DID YOU READ

“The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu,” reviewed

“The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu,” reviewed (photo)

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We perceive documentaries as records of truth; these things happened, the camera recorded them. “The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu” is a record of a lie. Yes, these things happened, and yes, the camera recorded them. But why did they happen and how? And what was going on when the camera wasn’t around? Because of its unusual structure, the film doesn’t say. But attentive viewers will realize this “autobiography” presents an incomplete view of history.

It comes from the perspective of Nicolae Ceausescu, Communist dictator of Romania from 1967 to 1989. A man with a taste for the spotlight, Ceausescu rarely missed an opportunity for a photo opportunity, and he filled his nation’s official archive with hundreds upon hundreds of hours of himself at work and play. The footage is extensive but not comprehensive: lots of speeches and meetings with foreign heads-of-state, occasional travels abroad or hunting expeditions, but no mentions of food shortages or public demonstrations against his regime. Director Andrei Ujica screened all of it and assembled this three-hour film. There is no voiceover and no interviews with experts or historians, just 180 minutes of a life lived inside this impenetrable bubble of peace, prosperity, and propaganda. If you had no outside knowledge of Romanian history, you might be taken by surprise when Ceausescu’s end comes, seemingly out of nowhere. From his insanely warped perspective, he was a great leader caught in a sort of modern day Greek tragedy. Near the end of “The Autobiography,” after Ceausescu’s been deposed, he responds to the allegations that he ordered the execution of protestors by insisting “What you’re saying is all lies, mystifications, provocations!” One of the most interesting things about “The Autobiography” is the fact that it suggests Ceausescu not only fabricated his own reality, he bought into his own self-inflating mythology as completely as anyone else. This guy didn’t just read his own press clippings, he shot footage of himself reading his own press clippings and smirking while a bunch of lackeys stood around applauding.

Of course, beyond the boundaries of Ujica’s frame were real tragedies which afflicted the people of Romania for decades. But Ceausescu’s Communist media machine didn’t record them, so they don’t appear in the film. Aside from one very vocal critic who pipes up to protest Ceausescu impending reelection in front of Congress and is quickly and aggressively shouted down, there isn’t a single voice of dissent in the entire movie. Instead, we watch the small cracks begin to form in the facade of Ceausescu’s carefully constructed fantasy world. The crowds for his public appearances start to thin out. They still applaud for him, but not so intensely. Some of the sequences are just surreal. On a visit to California, fabricated realities collide when Ceausescu tours the backlot at Universal Studios. He appears to be taking very careful mental notes.

Ujica’s film is a major accomplishment for historians and documentary scholars and it is a powerful indictment of politically manipulated media. At three hours it’s also really, really long. Occasionally, I grew a little weary of the endless parade of contextless footage of dignitaries and state functions. With my limited knowledge of Romanian history, and without a narration or intertitles to guide me, I’m sure a lot of Ujica’s subtler points went right over my head. I began to believe the director could have made his point just as powerfully in half the runtime. But upon further consideration, the size of the movie reflect the size of its subject’s ego. Both are a little bloated.

“The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu” opens today in New York City. If you see it, tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Stan Diego Comic-Con

Stan Against Evil returns November 1st.

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Photo Credit: Erin Resnick, GIFs via Giphy

Another Comic-Con International is in the can, and multiple nerdgasms were had by all – not least of which were about the Stan Against Evil roundtable discussion. Dana, Janet and John dropped a whole lotta information on what’s to come in Season 2 and what it’s like to get covered in buckets of demon goo. Here are the highlights.

Premiere Date!

Season 2 hits the air November 1 and picks up right where things left off. Consider this your chance to seamlessly continue your Halloween binge.

Character Deets!

Most people know that Evie was written especially for Janet, but did you know that Stan is based on Dana Gould’s dad? It’s true. But that’s where the homage ends, because McGinley was taken off the leash to really build a unique character.

Happy Accidents!

Improv is apparently everything, because according to Gould the funniest material happens on the fly. We bet the writers are totally cool with it.

Exposed Roots!

If Stan fans are also into Twin Peaks and Doctor Who, that’s no accident. Both of those cult classic genre benders were front of mind when Stan was being developed.

Trailer Treasure!

Yep. A new trailer dropped. Feast your eyes.

Catch up on Stan Against Evil’s first season on the IFC app before it returns November 1st on IFC.

