This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Review: “The Last Play at Shea,” Billy Joel and the Mets.

Review: “The Last Play at Shea,” Billy Joel and the Mets. (photo)

Posted by on

Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Billy Joel was the perfect choice to play the last rock concert at Shea Stadium because, as the entertaining though slight documentary “The Last Play at Shea” makes clear, Billy Joel is essentially the New York Mets of rock stars. Joel and the Mets, Shea’s primary tenants for 44 years, have a remarkable amount in common and eerily parallel timelines: Joel’s father, for example, left his family the same month the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn for Los Angeles, paving the way for the creation of the Mets.

The film’s explicit comparisons are mostly temporal, but careful viewers of this slick doc will sense a deeper kinship between the two: memorable and at times miraculous success, debilitating and at times miraculous failures, bad luck, worse decisions and some serious inferiority complexes. The Mets, who live in the shadow of their crosstown rivals the Yankees, have fewer championships (two) than Billy Joel has failed marriages (three) in roughly the same span of time. Many of Joel’s biggest hits — “Piano Man,” “Movin’ Out,” “My Life,” “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire” — are about frustration, disappointment and dissatisfaction, the primary emotions felt by any Mets fan during almost any given baseball season.

Though the film takes its name from Joel’s two-night, venue-closing stand at Shea in the summer of 2008, it’s not really a concert film. Instead, it cleverly weaves highlights from Joel’s shows and the history of the Mets. A mostly nostalgic portrait with a warm voiceover provided by Alec Baldwin and talking heads ranging from Mets greats like Tom Seaver to Joel’s friends like Christie Brinkley, it focuses on the major triumphs of both the team and the artist, never dwelling for very long on the negative side of things.

As a historical document, its treatment of both its subjects is superficial. Seemingly important words and phrases like “Casey Stengel,” “Jerry Koosman,” “The Stranger,” “The Nylon Curtain,” are never uttered. Joel’s third wife Katie Lee appears briefly, but her relationship to Joel is never explained. The Mets’ two World Series defeats (including a soul-crushing loss to the Yankees) don’t come up at all and Joel’s continuing, frustrating retirement from pop songwriting since 1993’s “River of Dreams” is barely mentioned, except for an on-stage acknowledgement that he sold out Shea without putting out an album in 15 years. Realistically, there’s enough material here for two different documentaries and shrinking them both into one 95-minute movie comes at a cost of some depth.

04272010_LastPlayatShea2.jpgWhat is here, though, moves along briskly with fun anecdotes from Joel and the former Mets; I particularly enjoyed learning about Shea groundskeeper Pete Flynn, who tended to the stadium’s Kentucky Bluegrass for every one of its 44 seasons and who, according to Mike Piazza, would watch the occasional promotional events where children were allowed to run on his field boiling with rage at their intrusion. Non-Joel fans might chide director Paul Crowder’s on-the-nose soundtrack selections — his choice, for instance, to score Joel’s interview about his traitorous ex-brother-in-law and manager to the soundtrack of “Honesty” — but they accurately reflect the directness of Joel’s music, which has always been more about storytelling than poetry. If Crowder’s technique is blunt, it’s never more so than his subject’s.

“The Last Play at Shea” strikes a celebratory tone throughout, not surprisingly, given that one of the two primary producers, Steve Cohen, worked as Joel’s live production designer and director for 36 years. (According to Cohen’s statement in the press notes, he developed the film on orders from Joel.) As enjoyable as “The Last Play at Shea” is, there are enough moments of richer insight nibbling at its edges to make you wonder what it would look like if had it been shepherded by folks who weren’t longtime employees of its subject. Its most fascinating segments are the ones that reveal, often indirectly, the darkness in Joel’s life. This is a man who loves music who has been repeatedly hurt by the music business, who’s sold more than 100 million albums but who seemingly can’t stand the way he looks, repeatedly putting down his physical appearance and describing himself at one point as an “unbelievably not good-looking guy.”

Back when it was still around, people talked about Shea the same way; Mets star Darryl Strawberry even calls it “a dump” in the film. They tore that wonderful dump down to make room for the Mets new home, Citi Field. If Shea and Billy are as linked as “The Last Play at Shea” argues they are, that makes you wonder what he will do next.

“The Last Play at Shea” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “The Last Play at Shea,” Spitfire Productions, 2010]

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

G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

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.

Watch More