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New Wave and Old Guard

New Wave and Old Guard (photo)

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“The only thing important is where somebody’s going.” That bit of existential wisdom comes from none other than John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), the soft-spoken, bank-jacking antihero of “Public Enemies,” Michael Mann’s latest epic about unhappy tough guys doing what they do best. It’s offered by way of flirtation, as part of Dillinger’s out-of-nowhere and all-out attempt to impress a gorgeous hat-check girl named Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) — a pitch of woo so intense, and so divorced from what Billie considers realistic feeling, that it both unsettles and amuses her. “I’m catching up, meeting someone like you,” he tells her. “Boy, you’re in a hurry,” she deadpans. “If you were looking at what I’m looking at,” “Public Enemy” Number One informs her, “you’d be in a hurry, too.”

On first viewing, I was inclined to call “Public Enemies” minor Mann, a characterization meant not as a putdown, but a simple summary. As anyone who’s read me before well knows, I’m a student of the poetic-bombastic filmmaker, whose worst films are more visually arresting and artistically committed than almost any recent Oscar winner I can recall. His films often play like Samuel Fuller by way of Michelangelo Antonioni — violent tone poems exploring the angst of machismo and the impossibility of deep and lasting connection by way of dreamy montage, hypnotic music and disorienting, off-center compositions. I’m hugely impressed by Mann’s formal restlessness, his thematic consistency and his willingness to change up his game over time (moving from the Stanley Kubrick-level anal retentiveness of his work prior to 1999’s “The Insider” to a more visually and dramatically loose aesthetic, much of it stemming from his recent conversion to high-definition video and mostly handheld camerawork).

That said, “Public Enemies” initially struck me as a signpost/stopgap feature along the lines of “Collateral,” a Michael Mann 101 movie that compressed some of his signature tropes into easily graspable baubles, a work less interesting for its situations and set pieces than for the way in which it seemed to find its director taking stock of recent preoccupations and stylistic tics before moving on. (Conscious callbacks to prior Mann movies abound, such as the mirroring of obsessed cops and robbers, and gestures such as Dillinger somewhat gingerly laying his gun on a tabletop when he enters a hotel-room-as-domestic-sanctuary, and telling bank customers he’s after the bank’s money, not theirs — all echoes of key moments in “Heat” and its TV movie inspiration, “L.A. Takedown.”) The structure of Mann, Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman’s script is episodic, patchy even. Judged against the norms of modern screenwriting convention, the film doesn’t cover much ground; it’s episodic in a manner faintly reminiscent of mid-period Oliver Stone (think “Born on the Fourth of July” or “The Doors,” films that traded narrative-advancing montage for a spare assortment of protracted, often borderline real-time scenes).

07012009_PublicEnemies1.jpgAnd yet, in the two-plus weeks since I first saw “Public Enemies,” it has lingered in my mind more vividly than almost any Hollywood film of the past couple of years — and I’m convinced that its ostentatiously un-blockbustery tendencies are the source of the movie’s vividness. While offering many of the core elements that the marketplace demands (including a badass antihero, a crime-and-violence storyline and a love story), “Public Enemies” gives those same elements short shrift, the better to concentrate on intense but largely unarticulated feelings and psychological states.

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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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