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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Hanna”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Hanna” (photo)

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We’re just two months away from the end of the year and the start of top ten list season. If you’re a hardcore movie nerd like me, you look forward to December with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Making a top ten list is super fun but it’s also super daunting. There are so many movies to see, and only so many hours in a day.

Seeing every single movie released this calendar year is impossible, so you’ve got to pick your battles. That’s where Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 comes in. The goal of this column is simple: as I catch up with the 2011 movies I missed in order to fill out my own top ten list, I’ll tell you whether or not you need to catch up with them as well before making your top ten list. Each installment will feature my thoughts on the movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

Let’s kick things off by travelling to the Arctic, the site of one of the most critically acclaimed action movies of the year.

Movie: “Hanna”
Director: Joe Wright
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Plot Synopsis: A teenage girl named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) trained in the wilderness by her father (Eric Bana) to be the perfect killing machine is sent to civilization to assassinate an evil CIA agent (Cate Blanchett).
What the Critics Said: “An entertainingly nutty action thriller,” David Denby, The New Yorker
“The bad-ass girl-power movie ‘Sucker Punch’ wanted to be,” Christy Lemire, Associated Press
“Almost a terrific movie, or a partly terrific one,” Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
Were They Right? O’Hehir was the closest, though I liked the movie a bit more than he did, I think. I was actually surprised to see the film had just a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, because I’ve read and heard some really strong endorsements on the film; “Hanna”‘s apparently more divisive than I first realized.

My own opinion of the film is somewhat divided as well. The premise is intriguing and some of the action is fantastic (what’s better than Eric Bana taking on four dudes at once? Eric Bana taking on four dudes at once in a insanely long unbroken shot). Less fantastic is the film’s obsession with its own artfulness. With her years of training, Hanna makes everything she does look so easy; why, then, does the movie look like it’s trying so hard? It doesn’t take long for “Hanna” to establish itself as a contemporary take on an old fairy tale. Wright’s allusions to Grimms’ old stories are quite subtle at first — a hero who looks like Goldilocks, a villain who whistles like the Pied Piper — but he keeps piling on more, one after another after another. One character actually says “So off to Grandmother’s house we go!” Another screams “Run little piggy!” The final showdown between two characters takes place on a Big Bad Wolf themed roller coaster in an enormous Grimm-inspired amusement park. It’s like Wright can’t stop himself. Eventually, the subtext overwhelms the text.

Still, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Ronan gives an impressive performance; a bit mannered, but appropriately so, since her character has spent her entire life cut off from the rest of society. She’s equally credible playing confused and cunning. Bana is great too in limited screentime (Blanchett, on the other hand, seems oddly stiff as the Wicked Stepmother character). Alwin H. Kuchler’s cinematography shines in obviously showy moments like Bana’s one-take fight scene and Hanna’s lengthy escape from a CIA safehouse, but he also does a nice job of filling the frame with subtler visual cues for each of the movies numerous locals, from the Artic to Morocco to Germany, so that we always know exactly where we are in any given scene. The Chemical Brothers techno score is used sparingly but very effectively. And Wright puts in all these strange little details that give “Hanna” marvelous texture: a close-up of a young girl’s face so tight we can see the peeling skin on her sunburnt nose; a woman cleaning up the crumbs from her kitchen table in the moments before her murder; an obsessive mercilessly scrubbing her gums until they bleed. I just wish he didn’t go so far overboard with the fairy tale imagery. Hanna, who’s lived her whole life in a complete cultural vacuum and doesn’t know Romeo and Juliet from Sawyer and Juliet, could have picked up on these references.

Worthy of Oscar Nominations For: Original Score, Cinematography
Chances of Making My Top Ten: Very slim.
It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: If you liked “Atonement,” but wished there were more scenes where Saoirse Ronan kicked people in the neck; you reeeeeeally get off on fairly tale imagery.

“Hanna” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Tell us what you think about the film in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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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