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DID YOU READ

Midlife crisis indeed: “Transamerica” and “Far Side of the Moon”

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“Desperate Housewives” is a grand camp feat, a show about female archetypes as dreamed up by gay men that has won over a nation that’s still supposedly hypersensitive about sexuality. And “Desperate Housewives” haunts “Transamerica” (for all that the show hadn’t yet taken off when the film was being made) not the least because it’s stars Housewife Felicity Huffman, but also because the film seems like the logical extension of the series — dropping the veil of surreal suburban narrative and skipping straight to a man in the last stages of attempting to reinvent himself as a woman.

Huffman’s getting a lot of Oscar talk for her role as Bree (formerly Stanley), an L.A.-dwelling transsexual on the verge of doing away with the pre- in pre-op when contacted by the teenage son she didn’t know she fathered in a long-ago hetero relationship, and she deserves it — plastering her long face with slightly off-color foundation, draped in catalogue scarves and pink suits, extremely self-conscious in all her movements, she’s spookily convincing. Toby (played by Kevin Zegers, of, disturbingly, the “Air Bud” films) turns out to be a runaway living as a drug-addicted hustler in New York. Through several plot machinations, the two end up on a cross-country road trip — Toby believing that Bree’s a woman and a missionary, Bree being forced to get to know her son after she finds she can’t foist him off on his stepfather. The expected hijinks, bonding, and misunderstandings ensue.

“Transamerica” is saved from typical indie cuteness by an undercurrent of tartness that balances out most of the sappier scenes, and by Huffman’s astonishing ability to add complexity to a character that was written as a pat Sundance cutout. Her Bree is selfish, wounded, and defensive — she’s managed to seal herself off from everyone other than her therapist, putting her life on hold with the idea that after the surgery, it will start anew. Huffman sails above scenes in which she’s forced to visit her eccentric-unbearable family, or ones in which she’s wooed by a deus-ex-romantic interest, both by the numbers bits you’d expect from just knowing what the film is about. It’s all worthwhile for the moment in which she’s finally won Toby over, and he attempts to pay her back the only way he knows how — it’s uncomfortable, heartbreaking and bitingly alive.

On the other end of being forced out of one’s mire of middle-age solitude is Quebecer Robert Lepage’s “The Far Side of the Moon,” a cool-to-the-touch adaptation of Lepage’s one-man show of the same name. A visually inventive exploration of the life of Philippe (Lepage), a lonely dreamer attempting to reconnect with his brother (also played by Lepage) after the death of their mother, the film opens with a rather beautiful montage about the Soviet space program and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of it’s leading scientists, who once predicted that “one day, man would walk and live in weightlessness on the moon, the ideal refuge, he said, for those who find life heavy.” The exploration of space becomes one of the film’s lingering metaphors, and the definitive indicator of its theatrical roots (beyond the abundance of scenes in which a character is plopped in front of a busy background he or she doesn’t interact with, simply for variety) — what flows on stage can seem tedious on screen. Still, the film, which moves at a languid pace, does build momentum, making its way to a melancholy, lovely peak, a paean to urban isolation as well as the inherent aloneness of existence.

“Transamerica” opens in New York and LA December 2. “The Far Side of the Moon” opens in New York.

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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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