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DID YOU READ

The ten worst movie moments in 2009.

The ten worst movie moments in 2009. (photo)

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When I’m not blogging, I’m often out seeing the very worst contemporary film has to offer in the name of film criticism. As the year comes to a close, here’s my gift to you, dear reader: ten of the worst moments in ten of the worst films I saw this year. Because life can’t always be positive.

1. Smiley face, “Obsessed”
Steve Shill’s deliriously trashy stalker-white-bitch-fights-Beyoncé-over-Stringer Bell opus earned every penny of its domestic $68 billion haul, if only for confirming that Beyoncé isn’t just capable of dancing in five-inch heels but can win a catfight in them too. For sheer howling stupidity, though, nothing in this formidable avalanche tops the moment where Ali Larter’s obsessed stalker sends Idris Elba an e-mail of a gigantic smiley face. The camera zooms in ominously as evil music plays, and then, in a moment that I presume is supposed to be the equivalent of Michael Myers jumping out with a knife, it winks. Chilling!

2. “Typical Jewish trick,” “12”
I walked into Nikita Mikhalkov’s Russian remake of “12 Angry Men” hoping to see something crassly insensitive, authoritarian and racist — something true to my ethnic heritage, in other words — and it didn’t disappoint. About 40 minutes in, as the jurors are hashing out the case and one man starts advancing a claim of innocence, another snaps “Typical Jewish trick!” Mikhalkov, of course, would claim he’s trying to diagnose and cure Russia’s ills — anti-Semitism being one of the most common and infamous — rather than endorse them. Then again, his film is an unsubtle commercial for authoritarian Putin rule from a man who proudly notes in his biography that his father wrote the Soviet national anthem. We all have issues, I guess.

12282009_beerinhell2.jpg3. Halo, “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”
This long-gestating self-penned ode to the life, times, wit and wisdom of Tucker Max was less offensive than boring, because it doesn’t have the courage to follow through on all of Max’s written beliefs. However, Max’s fictional friend Drew (Jesse Bradford), a bitter wounded nerd who channels all of his aggression into “Halo,” did manage to rise above the dullness. When he bonds with a stripper and learns to respect her because she kicks his ass at “Halo,” it occurred to me that maybe a thousand whiny Judd Apatow critics complaining about how there’s no men out there anymore, just overgrown boys, just might have a point.

4. Underwear, “I Love You, Beth Cooper”
Chris Columbus’ underanticipated return to the realm of straight comedy was so interminable it’s tempting to throw the whole thing on here as one eternal moment that just goes on and on. For brevity’s sake, though, let’s settle on the scene when nerdy Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) — for complicated reasons — is in a car with titular crush Beth (Hayden Panettiere) and she slams the breaks, causing his head to fall onto her thighs with a crotch-eye view of her underwear, which say something like “Hello.” At this moment — and no earlier — does he realize she’s not a sweet, innocent 18-year-old, but actually kind of slutty and therefore not worthy of his pure love. He gets over it, but seriously? He should be grateful.

5. The fire, “Jennifer’s Body”
All of Diablo Cody’s whiffed “Juno” follow-up is atrocious; my friend Matt Noller described it as “Like looking into the face of evil.” He wasn’t being that hyperbolic — and nothing was worse than the moment where an “indie band” (“crappier Killers rip-off with make-up” isn’t actually “indie,” but let’s let that go) has a club inexplicably catch fire as they start playing. Just before the fire, Jennifer (Megan Fox) downs a red-white-and-blue drink that’s supposed to be a Twin Towers joke, and the fire is a direct reference to the Great White tragedy, where 100 people died in a pyrotechnics-induced concert inferno. “Jennifer’s Body” has no idea what to do with these awful events; it just uses them for a couple of allegedly “irreverent” jokes without a point or real punchline, collapsing under the weight of its own fecklessness.

12282009_never2.jpg6. Roses, “Not Easily Broken”
This Bill Duke dramedy is a tepid and much more ponderously pious version of the kind of religious black-oriented melodrama in which Tyler Perry specializes. The big dilemma here is if frustrated husband Dave Johnson (Morris Chestnut) will cheat on wife Clarice (Taraji P. Henson) with (white girl!) Julie Sawyer (Maeve Quinlan). [SPOILER ALERT] In what has to be the mildest case of having “committed adultery in my heart” since Jimmy Carter gave us that invaluable phrase, Dave almost — almost — kisses Julie before realizing it’s wrong, God is angry and heading home. It’s an awfully wussy cop-out for a movie that shamelessly rips “American Beauty”‘s lustful dream sequences, falling rose petals and all. Where’s Mena Suvari when you need her?

7. The stoning of Soraya M., “The Stoning of Soraya M.”
This movie was made with faultless intentions: writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh wanted to draw to the attention of the ignorant that sharia law means women are still getting stoned to death in Iran. Unfortunately, he made a terrible, torpid movie, and the audience for this kind of thing is pretty self-selecting and already informed. In return for reviewing it and pointing out that the climactic stoning was quite a bit like the arrow-cam in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” — plus, said sequence goes on forever, like a cut-rate “The Passion of the Christ” — I was accused by a Canadian conservative alt-weekly of caring about “more vital stuff, like agitating for Leonard Peltier.” Again, please?

8. Modern ladder romance, “What Goes Up”
This ill-promoted Steve Coogan/Hilary Duff romance (you read that right) made my head hurt more than anything else this year, thanks to an editing scheme so incoherent and jumbled it was nearly as cubist Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Even if the damn thing made spatial-temporal sense, though, nothing could’ve warrant the sight of Coogan, as a horny journalist, remembering “Romeo and Juliet” references from earlier in the movie and grabbing a ladder, from which to woo Duff. They don’t consummate this relationship, thank god, but that image alone could send anyone off to a night of drinking.

9. Infusing the souls, “9”
A fraternity friend once told me one of the hazing rituals was locking the inductee in a closet and playing “Purple Haze” at full blast for seven hours; I imagine it felt something like painful, incoherent mish-mash of half-digested “1984” and OMG ROBOTS ATTACKING. But even worse than the sound and the fury was the part where we learn [SPOILERS] that our doll heroes were created by the scientist who invented the killer machines, and who gave them life by breathing his soul into them. Color me metaphysically skeptical.

10. Shit-smear, “Miss March”
A tedious compendium of breasts, dick jokes, men jabbing their girlfriends with forks after they bite down on their dicks during a strobe-light induced epileptic seizure, and so forth, this comedy is, as audiences seemed to sense, a chore. But the standout bit is the recurring gag of what happens when Eugene Bell (Zach Cregger), fresh out of a coma, gets too excited: a big ol’ stream of shit exits his body. This happens fairly regularly, and it looks disgustingly accurate. And isn’t funny.

[Photos: “Obsessed,” Screen Gems, 2009; “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” Freestyle Releasing, 2009; “Not Easily Broken,” Screen Gems, 2009]

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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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