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Seattle Film Fest 2011: “High Road,” Reviewed

Seattle Film Fest 2011: “High Road,” Reviewed (photo)

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“Maybe we could make a drinking game out of this,” Matt Walsh told the crowd at the Seattle Film Festival. “Every time you see a comedian onscreen you like, drink a beer.”

No one could legally take the Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder and Todd Phillips regular up on his offer, as the Neptune Theater doesn’t serve alcohol, but if they did, they’d be well past the legal limit about five minutes into Walsh’s directorial debut “High Road.” A comedy that Walsh admitted featured only one actor who wasn’t a good friend beforehand, the film surrounds its central character Fitz (James Pumphrey) with a cast of Ed Helms, Abby Elliott, “The Office”‘s Zach Woods, Lizzy Caplan, Joe Lo Truglio and Rob Riggle.

Before you ask, they all appear for longer than you might think for a low-budget endeavor such as this, ostensibly a road movie once Fitz, an aimless twentysomething drummer turns to dealing pot part-time after his band breaks up and heads to Oakland to see his father once he believes he’s being chased by the cops. He’s joined by Jimmy (Dylan O’Brien), a 16-year-old runaway from the next home over who fears his own father’s threats of military school. Despite there being no police cars in sight, Fitz’s paranoia is justified as Jimmy’s dad (Riggle) and a gym buddy named Fogerty (Lo Truglio) posing as a sheriff’s deputy follows them from pit stop to pit stop while a phone call home to his girlfriend (Elliott) who announces she’s expecting results in Fitz running away from more than just the law.

HighRoad2_05202011.jpgThroughout “High Road,” there’s no doubt that the film’s heart is in the right place even if its focus isn’t necessarily all the time. During the post-screening Q & A, Walsh explained that he developed a script over a number of years, but abandoned the dialogue he and Josh Weiner wrote once he started shooting, instead giving the actors a paragraph prompt for each of the film’s 70 scenes and letting them loose.

Of course, there are probably fewer improv comics more gifted than the UCB, SNL and The State alumni on display here, yet the energy of the performances doesn’t always escape from between the actors as it might during a live performance. For every wonderful digression like Fogerty’s exhaustive knowledge of Gary Glitter’s history of pedophilia or Fitz’s bizarre encounter with a hooker firmly in denial of what she does at a roadside diner, there are scenes where the banter doesn’t quite add up to much more than a few non sequiturs and an awkward transition to whatever’s next.

In his first feature, Walsh actually sidesteps the trap of most improv-heavy films with a determined pace and little to no slack, but with a predictable destination for Fitz and Jimmy, the workman-like approach to storytelling feels even more pronounced and comes at the expense of developing its characters beyond the gags they can pay off. Still, being funny can forgive quite a bit and here, it’s in the service of something sweet, if slight, and promising enough to look forward to Walsh’s next film, which he suggested after the screening could be a really “f’d up take on ‘A Christmas Carol.'”

“High Road” currently does not have U.S. distribution. It will play once more at the Seattle Film Festival on June 7th.

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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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