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Disc Covering: “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale”

Disc Covering: “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale”  (photo)

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“He appeared in only five movies. All five of his movies were nominated for Best Picture. He worked with the best actors of his generation. He played one of the most iconic characters in film history. Yet today, most people don’t even know his name.” So read the title cards that open “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and is designed as a corrective to the mass ignorance surrounding one of most overlooked American actors of the 1970s. But does it succeed in revealing the man beneath those iconic cinematic images? Let’s find out.

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale
Directed by Richard Shepard

11092010_cazale2.jpgTweetable Plot Synopsis: A brief documentary on the life actor John Cazale, who made only five movies in short career, all of them nominated for Best Picture.

Biggest Success: Cazale died in 1978 at the age of 42 after a battle with lung cancer. Outside of his five feature films — “The Godfather,” “The Conversation,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” and “The Deer Hunter” — there’s almost no existing footage of him. So fans of Cazale, or at least fans of those movies, won’t see much they haven’t seen before. What you’ll hear, though, are some unique anecdotes and stories from his peers, people like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, and Meryl Streep, who don’t give a lot of interviews (and by a lot of interviews I mean any at all ever) but made time to talk about what sort of man and what sort of actor Cazale was.

11092010_cazale3.jpgBest Moment: Film critics understand the craft of filmmaking, but I don’t think a lot of them truly understand the craft of acting, certainly not in the way that trained actors do. Which is why it’s so great to hear actors like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Buscemi gush about Cazale in “I Knew It Was You.” They can scrutinize his work in ways that outside observers can’t and they pick up on subtle gestures and choices most of us miss. In the section of the film about “The Deer Hunter,” Sam Rockwell and Steve Buscemi assess Cazale’s performance so carefully it will make you look at his role in a completely new way.

Special Features: The DVD from Oscilloscope Pictures includes a commentary from director Richard Shepard about why he wanted to make the documentary and all the great stuff he had to cut to hit the 40-minute runtime that his distributor, HBO Documentary Films, demanded. The commentary’s sort of a double-edged sword: it’s great to learn that Cazale was a passionate baseball who snuck away from the set of “Godfather Part II” to check out games in Havana, but it would have been better to see it in the film. The disc also includes extended interviews with Pacino and playwright Israel Horowitz, an essay on Cazale by critic Mark Harris, and two short films from the 1960s, “The American Way” (1962) and “The Box” (1969), that Cazale starred in and photographed, respectively.

11092010_cazale4.jpgWorthy of a Theatrical Release? At only forty minutes, you couldn’t really release “I Knew It Was You” in theaters. If this film were an bonus feature on a “Godfather” box set, it would be the highlight of the package. As its own film, it’s more an appetizer than a full meal; as wonderful as it is to hear his colleagues speak about him, this documentary is as frustratingly brief as Cazale’s career. People say, for example, that Cazale brought a lot of pain to his performances but we never really learn where that pain came from. Viewers will learn about Cazale the actor, but Cazale the man remains a bit of a mystery. Still, this a must-watch (if not a must-buy) for fans of these movies and for anyone who likes to hear actors talk about acting.

For Further Viewing: an interview about “The Deer Hunter” with director Michael Cimino, who declined to contribute to “I Knew It Was You.” He talks about Cazale around the seven minute mark.

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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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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 and the IFC app.

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