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Can’t Be At Cannes 2011, Tuesday Edition

Can’t Be At Cannes 2011, Tuesday Edition (photo)

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It sucks not being at the Cannes Film Festival. To keep you up-to-speed on all the latest developments with the minimum amount of pain and jealousy, we’ll be providing frequent roundups of all the biggest news and best reviews. This is the third; for additional installments, along with all our Cannes coverage, can be found here.

Drew McWeeny’s lead to his review of Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” on HitFix is a perfect summary of the press corps’ reaction to the long-awaited, deified-before-it-was-even-released film:

“This is what happens when we turn our filmmakers into religious figures.”

Indeed, critical response to Malick’s fifth film has divided Cannes into true believers and atheists. McWeeny falls into the later category, describing “Tree of Life” as “a pretty crushing disappointment” that’s “a beautiful, at times infuriating, undeniably indulgent new effort that comes dangerously close to self-parody.” He is not alone either. J. Hoberman from The Village Voice wrote one of the earliest and harshest critiques of the film so far:

“‘The Tree of Life’ has plenty of incident but, despite Pitt’s memorably bullying performance, very little human interest. (The best bit has a bunch of boys launching a frog in a bottle rocket.) Malick’s craftsmanship may be everywhere evident but, however flashy and intermittently beautiful, his filmmaking can be shockingly banal. Inspired scenes (a toddler relating to a baby) or shots (a mega close-up of a can kicked out of the frame) arrive as morsels floating in the movie’s primeval soup… ‘The Tree of Life’ is less profound than profoundly eccentric, while too solemn, pompous, and genteel to be truly crazy. The movie disengages the mind, even as it dulls the senses.”

All the the religious metaphors are particularly apt here because the film itself is apparently something of a cinematic prayer. In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis says Malick “seeks to affirm the beauty of a world in which God is present in all things.” She also gives us more of a plot description without encroaching into too many specifics.

“Running 2 hours 18 minutes, it is a personal, impressionistic work — beautiful, nonlinear, trippy, flawed — that unfolds largely in fragmented flashbacks, tracing not only the arc of a single life but also that of creation itself. As the title suggests, Mr. Malick has nothing less in mind than the origin of life, a beginning (or Beginning) in which vaporous swirls, gurgling lava and fiery explosions give way to the sight of a meteor hitting a planet (presumably Earth), an explosive vision that Mr. Malick audaciously, riskily, joins with the image of a pregnant woman’s belly.”

Given the intensity of people’s excitement, vitriol was inevitable. Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir has one of the more refreshingly measured responses to the film, which includes an acknowledgement that “‘Tree of Life’ was bid up way too high in pre-Cannes speculation, and was bound to disappoint many people.” He also addresses the film’s parallels to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which has been a point of comparison in many early reviews:

“One of the many reasons to admire Malick is that he is far less reliant than other major directors on other people’s movies. I mean, I’m sure he’s seen plenty of them, but he never seems obsessed with quoting obscure genre films or sequences out of Eisenstein or Michael Powell, or making work aimed at fellow directors and their legions of fans and followers. So the fact that ‘The Tree of Life’ clearly has a relationship to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ feels both deliberate and carefully considered. You could almost call it a remake or a reverse-engineered version of Kubrick’s massive head-trip, one in which humanity begins in space and then returns to Earth. I’d put it this way: If the cosmic astronaut God-baby from the end of ‘2001’ came back to earth and made a movie, this would be it.”

As O’Hehir also notes, it’s not just the film itself that’s being fiercely debated. Immediately following the screening, the conversation shifted to exactly how the press reacted to the film. O’Hehir says that first press screening was met “by a small but lustful chorus of booing… which was then drowned out by applause.” Hoberman’s piece mentions boos, as does David Fear’s in Time Out New York: “A symphony of loud boos, emanating from somewhere along the right side of the Théâtre Lumière’s orchestra section. A round of shushing followed, then more boos, then sporadic applause.” McWeeny, though tweeted earlier today his own perspective on the crowd’s response: “When people say “Cannes booed ‘The Tree Of Life,” that’s not true. I was in that screening. ONE GUY at Cannes booed the movie.”

Having attended controversial screenings at the Lumiere Theatre in Cannes, I can say from experience that there is often a surprising amount of disagreement about crowd reactions to movies. After “Antichrist”‘s first Cannes screening, people compared what they heard — smatterings of boos or applause or laughter — like they were examining the Zapruder film for a second gunman. And because that theater is so large, where you sit can influence the sort of reaction you hear (or have, I would argue, but that’s a conversation for another time).

Let’s get back to McWeeny’s intro, because I think he summed the whole thing up so well. People revere Terrence Malick in a way I find slightly crazy; I spoke with several colleagues in recent months who told me, in all seriousness, that they had already pencilled in “The Tree of Life” as their favorite movie of the year. With that attitude, anything less than an absolutely masterpiece becomes a disaster.

After you wait as feverishly for a film as these Malick partisans have for “The Tree of Life,” there’s only a few possible reactions: genuine love; convincing yourself you loved it because you’ve expended so much energy in anticipation (see: many geek’s initial reaction to “Star Wars: Episode I”); or disappointment at the film not living up to expectations. Though it’s slightly soul-crushing not to get to be at the Cannes Film Festival, I’m kind of glad I’m getting to see “Tree of Life” after this first wave of backlash. Now that the discourse has evened out I get to see “Tree of Life” as a movie, not the movie.

Back with more tomorrow because, contrary to what Twitter might have you believe, other films have screened at Cannes in the last few days.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

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

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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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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.

via GIPHY

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.

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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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