Tag Archives: IFC

SXSW – The Real March Madness

It’s been amazing to watch SXSW grow from a small independent hotbed to the biggest and most important music and arts festival of the year. Much like The Sundance Festival does for independent film, SXSW gives a forum and a voice to hundreds of aspiring artists every year. And more importantly, the chance to be seen and hopefully discovered by the movers and shakers of the established industry.

The complaints about SXSW are the same ones that Sundance endures. It has sold out. It’s increasingly dominated by established artists looking for a cohesive marketing launch for their product. There are too many events crammed into the schedule – not even counting the unofficial fringe events that occur outside the official festival – so the odds on making a mark are miniscule. Yet every year, a few acts come out of that event hotter than a comet, and those merely following the festivities  from a distance are immediately tipped to them.

As one who likes to sift through the plethora of publicity and promotion in search of good bands, comedians and films, I find these festival events fascinating. And sometimes the best results happen because they are chaotic and spontaneous, despite meticulous and careful planning.

So if you are not lucky enough to be reading this from Austin, click here for schedules and information. Not too late to jump on a plane.

If you just want to peek from afar, hit the Independent Film Channel website where they are streaming events live throughout the festival.

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Awards Weekend! First, The Indies…

The Film Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast this evening. Hosted by Joel McHale, the event is known for being a loose and casual affair; the last two events were held inside a tent on the Santa Monica beach (2009) and in a downtown LA parking lot (2010). Libations flow, no one plays a winner off the stage, and some memorable speeches come tumbling out of the mouths of the presenters and nominees. And as the last awards show prior to tomorrow’s Academy Awards presentations, many will ponder about the momentum that some of these films and actors have built up.

Of course, the Oscar tabulations are already signed, sealed and delivered. But what’s Tinseltown without a little drama?

More and more films blend the line between “indie” and “studio”, a separation that is more about funding than location. Luminaries like Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers have their heart and mind firmly in the independent mode when it comes to the type of material that they choose, but their successes have moved them into a financial category that dwarfs their former associates. I’d rather focus on the fact that films like Black Swan and The Wrestler are finally being appreciated by a wider group of people (Oscars, Globes) rather than pinch pennies and mince words. Despite some thundering clunkers, 2010 had its share of good films.

Here is a list of the nominees. You can watch the broadcast at 10pm ET/PT and guess along with me, but since the ceremony took place earlier today, the list of winners is no doubt all over the web. Don’t Google! Walk away from your computer and enjoy the suspense. If you must sit at your keyboard, avoid the news sites and watch and chat live with IFC host Matt Singer.

I’ll be back later with a review of the show and my comments.

Well, that was pretty boring.

Host Joel McHale did what he could, opening with a sense of irreverence, a wink at some of the nominated films, and a gaggle of cunnilingus jokes, but no one else picked up the ball for the rest of the evening. The filmed bit combining the “reading of the rules” and “the magic of 3D” was amusing, but the only other attempt at humor was presenting In Memorium 2011 a year early. Celebrating the industry deaths that would occur over the next twelve months had great potential, but a technical glitch ruined the pace and sucked the life of it. Still, it’s good to prepare oneself for the loss of Mad Men star Jon Hamm from excessive consumption of clove cigarettes and fake alcohol.

Presenters joked all night about the cold (the tent was on the beach) but people were visibly bundling up, and the slick surface caused many to slip (and one winner to fall not once but twice). And the noise level increased exponentially, no doubt from attendees hitting the bar to pound down more Jameson’s in a show of support for one of the evening’s sponsors.

Another oddity was the announcement of two awards that had been presented prior to the telecast – one for cinematography and the other for screenplay. Really? You couldn’t squeeze two more awards into a two and a half hour program? Overall, no huge surprises. But no memorable speeches and no water cooler moments.

Well, unless you want to count Paul Rudd’s threesome with Rosario Dawson and Eva Mendes

Here is a list of the winners:

Best Feature: “Black Swan”
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
Best Screenplay: Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko, “The Kids Are All Right”
Best First Feature: “Get Low”
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture”
John Cassavetes Award: “Daddy Longlegs”
Best Female Lead: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Best Male Lead: James Franco, “127 Hours”
Best Supporting Female: Dale Dickey, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, “Black Swan”
Best Documentary: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
Best Foreign Film: “The King’s Speech”

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Stand Up Wit…Jon Dore

You don't like fishing??

