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Toronto 2010: “Dirty Girl,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Dirty Girl,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

It wouldn’t be fair to the filmmakers behind “Dirty Girl” to ignore the fact that after it became the film to score one of the richest distribution deals thus far at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, a target was placed on its back. With that said, I now know what it must felt like to have been part of the audience for the film’s first press screening of Joel Schumacher’s drama “Twelve” where it had been jeered and laughed at only to discover days later it had been bought for $2 million. As a comedy, “Dirty Girl” has precious few laughs, but delivers the same sort of shock — I could’ve gone the rest of my days happily without seeing Dwight Yoakam simulate ejaculating on his prized Cadillac with a garden hose during a gratuitous car wash scene or the sweaty striptease of portly newcomer Jeremy Dozier clad in “Flashdance” regalia, doused in water in front of a confederate flag.

If “Dirty Girl” made me feel anything, it was a sense of empathy for the poor people of Oklahoma, where the film is set and the folks are broadly drawn by writer/director Abe Sylvia — and I’m an alum of the University of Texas. Like an extended middle finger to middle America, Sylvia injects as much venom as possible into the story of Danielle (Juno Temple), a promiscuous teen in 1987 Oklahoma whose class assignment of a family tree leads her to look for her long-gone father.

Why she’s doing an assignment like this in high school is questionable, since I remember such projects well behind me by the time the 3rd or 4th grade rolled around, but it’s convenient for the story since Danielle is old enough to drive, which is important when she and her gay classmate Clarke take off in his father’s aforementioned Caddy for California where she believes her pops resides. Unpopular at school and even less so at home where Clarke’s homophobe dad (Yoakam) and Danielle’s Mormon soon-to-be stepfather lay down the law, only the mothers (Milla Jovovich and Mary Steenburgen) care enough to look when they flee Norman.

09182010_DirtyGirl3.jpgDisguised as a satire of quaint Midwestern values, “Dirty Girl” plays out like any angry tirade, where passion soon gives way to lapses in logic and reckless disregard for anything that doesn’t move the story forward. While Dozier and Temple clearly give their all to their roles, the characters are hopelessly inconsistent.

Dozier’s Clarke, the fat kid with jowls like a bulldog who battles with awkwardness at school, is liberated once he’s out on the road, free to proposition a stranger in a gas station stall by complimenting his Bugle Boy jeans (not for sex initially, but where it leads is far more ridiculous). Likewise, Temple’s Danielle spends the first half of the picture taking pride in her sluttiness as a badge of honor, only to be offended when a hotel manager (Brian Baumgartner) suggests she’s a whore in the second, presumably because the film can’t play off of it anymore for cheap gags.

The only reason you can never really know where “Dirty Girl” is headed is due to Sylvia’s ability to take a cliché and overdo it to the point where other filmmakers would’ve stopped — there’s more than one striptease, the ’80s soundtrack heavy on Melissa Manchester is overbearing, and tight closeups are employed for some of the mildest conversations. The height of hilarity in the movie is the changing expressions on the sack of flour Danielle and Clarke carry around as their baby as part of their school assignment, but even then, it’s a case of diminishing returns. (On an unrelated note, the whole film looks like it was shot in a haze, which is even more of a surprise when discovering cinematographer Steve Gainer was also responsible for the excellent vérité look of fellow TIFF title “Super.”)

09182010_DirtyGirl2.jpgOf course, films less skilled technically than this have gotten by on the strength of their script, but “Dirty Girl” subsists on a steady diet of filthy language pouring out of Temple’s mouth and flamboyant dialogue from Dozier, neither of whom can overcome the general strain of nastiness inherent in the material. Sure, we’re supposed to root for Clarke and Danielle to find themselves on the road, but when Danielle tells Clarke early in the film, “I don’t want your AIDS on my couch,” you’d think it would take more than a day or two to become BFFs as they do.

Similarly, no amount of feathered hairdos or break-ins of Teena Marie’s “Lovergirl” (which allows for a sing-along moment on the drive to Fresno) can dress up the fact that “Dirty Girl” is pretty empty at its core, a film that would like to be about self-empowerment when it ultimately reinforces the attitudes that breed self-contempt. Some may call “Dirty Girl” sharp and edgy, and that’s their right, but I found it downright dull.

“Dirty Girl” was picked up by the Weinstein Company and will play once more in Toronto on September 18th.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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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