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DID YOU READ

“51 Birch Street.”

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Blocks.

[Reposted in slightly expanded form from here.]

The personal essay has become the inescapable stuff of literate journalism (and personal anecdotes have crept into everything else, including film reviews), but the personal documentary remains a strange and delicate thing, a form still being traced out gingerly by the few who attempt it. Putting one’s own life in front of the camera is never as straightforward a thing as setting it into print.

Documentarian Doug Block didn’t set out to make a film about his parents, he set out to film them as a commemoration and stumbled onto a narrative after the death of his mother, when his father, just a few months later, moved down to Florida to live with his secretary from 40 years before. Block had always assumed his parents 50 plus years of marriage had been happy, and his father’s immediate rebound into a possibly preexisting relationship is devastating to him and his siblings. And so begins an exploration of his parents’ life together by way of the footage, friends, family members and diaries his mother left behind, shaped around the childhood home his father has already sold.

Block wants the central question of his film to be one of whether we ever really know our parents, but what emerges is more a reminder of the persistence and peculiarity of memory — like "Capturing the Friedmans," another, far darker excavation of the life of a Long Island family, "51 Birch Street" is a mosaic of materials and interviews. Block’s family members each have distinct and differing recollections of the years they spent together, and though his mother is no longer there to speak for herself, she presents the clearest voice of all in her writing. It is his father who was ever the more enigmatic, a taciturn figure of 50s masculinity that Block has become accustomed to shielding himself from with a camera in their time together. As the film progresses through a series of increasingly heart-rending and crushingly candid interviews with the older Mr. Block, it draws out a compassionate portrait of the man that seems unexpected even to the filmmaker, who in the end finds the camera turned, touchingly, on himself.

Opens in New York October 18th.

+ "51 Birch Street" (Truly Indie)

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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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