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Five Things to Look Forward to at the 2011 Seattle Film Festival

Five Things to Look Forward to at the 2011 Seattle Film Festival (photo)

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It would be easy to call the Seattle Film Festival a “best of fest,” a collection of the world’s most impressive films culled from nearly every festival that happened since the 36th edition of the festival ended last June. In purely relative terms, Seattle doesn’t boast a ton of world premieres amongst the 441 films they’ll show during the next 25 days, though SIFF definitely has more than most other festivals half their size. Instead, they bring the world to their doorstep with an unparalleled array of international and regional cinema that makes it a rare and precious event unto itself. Unfortunately, I have just a weekend in Pacific Northwest, where I’ll be reporting from over the next week, but given the amount of films we’ve already seen at other festivals, we can certainly make some recommendations for the fest, which kicks off tonight with a premiere of the drama “The First Grader” and continues through June 12th. (A full schedule can be found here.)

– The festival will pay tribute to Ewan McGregor on May 22nd with the “Trainspotting” actor onhand to discuss his career following a screening of his latest film “Beginners,” which will also bring out writer/director Mike Mills. The honor couldn’t come at a more appropriate time since McGregor’s on a roll and not only will the festival show oldies but goodies “The Pillow Book” in advance of his arrival on May 20th and “Moulin Rouge!” on May 22nd, they’re also screening “Perfect Sense,” his latest collaboration with “Young Adam” director David Mackenzie straight from Sundance that’s a romance set against the onset of a worldwide outbreak of a mysterious virus that robs people of their senses. Unfortunately, the festival itself was robbed of its planned tribute to Al Pacino when he was nominated for a Tony Award, so the McGregor tribute will be an even more exclusive opportunity to hear an actor talk about his craft at the fest.

ToyStoryHawaiianVacation_05182011.jpg-The sheer size of the Seattle Film Festival allows for experiences well beyond the average movie. Angelenos already know about the wonders of Shadoe Stevens’ remixes of film soundtracks from his frequent stops at the Cinefamily, but he’ll be treating folks up north to his E.L.O.-scored version of Douglas Fairbanks’ “The Thief of Baghdad” on May 26th. Meanwhile, cinephiles will appreciate the May 28th screening of all 270 minutes of Portuguese director Raul Ruiz’s historical epic “Mysteries of Lisbon” while families will surely crowd the AMC Pacific Place on May 22nd when the festival will have representatives from Pixar onhand to present the American premiere of a new “Toy Story” short “Hawaiian Vacation” as well as footage from “Cars 2.”

However, the two films that I can vouch for as films to catch on the big screen – or in one case, the really big screen – are Sean Casey’s doc “Tornado Alley” (June 4th and 6th), which sees the “Storm Chasers” star take his act to IMAX as he captures the wonder and devastation of being inside the eye of the storm, and Will Eubank’s “Love” (May 21st, 22nd and June 11th), a sci-fi epic scored by Angels & Airwaves that toggles between the grandeur of outer space and the grit of a Civil War battlefield when an astronaut staves off loneliness by reading the journal of a soldier. Both have incredible stories behind them, as interviews I did with Casey and Eubank attest, and are well worth checking out in the special setting only a festival can provide.

Submarine_05182011.jpg– Two films that would’ve made my top 10 list last year if they had opened in the three months after they premiered at the Toronto Film Festival will just have to wait for this year’s list, though audiences in Seattle won’t have to be as patient to see them. This weekend, “IT Crowd” star Richard Ayoade is scheduled to accompany his beautiful and brilliant directorial debut “Submarine” to the festival before it opens in limited release on June 3rd. Of the proud British tradition of “Angry Young Men” films, except for the fact its protagonist is but a mere 15 years old, “Submarine” is a rare coming-of-age story that feels completely original even as it burrows deep into one’s nostalgia for the recounting of Oliver Tate’s first love, which corresponds to the marriage of his parents (Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine) falling apart. The film screens May 20th and 22nd.

And while we’re on the subject of sharply funny and expertly observed films, Seattle will also host Spanish madman Alex de la Iglesia’s latest, “The Last Circus,” which follows the story of a man deigned from his youth to be a sad clown under the big top and seeks revenge for his lowly role as the sidekick to the happy (but evil) clown who keeps the acrobat that the sad clown covets under his thumb. For whatever reason, de la Iglesia hasn’t found the same international acclaim as his compatriot Pedro Almodovar, but he’s quite worthy of comparison both in terms of his skill as a filmmaker and his wild tendencies. “The Last Circus” screens on May 28th and 31st.

Without hesitation, we can also suggest Tom Twyker’s highbrow but slightly sleazy love triangle drama “3 (Drei)” (May 20th and 21st), Mike Ott’s modest fish-out-of-water tale “Littlerock” (May 27th and 28th), Rachid Bouchareb’s Oscar-nominated gangster flick “Outside the Law” (May 20th and 28th), Evan Glodell’s epic breakup thriller “Bellflower” (June 1st and 2nd), Dave Boyle’s lovely, delicate road trip comedy “Surrogate Valentine” (May 29th and 30th), and the Swedish black comedy “The Sound of Noise” (June 5th and 9th) about musical terrorists. In the days ahead, expect many more.

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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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