DID YOU READ

“Shame,” reviewed

“Shame,” reviewed (photo)

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Michael Fassbender has become something of a sex symbol this year. I’ve personally witnessed more than a few ladies (and at least a couple guys) swoon over his rugged good looks and smoldering eyes in movies like “Jane Eyre,” “X-Men: First Class” and “A Dangerous Method,” and for those folks, “Shame” must sound like a gift from heaven. Fassbender naked? A lot? Like, a lot a lot? It’s true, but Fassbenderholics should be careful what they wish for. They’ll get plenty of man candy in “Shame,” but it’s bound to leave a bad taste in their mouths. Is “Shame” sexual? Yes. Is it sexy? Not so much.

Fassbender plays Brandon, a New York City office drone whose stylish clothes and suave pickup moves mask a crushing addiction to sex. Brandon might be able to seduce a woman on the subway with nothing but a look, but behind closed doors he’s a total mess. His house is filled with porn, his office computer is “filthy” with viruses, and he blows actual dates with real women to have sex with prostitutes. Things only get more difficult for Brandon when his needy sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to town for a visit. Brandon avoids and ignores Sissy’s calls for as long as he can, then resents her when she decides to move in with him. The way they argue, wrestle, converse in the shower, hint at possible incest, and suggest that Brandon’s issues and Sissy’s distress have a shared root cause.

But what is that root cause? Some fellow critics I’ve spoken to complain about “Shame”‘s economy of character detail. They’re frustrated by the lack of information about Brandon and Sissy’s lives before the film begins. They want to know why they’re so screwed up. I respectfully disagree. “Shame” is a movie about sex addiction, but it’s also about denial. It’s clear something terrible happened to Brandon and Sissy, but it’s also clear whatever it was inflicted such brutal psychic damage on these siblings that they still haven’t come to grips with it. Why should the movie acknowledge that trauma if the characters themselves can’t?

More importantly, I didn’t miss that backstory because I was so entranced by “Shame”‘s beautiful but unsettling present. Its co-writer and director is Steve McQueen, the creator of “Hunger,” the film that made Fassbender an international star. Though that film was set in an Irish prison, and “Shame” takes place on the streets of New York, it feels no less claustrophobic. Brandon is trapped by the city and its temptations. In one powerful, unbroken shot, Brandon leaves his apartment (at 9 West 31st Street — McQueen’s Manhattan is wonderfully real and very specific) and jogs all the way to Madison Square Garden. But wherever Brandon goes, he can’t outrun his need.

Fassbender bares his body repeatedly in “Shame” but the way he bares his soul is even more impressive. Because McQueen and Abi Morgan’s screenplay offers Brandon so few places to talk about his true feelings, it’s all left to Fassbender to convey with wordless gestures. The only intimate relationship Brandon has with anyone in “Shame” is with McQueen’s camera. Scenes like the one where he stands alone on a pier silently overlooking the Hudson River are where Fassbender truly reveals it all.

“Shame” is the first movie from a major studio in a good long while with the dread NC-17 rating, which prohibits anyone under the age of 17 from paying to see the film and restricts the places where a movie can be advertised and even exhibited. The president of Fox Searchlight, Steve Gilula, said that he saw the NC-17 as “a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter” and I hope he’s right. Though it contains plenty of nudity and sex, “Shame” is not a titillating erotic drama. It’s a serious character study and exploration of addiction, exactly the sort of movie the NC-17 was created to promote instead of restrict. If adults miss it because of a rating, that would be a real shame.

“Shame” opens Friday in limited release. If you see it, let us know what you think. Leave us a comment below or write to us 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

via GIPHY

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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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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