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MUSIC FLICKS: American Hardcore

MUSIC FLICKS:  American Hardcore (photo)

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American Hardcore follows the history of punk rock/hardcore music from 1980-1986, and as most of the interviewees in this documentary will tell you, that was the genre’s most volatile and pure era. Some of the underground luminaries interviewed even suggest that punk rock died in ’86–an issue that can be debated from now until 2086.

American Hardcore (2006)
Directed by Paul Rachman
1 hr. 40 min.
Rated R

Taking the lead from Steven’s Blush’s book of the same name, American Hardcore, directed by Paul Rachman, doesn’t deviate from the standard music documentary formula we’ve seen before–talking head interview, still photos (w/ Ken Burns effect), live performance clip, repeat. That doesn’t mean, however, a very interesting story is not being told.

As expected, American Hardcore does sit down with the big names of the era–Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye and Mike Watt–but it’s also refreshing to hear perspectives from punk rockers and scenesters who may not be recognized by every patch-wearing fan of hardcore music. Because these guys and gals haven’t been given as much face time over the years, their sound bites come off a little more raw and unpolished, than say those of Rollins and MacKaye. Sometimes this works really well and some times you can’t wait until the camera goes back to a familiar face.

The production value of American Hardcore is, hmm, punk rock to say the least–lav mics clipped to the front of t-shirts, lens flares, an interview with Keith Morris where a tree branch casts a horrible shadow over his face, and some other audio and lighting issues. This wouldn’t fly on MTV or VH1, but because the documentary is telling the stories of don’t-give-a-fuck teenagers who were recording full-length albums on 4-track recorders in their bedrooms, it’s totally acceptable.

American Hardcore succeeds with its brutal honesty. Some may romanticize the early 80’s punk rock era as one where crusty outsiders gloriously united to create a happy punk rock utopia, but after an hour into the film, you soon realize that–like in many other music scenes–drugs, machismo, robbing, stealing, and our-scene-is-better-than-your-scene feuds weren’t exempt from punk rock music.

Fortunately the film balances out the bad of punk rock with the good. In one of the more interesting stories, MacKaye explains how he took apart an album cover, to find out how manufacturers glued them together. MacKaye would then trace over the album cover and use it as a template for thousands and thousands of his band’s records, which were all assembled by hand, using only elbow grease and Elmer’s glue.

The many, many performance clips are also exciting to watch, and make you want to damn your parents for not being born earlier in life. Who wouldn’t want the chance to see Minor Threat, Bad Brains, D.O.A., Zero Boys or Black Flag in their prime?

As a fan of punk rock and hardcore music I thoroughly enjoyed American Hardcore, but for someone not familiar with this time and place in music, I don’t know if they would be able to enjoy it as much. Rachman squeezed in a ton of bands and provided a nice overview of the era, but a few questions–at least for me–remained unanswered. I wanted a more in-depth look on why Ronald Reagan pissed everyone off so much in the 80’s (since he became the de facto bad guy on so many punk rock flyers), why there were so many three-lettered bands from that era (D.O.A., D.R.I., DYS, MDC, S.O.A., YDI), and why so many of the punks back then are still bitter today? For an era that has made many feel so liberated, it bums me out that some of its forefathers are still talking like it’s 1986.

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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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