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2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent

2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent (photo)

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There may be nothing more frustrating to watch as a movie lover than good talent wasted. From our perspective, we felt that frustration way too many times in 2010, as we watched some of our favorite actors squandered in underwritten supporting roles and pointless cameos. Here, now, is our list of the 14 most egregious examples. The point of this list isn’t to bash these actors. On the contrary, we want to shame the filmmakers who had the good sense to hire these brilliant folks but the bad judgment not to use them properly.


Ellen Page in “Inception”

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Take a look at the “Inception” Memorable Quotes page on IMDb. Now search for quotes for Ellen Page’s character, Ariadne. They’re all questions. “Why is it so important to dream?” “Why wouldn’t I wake up?” “Why can’t you go home?” “Whose subconscious are we going through exactly?” And on and on. Page plays the film’s dream architect, the person responsible for designing the worlds the rest of the characters travel through in their sleep. But really, she is the audience surrogate who stands around looking confused and asking questions. So while Page has plenty of screentime in “Inception” it is all a big misuse of her talents. Page is a smart woman, and she’s good playing smart characters: Hayley in “Hard Candy;” Juno in “Juno.” But for all her architectural genius, Ariadne’s a bit of a dim bulb, and that makes her a bad case of miscasting for Page. You might as well hire Babe Ruth in his prime to be your team’s batboy. [MS]


01062010_KnightandDay.jpgPaul Dano in “Knight and Day”
Directed by James Mangold

It’s not unusual for actors known for indie films to take supporting turns in big blockbusters to help pay the bills, but Paul Dano and Peter Sarsgaard, not to mention recent Oscar nominee Viola Davis (who’s getting really good at playing parts that call for her only to crosses her arms and look disgruntled), were likely expecting more when they signed on to “Walk the Line” director James Mangold’s first action film. While Sarsgaard comes off as a standard issue baddie, the real question mark is Dano, who plays a nerdy inventor notable mainly for his oddly stringy goatee. By design, the character and his bottomless battery invention are a bit of a McGuffin, but what’s worse for Dano is having to confront the same dilemma Shia LaBeouf did in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:” having to play the one-dimensional comic relief for major stars (Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz) without upstaging them, even though audiences know he’s capable of more. Dano does the best he can in that department, which means he isn’t able to show the reasons why he was probably cast in the first place. [SS]

Lizzy Caplan in “127 Hours”
Directed by Danny Boyle

While it’s safe to say many of us at IFC.com are firm believers that everyone from the cast of “Party Down” should have their own starring vehicles (see: Adam Scott), Lizzy Caplan should have some genuine gripes about what went down in 2010. After the cancellation of “Party Down,” Caplan saw her unique wit and verve lavished on the thankless role of the rock journalist who captures John Cusack’s heart in “Hot Tub Time Machine” and then appeared in the wordless role of Aron Ralston’s sister in “127 Hours.” One can’t blame Caplan for wanting to work with Danny Boyle, no doubt saying to her agent at some point the old adage, “I’d sweep up in the background to appear in one of his movies.” But that’s basically what she does, appearing for mere seconds in one of Aron’s hallucinations when he’s trapped between boulders. For those that love her, Caplan’s brief appearance almost works because you instantly empathize with Aron for wanting to see more of her. Then again, that’s also the problem. [SS]


01072010_scheer1.jpgPaul Scheer in “Piranha 3D”
Directed by Alexandre Aja

Just how superfluous was Paul Scheer to the narrative of “Piranha 3D?” So superfluous that when the film ran out of money before they could animate his death, they just removed him from the film. That’s right: Scheer’s Andrew, the “Wild Wild Girls” cameraman trapped on a boat surrounded by bloodthirsty fish, doesn’t even get the honor of a cheaply animated piranha murder. He just vanishes into thin air. One minute he’s on the boat with the rest of the cast, the next minute he’s gone, never to be seen — or even mentioned! — again. Director Alexandre Aja just banked on people caring so little about this character they simply wouldn’t notice. Which is too bad, since Scheer, a legitimately funny guy as a member of the sketch show “Human Giant,” probably could have delivered a great comedic death scene. Maybe Andrew can return for this year’s sequel — “Piranha 3DD” — and explain just what the hell happened. [MS]


Rufus Sewell in “The Tourist”
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

In order to explain just how wasted Rufus Sewell was in “The Tourist” I need to SPOIL the end of the movie, so if you’re thinking of wasting your time and money on this film (something I would strongly advise against) you should skip ahead to the next entry on our list now. Sewell plays “The Englishman,” a mysterious character who pops up occasionally during the film. He looks like he’s following Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, but his motives are kept vague. But since he’s Rufus Sewell we figure he’s got to be somebody important. Nope. Turns out Sewell is a nobody who’s been paid to wander around Venice looking suspicious. The fact that The Englishman is a red herring isn’t a problem; plenty of good mysteries rely on red herrings. No, the problem is that the entire movie promises Rufus Sewell is going to do something interesting, and he never does. That’s like having a character talk about his super cool machine gun in scene after scene, then having him reach for a baseball bat when the zombies finally attack. It’s an utter disappointment. [MS]


01072011_dinnerforschmucks4.jpgJemaine Clement in “Dinner for Schmucks”
Directed by Jay Roach

Much like his performance in Jared Hess’ little-seen “Gentlemen Broncos” a year earlier, it looks like Jemaine Clement just decided at some point during the production of “Dinner For Schmucks” that he was going to be in a different movie than the one the rest of the characters were in. On the other hand, that could be considered a byproduct the rangy direction by Jay Roach, which allowed fellow cast members Zach Galifianakis and Lucy Punch to let their freak flags fly as the “schmucks” recruited by Paul Rudd’s corporate climber for his boss’ dinner of shame. Still, in a movie that was set up to be a circus, Clement’s wild, animal-loving conceptual artist Kieran Vollard feels like an elephant in the room, a fact the filmmakers seemed to concede by creating a series of Funny or Die viral videos around him to promote the film, despite the fact that he takes a backseat in “Schmucks” to the less interesting Rudd, Steve Carell and Galifianakis. [SS]

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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.

via GIPHY

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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