This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.



Posted by on

03072008_frownland.jpg[A variation of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2007 SXSW Film Festival]

"Frownland", the first feature of New York-based projectionist-turned-director Ronald Bronstein, is the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. It was also my favorite film at the last year’s SXSW Film Festival, one that dares you to walk out until you, perhaps out of spite, find yourself totally drawn in and so in its strange headspace that you harbor concerns for your sanity. When I first reviewed the film, I suggested you shouldn’t expect to see it in a theater near you anytime soon — one year later, Mr. Bronstein has secured, while not a run of the nation’s cineplexes, a solid one-week NY run for “Frownland” at the IFC Center. If that does happen to be a theater near you, I highly suggest you make your way down there.

Bronstein’s main actor, Dore Mann, plays (or is — one suspects his role in the film is a mixture of performance and unadorned existence) Keith, a man who lives in the kitchen of a shared one-bedroom apartment and works as a door-to-door salesman fund-raising for a multiple sclerosis charity. Everyone in his life, including his roommate Charles (Paul Grimstad), his ostensible friend Sandy (David Sandholm) and his sister? cousin? girlfriend? Laura (Mary Wall) treats him with thinly veiled or open hostility, which sounds unfair, except that Keith is possibly the most irritating human being on earth. A chain-smoking, wet-lipped bundle of incoherence, he quivers under an unending struggle to force what he’d like to say out from under a nervous stutter, crippling hesitation and a hopelessly circuitous style of speaking. His inability to get his point across is matched only by his need to do so; he’s constantly, preemptively apologizing while also refusing to acknowledge any social cues. Minor confrontations like his asking his bullying musician roommate to pay the electricity bill escalate almost instantly into open animosity. Keith is like no character I can recalls having seen in a film before — whatever sympathy he amasses as we follow him through the miserable routine that is his life erodes as soon as he opens his mouth.

The thing is, everyone in "Frownland" seems caught up in their own kind of misery, and Keith is such an easy punching bag. Midway through the film we abandon Keith briefly for Charles, and see that he’s not better off, jobless and broke, out-cynical pseudointellectualized by someone he meets testing for the same tutoring job, who declares, in a line for the ages that "I’m nostalgic for a Kafkaesque universe."

When we wander back to Keith, it’s only to watch the one person he’s so far been able to make sit still and listen to him finally crack and shoves him away. He’s left to stagger through a New York that’s made up to be the worst kind of urban hell — one that’s malevolent and that offers absolutely no respite or space to call your own.

"Frownland" was shot on film, a rarity on the festival and indie circuit these days, and the sound design recalls the industrial assaults of David Lynch. At a Q&A after the film’s SXSW premiere, one audience member informed Bronstein that she had tinnitus and that the last 20 minutes had been agony for her, and then looked to him expectantly, as if he were suppose to promise to make his future films with sufferers of tinnitus foremost in mind. It was one of the stranger Q&A moments I’ve ever witnessed, but also seemed weirdly appropriate to the film.

[Photo: Dore Mann in “Frownland,” Frownland, Inc, 2007]

Watch More

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

Watch More

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

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

Watch More