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Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 2

Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 2 (photo)

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[Find Part 1 here.]

So, once you settled on detective fiction and the hard-boiled film noir take, and then the technology came into being, what specifically about postwar L.A. made you gravitate to that time and place?

Well, for me specifically, when I grew up in the ’70s and stuff, I’m a child of Vietnam. Australia is fairly closely linked to America in lots of ways. I read a lot about WWII and this moral authority that America had during the second World War and how they get to Vietnam and where we are now.

For me, it’s the chance to explore that underbelly of the American dream. It’s about what Hollywood meant–as much of the Golden Age of Hollywood, everything from Gone with the Wind and all that kind of stuff–and what still might carry over from that era. Hollywood kept churning out these bright cheerful movies, but the film noir guys were trying to show what was behind the lights. So, that was a really interesting thing for me to pursue.

That’s a very good point. I feel like what happens after all these soldiers come home, some get married, have two kids, and get a job and a car. But, other have darker urges that maybe the war uncorked.

Yeah, totally. Things like “The Best Years of Our Lives,” which I only saw about five years ago. It was an amazing movie. Guys coming back from the war. Some of them go back to model marriages and can’t live in them. Some of them come back with their arms shot off and all that kind of stuff. The girlfriend turns up at the station and doesn’t want to know. There were some amazing pieces like that made at the time, that have kind of fallen by the wayside–even though that won an Academy Award at the time.

L.A. is a city that can be interpreted so many different ways. It’s where you go to become a Hollywood star but also that whole idea of lost souls that resonates there, too.

Yeah. I really like it as a city, but for some reason, I feel like it’s one of the loneliest places around, too. And one of the reasons for that, I think, is because it is a particular kind of 20th Century city. You think about New York and it’s kind of built on the European model in a way; it’s like the grid but it’s different.

Then, you have L.A, which is this kind of vast sprawl coming from the idea of “give everybody their home and give them part of the dream.” But you have to connect that up with freeways, which means that everybody has no central connection to the city. And, just because they did that, the downtown area isn’t a real hub. I always thought it was the most interesting part of town, because everybody ended up so faraway from each other and they just let it rot.

And a lot of cities around the world, Sydney especially, kind of adopted that model, the L.A. kind of model. And it’s interesting to see how people try to reconstruct it. And now in L.A., they’re reconstructing downtown and trying to make it the center of the city all over again. It’s kind of an experiment and I don’t know how it’ll all work out.

That remains to be seen, I think. Since this is a project that draws really heavily on film noir, and maybe some hard-boiled detective literature novels. Can you talk about what some of the influences that you might have pulled into the creative process?

Yeah, I think we have a bunch of things. I always start with literature. I read Hammett and Chandler a lot when I was a kid and just loved that kind of sense that you could boil something down that tightly. I always wondered why, Chandler especially, didn’t write more books. He seemed to get tied up in screenwriting.

James M. Cain, I started reading after I saw some of the movies made from his work, like “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” And then I’m a huge fan of James Ellroy, who I think writes better dialogue or the most modern form of dialogue than anything else currently around. So that’s where we were inspired from literature. And what we do here is we have film nights of all the old film noir movies.

We make the teams sit there and watch them. And that’s everything from “M” and all the way through to “House of Bamboo,” and “The Sweet Smell of Success” in the ’50s. Recently, we’ve gone through “Double Indemnity” and “Out of the Past.” So, all those kind of movies. We’re just trying to grab as much as we can from all those kind of things. And like I said, the interesting thing about that is how they use the lighting and the amazing way they used dialogue, I think. You rarely see a dialogue-heavy film like that anymore.

I’m going to go off on two tangents here, so please forgive me. The first one, I was wondering if you ever read any Robert B. Parker? Robert B. Parker, he wrote the Spenser novels. They started out popular in the ’70s. Got turned into a TV show in the ’80s. He’s very much in the Hammett/Chandler kind of thing.

Oh, OK. No. I’d like to read them.

It’s good stuff. It’s a little bit more modern because it obviously takes place post-Vietnam. But he made everything feel like classic hard-boiled/noir and the dialogue is very snappy. The themes are kind of the same, too.

The other guy I really love is James Lee Burke. I just think that guy is incredible. Incredible prose. If I could write one paragraph as good as that.

The other tangent I had was how film noir is pretty much a genre that’s pretty much disappeared nowadays for whatever reason. But I don’t know if you ever saw that movie “Brick.” It’s with…

Yeah. I did. I loved it too. Yeah. It’s funny. Because it’s sort of like film noir dialogue in high school.

The thing I love about that movie is it takes a classic film noir plot device, which is the illegitimate pregnancy, and it places it in a social sphere where that kind of transgression still matters. Nowadays, people get pregnant out of wedlock. They have abortions. It’s not a big deal. But, in high school, it’s still like, “oh my God, this is a scandal.”

Yeah. And, back in the day, divorce was still a crime. That was usually the big one that a lot of the movies revolved around. And they’re also using the cigarette plot device which is almost like a matchbook, isn’t it? Like what the particular brand of cigarette is and all that kind of stuff. A very clever film, I think.

Yeah, very much so.

Great performance by the lead guy in it as well.

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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.

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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…

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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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