Jon Dore is one of the most out-there guys around. The Canadian comic’s name might not be on the lips of the general public, but his bold and absurd takes are flat-out hilarious. How many comics would risk digging themselves a deep hole on purpose just for the fun of climbing out of it, and then spending half the set going off on a tangent to cap it off with a sight-gag as a call back?

But that’s exactly what Jon Dore did when he was the first comic to guest star on Conan’s new show. I watched this again this morning and fell out of my chair again, so for the benefit of those of you who did not see it, here is his set from Conan on November 11th.

Jon also had his own self-titled show which ran on The Comedy Network for two years and then was rebroadcast on IFC in 2010. A mockumentary that takes the spirit of  Jason Lee’s quest in My Name Is Earl and turns it on its ear, Jon “fearlessly throws himself in the line-of-fire as he sets out to correct his faults and make all his “wrongs” right again.” through a series of interviews and crazy antics. What makes it hilarious is watching this normal looking guy torture himself (and others) by asking outrageous questions and setting himself up for disaster, all with a poker face.

Video: The STD Clinic

If you’re a Jon Dore fan, none of this is new to you but you’re probably smiling when you read this. And for those of you who were not familiar with Jon Dore?

You’re welcome.

IFC guide to The Jon Dore Television Show.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Upcoming Comedy Releases

We’re in the midst of another stand-up comedy renaissance, although you’d never know it by the recent Grammy nominations. But as one who eagerly anticipates every comedy album release, I was thrilled with 2010’s bounty and 2011 is shaping up to be even better with first releases from great new comics as well as the return of a couple of old favorites.

Looks like television has raised the bar for 2011 – IFC has picked up Mr. Show, The Ben Stiller Show and The Onion News to add to an already great lineup that includes Arrested Development, Undeclared and Freaks And Geeks. The new Comedy Central Presents series launches in mid-January and John Oliver’s Stand Up returns in March. Might have to get another DVR!

So here are Ten Upcoming Comedy Releases to get excited about. And keep your eyes peeled at Stand Up! Records, Comedy Central, Uproar Entertainment, Rooftop Comedy , AST and other fine labels committed to bringing great comedy to your front door…

01) Patrice O’Neal Elephant In The Room…comedy special taped in November and will be available in January. One of the funniest guys on the planet and a very overdue release!

02) Nick Griffin Bring Out The Monkey…thrilled that he cut a second album after all this time; he nails the angst of frustrated desperation as well as anyone ever has.

03) Daniel Tosh Happy Thoughts…I don’t follow Tosh 2.0 but both of his prior releases were hilarious. Great presentation and sarcasm; I can’t wait!

04) Kurt Metzger – (Title TBD)…I’ve been pimping this guy to anyone who will listen; anyone who saw Last Comic Standing knows he got screwed over. Maybe the album on this list I’m most excited about.

05) Paul F. TompkinsYou Should Have Told Me…his first DVD and sure to be an undoubtedly surreal experience. I’m still laughing at Freak Wharf, let alone his amazing guest stint on Community last week.

06) Natasha Leggero – (Title TBD)…I gave her a rough ride when covering Last Comic Standing but ate my words when she got a chance to do standup on the last episode. Check out the second Tonight Show clip on her website; the album will surely be a killer.

07) Louis CKHilarious…how prolific is this guy? Louie got picked up for another season and might have been the best show of 2010; Hilarous is coming out in January and he’s already touring with a new show, Word.

08) Whitney Cummings Money Shot…loved her first album, one of the best comedy releases of 2009. She’s fearless and raw, and this new show is funny as hell.

09) Nick Kroll Thank You Very Cool…scene stealing Kroll will no doubt have some blisteringly inappropriate stand-up plus feature some of his bizarre characters.

10) Norm MacDonald Norm MacDonald Stand-Up Special…March 2011, proving once and for all that there is a God.

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You Go, Todd Margaret!

The six-episode run of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret just ended Friday night, and if you missed this brilliantly uncomfortable show you need to get your DVR primed to recapture the encore runs this week. David Cross is spectacularly cringeworthy in the lead, an inept pathological liar whose life choices are social quicksand. Frequent collaborator Will Arnett is the yang to David’s yin; he plays Brent Wilkes, a character Cross describes as “an unrepentant, crass douchebag“.

