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“The Stunt Man” On Blu-ray: The Ultimate “Double” Feature

“The Stunt Man” On Blu-ray: The Ultimate “Double” Feature (photo)

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We don’t think much about stunt men in this business because we’re not supposed to think much about stunt men. But consider what it must be like to risk your life on a daily basis, doing the things they won’t let a guy who looks like a more rich, famous, and handsome version of you do because they’re too dangerous, with no shot at riches, fame or additional handsomeness. That inequity — stars getting adoration for things a stunt man does — could drive a man crazy. And maybe that’s what I like best about Richard Rush’s film “The Stunt Man,” out today for the first time on Blu-ray. It may not be the most accurate depiction of Hollywood moviemaking, but it’s a very believable depiction of the mind of a stunt man. On a bad day, it must feel like the world is out to kill you.

Admittedly, Rush had a lot more on his mind when he made “The Stunt Man” than just plumbing the depths of a body double’s soul. “The Stunt Man” is a classic passion project: overflowing with ideas, bursting with ambition, bloating under the weight of its loose ends. It’s an action film, a deconstruction of action films, a movie about movies, a love story, an anti-war film, a meditation on how perception colors reality, and a Biblical parable about a director as an all-powerful God and a stunt man as his Job-like test subject. “The Stunt Man” isn’t just a movie; it’s every movie. It’s an action director trying to make his “The Tree of Life:” an attempt to distill the totality of the universe and filmmaking into a single microcosmmic story of a single Hollywood production.

That production is run by Peter O’Toole’s mad and madly charismatic film director Eli Cross (O’Toole reportedly based his portrayal on his “Lawrence of Arabia” director David Lean). A grungy Vietnam vet and fugitive from the law named Cameron (Steve Railsback) wanders into the middle of Cross’ movie shoot and accidentally causes the death of a stuntman. Since he can’t afford for the police to shut him down, Cross makes Cameron a deal: replace the dead stunt man and he won’t turn him over to the cops. With no other options, Cameron agrees. But working for a director so unfazed by the death of one employee makes him wonder: would he care at all if it happened again? And with an already damaged psyche from the war and its aftermath, Cameron isn’t in the best frame of mind to be jumping from buildings, leaping from explosions, or play fighting guys with machine guns. One way or another, this job will kill him.

Rush’s presentation of a movie set is less informed by the realities of filmmaking than a cynic’s perverse nightmare of it. Action sequences of the film-within-a-film stretch to near-satirical length and feature long takes of such complexity and barely organized chaos they would make Martin Scorsese howl with jealousy. But it all makes sense when you realize you are seeing this place not as it truly is, but as it appears to one very screwed up and bewildered veteran. The role of point-of-view in film is just one of the many elements of cinematic syntax that Rush gives a good tweaking; note the POV shot early in the film from O’Toole’s perspective as he munches on an apple and delivers the line “That’s your point of view.”

With his autocratic demeanor and penchant for floating in and out of scenes on a camera crane, it’s easy to read Cross as some sort of deity (his last name certainly helps too). Of course, you can also read him as a stand-in for Rush. After all, the themes of Cross’ movie are the same as Rush’s, and the two men seem to share a similar stance on war and a similar obsession with this material. But we should also note that if “The Stunt Man” has a villain, it’s Cross, and that it takes a far more sympathetic view of its lowly stunt man than its brilliant but cruel director. If the film is autobiographical, it’s also a stinging self-critique.

Even as it flails around with aspirations to high art, “The Stunt Man” is still a blast to watch; it has pretentions, but it’s not pretentious. Rush keeps us in the dark about Railsback’s crimes and O’Toole’s motives, inviting us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the confusion. Characters are rarely what they seem, and motivations shift constantly, even within individual scenes. That means even at its worst — and some of Railsback’s love scenes with Cross’ leading lady (Barbara Hershey) are pretty painful — it is always an engaging mind-fuck.

The same goes for the new Severin Blu-ray of the film as well. New exclusive features include a delightful, rambling O’Toole recollecting the making of the film, plus interviews with Rush, Railsback, Hershey, and co-star Alex Rocco, and a post-screening Q&A at L.A.’s New Beverly Theater. The most entertaining extra, though, is one from the long out-of-print collector’s edition of the first “Stunt Man” DVD. Entitled “The Sinister Saga of the Making of ‘The Stunt Man,'” it features unbelievably entertaining anecdotes from the long and messy production and unbelievably cheesy video editing effects of said anecdotes as Rush himself recites them while he walks around his mansion, or gasses up and then flies the camera around on his private jet. The inside baseball details and casual declarations of massive ego (and, y’know, the ride in the private jet!) are so collectively absurd, that the film rivals the mad vibe of Robert Evans’ audibook of “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” “The Sinister Saga” is sort of the perfect sequel to “The Stunt Man:” another messy, passionate statement destined for cult status.

“The Stunt Man” is available today on Blu-ray or DVD from Severin Films. Are you a fan? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter and Facebook!

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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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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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