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Edward Norton’s Hulking absence will be felt in “The Avengers.”

Edward Norton’s Hulking absence will be felt in “The Avengers.” (photo)

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It doesn’t exactly come as a shock that Edward Norton won’t be Hulking out in “The Avengers,” given his famous disagreements with Marvel over the final cut of 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” (in which he backed the film’s director), due to which he declined to do press for the film. If there was any surprise at all, it was that Norton apparently was open to returning to the role.

Unfortunately, Marvel’s move to replace Norton, which was exhaustively reported by HitFix‘s Drew McWeeny over the weekend, further cements his reputation as a difficult collaborator rather than the brilliant actor who lit up screens in “Fight Club” and “The 25th Hour.” And that is a shame.

Perhaps emboldened by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s recent incendiary send-off letter to Miami-bound LeBron James, Marvel’s Kevin Feige broke free of the usual platitudes when dismissing Norton in his bridge-burning statement: “Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”

The strange thing is I can’t think of too many actors more creative or collaborative than Norton, who displayed such skills when he was brought on board “The Incredible Hulk” not only to star, but rewrite the script and “function as an uncredited producer,” according to an Entertainment Weekly report at the time.

07122010_EdwardNortonKingdomofHeaven.jpgNo disrespect to Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and all of the talented ensemble who will be a part of Joss Whedon’s superhero extravaganza in 2012, but none of them have been asked to handle the same workload, though Downey and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau improv-ed their way to a hit. And if you’ll notice, Marvel’s films haven’t seemed as fresh since that success.

But what’s really troubling is Norton once again being tarred as some power-driven egotist when clearly that’s not who he is. Not the guy who rewrote “Frida” for then-girlfriend Salma Hayek for no money or credit when the film went over budget or sweating out two weeks in Morocco, unrecognizable under a mask just so he could work with Ridley Scott on “Kingdom of Heaven.”

I wouldn’t claim to know him well after spending a few minutes with him at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, but what I did gather from how willing he was to promote “Leaves of Grass” was his desire to be the consummate team player — someone who was involved in every aspect of the creative process because he genuinely cared about its outcome and supported his fellow cast and crew.

I regretted using some of my time with him to ask about his reputation since Norton’s unique kind of passion and intelligence is wasted on defending himself, but he nonetheless took the time to explain in the same sensible, reasoned, meticulous manner I imagine he discusses most matters, whether he’s being interviewed or not.

03122010_leavesofgrass.jpgNorton wasn’t being defensive, but direct when he said, “I don’t think people outside the process really genuinely have very much understanding of the process,” before going on to say:

The difference is I think the people who actually understand the process and are confident in their own contributions to it ultimately are the ones who walk out of that and say that’s what it takes to make it good. And these people went through it with me, so now we’re a team. The ones I find who are the most insecure and generally have the least, what I would call real rigor or thought are the ones who get the most defensive about that.

While Norton was only speaking generally, he was referring to a type of commitment that Marvel simply isn’t capable of, if you are to judge them by their actions here, which is ironic considering all that has gone into making a project as ambitious as “The Avengers” into a reality.

If Marvel wants to recast the Hulk, fine — it’s been done before and it’s their film, but at least do it for the right reasons. Fans of Norton can take solace in the fact that maybe we can finally get his adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” Marvel can get Joaquin Phoenix to play Bruce Banner, and everyone will get what they deserve. All I know for sure is Norton himself deserves better.

[Photos: “The Incredible Hulk,” Universal/Marvel, 2008; “Kingdom of Heaven,” 20th Century Fox, 2005]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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