I’m hard pressed to tell you why this was one of the funniest shows I have ever seen on television without ruining the experience. Cross plays Todd Margaret, an inept temp worker who Arnett’s character misjudges; he pegs Todd as the perfect guy to launch a new energy drink (Thunder Muscle) to the Brits. Starting as a tale about a guy who gets in over his head, it quickly devolves…and then keeps getting worse. As Cross stated in an interview, The one thing that was important to everyone involved was that this project not simply be a fish-out-of-water comedy. Like, “Hey, you drive on the wrong side of the street!?” None of that.

On The Office, David Brent (or in America, Michael Scott) makes one cringe but you know there’s a sliver of common sense under the false bravado. Todd Margaretnot so much.  Compared to Todd Margaret, Tobias Fünke has his life together.

Suffice to say, if you are a fan of Cross or Arnett and can find humor in even the most uncomfortable situations, you will absolutely love this program. And a DVR alert – although the show blocks out at a half-hour, IFC runs the episodes commercial free, filling up the last ten minutes or so with promos and adverts. A great move, since getting up for the commercial would interrupt that perfectly squirming feeling you get from not getting a reprieve as things spiral downward.

“The cool thing about Todd Margaret is that, while a straight ahead comedy show, it tells a story that has a beginning and an end. Every episode starts the next morning after the previous episode so that the sense of inescapable impending doom is heightened exponentially with each subsequent show,” said David Cross.  “There’s no escape.”

 
 

*Not* fron Leeds.

 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten TV Tips

 

OK, couch potatoes – Fall Season is here

Not that I’m actually going to have time to watch all of these – some will actually be better as weekend marathons on DVD – but at least I could find ten new shows that seem to be worth checking out. And sure, the networks are still cloning cop shows and lawyer shows and even sinking one new program’s hopes immediately by casting Jerry O’Connell in it. He is the Ted McGinley of his generation…now that Jason Gedrick isn’t making pilots anymore. 

Yeah, I’m skeptical – and I’m not alone. Before it even aired, Outlaw was savaged by the press, despite the presence (and publicity efforts) of usual favorite Jimmy Smits; the premise was just too preposterous. And despite the always alluring Dana Delaney and Jeri Ryan, their show Body Of Proof might be its own cadaver

I’m not going to get too excited if a show starts out great, because I’ve seen some of the best shows get shot down in their infancy despite stellar writing, casting and performances. I still wince when I think about EZ Streets and Better Off Ted, and there’s a laundry list beyond those two. But before I throw my glass at the television, it’s always half-full. 

So here are Ten TV Tips for the upcoming Fall season, in random order. Remember, there’s no gambling, these suggestions are for personal enjoyment only; we do not guarantee ratings. In fact, you might not want to blink or you could miss a couple of them entirely… 

  

01) Boardwalk Empire – A prohibition-era gangster show on pay cable with Steve Buscemi and Marty Scorcese? Are you kidding me? Reason enough to buy HBO, but I’ll probably wait to watch it all in one weekend. 

02) The Event I’ll admit it, they’ve hooked me with the promos. And anytime Zeljko Ivanek is on a show – especially if he’s a little on the corrupt side – that show is worth following

03) Lone Star Con men rule. Jon Voight rules. Texas rules. I’m in. 

04) Running Wilde – Will Arnett playing an asshole. Do you really need any more information than that to tune in? 

05) Detroit 187 Michael Imperioli back as a cop after the unjustly cancelled Life On Mars. Perhaps the modern clothing and the lack of a porn stache will work this time. 

The next great epic, Boardwalk Empire

 

06) The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret – I’m still pissed at IFC for cancelling Jackie Woodman, but if they are putting David Cross on television I almost forgive them. 

07) Terriers – Already airing and after two episodes I’m liking it. At first I thought it would mimic The Unusuals, but it’s more Elmore Leonard-ish. 

08) No Ordinary Family I’m only thinking of watching this because I can’t picture Michael Chiklis following up The Shield with a crap series. Yes, I saw The Fantastic Four… 

09) Lights Out It’s boxing and redemption. It’s FX. It’s gonna rock

10) Shit My Dad Says – What if Captain Kirk slept with Denny Crane? Yeah, this could suck out loud, but I’ll give William Shatner a chance. 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Oscar Predictions

Picking the Oscar winners…not whom I want to win, but whom I think will win, along with the reasoning for my selection. Enjoy the show Sunday night, and I’ll have the results and the feedback on Monday.

