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Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2012 full report, from “The Hobbit” to “Cabin in the Woods”

Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2012 full report, from “The Hobbit” to “Cabin in the Woods” (photo)

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When Harry Knowles, the Grand Mufti of movie bloggers, has a birthday party he does it up big. It starts with the Internet’s most die-hard cinemaniacs filling out an elaborate application for a coveted, assigned seat at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Theater, and ends with intense film junkie bragging rights.

The event, appropriately called Butt-Numb-a-Thon, is a (more than) 24-hour movie marathon mixing hard-to-find vintage prints and first looks at forthcoming films. In years past, attendees have had sneak peeks at movies like “King Kong”, “Kick-Ass” and “Hobo With A Shotgun”, as well rare opportunities to see flicks like Disney’s “Song of the South” or Orson Welles’ “Chimes at Midnight.”

This year, after a Friday night kick-off party at an elaborate pinball arcade, the lucky few exchanged tips on how long to wait until drinking coffee (everyone has their own theory) and tried to guess the line-up. This was my second BNAT, but the first one is merely a haze of nachos, laughter and beer breath. I still felt like a noob going into this, and, frankly, a little nervous. It was Saturday at 11:30 am and I wouldn’t be out again til 1 pm on Sunday.

Here’s a rundown of went down.


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Readers of AintItCoolNews (Knowles’ site) know that contributor Eric “Quint” Vespe has been embedded with Peter Jackson’s production of “The Hobbit.” As such he could not be there, so offered a “happy birthday” video of messages from the set. Sir Ian McKellan appeared in costume as Gandalf the Grey and, through the magic of cinema (and some pyrotechnics in the theater) Vespe appeared in the flesh. A nice reunion for he and Knowles, but for the rest of us he brought the first ever peek at the trailer for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” As a gag, he handed the hard drive containing the trailer to frequent BNAT attendee Elijah Wood to bring to the projection room, adding “keep it secret, keep it safe.”

We were asked not to get too specific with the description, but hearing the music and seeing The Shire I was surprised at the flood of emotions that hit me. It was like seeing old friends. (And something to look out for: a band of Dwarves sing. It’s a thing of beauty.)

The Alamo Drafthouse is known for the fun programming that happens between the films, and Butt Numb-a-Thon is no different. In addition to relevant trailers, this year the audience was treated to one-frame blasts of the movie “Teen Wolf.” The subliminal images of a furry Michael J. Fox’s slam dunks was the gift that kept on giving. Threatening to play “Teen Wolf” is a recurring gag, and this year’s 13th anniversary was actually called BNAT13Wolf on Twitter.

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The first feature to roll was Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.” An odd choice, perhaps, as it is currently out in theaters, but considering its love of cinephilia and invitation to “dream together” it couldn’t be more appropriate.

This led directly to the only 35mm print in the United States of George Melies’ ninety-nine year old sci-fi/fantasy film “A Trip To The Moon.” Watching it after “Hugo”, while you are still holding back the sniffles and willing to take a bullet for Melies, gives the short film an extra jolt of the warm and fuzzies.

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The next feature was the event’s most obscure, a 1930 sci-fi musical (yes, musical) called “Just Imagine.” You’ve never heard of it, but you’ve seen bits of it. . .in other movies. Many of the sets and props were re-used in sci-fi flicks like James Whale’s “Frankenstein” and the Buster Crabbe “Flash Gordon”/”Buck Rogers” serials.

It’s not by any stretch a good film – it a generic Depression-era picture grafted onto sci-fi. Characters say things like, “the only way I’ll be fit to marry her is if I’m the first man to explore Mars!!” Still, there are some odd, subversive jokes (like a baby vending machine) and a surprisingly blunt reference to Henry Ford’s anti-semitism. If you like quips about Prohibition while rockets are zipping through the heavens, this is a movie for you.

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After “Just Imagine” was “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” I’d seen it already in New York, but it is good to be reminded every now and again that not everyone lives in New York. I liked the picture the first time, loved it the second time. (This is precisely how I felt about Thomas Alfredson’s previous picture “Let The Right One In”, so maybe this is a trend to try and squeeze two ticket prices out of people.)

I strongly recommend this movie, and seeing it again confirms that I need to get out an eraser and adjust my end of the year top 10 list. The photography is gorgeous and the script is like a wind-up mechanical automaton (they borrowed it from “Hugo.”) “TTSS” came with a video message, and hearing Gary Oldman say the words “Butt Numb a Thon” with just trace elements of confusion and disdain got one of the biggest laughs of the night.

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This led right to “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” Reaction to this picture was mixed. I liked it for the most part. It’s better than “Pirates 4”, maybe not as good as “National Treasure 2.” I give the action sequences points for a lot of visual panache, even if they don’t really add up to much. For example, there’s a scene where our heroes are running in the woods and getting shot at by canons. It takes the “Matrix” “Bullet-time” effect and cranks it up to a remarkable degree. But it is empty. If feels like Guy Ritchie got hipped to a new technique, was excited to use it, but never bothered to put any depth to the characters or story.

I did not actively dislike “SH: AGOS”, but it is desultory. Jared Harris’ Moriarty is an evil genius because we’re told he is, not because of anything we see him do. I’m pretty sure I saw Noomi Rapace’s big Hollywood debut, too, but other than a moment of sitting in an unladylike pose in her Gypsy gown, I can’t recall a thing she did or said.

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Next was another vintage film, something unavailable on DVD. “The Beast With Five Fingers” stars Peter Lorre at his most bugnuts Peter Lorre-ish, working as one of a number of “kept people” in the service of a rich eccentric in a small Italian village. The other lead is Robert Alda, a composer, small time grifter, lover and all-around good guy who, when the benefactor dies, would like to see the fortune transition smoothly. Some greedy American cousins look like they’re gonna’ get in between Lorre and his Astronomy books, so that’s when the hallucinations and killings start.

The titular “five fingers” are a living hand that runs amok through the compound like an angry version of Thing from “The Adams Family.” The performances (and one-handed classical music selections) are gloriously over-the-top, making this 1946 selection a fun B-picture.

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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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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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