DID YOU READ

“Circo,” Reviewed

“Circo,” Reviewed (photo)

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Circus life
Under the big top world
We all need the clowns to make us smile
Through space and time
Always another show
Wondering where I am
Lost without you
— “Faithfully,” by Journey

Those Jonathan Cain lyrics kept flashing through my mind while I watched “Circo,” a melancholic documentary about the slow dissolution of a Mexican circus family. To the folks in the stands, the circus is excitement and thrills. To the men, women, and children who run that circus it’s a job, and not an especially glamorous one, either. Like Steve Perry sang, there’s always another show, and that grind takes its toll.

The family grinding away is the Ponces who have operated the Circo Mexico for decades. Three generations of Ponces work the circus; patriarch Don Gilberto inherited the life from his own father and his three siblings each have their own traveling circuses as well. Though Gilberto runs the business, most of the day-to-day operations are handled by his son Tino, Tino’s wife Ivonne, and their children, who put up the tents, care for the livestock, and perform in the nightly shows. Everyone has to do their part. The younger children put on bootleg “Rugrats” masks and totter around while the older kids perform tightrope and contortionist acts.

Tino’s children are very talented. But they’re also illiterate. Life on the road teaches you how to handle wild tigers and hang gracefully from ropes, but doesn’t provide much time for reading or math lessons. Tino can fix a truck engine but can’t quite figure out how to write his own name. And prospects for the Circo Mexico aren’t great. Their family-run operation isn’t impressive enough to play major cities, so they travel the backroads, performing to dwindling crowds in tiny villages. Debt’s piling up. Director Aaron Schock makes it plain: despite the best efforts of the Ponces, this way of life is coming to an end. And they might not be preparing their kids for when that day arrives.

The Ponces initially look like a charmingly close-knit family, but they’re eventually revealed as a dysfunctional troupe to rival the titular clan from “Capturing the Friedmans.” It’s hard not to draw comparisons between the younger family members and the Circo’s zoo animals, who are caged up, dragged from town to town, and trotted out to perform against their will. And really all the aspects of the circus reflect metaphorically on the Ponce’s problems, from the tightrope Tino walks between his family’s and his wife’s desires, to the contortionists who literally bend over backwards to fit their elders’ expectations, to the “Globe of Death” that ensnares Tino’s brother Tacho even when he tries to make a new life away from Circo Mexico. Schock teases out all these connections with clever visual juxtapositions.

In some ways, “Circo” reminded me of Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan;” it is another meditation on the sacrifices artists make for their craft and their audiences. The Circo Mexico continues to bring pleasure to thousands of people in Mexico, at the expense of the misery of many who operate it. There is something undeniably beautiful and undeniably sad about that. Tino really is balanced precariously between two losing positions: if he leaves the circus, he makes his wife happy but dooms his parents to poverty. If he stays, his kids won’t know how to do anything else when the circus inevitably shuts down. There are no easy answers in “Circo,” just sad realities and dreams slowly dying. But even as those dreams fade, the Ponces endure. And why not? With nowhere else to turn, they don’t stop believing.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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