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DID YOU READ

NYFF: Clean-up.

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"...remaining behind the camera just doesn't feel like an option."
We’re more than ready to put this festival to rest, so here are the blurby remnants of our review backlog. We’ll be back as regularly scheduled on Tuesday, jury duty gods willing.

"The Axe in the Attic": In an understandable but dire move, filmmakers Ed Pincus and Lucia Small put themselves in their own doc about the displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina. The wheels-within-wheels urge that’s begun to plague a segment of documentaries comes from a good place — what’s more verité than including your own process, struggles and qualms in your film? — but is rarely warranted and in the case of "The Axe in the Attic" is something of a deal-breaker. Pincus and Small aren’t likable presences on camera, and their squabbles, their discomfort over the fact that their subjects keep asking them for money and their feelings of inadequacy seem piddling enough next to the massive losses the pair are documenting to make the fact that such things are given screen time at all insulting.

"Flight of the Red Balloon": Our review from Cannes is here.

"The Last Mistress": Catherine Breillat, that dedicated, humorless raconteur of tales of how essential and horrible love and sex are, has actually produced something that’s, for a while, fun to watch in this period piece set in 18th century France. It’s all thanks to Asia Argento, playing Vellini, the courtesan in question, who’s been thrown over by Ryno de Marigny, her impoverished rake of a lover, for a young heiress he plans to marry. Shrieking her orgasms to the sky, flashing period-appropriate armpit hair, glaring over Spanish fans and bursting into a room to lick blood off of a wounded man’s chest, Argento turns in a performance that’s either brilliant or woeful; we’ve yet to decide. The best part of the film is a lengthy flashback chronicling how Vellini and Ryno met, became involved and went off on a very strange furlough in Algeria — after that, the film loses momentum as Breillat hammers in her usual themes with a heavy hand.

"The Man From London": To be honest, we’ve never acquired a taste for Hungarian director Béla Tarr, so we can’t really speak to whether "The Man From London" is good Tarr or, as seemed to be the majority opinion at Cannes, bad Tarr. It is Tarr, with some extraordinary mise en scène — a ten (plus)-minute opening shot of a crime taking place, as observed from the watchtower of dockworker Maloin (Miroslav Krobot); a brilliantly beautiful image of Maloin undressing for bed, the night shift over, as sunlight streams in through the open window; a pan through the local tavern that reveals two men dancing. The story, as it is, involves Maloin stumbling onto a load of stolen cash and deciding what to do next (the camera often lurks behind his head like a weight on his shoulders) — that plot is secondary to the patience-testing pacing and long takes, which allow plenty of time for you ponder morality and existence or what you’re going to have for dinner.

"Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project": If you’re fond of Don Rickles, and it’s hard not to be, there’s plenty to enjoy in John Landis‘ documentary, which weaves footage of the comedian on stage with vintage TV clips and interviews with friends and admirers. Still, it’s a standard talking-head doc and a strange presence at the festival — the only exceptional thing about it as a film is the exceptional comfort some of the often guarded interview subjects, which include Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and Sidney Poitier, show on camera. 

"No Country For Old Men": Our review from Cannes is here; we watched it for a second time and, yes, it’s still kickass. Our favorite film of the year to date.

"The Orphanage": Scary and silly, Juan Antonio Bayona‘s
debut film is not this year’s answer to "Pan’s Labyrinth," despite the push it’s getting from producer Guillermo del Toro. Under the gloss of Spanish gothic, it’s just the kind of horror film that gets dumber the more you think about it. "The Sea Inside"’s Belén Rueda plays Laura, a woman who, with her husband and son, moves back into the building that once housed her adored childhood orphanage despite the fact that it’s now so haunted it all but has "Ghost children rool!" spray-painted on its walls in blood. Soon her son is claiming to have made some new imaginary friends, and then vanishing, leaving Laura devastated and looking toward the occult for answers. Three segments had us covering our eyes, one with a raspy-breathed child in a scarecrow sack-mask, another with a really disgusting moment of violence and a third that introduced frightening supernatural take on Red Light, Green Light. The rest of the film had us rolling them.

"Paranoid Park": Gus Van Sant, working mainly with nonprofessional actors (as he did in "Elephant"), has come close to achieving what must be many a director’s dream in removing acting from his film’s equation entirely. "Paranoid Park"’s star, Gabe Nevins, exists as a beautiful blank, the film creating a richly detailed, conflicted inner life for him via Leslie Shatz‘s exceptional sound design and cinematography from Christopher Doyle and Kathy Li. Nevins delivers a halting voiceover of text lifted from Blake Nelson’s young adult novel, the basis of the film, and the artificiality of the narration only emphasizes how eerily and wonderfully the film itself captures adolescence.

"Persepolis": In the press notes we immediately lost, "Persepolis" co-director Marjane Satrapi said something to the effect that she didn’t want to do a live action version of her acclaimed graphic novel because then it would just be a film about foreign people and their problems. She has a point — "Persepolis"’s stylized cel animation makes her story both more accessible and more personal because it’s a constant reminder of subjectivity. The film sees the Iranian revolution and the country’s subsequent shift toward fundamentalism through the eyes of the then-prepubescent Marjane, who’s eventually shipped off to school in Vienna by her liberal parents for the sake of her education. Homesick for a country that no longer exists as she knew it, Marjane struggles to find her place in the world, but "Persepolis" maintains a marvelously lighthearted tone — Marjane is sharp-tongued, self-deprecating, fallible and funny, and the animation follows her narration (she’s voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) fluidly through digressions, anecdotes and one very off-key version of "Eye of the Tiger." 

"Secret Sunshine": We went into Lee Chang-dong film knowing nothing about it except that lead actress Jeon Do-yeon won the acting prize at Cannes. It was a good way to see the film, and if "Secret Sunshine" had any prospects of making it to a theater near you, we’d suggest you stop reading now. Jeon plays Shin-ae, a widow who moves with her son, Jun, to the conservative small town in which her husband grew up. She’s not quite right, something we get a sense of in careful increments as she meets her neighbors and is paid a visit by her brother from Seoul. And then something terrible happens, and Shin-ae comes crashing apart under the force of new and repressed grief, finding abrupt but unstable solace in born again Christianity, which she clutches onto and which lends her a feverish radiance and an ill-advised bravado that spurs her to a devastating encounter at a prison. We admire "Secret Sunshine" more than we like it; Jeon puts herself through incredible paroxysms of emotional pain and suffering and never seems less than genuine, but the film itself can seem isolating and ungenerous in its steady observation of her character through darker and darker times. "Secret Sunshine" essentially takes a melodramatic tale of tragedy and plays it straight and unsentimental, and while we never knew where it would lead, we often didn’t want to know.

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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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