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SXSW 2008: “Medicine for Melancholy.”

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03132008_medicineformelancholy.jpgThe details of Barry Jenkins’ righteous “Medicine for Melancholy” — fixed-gear bikes and messenger bags, bottled iced tea and late night tacos, Rainbow Grocery and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, old Victorians and housing rights discussions — evoke a life I once lead so strongly that watching the film sent me into sense memory flashbacks. A bittersweet paean to San Francisco and its indie scene, “Medicine for Melancholy” is also a vivid semi-love story and a contemplation of race and gentrification in the city — and to answer the question that was posed to producer Justin Barber at the Q&A after a screening and turned by him to the crowd, no, it’s not a mumblecore movie, for all that it’s about a pair of twentysomethings spending the day talking. It doesn’t look like one, and it has too much solidity and forthrightness; the characters actually confront their own emotions and each other, they have social and political concerns, they fight.

(When this subject was raised, the audience was vehement about not applying that label to this film — at 2008 SXSW, the bloom is off the mumblecore rose.)

They — ‘Jo (Tracey Heggins) and Micah (Wyatt Cenac), along with director/writer Jenkins — are also black, something unseen in the kingdom of mumblecore and not exactly common in the larger world of indie culture of which it’s a part. As Micah puts it, of the seven percent of San Francisco that’s black, maybe one or two percent are part of their scene: “You ever realize just how few of us there really are?” It’s that awareness that drives him to track her down after a one-night stand and to win her over into spending a meandering Sunday riding to the Museum of the African Diaspora (the one part of the film that leans a little heavily on its themes), cooking dinner, giggling about Rick James over a joint and going out dancing. He’s charming, but has a chip on his shoulder, and she’s not really sure what she’s doing — her boyfriend, white, is away in London. The film is desaturated to the point that the only colors that come through, mostly reds, are muted, giving it a pensive feel, but also standing as a visual reminder of Micah’s sense of isolation. “Medicine for Melancholy” is something like a movie mixtape, with a soundtrack from smallish bands rising up to carry us from scene to often ecstatic scene — it was shot in HD, but doesn’t look it — to an end that’s, fittingly, melancholy. It’s an assured and impressive debut from Barry Jenkins, and one of the great finds of the festival.

[Photo: “Medicine for Melancholy,” Strike Anywhere, 2008]

+ “Medicine for Melancholy” (SXSW)
+ “Medicine for Melancholy” (Official site)

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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.


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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