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Critic wrangle: “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

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"Let your imagination set you free" - season's worst tagline?
In many ways, Julian Schnabel’s often majestically off-putting presence in person makes the excellent reviews that "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is receiving all the more impressive — one never wants to encourage someone so secure in the conviction of his own genius. The film, which is based on the memoir Jean-Dominique Bauby dictated by blinking his left eyelid after a stoke left the rest of him paralyzed, is now looking like a major year-end best-of/award candidate. We liked it too, though not as much — our review from the New York Film Festival is here.

"Whatever Schnabel’s posturings as a painter," writes David Edelstein at New York, "he’s a major film director, alive not only to light and texture but to characters’ emotions—which twist the light and warp the textures and permeate the canvas." Raves David Denby at the New Yorker, "Schnabel’s movie… is a gloriously unlocked experience, with some of the freest and most creative uses of the camera and some of the most daring, cruel, and heartbreaking emotional explorations that have appeared in recent movies." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly is cautious of the overly gorgeous film, noting that "I tend to be wary of ethereal composition applied to unpoetic, human, physical mess, for its romanticizing, narcotizing effect," but in this case finding that "this assertive adaptation brings Jean-Dominique Bauby’s phenomenal memoir… to life honestly." Armond White at the New York Press, chooses to devote most of his review to ragging on "Control," but still declares that "Diving Bell" "tells a real person’s life story so
inventively you might forget how rotten recent biopics have been."

Glenn Kenny at Premiere
notes that "Diving Bell" is "an exemplary film about the so-called
triumph of the human spirit by largely upending every cliché the usual
cinematic treatment of the triumph of the human spirit indulges." "At
times, ‘Bell’ seems heightened and romanticized, particularly in the
way everyone around Bauby remains supportive and attentive, even at
their own expense," adds Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club.
"But that just prevents the film from becoming standard-arc
disease-of-the-week fare, with its programmed trials and inevitable
victories. Instead, Schnabel’s sleepy, drifty, at times morbidly funny
film tackles something more ambitious, by getting into the head of
someone who’s trying to get out of there himself."

A.O. Scott at the New York Times writes that Schnabel "demonstrates his own imaginative freedom in every frame and sequence, dispensing with narrative and expository conventions in favor of a wild, intuitive honesty," and Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek muses that "The picture is so imaginatively made, so attuned to sensual pleasure, so keyed in to the indescribable something that makes life life, that it speaks of something far more elemental than mere filmmaking skill: This is what movies, at their best, can be." "Conscious life itself, even at its most extremely limited parameters, has never been so richly ennobled on the screen as it is here," concludes Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer.

Dissenters: Chris Wisniewski at indieWIRE is ambivalent: "So is this art cinema posing as a middle-brow biopic, or a middle-brow
biopic posing as art cinema? Either way, it’s an engrossing oddity, a
film that is too superficial and obvious to be truly profound but also
too strikingly vivid and affecting to be dismissed." Nick Schager at Slant is not, and declares that Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have adapted Bauby’s memoir "with only slightly more restraint than that shown by competitive gorger Kobayashi at Nathan’s annual hot dog-eating contest. It’s Johnny Got His Gun (or, at least, the portions used in Metallica’s ‘One’ video) via My Left Foot, stylistically Miramax-ized to within an inch of its life."  And Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly writes, hilariously, that if the Cannes Best Director award (which "Diving Bell" won) "were determined solely on the basis of quantity, there would be no question that Schnabel’s was deserved, for there is more directing per square inch of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly than one is likely to find in any other movie released this year."

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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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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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