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“That loving feeling”: Seven movies in which a character tries to win someone’s heart with a public serenade.

“That loving feeling”: Seven movies in which a character tries to win someone’s heart with a public serenade. (photo)

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While the public serenading of someone’s object of desire is not a gesture you tend to see all that often in the real world, at least outside of karaoke parlors, it is a reliable cinematic stand-by. This is probably because it’s a gesture so fraught with the potential for embarrassment and humiliation that it’s safer left on the screen.

So even though the musical is mostly dead and people no longer get described as “crooners,” the serenade’s popularity has seemingly only increased over the decades. Here’s seven of the more memorable ones, involving songs both good and… not so much.

06212010_scream.jpg“Scream 2” (1997)

In the breathlessly sarcastic “Scream 2” — all things considered, slightly snider than the original — everything stops dead for four minutes so that Jerry O’Connell (all grown up from “Stand By Me,” soon to be seen as chum-bait for “Piranha 3-D”) can serenade a freaked-out Neve Campbell in the school cafateria with (of all things) the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” As someone points out, he’s just riffing on Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (when Cruise, Anthony Edwards and a rowdy bar of guys courted Kelly McGillis with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”) — which makes the whole thing, somehow, very funny, even though it’s allegedly being played with a straight face. Campbell gets to smile for a few minutes, but she’s still about to spend the next hour trying not to get stabbed.

06212010_wedding.jpg“My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997)

“My Best Friend’s Wedding” is often noted as one of the more credible romcoms of the ’90s, thanks to a downbeat ending that’s more mature than the usual wish-fulfillment fluff and the behind-the-camera presence of director P.J. Hogan, who made the inexplicably beloved “Muriel’s Wedding.” And this is an archetypal Chick Flick moment, as emblematic in its own way as any number of spontaneous girl-bonding pillow fights or enthusiastic sing-alongs to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Having shanghaied her gay best friend Rupert Everett into pretending to be her fiance, Julia Roberts looks less than thrilled when he leads the whole restaurant in a rousing rendition of the Bacharach/David standard “I Say A Little Prayer (For You).” It’s cute and all, but who wants to have their dinner interrupted that way?

06212010_palm.jpg“The Palm Beach Story” (1942)

One of the most sadly pragmatic movies ever made about the limitations of “true love,” “The Palm Beach Story” has the guts to say what few movies dare: romantic affection is great, but if you and your partner aren’t on the same page financially and one of you isn’t happy about it, the relationship’s quite likely doomed. And so it comes to pass that Paulette Goddard leaves husband Joel McCrea, gets on a train to Palm Beach and meets eccentric millionaire Rudy Vallee — one of the few romantic comedy adversaries just as appealing as as the man who should rightfully have the heroine’s affections. Towards the end, just as McCrea and Goddard are this close to getting back together, Vallee unwittingly effects their reconciliation by gathering the big band together to sing “Goodnight Sweetheart” — after he turns the lyric sheet around from its upside-down position. An intuitive romantic Vallee isn’t. The relevant clip starts at 7:30, though the whole movie’s gold.

06212010_anything.jpg“Say Anything…” (1989)

Of course. A pale John Cusack standing outside Ione Skye’s window, holding a boombox over his head, proving all those hours practicing kickboxing (sport of the future — one of the funnier jokes in the movie) have at least given him some decent arm muscles. The song is Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” and the gesture comes through loud and clear. Here’s a guy who can’t express himself but knows his love is pure enough that it can only be sufficiently conveyed by pop music. Skye tosses and turns, while Cusack stands like an exceptionally depressed mime. The movie’s not particularly visually distinguished (it would take Cameron Crowe a while to figure out what a camera can do besides functionally record performances), but the slow float in towards Cusack is as iconic as the gesture itself.

06212010_ambersons.jpg“The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942)

“In those days, they had time for everything,” intones Orson Welles’ typically sardonic narrator. “Time for sleigh rides, and balls, and assemblies, and cotillions, and open house on New Years, and all-day picnics in the woods, and even that prettiest of all vanished customs: the serenade.” Just like luckless Rudy Vallee in “The Palm Beach Story,” Joseph Cotten too screws it up, though for different reasons: drunk and weaving, he falls over his “bass viol” and smashes it — an affront to the propriety of the Ambersons, whose front lawn is never open to such indignities. 1942 was, apparently, a very bad year for on-screen serenades, though the real story here is that the very old-fashioned nature of that gesture will be made obsolete by film’s end, along with the Ambersons’ very magnificence. (You’re better off just starting at the top of the clip below and rolling with the montage — the movie is, incidentally, unavailable on DVD unless you’re willing to shell out for an out-of-print copy.)

06212010_things.jpg“10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)

One of the few teen comedies released in that strange era in which Freddie Prinze Jr. was deemed fit to be a ubiquitous leading man, “10 Things I Hate About You” has a Prinze-less cast that’s, in retrospect, way overqualified (Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt!). It also features a moment that’s almost transcendent, a true rarity for the genre. Ledger, playing school bad boy Patrick Verona, jacks Franki Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” with the help of the marching band, his performance choreographed — opening slide down a pole and everything — in a way that makes space his to master. It’s Ledger’s show, and it’s a shame that (“The Brothers Grimm” aside), he didn’t have more time to make comedies (or musicals!) before his untimely death.

06212010_role.jpg“Role Models” (2008)

Undoubtedly the worst singer on this list (though to be fair, Cusack let Peter Gabriel do the heavy lifting for him), the ever-endearing Paul Rudd doesn’t have much of a voice or penchant for spontaneous lyrical improvisation. What he does have, though, is an immaculate knowledge of the Kiss musical catalog, which is handy when he needs to woo back his girlfriend Beth with, uh, “Beth” (trivia fiends: this remains Kiss’ highest-charting American single), accompanied by an able group of Renaissance Faire-ish geeks who have their lutes all ready to go. Even more importantly, Rudd — who’s been talking up the importance of Kiss to the poor kids under his mentorship the whole movie — puts his money where his mouth is, proving once again how timelessly romantic Gene Simmons can be. (By which I mean Simmons and Paul Stanley tried to have the song pulled from the “Destroyer” album — drummer Peter Criss sang it.) At the beginning of the movie, Elizabeth Banks calls Rudd an unhappy human being for, among other reasons, not enjoying singing in public, so he has to do this as penance. But that seems like a pretty reasonable prejudice to have.

[Photos: “Top Gun,” Paramount, 1986; “Scream 2,” Dimension Films, 1997; “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” Sony, 1997; “The Palm Beach Story,” Universal, 1942; “Say Anything…,” 20th Century Fox, 1989; “The Magnificent Ambersons,” RKO, 1942; “10 Things I Hate About You,” Buena Vista, 1999; “Role Models,” Universal, 2008]

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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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