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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