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Minor Crises

Minor Crises (photo)

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Whether he likes it or not — and we’re talking about a director whose characters feel so much ambivalence that you can practically see it radiating off of them in waves — Andrew Bujalski has become the patron saint of the burgeoning grassroots indie movement misleadingly known as mumblecore. (The people in these films may not know for sure what they want, but they articulate their rococo indecision loud and clear.) To be honest, it’s a movement I’ve mostly resisted thus far, if only because movies are among my few avenues of escape from dithering white postgrads. But while Bujalski’s first two features, “Funny Ha Ha” (2002) and “Mutual Appreciation” (2005), too frequently come across as less than the sum of their circumlocutions, his latest effort, “Beeswax,” represents an encouraging leap forward. For the first time, he’s placed his hapless folk within a recognizable real-world milieu — one in which people have difficulties more pressing than how to extricate themselves from some goofy-ass house party.

Which is not to say that Bujalski has suddenly developed an interest in plot. But while “Beeswax” is as structurally shapeless and deliberately unresolved as his previous work, it does feature a tad more of a scenario than usual, however carefully obscured and downplayed. Real-life twin sisters Tilly and Maggie Hatcher play fictional twin sisters Jeannie and Lauren, who share an apartment in Austin, Texas. Jeannie runs a vintage clothing/bric-a-brac shop, but is concerned that she’s about to be sued by not-so-silent partner Amanda (Anne Dodge), as the two have radically different ideas about how the business should be marketed. Consequently, she’s gotten back in touch with ex-boyfriend Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), who’s gearing up to take the bar exam and clearly wouldn’t mind mixing business with pleasure. Meanwhile, Lauren must decide whether to take a teaching position in Kenya, as accepting the job would require that she fly to Africa immediately, potentially leaving her sister without a support system. (Jeannie also happens to be paraplegic — a fact I mention in passing because that’s how the film treats it.)

None of these crises — and they genuinely do qualify as crises within a Bujalskian context — gets more than a cursory dramatic workout; the film’s ending is typically abrupt and unexpected. What interests Bujalski are the ways in which the social contracts we unconsciously draft and sign with friends, family and lovers reflect and mimic the formal contracts of the employment world. (The film’s title cleverly alludes to this conflation of the personal and the corporate: “None of your beeswax” = “None of your business.”) Jeannie and Lauren’s mother’s girlfriend (Janet Pierson) offers to buy out Amanda’s interest in the shop, but Lauren doesn’t even bother to relay the offer to Jeannie, presumably because there’s some sense that bounds have been overstepped. And while Jeannie and Merrill do fall back into bed, they continue to playfully fight about the precise status of their relationship, with Jeannie at one point repeatedly shouting (over their mutual laughter) “You’re not my boyfriend! You’re not my boyfriend!” On the flip side, when Jeannie and Amanda finally sit down to talk about how best to dissolve their partnership, the conversation sounds eerily like every break-up you’ve ever experienced.

08032009_beeswax1.jpgIn its rambling, lackadaisical way, “Beeswax” represents the down-market version of Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience,” examining the commodification of relationships among those of us for whom money is in fact an object. More than that, though, the injection of commerce, even on this tiny scale, makes Bujalski’s wryly comic take on the hazards of modern communication seem considerably tougher and less insular than it has in the past. A series of sub-incidents — “subplot” would imply that the film has a main plot — involving new hire Corinne (Katy O’Connor), for example, yield some terrific scenes that show how Jeannie’s natural empathy suddenly vanishes when she puts on her boss hat. But I was every bit as enthralled by an apparently random moment in which an earnest conversation among Jeannie, Lauren and Merrill gets interrupted by Corinne calling from the store to report that the cash register is broken and must receive instructions on how to sell items by hand. Bits of literal “business” such as that feel rather like the workaday world intruding on a long solipsistic vacation. I don’t want to say that Bujalski has matured, but at the very least he’s now stepped outside.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


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…