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We Todd Did.

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08142008_simplejack.jpgWhile the folks behind “Tropic Thunder” had obviously soldiered up in advance for — and were probably counting on — controversy surrounding Robert Downey Jr.’s (totally hilarious) turn as a method actor in surgically applied blackface, the vehement protests surrounding the film’s frequent, gleeful use of the work “retarded” seem to have blindsided them. Bonnie Goldstein at Slate points to the 11-page kit released by a group that includes the American Association of People With Disabilities and the National Down Syndrome Congress, encouraging boycotting and picketing of theaters throughout this week. Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics and another vocal opponent of the movie, admitted to NPR that, in true movie-protest tradition, he hadn’t actually seen the film beyond the key r-word sequences and didn’t plan to, a fact director/star Ben Stiller leapt on on Good Morning America yesterday:

“We screened the movie so many times and this didn’t come up until very late and I think the guy spearheading [the protest] hasn’t seen the movie. So in the context of the film I think it’s really clear, they were making fun of the actors and actors who try to use serious subjects to win awards. It’s about actors and self-importance. I think the context of the movie it’s pretty clear.”

And screenwriter Justin Theroux pointed out to New York that “Simple Jack,” the film within the film in which Stiller’s character plays a broader than broad caricature of a mentally disabled man in hopes that it’d lead him to an Oscar, isn’t that much of an exaggeration from projects that have actually been made: “There are MANY films we’re lampooning there, and TV movies included, just a bunch of movies we found completely outrageous.”

So, sure, Hollywood is the ultimate butt of all the jokes. And sure, what Orlando critic Roger Moore is attempting to label “the New Outrageousness” is also turning out to be a convenient way to pack in all the -ist jokes that will fit while crying no foul because, hey, those jokes aren’t aimed at who they seem to be aimed at. But I particularly enjoyed a judicious bit of word choice in Manohla Dargis‘ review in the New York Times, in which she twice uses “retard” as it’s utilized in the film: “one misbegotten attempt to bait Oscar with a weepie called ‘Simple Jack,’ in which he played a bucktoothed retarded man,” and “Kirk’s explanation for why Tugg’s performance as a retarded man in ‘Simple Jack’ doomed his chances for an Oscar.” The PC copy-edit would be “mentally disabled,” though the Times seems to use both terms freely, but why not apply the term directly to the role? Stiller’s “Simple Jack” character bears about as much resemblance to someone with an actual disability as Mickey Rooney did an Asian person in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — maybe “retarded” could become something like “minstrelsy,” used only to describe offensively bad roles in films, like, say, “Riding the Bus with My Sister.”

[Photo: “Tropic Thunder,” DreamWorks, 2008]

+ How To Picket Tropic Thunder (Slate)
+ Disabled Group Calls For ‘Tropic Thunder’ Boycott (NRP)
+ Ben Stiller: Taking Chances with “Tropic Thunder” (ABC News)
+ ‘Tropic Thunder’ Writer Justin Theroux on ‘Simple Jack,’ ‘Iron Man 2,’ and Stupid Actors (New York)
+ War May Be Hell, but Hollywood Is Even Worse (NY Times)

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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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