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A Vacation to Australia As Close As Your Local Theater

A Vacation to Australia As Close As Your Local Theater (photo)

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Although much attention has been paid in recent years to video on demand and DVDs as a way of bringing the world closer together through film, there has also been innovation on the theatrical front that has some interesting implications for expanding the availability of foreign fare in the U.S.

Once exclusively the province of film festivals and the handful of distributors that specialize in releasing foreign films on the big screen, two companies have seized the opportunity this summer to approach foreign film from a different perspective — by bunching them together and showing them at locales that might not have access to them otherwise.

Just this past weekend, the Joel Edgerton-Radha Mitchell adoption drama “The Waiting City” opened at the Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables, Florida, the third film featured in the first season of Emerging Pictures’ 2010 USA-Australian Film Showcase, a series of Outback-based films that will be appearing in U.S. theaters quarterly. After stops in places as diverse as Vermont and New York, the showcase will get its biggest launch at the end of the week at three of the Laemmle theaters in Los Angeles with weekend screenings of the Geena Davis drama “Accidents Happen” (Aug. 14-15), the Paul Hogan comedy “Charlie & Boots” (Aug. 21-22) and finally, “The Waiting City” (Aug. 28-29).

The showcase was the brainchild of Emerging Pictures partner Barry Rebo, whose company has made great strides in bringing indie film, opera and classic films to arthouses through digital projection. After spending some time down under, Rebo approached the national film entity Screen Australia with the idea to import a few award-winning films, along with some of the country’s wine for American consumption. When a test run in San Francisco last year with the films “The Unfinished Sky,” the Joan Chen drama “Home Song Stories,” and “Kenny” proved popular, the new series was born.

08092010_accidentsHappen.jpg“As cinemas or cultural centers reinvent themselves as destinations, the idea of film and wine is really quite wonderful,” said Rebo, who noted that two-thirds of the venues playing the USA-Australian Film Showcase were licensed to sell alcohol. “We think this is an interesting way to improve the ambiance of going to a screening.”

Yet if you haven’t heard, Australian film is having about as good vintage as the wine these days, with the Blue Tongue collective making international waves with noirish thrillers like “The Square” and “Animal Kingdom.” Unfortunately a film like “The Waiting City” doesn’t have as much of a compelling commercial hook as crime for American distributors to take a chance on, despite scoring positive reviews at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and even boasting recognizable actors in Mitchell and Edgerton. But as part of a series, it will likely show off the depth of Australia’s current filmmaking talent.

Even if you’ve missed the first season of the showcase, the next batch of celebrated Aussie films will be hitting theaters in September, and Rebo admitted there are talks underway with cinema entities in South Africa, Argentina, Chile and Israel to give other countries’ films similar treatment.

08092010_SoloQuieroCaminar.jpgAlso underway this week is the Maya Indie Film Series, which is in its second go-around with an odd mix of Latino-themed American-produced indies and foreign imports from Mexico, Spain and Brazil. Unlike the USA-Australia Film Showcase, the Maya series appears to have an eye on the home video market first with a model much like After Dark’s annual Horrorfest, which corrals “eight films to die for” and gives them a one-week theatrical run to share with alternating times before ultimately lining the shelves of Blockbuster. Still, there are discoveries that are best found in a theater.

There are only six films in Maya’s series, nearly all of which boast actors who will move units as rentals, but might not necessarily sell tickets on their own — Michelle Rodriguez stars in the biopic “Tropico De Sangre” about Dominican activist Minerva Mirabal; the Juarez murder drama “Backyard” comes from “El Crimen de Padre Amaro” director Carlos Carrera, starring Jimmy Smits and Ana de la Reguera. However, the real find by Maya’s programmers is the breezy “Solo Quiero Caminar,” a heist flick from Spain that has Diego Luna fronting the poster, but really belongs to a quartet of actresses (Elena Anaya and Victoria Abril, among them) who play a band of rough-hewn broads who see an opportunity for a better life by swindling a drug syndicate.

The series has already passed through Dallas and Washington D.C., but is currently playing in New York with runs scheduled for Chicago (Aug. 13-19), Miami (Aug. 20-26), San Diego and Los Angeles (Aug. 27-Sept. 2).

[Additional photos: “Accidents Happen,” Image Entertainment, 2010; “Solo Quiero Caminar,” Maya Entertainment, 2009]

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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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