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SXSW 2009: “The Hurt Locker.”

SXSW 2009: “The Hurt Locker.” (photo)

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“The Hurt Locker” is an action movie, which, given that it’s also a movie about the Iraq War, is kind of a revelation. Enough Iraq War films have been made now to enforce the common belief that no one actually wants to watch Iraq War films because they’re “depressing.” Which they generally are. The war is depressing. The trauma faced by the troops is depressing, the ethical morass of our involvement is depressing, the cost, in dollars and, more importantly, in lives — depressing.

“The Hurt Locker” doesn’t sidestep these facts as much as it doesn’t engage them at all — it’s a movie about combat, about the lulls and lows and unexpected, wild highs of life in a war zone. It’s essentially apolitical, its concerns not about the larger picture but how the men on which it focuses live lives stretched tight as a wire, and about how one of them has grown to love that. It’s also, with no disrespect to the seriousness of its setting, just a kick-ass entertainment, peppered with set pieces that summon incredible suspense out of stillness, whether during the defusing of an IED on a cleared out city street or during a sniper battle out in the desert. No finger-wagging, no “Redacted”-style didacticism, just head-rushingly cinematic sequences showing off the extremely dangerous day-to-day of an army bomb squad stationed in Iraq. A bravura opening shows the unit’s tools of trade: a robot with a camera, an armored suit that won’t do a damn thing if the tech wearing it has to actually close enough to a bomb to defuse it, and guns to wave uneasily at the crowd watching from the surrounding buildings, one that might conceal whoever has ability to detonate the explosive. When a bomb does goes off, the impact’s broken into tremory shots of dust rising off the ground, debris mushrooming into the air and blood spraying against the inside of a helmet.

The most familiar faces in the film — Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Guy Pearce — show up and depart in unexpected places. The main roles belong to a pair of up-and-comers who’ve been rattling around the indie world for a while now, Anthony Mackie, of “Half Nelson” and “She Hate Me,” and Jeremy Renner, of “28 Weeks Later” and “North Country.” Mackie’s the straight-laced Sergeant Sanborn and Renner is James, the bomb tech and what one colonel admiring deems a “wild man,” both very skilled and very reckless with his work. Their relationship’s your basic odd-couple-coming-to-terms, and James, corn-fed and cocky, is in many ways your basic blockbuster hero. But the film’s set in something closer to the real world, where that’s not such a good thing — that swagger and that thrill-seeking make James more than a little fucked-up, someone who puts the lives of those around him in danger even as he demonstrates how great he is at what he does, how much better he is under pressure.

Kathryn Bigelow’s always shown a gift for injecting intelligence into big, pop productions, or maybe just knowing that aiming wider doesn’t require dumbing down. Or maybe that’s not even the point — “Point Break” could by no sane person be described as “smart,” but it’s more than earned its following with its full-born commitment to giddy, physics defying stunts and unwinking man-angst. The sluggish parts of “The Hurt Locker” — a storyline involving an particularly underdeveloped psychiatrist, a nighttime solo attempt at revenge — feel extraneous because, well, they are, adding nothing of worth to the characters or narrative, but also because they represent time away from the singular adrenaline-heightened sharpness of the bomb scenes. For James, everything between those peaks is colorless and dull, his life ideally one dally with mortality after another, and the film, as admirable as it is, feels like it should be true to that too.

“The Hurt Locker” will be in theaters June 26.

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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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