DID YOU READ

We are so incredibly Emmy-nominated right now.

We are so incredibly Emmy-nominated right now. (photo)

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We are very proud to announce that IFC received two Emmy Award nominations this morning for our six-part documentary series “Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut).”

The show is up for Outstanding Nonfiction Series, and directors Bill Jones and Ben Timlett have been nominated for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.

We produced “Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut)” to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Monty Python’s groundbreaking television show on the BBC on October 5, 1969.

The docu-series kicked off on IFC on October 18, 2009 and featured all-new interviews and candid commentary from Python creators John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, archival footage and interviews with the late Graham Chapman, and celebrity fans, including Jimmy Fallon, Eddie Izzard, Lorne Michaels and Dan Ackroyd.

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” never received an Emmy nomination, and so we’re particularly proud to be able to share this honor with the Pythons and their many, many fans.

Here’s a clip from “Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut)”:

Trump Funny or Die

Art of the Spoof

Watch Johnny Depp, Jack McBrayer, Patton Oswalt and More in Funny or Die’s Donald Trump Biopic

Johnny Depp just got very classy.

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Photo Credit: Funny or Die

We’re barely halfway through February, but this year’s Too Many Cooks Award for the most bizarre comedy project is already a lock. Blindsiding the world with greatness without any warning, Funny or Die released a 50-minute Donald Trump parody starring an unrecognizable Johnny Depp as Donny.

Ron Howard introduces this “lost” 1988 TV movie adaptation of Trump’s how-to manual The Art of the Deal produced with the retro quality of a Wendy’s training video. Along for the big hair and shoulder pads flashback are Patton Oswalt, Alfred Molina, Todd Margaret‘s Jack McBrayer, Andy Richter, Rob Huebel, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and Michaela Watkins as Ivana — as well as many Reagan-era surprises like a cameo from that loveable cat eater ALF and a theme song by Kenny Loggins.

Much like Eric Jonrosh of The Spoils Before Dying and The Spoils of Babylon fame, “Trump” writes, directs, and narrates his own epic tale of real estate wheelings-and-dealings. Check out the trailer below, and head over to Funny or Die to watch the full Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal movie before the real Donald sics his army of lawyers on Will Ferrell and company. (For more bizarro Johnny Depp characters, be sure to catch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this month on IFC.)

What to Watch on IFC in July

What to Watch on IFC in July (photo)

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“Freaks and Geeks” may have only lasted one season, but the comedic talent creators Paul Feig (now executive producer of the US version of “The Office”) and Judd Apatow (who’s been ruling recent comedy with “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”) has been going ever since. IFC is proud to present the series in its full glory — all 18 episodes, three of which never aired in its original run.

Not only did “Freaks and Geeks” launch the careers of James Franco, Jason Segel and Seth Rogan, but it accurately and heartbreakingly reflects the joys and hardships of getting through high school (in this case, during the very start of ’80s). Revolving around two different groups of kids — the stoner “freaks” and the D&D-loving “geeks” — the series portrays teen years, not an unpopular subject for a TV show, in a way that defies all cliches. Check out “Freaks and Geeks” when it premieres Friday, July 2nd at 11pm following back to back episodes of “Whitest Kids U’ Know.”

310x229_turistas23.jpgAlso, if you couldn’t take the time off or round up the funds to get away, IFC has a special vacation package to kick off the month on Thursday, July 1st. Starting at 8pm, check into “Motel Hell,” featuring a crazed couple who kidnap visitors and plant them in their garden. Then jump on board for “Turistas,” where backpackers in Brazil find out the locals have their own deadly agenda. Finally, catch “Cabin Fever,” Eli Roth’s terrifying debut about a flesh-eating virus that seriously ruins a trip for a bunch of college students.

Plus, tune in for all new episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. We’ve got more antics from the comedy troupe beginning Monday, July 19th at 7:30pm. Check out the schedule for all showtimes of Flying Circus this month.

310x229_hostel.jpgPREMIERES THIS MONTH:

    • HOSTEL Aside from starring in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” Eli Roth is a well-established director of horror films. Roth followed up “Cabin Fever” with this terrifying film about friends backpacking through Europe who are enticed into a hostel filled with beautiful women which turns out to be something far darker than they expect. Premieres Fri., 7/02/10 @ 12:00am.

