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DID YOU READ

Susan Sarandon on robot rights in “Robot & Frank” and her “Cloud Atlas” role

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In the new film “Robot & Frank,” Susan Sarandon plays a librarian coping with the near-future implications of a world in which print material is quickly going the way of the dinosaur, soon to be replaced with digital data. The only person less at ease with the shift from physical books to virtual information is her library’s last remaining customer, Frank (Frank Langella) — an aging former thief whose creeping Alzheimer’s has made every trip to the library a unique experience.

It’s a heart-warming — and occasionally heart-wrenching — film written by Christopher Ford that has a fair share of surprises for its audience, as it drifts away from the expected tropes under director Jake Schreier, who makes his feature debut with the movie. According to Sarandon, those surprises were a big part of the project’s appeal.

“When I read the script, I didn’t know where it was going,” Sarandon told IFC during the press junket for the film. “I loved the take they had on the future. I met with the director, who was incredibly excited, and I saw his reel, which was very fun and different. I was filming another big movie at the same time, but they worked out the dates and I thought why not give them a shot? Let’s jump in.”

And jump in she did, adding even more star power to a film that’s now generating quite a bit of buzz on the festival circuit. While Langella’s character and his evolving relationship with his robot caretaker (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) are the focal points of the story, characters played by Sarandon, Liv Tyler, and James Marsden also factor prominently in the film.

“You look at the cast, and you look to see who’s in the cast and maybe there’s someone you haven’t worked with before, someone you know, which was the case in this,” explained Sarandon. “I’d worked with Jimmy before and I knew Liv and I knew Frank a little bit, but I’d never worked with him. He’s great.”

“You can tell by the casting the tone of what’s going to happen, and then you just jump,” she laughed. “You throw caution to the wind and hope that some part of what they discuss in their vision ends up happening.”

Sarandon said it was also the “near future” setting of the film that piqued her interest, which presents a softer version of sci-fi in what is essentially a futurist, sci-fi movie set not too far down the road.

“It was described to me as being in the future, but really the future hasn’t turned into the Jetsons the way we thought would happen,” she explained. “But at the same time, look at how we’re giving every piece of information about ourselves to everybody. Nobody thought that would happen unless a police state happened, and instead we just joyfully hand it over.”

“I think sometimes that what you project is going to be the future, some of those shinier things don’t happen, but a lot of it did,” she continued. “I think [‘Robot & Frank‘] is a very realistic idea of what the future would be like. It says it’s not that far in the future, but the way books are disappearing, I could see it.”

And even though the story unfolds around Frank, he’s only half of the title’s duo. One of the other “near-future” notions touched on in the film is the nature of robots’ role in the world, and exactly where their rights begin and end for both society at large and in Frank’s mind.

Never one to shy away from voicing her views on such matters, Sarandon offered some food for thought when IFC asked her where she might align in the “robot rights” debate.

“This robot doesn’t seem to want to be considered human and doesn’t expect certain rights, but we’re programming more and more intelligence into them and they will probably have a union at some point when they get in everybody’s homes,” she said. “I’m definitely very lucky to have a job that pays me the way it does and to be able to pay for my kids’ education and health care, but I don’t need to have billions of dollars to feel okay. And I think it’s a stronger society when we do spread things around.”

“Even in ‘Harry Potter,’ I was definitely down for that house elf,” she laughed. “He was fabulous and I felt very strongly about elves’ rights and stuff like that. It just makes for a happier place if everyone’s feeling good about themselves. No matter if they’re metallic or elves, let everybody feel like they’re being respected.”

Still, not all is well and good in Frank’s life — or the robot’s version of “life,” for that matter. As their relationship blossoms, Frank finds himself itching to get back to old habits, and as his awareness and grip on reality grow, so does his desire to jump into the next heist.

“I think you definitely cheer for him to be involved in his old habit, because when people have something they’re excited about, they tend to stay alive,” said Sarandon of the unique dilemma the film presents. “That’s why pets are so important for people when they get older. For me, the sinister part of it was this idea that he’s losing his mind. That really scares me — the idea of losing touch with everything and ending up having to have somebody make sure you don’t just walk into the woods and disappear. . . . But I didn’t mind him stealing from the bad [people]. That idea is a very Robin Hood approach. . . . It didn’t bother me.”

Of course, “Robot & Frank” isn’t the only film with the futurist bent that Sarandon is involved with these days, and while we had the chance to talk with her, we couldn’t help asking for more information about her role in “Cloud Atlas,” the new film based on David Mitchell’s award-winning 2004 novel. The first trailer for the film debuted recently, and Sarandon can be seen in a brief scene, though she’s simply credited as “actress” in the movie.

“I play five different characters, one of which is a guy,” she explained. “I don’t want to tell you anything more, but they’re small parts everybody plays. It was a boisterous atmosphere, with people putting on noses and chins and mustaches and playing different genders, different colors, different everything.”

“I think that’s what they were trying to say, is that we’re all connected,” she continued. “And all the rest of it is just details, and underneath, whatever kindness or meanness you exhibit somehow determines the future — that it will continue the cycle. If you listen to my voiceover you’ll hear all about it. But my parts are really small. I was just so thrilled ot be asked to be in any part of it.”

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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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