This third installment to the sub-zero family saga from returning director Carlos Saldanha finds expectant mammoth couple Manny and Ellie (Ray Romano and Queen Latifah) and smart ass saber-tooth Diego (Denis Leary) on a mission to rescue Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), who’s nabbed himself some dinosaur eggs. The real star of the show remains Scrat, the squirrel-rat whose inept pursuit of the perfect nut is now complicated by competition from a wily female.
Opens wide.

“I Hate Valentine’s Day”
Less than a month after she returned to screens with “My Life in Ruins,” Nia Vardalos is reuniting with her “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” co-star John Corbett, as this most profitable of indie screen pairings try their hand at the unromantic romantic comedy subgenre. In her directorial debut, Vardalos stars as Genevieve, a perennially unlucky in love New Yorker whose serial disappointment with the dating scene has led her to adopt a hard and fast rule of five dates max. After a newly arrived restaurateur (Corbett) with commitment issues turns her head, Genevieve seizes her opportunity to woo him with the idea of commitment-free dating.
Opens in limited release and on demand.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman


Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.

2. IKEA Heights

ikea heights

IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.

3. Fresno


When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.

4. Soap


Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.

5. Too Many Cooks


Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.

6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace


Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.

7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV


Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.

8. Twin Peaks


Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…

9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks


Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.

10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show


The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.

11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)


Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”

12. Acorn Antiques


First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.

13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show


In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)

14. The Spoils of Babylon


Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.


15. All My Children Finale, SNL


SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

More Than Meets the Eye

More Than Meets the Eye (photo)

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This week in theaters, everyone seems to have opted to go dark, with cinemas offering up grieving families, persecuted immigrants, endangered pop singers and the slow death of intimacy in the internet age. This is… supposed to be summer, right?

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“Afghan Star”
With the American version still able to compel 30 million people into a zombie-like trance each week, “Pop Idol” is the latest craze sweeping the nation of Afghanistan, where contestants are subject to a campaign of intimidation that puts Simon Cowell’s abrasive jibes in perspective. Having snagged both the Audience Award and a Directing Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, director Havana Marking goes beyond the bright TV lights to follow four of the season’s finalists, including female contestants under constant threat of violence and death. In English, Pashtu, and Dari with subtitles.
Opens in New York.


On the Road With Mariah, Maya Rudolph and Zach Galifianakis

On the Road With Mariah, Maya Rudolph and Zach Galifianakis  (photo)

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If you’re a fan of road movies, then you better call in sick with a case of swine flu, as this weeks sees a lot of them arriving in theaters. For everyone else, there are docs on art and music, some European sunshine and a little smattering of domestic darkness.

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“24 City”
Festival favorite Jia Zhang-ke (“Still Life”) delivers a portrait of a culture in flux and a meditation on the ethereal nature of history with yet another of his patented hybrids of documentary aesthetic and name actors. Once a virtually self-contained community with its own accommodations and amenities, the massive 50-year-old munitions factory in Chengdu is undergoing demolition to make way for high-rise apartments. Through the testimony of former inhabitants both real and fictional, Jia offers a take on the growing pains of a society transitioning to a market system and the haves and have-nots trying to make their way within it. In Chinese with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“The Art of Being Straight”
On the back of another blow for those fighting to overturn California’s Proposition 8, this feature debut for actor/writer/director Jesse Rosen is an observational account of a young guy struggling with issues of sexuality against the backdrop of a gay community still struggling for acceptance. Taking an extended break from his girlfriend, Jon (Rosen) travels across the country to Los Angeles to move in with his college buddy Andy (Jared Grey). He’s surprised to discover that his ex (Rachel Castillo) is now in a lesbian relationship, prompting much life reevaluation as the trio work bottom-rung jobs, shoot the shit and try to find their way.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.


Refrain: Michael Mann

Refrain: Michael Mann (photo)

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I opened this week talking about Michael Mann and his prowess creating incredible, drawn out sequences with music. He’s made some of the most memorable moments in film with original compositions. But even more often his penchant for crafting scenes around pop song are the: the shit.

I wrote on Monday Pick an episode, any episode of Miami Vice
… Well here’s one. Long before this song by The Who was totally played out, my Mann put this too dope intro together. I’m certain it’s not the best pop sequence in the series (and it’s of the comical variety as opposed to the seedy which Mann does even better), I’m betting on a Phil Collins jam for that, but it was years ahead of it’s time in so many ways.

Enough words, dig this piece from 1985:

(Thanks Joey! You need to get that player’s cassette bandolier, yesterday.)

ps. If you’re in an environment where that embed is blocked for you, try here.

Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies”

Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” (photo)

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Director Michael Mann is the master of the musical sequence. Give him a jam, a slick car (or speedboat or private jet) and a couple bad asses with guns and you’re going to get the toughest three minutes of film possible. Sometimes he can’t be bothered to cut the song short and you’ll get more. Sure Johnny Depp is the man, yeah Christian Bale had me at “Cadillac of the sky!,” but it’s Michael Mann’s work I’m looking forward to in “Public Enemies.”

Pick an episode, any episode of Miami Vice, and you’ll find an incredible, often ground breaking use of a pop song. 2006’s feature version of “Miami Vice” was certainly less cutting edge, but Mann’s fetishistic pop music sequences of tough guys in various decadent modes of transportation were no less incredible. Not that he needs a fortune in chrome and gasoline to produce such spectacles for the eyes and ears. Need I mention Mann’s “The Last of the Mohican’s,” which to date, has not been outdone in amazing period action-set-to-music factor.

(Above: Johnny Depp totes a Thompson in “Public Enemies,” Universal Pictures).

A casual review of the composer and the music supes (and from what I’ve seen so far) raises some concern, but put together they have some genius under their belts. A couple newish TV spots don’t reveal much, just the usual summer blockbuster stuff. I don’t hear anything along the lines of a Trevor Jones/Randy Edelman collaboration, but I’ll hold out for the best.

“Public Enemies” opens July 1st.

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