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The Timing of “Pelham 1 2 3”

The Timing of “Pelham 1 2 3” (photo)

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I first saw Joseph Sargent’s original “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” at Film Forum less than a month before September 11th. The theater’s later revival of the classic 1974 heist movie unspooled two weeks after the blackout of 2003. The coincidental timing of both engagements reinforced what makes Sargent’s film (with a script by Peter Stone, based on John Godey’s 1973 novel) one of the best movies about New York City: a group of disparate Gotham cranks, weirdoes and hotheads come together in the face of disaster. The original “Pelham” may have been made during the era when President Ford told the city, reeling from crime and near-bankruptcy, to “drop dead,” but the passengers aboard that hijacked subway car and the team of negotiators led by Walter Matthau’s grumpy Transit Authority cop proved they weren’t going down without a few up-yours to the quartet of hoods who messed with them.

Tony Scott’s remake, with the slightly altered title “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” completely deracinates the city, turning it into a garishly sleek soundstage where, in typical Scott fashion, cars are chased and blown up, men are pulverized in the middle of Park Avenue in a hail of bullets and the Manhattan skyline is depicted in tedious, tricked-out edits. The moxie of the original characters, major and minor, has been replaced by the sluggish battle between “Pelham”‘s two bloated leads: Scott regular Denzel Washington in the Matthau role and John Travolta as the villain originated by Robert Shaw, whose suave Mr. Blue did crossword puzzles in between negotiating with Matthau on the squawkbox. Travolta’s psychopathic Ryder, who once managed a private-equity fund, checks the price of gold on his laptop in the motorman’s cab of the hijacked southbound 6 train. This broad, toothless vilification of Wall Streeters is scriptwriter Brian Helgeland’s wan attempt to make the “Pelham” update seem timely — a task repeatedly undone by Travolta’s inability to play a convincing bad dude, his enunciation of “motherfucker” sounding more Edna Turnblad than Vinnie Barbarino.

In an article in the New York Times last month, Scott admitted to having never ridden the subway before starting work on “Pelham.” It shows. The passengers — the hippie, the Jew, the pimp, the gay — in the original “Pelham” may occasionally tip over into stereotype, but they are true, recognizable New Yorkers: a tough, irascible, kvetchy group, unlike the cowed, nearly mute bunch in Scott’s film. The Straphangers Campaign — or anyone with a MetroCard — may want to sue for defamation of character.

06102009_FoodInc.jpgAt the end of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” Denzel Washington’s humble transit cop takes the 7 train home, purchasing, as his wife requested, a gallon of milk. No jacked-up-with-growth-hormones leche for Washington and his wife: Inside his shopping bag is Stonyfield organic 2% milk, a purchase that would surely delight many of the talking heads in “Food, Inc.” (especially Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield Farms). Robert Kenner’s documentary forcefully indicts big agribusiness and horrendously lax FDA standards. Our food is, quite literally, killing us, whether through E. coli-contaminated hamburger meat or the high-fructose corn syrup that’s the main ingredient in extremely cheap products stocked on grocery shelves and found in fast food restaurants, leading to sky-high rates of morbid obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Kenner believes people have the power, exhorting us to shop at farmers’ markets — certainly a wise suggestion, but one that may prove difficult for families on extremely tight budgets, like the one profiled all too fleetingly (and never named) that has difficulty affording fresh broccoli after Dad’s diabetes medicine has been paid for. And though a cheery self-sustaining farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley boasts of how well his pigs and chickens are treated before they’re slaughtered for human consumption, meat, for many, is still murder (and is killing, not so softly, Mother Earth); why Kenner didn’t talk to any advocates of vegetarianism is puzzling.

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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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