“Damn!” reviewed

“Damn!” reviewed (photo)

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I always heard that fame doesn’t change who you are, it just makes you more of who you already were. But having watched the transformation undergone by Jimmy McMillan, the New York gubernatorial candidate who became an overnight celebrity last fall thanks to his amazing facial hair, inexplicable gloves, and incessant chants of “The rent is too damn high!” I’m not so sure anymore. When the documentary “Damn!” first meets Jimmy in 2005, he genuinely seems to care that the rent is too damn high for a lot of people. Cut to 2010, and that infamous debate. Millions of YouTube hits later, McMillan has all but forgotten about the campaign in order to focus on cashing in on his newfound stardom. In his defense, the rent is too damn high and he’s got to pay it somehow.

“Damn!” by filmmaker Aaron Fisher-Cohen, gives us 75 minutes inside the viral candidate’s 15 minutes of fame. It is a surreal and depressing place to be. Just as quickly as his successful debate appearance lands him a campaign team of managers and lawyers, McMillan’s shoving them aside for questioning his tactics and moving too slowly to land him lucrative endorsement deals. With the election days away, he refuses to do interviews because he’s too busy trying on $1200 suits or making appearances on Funny or Die. He walks around the streets of New York, desperately hoping someone will recognize him. Sometimes people ask him for pictures. Other times, he’s the one asking if they want to take one.

In other words, the portrait painted by Fischer-Cohen is a sad and unflattering one. You might expect the media to be the most direct target of a film like this, and it’s not like they’re completely innocent of building up and also making fun of this sincere if offbeat individual. But really the film points the finger most squarely at McMillan himself, a funny, charming guy who loses sight of himself at the center of his own media circus. If he ever had any sort of convictions, they all vanish the moment someone offers him a paycheck: in an effort to prove his viability as a commercial pitchman he takes some photographs on spec with a Coke in one hand and a Pepsi in the other. That’s right: McMillan is another politician guilty of flip-flopping. Soda flip-flopping.

Aside from a few fleeting glimpses early in the film, “Damn!” gives us no insights into who McMillan is outside his bubble of Internet celebrity. How’d he become this guy with the weird hair and the gloves and the catchphrase? What did he do for a living? Where is the disabled son he mentions occasionally? The movie doesn’t say. Perhaps that was a choice by Fischer-Cohen made to echo their subject’s own uncertainty about his identity; as evidenced by his Coke/Pepsi photo shoot, McMillan’s sense of self is highly malleable. But it would have been nice if Fischer-Cohen had asked a few tough questions, or gotten to the bottom of the debate over whether The Rent is Too Damn High candidate even pays rent himself.

It would have been nice to learn a little about the real Fischer-Cohen too. How did he find this guy, for example, back in 2005 when he was a total unknown, and why did he start filming him? The lack of answers to all of these questions about filmmaker and subject are what keep “Damn!” from equalling a documentary like “Winnebago Man” as an expose of our viral video infected culture. Still, as a cautionary tale about too much too soon, “Damn!” works reasonably well. The rent may be too damn high, but in this film the price of fame looks even higher.

“Damn!” opens today at New York’s Cinema Village and will be available on DVD next Tuesday, August 16. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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


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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