    • LORD OF WAR Nicholas Cage plays an illegal arms dealer trying to balance his family and career while a federal agent is on a hunt to track him down. Also stars Bridget Moynahan and Jared Leto. Premieres Sun., 7/04/10 @ 7:55pm.
    • MANHUNTER This early thriller from Michael Mann (“The Last of the Mohicans,” “Ali”) is based on “Red Dragon,” Thomas Harris’ prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.” It follows an FBI agent (William Petersen, formerly of “CSI”) on his quest for a serial killer as he seeks the help of one he already put away, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox). Premieres Sun., 7/18/10 @ 7:55pm.
    • AFTER DARK MY SWEET An ex-boxer who recently left a mental institution falls for a widow, and they both get caught up in a kidnapping scheme. Stars Jason Patric and Rachel Ward. Premieres Mon., 7/19/10 @ 12:00am.

“Suddenly…”: Seven different salutes to the Odessa Steps scene.

“Suddenly…”: Seven different salutes to the Odessa Steps scene. (photo)

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Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film “The Battleship Potemkin” boasts the double-edged distinction of containing a sequence so famous — the “Odessa Steps,” part of the very ABCs of film history — that people who’ve never seen the movie are intimately familiar with it, the same way everyone’s seen a rocket launch into the moon’s eye-socket even if they don’t know it’s a Méliès short.

The steps sequence, which you can watch, with the Pet Shop Boys’ new soundtrack, here, is famous for its effectiveness, its pioneering use of montage, its striking violence, and of course, its bit with the baby carriage. And because of this, it’s been ripped off, homaged, parodied and appropriated in dozens of ways. Here are seven of the best examples of the way it’s trickled down into the culture.

06142010_untouchables.jpg“The Untouchables” (1987)

Brian De Palma is as diametrically opposite a filmmaker from Eisenstein as you could imagine. No fast editing or montage for him — he favors the long, cool gaze, preferably in slow motion. The most cynical movie of his career (and, for some reason, one of his rare hits), “The Untouchables” contemplates Kevin Costner’s preening Prohibition agent Eliot Ness as he chases down bootlegger and crime king Al Capone (Robert De Niro). The big shoot-out, set in Chicago’s Union Station, does two things. It allows De Palma to destroy montage theory (filming it in elegant slow-mo as opposed to with fast, dynamic cutting) and it lets him taunt the audience. “Okay,” he seems to be saying; “worried about that baby? Fine. The baby can live. Everyone else will get shot though. Happy now?” The cuts to the blond-haired urchin seal the deal.

06142010_vaccuum.jpg“Brazil” (1985)

There are plenty of good reasons for Terry Gilliam to parody “Potemkin” with a vacuum cleaner in place of a baby carriage. It plays nicely into “Brazil”‘s skewed hierarchical world, where the mundane has been elevated into the sublime and ducts are the highest architectural embellishment. In the film’s satiric rendering, the death of a loud, annoying house-cleaning accessory is as tragic as the snuffing out of an infant. But according to Gilliam on the commentary track, “this is what happens when I get bored” during shooting — he claims his elaborate shot parodies were made up to kill time. Gilliam’s compared the over-designed frames and sight gags of his work as being in part inspired by Mad magazine’s old trick of including cartoon gags in the margins of unrelated pages. His invocation of “Potemkin” is intended in the same spirit. (Skip to about 7:30 in the video below.)

06142010_partner.jpg“Partner” (1968)

In Bernardo Bertolucci’s third film, characters say things like “Advertising is a servant of fascism” and mean it. Loosely inspired by Dostoyevsky’s “The Double,” “Partner” stars Pierre Clementi as two doppelgangers, both of whom happen to be assholes. The revolutionary rhetoric leads to one of the film’s more amusing bits. Clementi and his theater students stand on a staircase, put an explosive in a baby carriage and push it down the stairs. When it doesn’t go off (presumably some kind of metaphor), they run around releasing red colored smoke into the air while making noises that sound a lot like a six-year-old imitating an airplane. While I couldn’t track down a video of that bit on YouTube, I did turn up this sequence, which contains the strangest song you’ll hear this week:

06142010_bullets.jpg“When Nature Calls” (1985)

Troma release “When Nature Calls” is a movie that, to get to a mere 75 minute runtime, had to be padded at the front with three faux-trailers, beating “Grindhouse” to the punch decades early. One of those is “Baby Bullets,” about a gangster baby. It’s ridiculous, but contains a “Potemkin” sight gag that’s inventive — the carriage goes down the stairs, but it’s actually a small car, with the baby whizzing past everyone, including the glasses woman. The rest is forgettable — much better is the full-length trailer for the whole film, which includes excerpts from “Raging Bullshit” (I’m sure you can guess what that’s a spoof of), a dead-on visit to the “Asylum for the Terminally Jerry Lewis” and a cameo from G. Gordon Liddy.