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Grow TFU

Adulting Like You Mean It

Commuters makes its debut on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Jared Warner, Nick Ciavarella, and Tim Dean were once a part of Murderfist, a group of comedy writers, actors, producers, parents, and reluctant adults. Together with InstaMiniSeries’s Nikki Borges, they’re making their IFC Comedy Crib debut with the refreshingly-honest and joyfully-hilarious Commuters. The webseries follows thirtysomethings Harris and Olivia as they brave the waters of true adulthood, and it’s right on point.

Jared, Nick, Nikki and Tim were kind enough to answer a few questions about Commuters for us. Here’s a snippet of that conversation…

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IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Nick: Two 30-somethings leave the Brooklyn life behind, and move to the New Jersey suburbs in a forced attempt to “grow up.” But they soon find out they’ve got a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jared: It’s a show about how f*cking stupid people who think they are smart can be.

IFC: What’s your origin story? When did you all meet and how long have you been working together?

Jared: Nick, Tim, and I were all in the sketch group Murderfist since, what, like 2004? God. Anyway, Tim and Nick left the group to pursue other frivolous things, like children and careers, but we all enjoyed writing together and kept at it. We were always more interested in storytelling than sketch comedy lends itself to, which led to our webseries Jared Posts A Personal. That was a show about being in your 20s and embracing the chaos of being young in the city. Commuters is the counterpoint, i guess. Our director Adam worked at Borders (~THE PAST!!~) with Tim, came out to a Murderfist show once, and we’ve kept him imprisoned ever since.

IFC: What was the genesis of Commuters?

Tim: Jared had an idea for a series about the more realistic, less romantic aspects of being in a serious relationship.  I moved out of the city to the suburbs and Nick got engaged out in LA.   We sort of combined all of those facets and Commuters was the end result.

IFC: How would Harris describe Olivia?

Jared: Olivia is the smartest, coolest, hottest person in the world, and Harris can’t believe he gets to be with her, even though she does overreact to everything and has no chill. Like seriously, ease up. It doesn’t always have to be ‘a thing.’

IFC: How would Olivia describe Harris?

Nikki:  Harris is smart, confident with a dry sense of humor but he’s also kind of a major chicken shit…. Kind of like if Han Solo and Barney Rubble had a baby.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Nikki:  I think this is the most accurate portrayal of what a modern relationship looks like. Expectations for what your life is ‘supposed to look like’ are confusing and often a let down but when you’re married to your best friend, it’s going to be ok because you will always find a way to make each other laugh.

IFC: Is the exciting life of NYC twentysomethings a sweet dream from which we all must awake, or is it a nightmare that we don’t realize is happening until it’s over?

Tim: Now that i’ve spent time living in the suburbs, helping to raise a two year old, y’all city folk have no fucking clue how great you’ve got it.

Nikki: I think of it similar to how I think about college. There’s a time and age for it to be glorious but no one wants to hang out with that 7th year senior. Luckily, NYC is so multifaceted that you can still have an exciting life here but it doesn’t have to be just what the twentysomethings are doing (thank god).

Jared: New York City is a garbage fire.

See the whole season of Commuters right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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C'mon Fellas

A Man Mansplains To Men

Why Baroness von Sketch Show is a must-see.

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Mansplaining is when a man takes it upon himself to explain something to a woman that she already knows. It happens a lot, but it’s not going to happen here. Ladies, go ahead and skip to the end of this post to watch a free episode of IFC’s latest addition, Baroness von Sketch Show.

However, if you’re a man, you might actually benefit from a good mansplanation. So take a knee, lean in, and absorb the following wisdom.

No Dicks

Baroness von Sketch Show is made entirely by women, therefore this show isn’t focused on men. Can you believe it? I know what you’re thinking: how will we know when to laugh if the jokes aren’t viewed through the dusty lens of the patriarchy? Where are the thinly veiled penis jokes? Am I a bad person? In order: you will, nowhere, and yes.

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Huge Balls

Did you know that there’s more to life than poop jokes, sex jokes, body part jokes? I mean, those things are all really good things, natch, and totally edgy. But Baroness von Sketch Show does something even edgier. It holds up a brutal funhouse mirror to our everyday life. This is a bulls**t world we made, fellas.

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Oh Canada

After you watch the Canadian powerhouses of Baroness von Sketch Show and think to yourself “Dear god, this is so real” and “I’ve gotta talk about this,” do yourself a favor and think a-boot your options: Refrain from sharing your sage wisdom with any woman anywhere (believe us, she gets it). Instead, tell a fellow bro and get the mansplaining out of your system while also spreading the word about a great show.

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Dudes, that’s the deal.
Women, start reading again here:


Check out the preview episode of Baroness von Sketch Show and watch the series premiere August 2 on IFC.

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