This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Putting the “I” in film writing.

Putting the “I” in film writing. (photo)

Posted by on

At a friend’s party on Saturday, I talked to a former rabid cinephile who, four years ago, got rid of almost all of his DVDs and effectively quit watching movies. It wasn’t clear whether this was because his life just got too busy or because he got to feeling too overwhelmed. If it’s the latter, I’d completely understand, because the next day I found myself on the way to Lincoln Center’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa double-feature while reading a book about film festivals, and, after the screening, chatting with five people I regularly (generally only) see at rep cinema.

I once heard Jim Jarmusch say, on a panel at SXSW, that (paraphrased) “I don’t have time to see as many as I’d like. I probably only see three or four a week.” I completely understood what he meant by saying that wasn’t a lot — I see a lot of movies, but my enthusiasm’s effectively peaked. Most don’t make much of a dent — I’m mentally dicing them up as I watch them, tucking aside things to think about later and ignoring the dead air that seeps into all but the best films. I see maybe 20 movies in a good year that really knock me out, which isn’t bad at all, but I don’t get very excited anymore. Given that this is effectively compulsive behavior, I enjoy myself, honestly.

I realize this might strike some people as unnerving. Sometimes I agree. Clearly I’m not the only one: Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek spends a good chunk of her last Berlinale dispatch worrying about “the importance of having a life outside the movies”: “You sometimes need to step outside of movies in order to find your way into them.”

Most daily film criticism (in English, anyway) is impersonal; even if the writer has a lively voice and is allowed to use the first person, they rarely stray outside the world of film to tell you anything about how they saw the film, what happened before and after or any related anecdotes it dredged up. Film festival reports may be the only time all year they’re allowed to speak directly about themselves. Gleeful party-recapping interjections — or, more commonly, a melancholy tone with vague hostility directed at the festival as an entity — are a standard feature of these essays.

In “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” Chuck Klosterman explains that most sportswriters despise sports. “The worst part about being a sportswriter is that no one will ever have a normal conversation with you for the rest of your life. Everyone you meet will either (a) want to talk about sports or (b) assume you want to talk about sports… You may have insightful thoughts on the Middle East, but no one will care.”

02222010_fletch.jpgThis tends not to be as true for film critics in my experience — everyone will think you’re an elitist and weird and avoid the topic (one time I told a roomful of people I liked “Zodiac” and they refused to talk to me for the rest of the evening). I’ve toyed with telling people I work in insurance, which late “Fletch” writer Gregory Mcdonald used to do on planes to avoid conversation. (Unfortunately, I don’t look like someone who plausibly works in insurance.)

So I sympathize with Zacharek’s urges to remind us she has a life outside of film, as with all similar essays — when watching movies becomes a job, inevitably it’s a kick to write about anything else. (A lot of the film writers I know are highly literate people in general; they want to write as much as they want access to the movies they’re writing about.) Of course, once you’re on the career path, it can become hard to remind people that — like most anyone who’s not half-witted — you care about more than one thing. The problem isn’t too many movies, necessarily: it’s too much time writing about the movies and nothing but.

But the personal interjection can be a dangerous device, one which often comes off as unduly self-pitying. Unless you’re blogging (hi!) from inside your head all the time (like Jeffrey Wells) and the interjections are a regular attraction, I think it’s a bad idea. It’s true a lot of daily film writing is rote — synopses and adjectives — but that’s just lazy writing. Best to develop a worldview within the actual criticism rather than stop everything cold to remind people you’re not just a viewing automaton.

[Photos: Kurosawa’s “The Revenge: A Scar That Never Fades,” KSS, 1997; “Fletch,” Universal, 1985]

Watch More

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.


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.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

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

Watch More

Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.

Watch More