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DID YOU READ

Seven deliberately anachronistic movies.

Seven deliberately anachronistic movies. (photo)

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In a long, fascinating interview with DP Harris Savides at Moving Image Source, Savides — one of the best cinematographers we have — talks about how much of his recent work (“Zodiac,” “Greenberg,” “Milk,” “American Gangster”) has, in one way or another, drawn from the ’70s. There’s a startling side-by-side comparison of a Stephen Shore photo from 1975 above a still from “Zodiac,” which momentarily looks exhumed from the era.

Savides, of course, isn’t the only person who occasionally makes work that seems to have come from another time. Here are seven movies that, one way or another, aspire to look deliberately out of time.

03292010_papermoon.jpg“Paper Moon” (1973)

Perhaps no director has ever been as obsessed with recreating the texture of Old Hollywood than Peter Bogdanovich. Blessed with some power in the ’70s, both “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon” came in period-appropriate black and white. (“Nickelodeon” was going to be B&W too, but the studio forced a color release — you can get it as originally intended on DVD now.) Both movies then distort their surface retroness with all the things the old movies couldn’t show — sex and nudity in “Show,” copious child profanity in “Moon” — but the latter works better. Not as solemnly elegiac (and less confused about whether it’s mourning the end of innocence or merely the end of old Hollywood), it’s a plausible update of the screwball comedy, with new elements — deep focus shots (it looks more like still photos come to life rather than the visual language of ’30s movies), racial tension — rather than a stillborn homage.

03292010_moviemovie.jpg“Movie Movie” (1978)

Before “Grindhouse,” there was “Movie Movie,” which winkingly recreated a ’30s double-bill with jokes (two years after Mel Brooks made “Silent Movie” no less; that’s quick evolution). It’s very specific in its target — not just the ’30s, but movies typical of Warner Bros. at the time, meaning a black and white boxing quickie and a Technicolor musical (not that there were any Technicolor musicals that early on, but let the conflation of the ’30s and ’50s go). The joke’s elaborate and meta in many ways, beginning with an introduction from Mr. ’30s Radio himself, George Burns. It’s directed by Stanley Donen, who — as co-director of “Singin’ In The Rain” — knew quite a bit about Old Hollywood himself. It is, of course, not on DVD. So below is all we have for now:

03292010_tears.jpg“Tears of the Black Tiger” (2000)

There’s way more going on in the head-spinning visuals of “Tears of the Black Tiger” than in the actual plot — with colors as heightened as “Far From Heaven” (suggesting a Sirk homage) butting up against Sergio Leone shoot-outs, being over-the-top isn’t optional, especially when everyone is actually Thai and you’re sort of re-creating “Romeo and Juliet.” (It’s complicated.) But Wisit Sasanatieng takes the genre mash-up a bit further; it doesn’t just look like ’50s Technicolor, but like a degraded videotape of same that then’s been filmed and put back on 35mm. Parsing this stuff could keep you busy for all of graduate school.

03292010_downwithlove.jpg“Down With Love” (2003)

In truth, this affectionate, detail-heavy parody of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson sex farces doesn’t quite get the color scheme right. There’s a definite gap between the modern look and the vintage production design, which suggests a degree of distance. But it’s still a lot of fun, from the elaborate split-screens to Ewan McGregor’s impersonation of the typical dumb American Hudson would pretend to be in disguise. Like many homages, it sneaks in slightly more explicit dialogue than could be done in the past — but, in the case of “Love,” only slightly more so. It really is as fluffy as it wants to be. Warning: clip below has MAJOR SPOILERS. For, you know, a movie that came out seven years ago.

03292010_regularlovers.jpg“Regular Lovers” (2005)

It’s not that shooting in black-and-white is unusual for Philippe Garrel, who — despite starting in the ’60s — didn’t make his first film in color until 1991. But “Regular Lovers” is more than business as usual for the lovably pretentious Garrel. “Regular Lovers” shows us May 1968 and its aftermath in the old box ratio and in black-and-white — not what most people associate with the ’60s, but, in fact, perfectly in keeping with some of Andy Warhol’s work from the era (as Michael Sicinski explains here). Forget all that though: the clip below is sheer joy, a three-minute shot of cinematic Prozac.

03292010_goodgerman.jpg“The Good German” (2006)

Probably the biggest failed experiment in Steven Soderbergh’s gallery of oddities, the plan was to make this post-World War II thriller as it would’ve been in 1945 — black and white, hand-operated boom mikes overhead, no zoom lenses. In return for this dubious fidelity, Soderbergh gets to insert a great deal of sex and violence (Tobey Maguire clearly enjoys destroying his image with some vigorous thrusting early on) that would never have made it in back in the day, then throws in the Holocaust for good measure, pointing out what all those old movies were missing. The problem is that it’s more theoretical than usual: the game actors don’t know how to project and be comfortable when their words are going god knows where. If nothing else, this is a rare chance to see George Clooney without any charisma whatsoever, or to imagine what the end of “Casablanca” would be like if it was just boring.

03292010_house.jpg“The House of the Devil” (2009)

16mm is the new Technicolor, it seems, when it comes to signifying The Past, especially if you’re doing horror. Rob Zombie used it for “The Devil’s Rejects” and “Halloween II”; Noah Baumbach digs it for a ’70s vibe, as Savides discusses, most memorably on “The
Squid and the Whale.” Once a cheaper stock for indie kids, it’s now a fetishized tool for grain and a retro look. Ti West pushes that about as far as he can in “The House of the Devil,” which is as meticulous as any film on this list but on a smaller scale (I particularly like the vintage campus pizza parlor). As far as faux-time capsules go, the only thing that gives it away is that it’s way, way better than most of the ’80s slashers it ostensibly resembles.

[Photos: “Zodiac,” Paramount/Warner Bros., 2007; “Paper Moon,” Paramount, 1973; “Movie Movie,” Warner Bros., 1978; “Tears of the Black Tiger,” Magnolia, 2000; “Down With Love,” 20th Century Fox, 2003; “Regular Lovers,” Zeitgeist Films, 2005; “The House of the Devil,” Magnet Releasing, 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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