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Red Hands and Redheads

Red Hands and Redheads (photo)

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The new forensic doc “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about His Father” is a hot-to-the-touch ignition flame for an unsolvable aesthetic debate between intellect and empathy, film-unto-itself and humanity, self-justifying culture and the life it’s supposed to augment, art and love. It is in some ways a deplorable film, and a seriously compromised documentary, and yet it burns your heart. The movie’s misjudgments almost become its qualities, because they are birthed out of unregulated passion and outrage; as a non-fiction film, it does not constitute an argument but a wail of grief. I had misgivings about the way director Kurt Kuenne made the film from the very beginning, but “Dear Zachary” nonetheless opened my oldest wounds, and I bled.

Kuenne was a lifelong best friend to one Andrew Bagby, a family practitioner who in 2001, at 28, was gunned down by his girlfriend in a Pennsylvania parking lot. As we see in copious detail, Bagby had starred in Kuenne’s amateur film productions from when the two were preteens, and so Kuenne’s position in making the film is clear: he is furious and saddened down to the soles of his feet. While this initial part of “Dear Zachary” is often no more sophisticated than the home movies that comprise it, it still sings the song of this unpretentious, garrulous, lovable man so convincingly that we grow envious of the scores of people who knew Bagby and who joyously dedicated themselves to being his friends. The apple-cheeked Bagby was obviously a life force, about whom no one has anything middling to say, a fact that provides crazily combustible fuel to the deranged tragedy of what happens next: the woman obviously responsible for Bagby’s murder, Shirley Jane Turner, is given all kinds of leeway by the Canadian justice system (she and Bagby had met in Newfoundland, where he went to med school), and when she is eventually arrested, she announces that she’s four months pregnant with Bagby’s child.

She wasn’t lying, and Kuenne stays close to Bagby’s aging parents as they move north to be near the newborn boy, Zachary — who looks too much like Bagby to be fair — and endure an amicable shared-custody arrangement with their son’s apparently disturbed killer. Kuenne’s docket from there is to track the unjust and negligent course of events that leads to further tragedy, and in this, he employs every cheap, childish gimmick used by shrill true crime reenactment shows (the film is, oddly, the inaugural production of MSNBC Films). He even goes to places “America’s Most Wanted” wouldn’t — animating the mouths of Canadian politicians and attorneys in mockery, and so on. The syntax of Kuenne’s film can be brutally lowbrow and manipulative, and I couldn’t blame viewers for dismissing it outright for that. Real-life personal catastrophes happen all the time, after all; is it an excuse to treat viewers as if we’re fools?

But clearly Kuenne didn’t care as much about us, or our viewing experience, as he does about the three generations of Bagbys, and for that I cannot blame him. The tragedy is partly his to bear and make of what he will, and if anything, he’s used the film to eulogize Bagby and to draw together the crowds of people who loved him. The movie’s ulterior purpose may well trump our grouchiness about overripe methods and lack of good taste. But the true story does the walking; “Dear Zachary” is not easy to shake, for reasons that have little to do with cinema, and much more to do with the bonds and painful holes in our own lives.

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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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