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Thinking Outside the Box

Thinking Outside the Box (photo)

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A week loaded with oh-so-worthy awards season contenders is offset with the comic relief of Jim Carrey’s performance captured flailing, George Clooney’s self-deluded staring, and the teasing promise of an affordable(!) trip to the ballet.

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“The Box”
You could make the argument that if Richard Kelly could only get the whole world to come over to his house and listen to his record collection, he might not feel the need to make films at all. That said, his fall from grace following the flop of “Southland Tales” was so total that he went from the director anointed as the hipster’s David Lynch to the arthouse M. Night Shyamalan overnight. With much riding on this comeback, Kelly has turned to Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button,” previously immortalized as an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” for his source for this story of a mysterious stranger (Frank Langella) who presents a seemingly impossible moral dilemma to a financially troubled suburban couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden).
Opens wide.

“A Christmas Carol”
While the eerily artificial presentation of “The Polar Express” ultimately didn’t harm its box office numbers, the much-derided “dead-eye syndrome” that inhibited Tom Hanks ensured that Robert Zemeckis’ first venture into the world of performance capture films could only go up, qualitywise. Zemeckis is back for another crack at a Yuletide tale, this time with Jim Carrey donning the green-screen suit to play more than half a dozen different roles in this adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic. Most prominently, he inhabits the role of unrepentant miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who finds himself visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future (all played by Carrey), imploring him to change his ways.
Opens wide in 3D and IMAX.

Have chronicled both the Yes Men and the enchanting directorial exploits of Wisconsin’s own Mark Borchardt, filmmaker Chris Smith continues to gravitate towards indelible misfits and their attempts to get the world’s attention with this documentary portrait of noted doomsayer and self-described investigative reporter Michael Ruppert. Employing the same stream-of-consciousness confessional format as James Toback’s recent “Tyson,” Smith’s film takes the form of a series of grimly disturbing monologues in which the former Los Angeles police officer makes his case for the camera as to how our misguided energy policy and unregulated financial industry will ultimately bring about the collapse of western civilization.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on November 13th.

“La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet”
Let’s face it, even in a good economy, the high ticket prices of a ballet performance ensure that the closest most of us will ever get to see some pirouetting is tossing “Billy Elliot” into the DVD player. But now, thanks to legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman, we don’t just see the stage, but get to peek inside the hallowed halls of the Paris Opera for an intimate look at the world-renowned Ballet de l’Opera National.
Opens in New York.

With awards season in full swing, a quick glance at some of the potential Oscar-baiters confirms that this year apartheid is the new Holocaust. Focusing on the revolution as opposed to the conflict, “Vantage Point” director Pete Travis’ adaptation of journalist Robert Harvey’s book plays out far away from the political turmoil in South Africa in an idyllic country manner in Somerset, England. Brit thesp Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as ANC information director (and future South African president) Thabo Mbeki, who amidst tense negotiations with the National Party discovers a kindred spirit in Will Esterhuyse (William Hurt), a white university professor.
Opens in limited release.

“The Fourth Kind”
You’ve only got to look at the business “Paranormal Activity” is currently doing to understand why filmmakers return time and again to “found footage” and “documentary reenactment” as the medium of choice for their no-frills thrill rides. (It’s bloody cheap, for starters.) This feature debut from director Olatunde Osunsanmi (a Joe Carnahan protégé) announced itself via a meta-movie viral marketing campaign featuring star Milla Jovovich as herself. The Ukranian actress stars as Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist investigating patient reports of alien abduction in the sleepy town of Nome, Alaska. Maybe we’ll get really lucky and they’ll take her husband.
Opens wide.

“A French Gigolo”
Striking a more somber note than her other recent works, this bittersweet romance from French author, actress and filmmaker Josiane Balasko offers a wounded take on the adage that money can’t buy you love, but it does allow you to rent it for a little while. What begins as a simple business attraction between Judith (Nathalie Baye), a wealthy but lonely divorcée, and Marco (Eric Caravaca), a married, working-class gigolo, gradually evolves into a deeper emotional connection, highlighting the many parallels and the hypocrisies that exist between marriage and prostitution. In French with subtitles.
Opens in New York.

“Make The Yuletide Gay”
The latest from queer cinema director Rob Williams, this gay relationship drama once again showcases that, as far as cinema is concerned, Christmas is little more than an excuse to accumulate a few hundred pairs of socks and a naff sweater from Grandma, and engage in a row with your family. Keith Jordan fronts this mug of Christmas cheer as Olaf “Gunn” Gunnunderson, a gay college student who retreats into the closet when he goes home for the holidays, only to be dragged out kicking and screaming by his boyfriend (former “Degrassi: The Next Generation” star Adamo Ruggiero), who shows up unexpectedly on the Gunnundersons’ doorstep.
Opens in Los Angeles.

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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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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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