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DID YOU READ

Seven great moments in film family fighting.

Seven great moments in film family fighting. (photo)

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You know why there really aren’t that many movies about Thanksgiving? Because there’s nothing nice to say about it, that’s why. Thanksgiving is the day a bunch of people go to airports to have their flights delayed or snowed out, and when they do get home there are all kinds of relatives there you don’t really want to see and your mom wants to know when you’re going to get married and pop out those grandkids and then everyone gets drunk and yells at each other. Or so I hear. My family isn’t that extended.

Anyway. In honor of those of you who are home with your families today, here are seven clips from films celebrating the true meaning of familial togetherness. Which is to say, total abrasion:

The Darkos, “Donnie Darko” (2001)
Let’s start nice. The Darkos have their problems — daughter Elizabeth is planning on voting for Dukakis, dad Eddie thinks that’s a lousy idea, Donnie hasn’t been taking the meds that are supposed to keep him from burning down any more houses — but at least they can laugh at them when Elizabeth tells Donnie to “suck a fuck.” The family that eats delivery pizza together stays together.

The Larsons, “Home for the Holidays” (1995)
One of the few movies to tackle the whole ritual head-on, Jodie Foster’s second turn as director boasted the tagline “On the fourth Thursday in November, 84 million American families will gather together… And wonder why.” Daughter Claudia (Holly Hunter) just lost her job, son Tommy (Robert Downey Jr., doing straight-up RDJ) is hellbent on antagonizing sister Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson) and dad Henry (Charles Durning) is videotaping the whole mess for posterity. Before carving the turkey, Henry gives an inappropriate prayer in praise of “Thanksgiving, which really means something to us, even though — goddammit — we couldn’t tell you what.” I don’t know either.

The Vuillards, “A Christmas Tale” (2008)
Arnaud Desplechin does for French families what Wes Anderson does for American ones, just with greater savagery: in his very first movie, 1991’s “La Vie des Morts,” a daughter announces at the breakfast table that everyone hates their mother, and she’s not talking hypothetically. In 2004’s “Kings and Queen,” a seemingly loving father leaves his daughter a note from beyond the grave, telling her exactly what he thinks of her. But that’s nothing compared to “A Christmas Tale,” a full-on barrage of unconcealed animosity and spite. The clip below’s just a sample of what happens when the nicest thing a proudly anti-Semitic mom can call her son is “my little Jew”:

The Joyces, “Pretty Persuasion” (2005)
You don’t really need a whole family to make it awkward, of course: for true cattiness, all you really need is a teenage girl hostile to her new stepmother, especially if said stepmother is barely older than her and obviously a giant vapid target. In the strictest sense, this isn’t true dysfunction: paterfamilias James Woods is too busy delivering his anti-Semitic diatribe to notice his daughter is accusing her new “mom” of bestiality. Close enough though.

The Plantagenets, “The Lion in Winter” (1968)
To be honest, if I want to watch Katharine Hepburn being bitchy in a play adaptation, I’d rather go with 1973’s “A Delicate Balance,” where she goes all Edward Albee. But I couldn’t find a representative clip from that, so let’s stick with the mostly lousy “The Lion in Winter,” a movie which nonetheless has its vituperative highlights. It’s Christmas 1183 — apparently no easier on grown-up families then than now — and Henry II (Peter O’Toole) has just figured out that none of his sons really love him and all just want to inherit the kingdom. “You’re not mine! We’re not connected! I deny you!” he screams. It’s good as he delivers it, and even better if you imagine it in a Daniel Plainview voice.

The Slocumbs, “Igby Goes Down” (2002)
As close as we’re ever going to get to “Catcher on the Rye” on-screen (which is, you know, probably a good thing), “Igby Goes Down” is the story of an insufferably bratty, conceited great white hope (Kieran Culkin) who happens to also be pretty funny and correct in his brattiness. When Igby and family get together, bad things happen, whether it’s his godfather (Jeff Goldblum) punching him for sleeping with his mistress, describing his brother (Ryan Philippe) as a fascist, or his mom…well, better not to say, even though matricide is the first thing to happen in the movie. Oh, but it’s a comedy. And, as the clip below reminds us, it’s hardly the first time a Culkin brother has made a movie about families on edge:

The Tyrones, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (1962)
Of course, some families have problems beyond getting on each other’s nerves. Eugene O’Neill’s nerve-wracking play — so devastating he stipulated in his will that it wasn’t to be performed til 25 years after his death — is the cheery story of two sons (both alcoholics), a father (ditto) and mother (morphine) gathering for an average 1912 day to repeatedly rip each others’ failings apart. I suppose, all grumpiness aside, most families are a good thing; if you want to feel better about your family for real, this is the way to go.

[Photo: “Home for the Holidays,” MGM Home Entertainment, 1995]

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com 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….

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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.

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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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