“Whisker Wars”: The Recap of America’s Beardsman

“Whisker Wars”: The Recap of America’s Beardsman (photo)

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Bearding is a sport. The competition is fierce, the mustaches are waxed, and the beards are very very long. Welcome to “Whisker Wars,” where we go behind the scenes and into the world of competitive facial hair growing. We will be recapping each episode of this season, so if you miss an episode, we got you covered.

The first person we meet in the premiere episode of “Whisker Wars” is Phil Olsen, founder and self-appointed captain of Beard Team USA. While you may be able to name a few Olympic athletes, soon you will be able to name every member of the team who are growing beards for America. Olsen reminds us that the global field of competitive bearding has been dominated by Germany for far too long. Now there is one year until the next world competition in Norway and the upstart Beard Team USA is hoping to unseat the champions. To prepare the team for battle, Olsen is staging the first ever U.S. national championship in Bend, Or. His ringer in the competition? Jack Passion, the first American to ever take gold in the Full Beard Natural category of the global competition. And Jack didn’t just do it once, he did it twice. Now Passion has decided to turn his fame into a career. What color is his parachute? Professional bearding. Based on his credentials as a world champion, Jack is attempting to become the first bearding professional. To further his cause and help garner sponsors, he wrote a book called “The Facial Hair Handbook.” Unfortunately, the decision to go pro has earned a lot of ire from his fellows bearders, who think Jack is taking himself way too seriously.

For Jack, a win in the national competition in Bend would help cement his title, but victory isn’t guaranteed. He faces some serious competition in Myk O’Connor, of Brooklyn, New York with his full-sleeve tattoos, and full, lustrous beard. Also on the radar? The members of the Austin Facial Hair Club, which features some fantastic beards including Bryan Nelson’s red menace. Complicating matters for Phil as he tries to put together Beard Team USA is that Austin isn’t too wild about Jack. They think Bryan should have taken his crown during the competition in Alaska and they hold a grudge. Also in Austin is bearded politician Allen Demling who wants to follow in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps, but with a much much bigger beard.

Out in California is Aarne Beilefeldt whose long beard is frequently kept in a ponytail in order to stay out of harm’s way as he maintains his wooded property and stays well off the grid (except for the tv crew crowded inside his small cabin, of course.) Even though Aarne is off the grid, he knows about Jack Passion and doesn’t hesitate to take a few jabs at the reigning champion and his professional pursuits.

A gallery opening in New York City dedicated to the art of the beard brings many of the competitors to Manhattan. When Jack spots a portrait of his Austin-based beard rival Bryan, he takes a moment to talk a little smack. Unfortunately, a few Austin Facial Hair Club boosters are in the crowd and seize the moment to further the ill will between the parties. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Back in Austin, the club members remind us of how hard it is to eat with a beard. Ribs? Nope. Only Melitus Callahan-Barile with his Alaskan whaler beard can manage to scarf down a few of Austin’s famed barbecue ribs. While the Austinites are eating, Jack Passion is getting his game face on. He’s back in San Francisco and is getting ready to compete in the San Francisco Beard and Mustache Competition. One unexpected contender? Austin’s Alex Laroche with his freestyle beard. They play nice and bid each other luck, but even though they are competing in different categories, Alex has a plan to take Jack down. In this competition, the crowd picks the winner. So when Alex throws his popularity behind a rookie, he hopes the crowd will follow. They do, and Jack goes down.

Jack is shaken by the loss, because he felt the crowd voted against him just to see someone else win. Phil Olsen hoped to cheer up his star by arranging an opportunity for Jack to seek advice from world freestyle beard champion Willi Chevalier. Chevalier suffered a tragic accident that almost cost him his famed beard, but he fought back and reigns supreme. Chevalier offers Jack some words of wisdom, but Jack makes a controversial decision: He’s not going to compete in the national championship. He claims his decision to host the competition is to give someone else the chance to win, but Austin sees it as a sign of fear. Yep, they think Jack’s scared of Austin.

At the national competition, the whisker warriors get ready for battle. They will compete in different categories, including mustache, partial beard, full beard, and freestyle, but all their beards will be judged on sheen, style, length, fullness, and luster. Austin’s Alex Laroche is angling for the crown in freestyle, but Willi Chevalier has come for the one title he does not have yet. Willi takes it easily with his perfect, complex beard. The full beard category has the fiercest contenders: Bryan Nelson, Myk O’Connor, Allen Demling, and Aarne Bielefeldt. To the shock of the Austin crowd, Bryan is ousted before the finals. Allen Demling takes second place to do Texas proud and then in an upset, Aarne Bielefeldt beats Myk and the rest of the crowded, bearded field. This is Aarne’s first win, but it’s a hard blow for Myk. Instead of beating crushed by the defeat, though, Myk is more determined than ever to be at his best when Beard Team USA takes the stage in Norway.

“Whisker Wars” airs on IFC on Fridays at 10:30 p.m. ET

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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