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Michael Winterbottom’s Psycho “Killer”

Michael Winterbottom’s Psycho “Killer” (photo)

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Michael Winterbottom is a fast talker. Which seems in character — he’s also a quick, prolific filmmaker, tirelessly turning out a movie a year in genres ranging wide, from meta-literary adaptation “A Cock and Bull Story” to hardcore romance “9 Songs” to 2008’s Colin Firth-led family drama “Genova,” still without a distributor. His newest — for now — is “The Killer Inside Me,” itself one of two films (along with Naomi Klein-based documentary “The Shock Doctrine”) he had showing at Sundance this year.

It can be hard to imagine people getting incensed about on-screen violence in our hardened times, but “The Killer Inside Me” has the dubious distinction of managing just that. Adapted from a Jim Thompson novel, the film’s an exhilarating, nihilistic kick-to-the-teeth of a noir tale with a star-filled cast, centered on and narrated by small-town sheriff Lou Ford (played by Casey Affleck) whose explosive affair with local prostitute Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba) brings out a hidden dark streak a few miles wide.

A scene in which a woman is savagely, graphically beaten has made the film a hotly discussed point of controversy since that first Park City screening, during which there were reportedly more than a few walk-outs. I got a chance to talk with Winterbottom before the film played at the Tribeca Film Festival, where, perhaps better warned, the audience mostly stayed put. [SPOILERS follow]

06172010_killerinsideme12.jpgJim Thompson is one of those writers people tend to say is very difficult to put on screen. Do you agree? Did you have any sense of that before going in to this adaptation?

When I read “Killer Inside Me” — and I think it’s a great book — what interested me was that you could actually make the film as literal as possible. You could almost use the book as a script. So in that sense, it wasn’t difficult. The plot kicks in right at the beginning, about five pages [in].

Lou Ford has met Joyce Lakeland. He’s hit by her, hits her back, has sex with her, falls in love with her. It’s a good, fast start to the story, and Thompson keeps that pace going all the way through, and also writes great dialogue. So actually, one of the attractions of Jim Thompson was that it seemed easy to make a film of his book.

06152010_killerinsideme01.jpgWe’re told by Lou how he’s perceived by the town, but from our perspective, he takes a dive into the dark side, as you say, very quickly. How internal is the film supposed to be?

It’s difficult. When you read the book, obviously it’s Lou Ford telling the story, and as it goes on, you become more and more aware of how unreliable a narrator he is. We tried to keep that element in the film, so it starts off with his voiceover. You’re aware that this is Lou’s point of view. He’s in every scene — you never really see what’s going on when he’s not there, so that reinforces that it’s his version of what happened.

Film obviously feels more objective than a book does. You’re less aware of the unreliable nature of what you’re seeing in a film. Within the film, there are a few moments, like Lou looking to camera, where we try to give a slightly uneasy possibility about him and his awareness of this being a story.

I wanted to keep the idea that this is a fiction, very closely based on a book that has a lot of fictional elements to it. And this is a story being told within that book, by someone who’s not necessarily telling absolutely the truth. I hope people see this as Lou’s version of the story, but I didn’t want to push it to the extent to which it’s a post-modern “it’s all a story, it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to worry about it.”

06152010_killerinsideme05.jpgYou’ve made films that play with unreliable narrators and levels of storytelling before, and I didn’t feel this was in that realm — but at the same time, it’s so rich with noir tropes, noir characters, that there does seem to be a sense of remove, of occasional air quotes, maybe?

By the end of the book, when it all goes into flames, you’re very aware that the person telling you the story is dead — that is a noir convention. But, especially in the book, you feel [all along] you’re going to get some outside perspective on Lou, or realize this is where Lou is now and he’s repented, he’s writing this from his cell… Instead it just keeps going and going. One of the great things about the ending is you’re expecting it to come to some other sort of conclusion and he just carries on and does even bigger things.

There’s also a wish fulfillment element about the end — he wants to be caught, he wants to die, he wants to bring everyone down with him. Setting fire to his dad’s house is symbolically cathartic because he’s been living in the shadow of his dad, the pillar of the community.

So there’s a sense that it’s a fantasy ending, but it’s not as though there’s a real story that’s different from that. I did an adaptation of “Tristram Shandy” which was very playful — I didn’t want to do that again. In this case, I wanted to be as literal and straightforward and unplayful as possible in terms of trying to just film the book.

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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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