And don’t forget to tune into the 25th Annual Independent Spirit Awards tonight at 11pm Eastern Time on IFC; – certainly a looser, more fun-filled event with many quotable moments from actors who have been hitting the sauce under a beach tent all day (yes,  I mean you, Mickey Rourke! ) Eddie Izzard should prove to be a great host (although Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin should also make the Oscars worth watching!)

So let me get these out of the way with a weekend to spare; here are my Internet dollars placed down on ten important categories

01. Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight) Hollywood loves to reward those who have done a good body of work but not gotten the glory; there’s also no lead male performance in this group that will become iconic.
  • George Clooney in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
  • Colin Firth in “A Single Man” (The Weinstein Company)
  • Morgan Freeman in “Invictus” (Warner Bros.)
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment)

 

02. Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Matt Damon in “Invictus” (Warner Bros.)
  • Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
  • Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones” (DreamWorks in association with Film4, Distributed by Paramount)
  • Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Any other year Tucci would win this – or even Christian McKay, who got snubbed here – but Waltz is the latest to seize a Tarantino character and ride it like an express train.

 

03. Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side” (Warner Bros.) Bullock in a squeaker getting the Sally Field treatment, although I wouldn’t be shocked if Streep’s note-perfect Child or Sidibe’s raw debut won, either. But the coin goes here.
  • Helen Mirren in “The Last Station” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Carey Mulligan in “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate)
  • Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia” (Sony Pictures Releasing)

 

04. Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Penélope Cruz in “Nine” (The Weinstein Company)
  • Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight)
  • Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
  • Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) This performance is just so powerful it has to win; people actually hated her leaving the theatre. Remember Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched?

 

05. Adapted screenplay

  • “District 9” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
  • “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics) Screenplay by Nick Hornby
  • “In the Loop” (IFC Films) Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
  • “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
  • Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) Consolation prize; when your three main actors are nominated the writing must have been good, yes? Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

 

06. Original screenplay

  • “The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment) Written by Mark Boal
  • Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Written by Quentin Tarantino

    Another “we can’t give you Best Picture” consolation prize; the man does write great dialogue and his movies are never boring.

  • “The Messenger” (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
  • “A Serious Man” (Focus Features) Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • “Up” (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
    Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

 

07. Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Coraline” (Focus Features) Henry Selick
  • “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (20th Century Fox) Wes Anderson
    “The Princess and the Frog” (Walt Disney) John Musker and Ron Clements
  • “The Secret of Kells” (GKIDS) Tomm Moore
  • Up” (Walt Disney) Pete Docter

    The opening sequence to this film nailed the win.

 

08. Best documentary feature

  • “Burma VJ” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
    A Magic Hour Films Production
    Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
  • “The Cove” (Roadside Attractions)
    An Oceanic Preservation Society Production
    Nominees to be determined
  • Food, Inc.” (Magnolia Pictures)
    A Robert Kenner Films Production
    Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein

    As always with documentaries, a hunch bet. What no Anvil?

  • “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
    A Kovno Communications Production
    Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
  • “Which Way Home”
    A Mr. Mudd Production
    Rebecca Cammisa

 

09. Achievement in directing

  • “Avatar” (20th Century Fox) James Cameron
  • The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment) Kathryn Bigelow

    I think when your work is based in the real world you get more credit, and I think people are still remembering how brash Cameron was after Titanic…

  • “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Quentin Tarantino
  • “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) Lee Daniels
  • “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) Jason Reitman

 

10. Best motion picture of the year

  • Avatar” (20th Century Fox) A Lightstorm Entertainment Production James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers

    …but I don’t think Hollywood can overlook a film that outgrosses Titanic. It’s not the best movie of the year – it’s a pretty cliché story – but it was a global juggernaut.

  • “The Blind Side” (Warner Bros.)
    An Alcon Entertainment Production
    Nominees to be determined
  • “District 9” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
    A Block/Hanson Production
    Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
  • “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics)
    A Finola Dwyer/Wildgaze Films Production
    Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
  • The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment)
    A Voltage Pictures Production
    Nominees to be determined
  • “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company)
    A Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures/A Band Apart/Zehnte Babelsberg Production
    Lawrence Bender, Producer
  • “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate)
    A Lee Daniels Entertainment/Smokewood Entertainment Production
    Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
  • “A Serious Man” (Focus Features)
    A Working Title Films Production
    Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
  • “Up” (Walt Disney)
    A Pixar Production
    Jonas Rivera, Producer
  • “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
    A Montecito Picture Company Production
    Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Check in Monday for my recap of Award Weekend.

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