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Of Teens and Men

Of Teens and Men (photo)

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Late adolescence has always been the stuff of which movies are made. It’s not just the poreless skin and nubile limbs but the high voltage of early adulthood that naturally lend themselves to cinema — which is why is the films that fetishize the flat affect of their young subjects (think “Juno,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) miss the boat. Say what you will about “Remember Me” and “The Exploding Girl,” both about NYC-based college students, but they burrow past that sardonicism to nudge at the unruly emotions that it veils — albeit with mixed results.

It’s hard to discuss “Remember Me” without divulging the elephant in the room, and that’s a shame. Although this ditty about two pretty, broken lovebirds would never have been a groundbreaker, it might have worked better had it not labored under the shadow of a recent event that should never be pillaged as a deus ex machina and in general has yet to work onscreen. Suffice it to say it takes place in the very late summer of 2001.

Tyler (“Twilight”er Robert Pattinson) has been angry at the world, especially his rich daddy (Pierce Brosnan, as bemused as ever), since his older brother’s suicide. When he seduces NYU student Ally (“Lost”‘s Emilie de Ravin) on a dare after a tussle with her agro cop dad (Chris Cooper), he — you guessed it — falls in love. The ensuing courtship outstrips a lot of celluloid young love because the two recognize their shared, pained bravado (she witnessed her mom’s murder as a child) as something to be shed rather than sported as an accessory. It helps that their banter is relatively agile, with none of the punctuation storm of overly hyphenated phrases and dragging ellipses that dooms so much dialogue. And New York actually seems like New York, with a broad visual range frankly dictated by class, and a genuine score rather than a paint-by-numbers soundtrack. It’s just too bad that the film’s not-unpleasantly soapy plot structure can’t sustain the enormous toll its ending takes.

03102010_rememberme2.jpgAs for swoony Rob, who also takes executive producer credit, he’s far more palatable here than as the sullen Cullen. Perhaps he’s that rare male actor, like the once-dreamy Robert Redford, who takes his cues from his female costar. When acting against dead-eyed Kristin Stewart, he reads as catatonic, but with sassier de Ravin he ramps it up, even allowing the occasional facial expression to tug at his finely chiseled features. That said, he’s so pretty that his beauty distracts even him — like Brad Pitt or Brosnan himself, the verdict’s won’t be in about whether he can actually act until the bloom comes off that rose.

“The Exploding Girl” may also focus on a college-aged boy and girl in late-summer NYC, but it operates on a much smaller, more tolerable scale. Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray, it shares a wistfulness with the strong coming-of-age saga “In Between Days,” which Gray cowrote with his wife, director So Yong Kim. In this film, Ivy (Zoe Kazan) and her best friend Al (Mark Rendall) perch at her mom’s apartment in the last days of their summer break. Though she’s trying to keep it together, Ivy’s boyfriend back at school has grown increasingly distant and the stress is triggering her epilepsy. Al’s concerned, but he’s also concerned with summoning the courage to ask out a girl he fancies, as well as with maintaining his partying pace while remaining a decent houseguest at Ivy’s mom’s. That’s about the sum of it, but when you’re 20 years old, that’s more than enough.

Even as they creep nervously around the big emotions that threaten to swallow them whole, Al and Ivy court a deeper connection with each other and with the world at large. Scenes are a pastiche of small activities, of milkshakes outside of delis and cellphone exchanges drowned out by the exhilarating, lonely cacophony of city streets.

03102010_theexplodinggirl.jpgIn her first starring role, Kazan as Ivy vacillates wonderfully between insecurity and insouciance. She may be girlish, but a formidable womanhood looms as a goal if not an eventuality. She’s careful with her mother and with her beau on the phone — only with Al does she occasionally vibrate with a sweet, easy bossiness.With everyone, however, she is so frustratingly self-contained that her growing sorrow reads as mere social diffidence.

For, unlike the characters in films like Andrew Bujalski‘s “Beeswax” and “Funny Ha Ha,” Al and Ivy are uncomfortable with their discomfort. You get the sense that they are burning for love but are blocked by their fears rather than ambivalence or psychological laziness, that their shambling passive aggression will be replaced by a bold sincerity as they grow up. Shot at oddbot angles and adrift in dreamy reveries and awkward, noisy silences, this film may strike a Mumblechord, but it is distinguished by a sharp, palpable longing that is nothing if not French.

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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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