06142010_critic.jpg“The Critic” (1994-95)

This one’s brief but worthwhile: a down in the dumps Jay Sherman — his show canceled, his life purposeless (well, more so than usual) — decides to revisit his film school days and screen his student short. We’re invited to snigger at all the tropes of the unwatchably pretentious art film, which include salutes to the “Potemkin” baby carriage as well as “The Seventh Seal” (the title “L’artiste est Morte” is a dead giveaway), before Jay calls himself “Prometheus Sherman” and hangs himself. As far as art school parodies go, it’s as wan as “Art School Confidential” (it’s shooting fish in a barrel, and no one really does this), though the Kool-Aid jug morphing into a mushroom cloud is a nice touch. Jay, of course, is honest with himself: “I know,” he shrugs. “It stinks.” (Skip to 1:28 if you’re in a hurry.)

06142010_catastrophe.jpg“Une Catastrophe” (2008)

In his book “The Great War and Modern Memory,” Paul Fussell proposes that the essential mindset of the 20th century is to live in perpetual wartime, used to the fact that there’s never global peace. Jean-Luc Godard would probably agree — the opening “Inferno” montage from 2003’s “Notre Musique” posits as much. If you don’t have ten minutes to spare (or the patience to give Godard ten minutes) on that clip, here’s the just-over-a-minute short “Une Catastrophe,” whittled down from the same material, and reappropriating “Potemkin.”

06142010_naked.jpg“Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994)

By the time Leslie Nielsen’s no-brow “Naked Gun” franchise got around to parodying “The Untouchables” (back in the day when you could assume audiences remembered a movie from seven years ago — now our rapid-response parodies are a lot faster, and generally poorer for it), “Potemkin” didn’t really have anything to do with it. Instead, we get sight gags, the most inspired of which is O.J. Simpson doing a touchdown dance with a baby (three months later would come the murders and the white SUV and the trials, retroactively changing the tone of the movie). The parody doesn’t so much mock De Palma’s ponderousness as simply raise the absurdity quotient until it achieve comedy, two degrees removed from the sequence that started things.

[Photos: “Battleship Potemkin,” Kino, 1925; “The Untouchables,” Paramount, 1987; “Brazil,” Universal, 1985; “Partner,” New Yorker Films, 1968; “When Nature Calls,” Troma, 1985; “The Critic,” Sony Pictures Television, 1994-95; “Une Catastrophe,” Viennale, 2008; “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult,” Paramount, 1994]

“The Wind in the Willows,” take umpteen.

“The Wind in the Willows,” take umpteen. (photo)

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Of all the children’s books that have cycled through different movie permutations without anyone ever getting it 100% right, “The Wind in the Willows” may well be the strangest. Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 pastoral is one of the few things involving talking animals that doesn’t insult anyone’s patience, a super-nostalgic celebration of the Country Life, English style (we don’t go out into the Wide World).

It’s been adapted umpteen times, mostly by the British. The most prominent American version to date — the half-hour cartoon produced by Disney in 1949 — was titled “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” celebrating the most “American” (the brashest, most technologically enthused, most derisive of tradition) character. When Terry Jones’ frankly adorable version was finally released in the US, they retitled it that just for safety’s sake.

The news that a new adaptation — live-action and animatronic — will start shooting this fall isn’t surprising (it’s been a whole four years since the last attempt), but it will mark a rare American foray onto this most quintessentially British property. The director will be Ray Griggs, perhaps best known as the man behind this charming little ad:

This would seem to indicate Griggs is not the most liberal guy on the planet, so why he’s messing around with a rethinking of an original property in which “the animals join forces to save their land from a sinister plot that threatens to destroy the uneasy truce between the peaceful animals of the Willows and what remains of Mankind” is anyone’s guess.

06102010_wind.jpgThe rejection of CGI, at least at this point in development, is in keeping with the spirit of the book, which is charmingly anachronistic — and, it has to be said, every single previous adaptation has taken its cues from that stance. There are peaceful stop-motion versions, somewhat shoddy-looking animated ones (Rankin-Bass, natch), the Disney prototype, and — of course — the dearly departed Disney World ride.

My favorite version remains that Jones movie from 1996, which is too little known. It’s a de facto Monty Python reunion (everyone’s there except the late Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam, for obvious reasons). I started watching it to refresh my memory for this post and could barely turn it off.

The Monty Python guys were all fully trained in the Oxbridge university system before setting out to change how humor could work, and this version is one of their few unironic, genuinely nostalgic takes on the British past they set out to trash, while still being distinctively in the old Python rhythms.

[Photos: “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,” Disney, 1949; “The Wind in the Willows,” Disney, 1996]

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