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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Point Blank”

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

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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 is a column with one simple goal: to help you decide what films you need to see before making your end of the year top ten list. Each installment features my thoughts on a critically acclaimed 2011 movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

This time we’re covering “Point Blank,” an arthouse thriller from France. But is this European import important enough to make your top ten list? Let’s find out.

Movie: “Point Blank”
Director: Fred Cavayé
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Plot Synopsis: A nurse’s assistant is blackmailed into helping a criminal escape from the hospital. If he doesn’t do as he’s told, his pregnant wife will be killed.
What the Critics Said: “My nerves are still jangling,” Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“Preposterously exciting,” Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
“A classic Hitchcock plot,” James Rocchi, MSN Movies
Were They Right? Yes, this is a very entertaining and exciting movie, though I’m not sure it’s preposterously exciting. That would imply it’s an exceptional, one-of-a-kind movie, more exciting than any action movie ever made in the history of cinema. Not true, and not true to the spirit of the movie either, which is lean and workmanlike, and not prone to wild bouts of verbal or physical hyperbole.

Let me explain. “Point Blank”‘s protagonist is a man named Samuel (Gilles Lellouche). I was about to describe him as “Point Blank”‘s “hero,” but the fact that Samuel is not a hero is crucial to his character. Samuel isn’t a lunatic cop on the edge or a risk-addicted bomb defuser stationed in Iraq; he’s an assistant nurse in a Paris hospital. He possesses none of the prerequisite skills an action hero requires to survive an action film, save Lellouche’s ruggedly handsome face of perfect, 5 o’clock shadow. As Rocchi mentioned, Samuel is a classic Hitchcockian wrong man: the innocent guy thrust into dangerous circumstances by bad timing and shitty luck. In this case, Samuel just happens to interrupt an assassination attempt on an injured man who’s been brought to the hospital where he works. Other underworld types notice Samuel’s accidental altruism and take advantage of it. They follow him home, beat him into unconsciousness, and kidnap his pregnant wife. Sneak the injured man out of the hospital, a mysterious voice on the other end of the telephone tells Samuel when he comes to, or your wife and unborn child are both dead.

Now this wouldn’t be a big deal if it happened to, say, Liam Neeson — in fact, this is basically the exact same premise as Neeson’s 2008 film “Taken,” except in that case, when Neeson’s character received a similarly threatening phone call from a similar bunch of kidnappers he responds with, and I’m paraphrasing, “Fuck you, I’m Liam Neeson, and I’m going to find you, kill you, rescue my daughter, then kill you some more just because I’m so fucking awesome.” Samuel, unfortunately, is not Liam Neeson. This is the scariest thing that has ever happened to him, and there is no second scariest thing on the list.

Understandably, he reacts with panic. He does what the man on the phone asks, and that only gets him into bigger trouble with the police. The centerpiece of the film is a very long foot chase through the streets and subways of Paris. By the skin of his teeth, Samuel escapes. At this point he’s been running full speed for maybe fifteen minutes straight. Samuel’s no Usain Bolt; he’s not even Liam Neeson. So what does he do? He pukes his guts out.

How often do you see the male lead of an action movie puke? And not because he’s drunk or because his wacky partner poisoned his coffee, but because he is terribly out of shape and scared out of his mind? Almost never. And that’s why “Point Blank” is so much fun to watch. It’s features an everyman protagonist who actually behaves like every man would in this situation. Not the man we’d hope we’d be, buff and confident and unflappable, but the guy we probably are: loyal, loving, and kind of a screwup. This movie is a celebration of ordinariness, not preposterousness.

There are a lot of great plot twists in “Point Blank” I don’t want to spoil, which means I can’t really say much more about the movie. But it’s not a life-changing thriller; it’s not even the best French thriller I saw this year (that title would go to “Sleepless Night,” though that film doesn’t open here until 2012). It could use a bit more character drama to enhance the impact of all that action. “Point Blank” is good. It’s just not preposterously good.

Worthy of an Oscar Nomination For: They don’t give out Oscars for Best Foot Chase, so none, unfortunately.
Chances of Making My Top Ten: About as good as my chances of evading a citywide manhunt if my own wife were kidnapped; in other words, slim to none.
It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: you value pure entertainment in movies over anything else; you think that genre films in foreign languages are automatically more important or more meaningful than genre films made in English.

Previously in Countdown to Top Ten 2K11
“The Arbor,” directed by Clio Barnard
“Cold Weather,” directed by Aaron Katz
“Meek’s Cutoff,” directed by Kelly Reichardt
“Margin Call,” directed by J.C. Chandor
“Bill Cunningham New York,” directed by Richard Press
“Hanna,” directed by Joe Wright

Have a movie you wanted covered in a future installment of Countdown to Top Ten 2K11? Let me know on 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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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 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….


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.


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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