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DID YOU READ

Seven bronze-worthy Olympics movies.

Seven bronze-worthy Olympics movies. (photo)

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Today is your last chance to watch the Olympics on TV; Monday brings the closing ceremonies and the end of the 21st Winter Olympics. Would you like to keep the athletic spirit going all year round? Like, in the movies?

The sad fact of the matter is that most films about the Olympics aren’t very good. Aside from a handful of valorized documentaries — “Tokyo Olympiad,” the controversial “Olympia” — they’re more like a genre you turn to for automatic cheese. Here, then, are seven of those:

02262010_walkdontrun.jpg“Walk Don’t Run” (1966)

I’ve always had a soft spot for this comedy, perfunctorily set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics but better known for showcasing Cary Grant’s last performance. The plot’s a bit of nothing, and it’s all rather sexist and racist. You can get the feel from the trailer, below, which invites us to “Take a trip to the land of the rising fun” before going on to some language jokes that would make Sofia Coppola blush — but it’s pretty fun, despite (or because of) that.

02262010_goldengirl.jpg“Goldengirl” (1979)

This movie was intended as a TV mini-series pilot before it was recut for theaters — it’s directed by the undervalued Joseph Sargent (of the 1974 “Taking of Pelham One Two Three”). The premise is that Curt Jurgens — sinister Teuton — has developed vitamins and hormones to develop a superior breed of person and uses adopted daughter Goldine (Susan Anton, best known for Muriel Cigars commercials) as a guinea pig, priming her to win three gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics — the same Olympics, of course, that the US would end up boycotting. The clip below — a test press conference, with Goldengirl batting questions from pre-recorded reporters and a real-time laugh-track — is smart and surreal. Someone put this on DVD, please.

02262010_running.jpg“Running” (1979)

More American running from the Moscow Olympics that didn’t take from another rarity — Michael Douglas as a corporate lawyer drop-out obsessed with running. IMDb users seem uniformly enamored with this movie, and the ten-minute montage below makes a pretty good case. There’s vintage New York footage from all over the city, Eugene Levy as his friend and a populist rage fit at the welfare office.


02262010_anthem.jpg“American Anthem” (1986)

OK, so the Olympics aren’t just about running. There’s also gymnastics. Like Muhammad Ali — who played himself in “The Greatest” — 1984 Gold medalist Mitch Gaylord (the first American to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics) was given a movie despite a total lack of acting experience. Unlike Ali, he played “Steve” in Albert Magnoli’s follow-up to “Purple Rain,” which apparently traces a standard family-difficulty/love redemption arc. Forget that: dude trains on a bar set up in the forest? That’s hardcore. As Roger Ebert pointed out in a tetchy review, the finale has “dozens of strobe lights flashing incessantly and distractingly behind the contestants. I guess these are supposed to represent camera flashbulbs.” But, as he points out,” have you ever thought what it says about our national IQ that a lot of people believe you can take a flash picture from the 20th row?” Point.

02262010_coolrunnings.jpg“Cool Runnings” (1993)

I couldn’t leave this childhood favorite off. Surely the most sanitized portrait of Jamaica ever put on screen, “Cool Runnings” was loosely based on the first national Jamaican bobsled team, even if everything was predictably made up from scratch. It’s not a great film, but it does have some low-key pleasures — John Candy at his relaxed best, a character named “Yul Brenner” — and hits pretty much inspirational-underdog beat on time. Of course, if you would like to watch it without blowing a Netflix slot, it’s all on YouTube.

02262010_pentathlon.jpg“Pentathlon” (1994)

The movie that answers the age-old question, “What if Dolph Lundgren was in the Olympics?” Eric Brogar (Lundgren) defected from East Germany years ago and is restarting his Olympic career as an American. Unfortunately, his old coach Mueller (David Soul) is out to get him. Mueller was a Stasi official who, post-reunification, has become a neo-Nazi mastermind, which — needless to say — doesn’t actually make sense. The trailer promises that on the Lundgren scale of absurdity, this is pretty much a perfect ten. Just like Mitch Gaylord!

02262010_munich.jpg“Munich” (2005)

I suppose I should include a real movie of sorts here for balance. There’s a lot to love about the first 2/3 of Spielberg’s reconstruction of the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics; for a while, this is as good a ’70s thriller throwback as there ever was, recreating the awful Palestinian hostage-taking and murders of Israeli athletes. (It stacks up favorably against Kevin Macdonald’s documentary “One Day In September.”) Unfortunately, the last third is a mess, culminating in the lowlight of Eric Bana having sex with his wife while having flashbacks to Palestinians killing Israelis. The Olympics aren’t supposed to work like that; spy thrillers neither.

[Photos: “Miracle,” Disney, 2004; “Walk Don’t Run,” Columbia, 1966; “Goldengirl,” NBC, 1979; “Running,” Universal, 1979; “American Anthem,” Columbia, 1986; “Cool Runnings,” Disney, 1993; “Pentathlon,” Live Entertainment, 1994; “Munich,” Universal, 2005]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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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.

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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…

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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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