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Your Holiday Indie Film Preview

Your Holiday Indie Film Preview (photo)

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2009 is about to end with a bang, though probably not the apocalyptic kind predicted in the long-awaited adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” or Chris Smith’s terrifying doc “Collapse,” though those will both be playing at your local arthouse. Instead, audiences will be able to enjoy a winter of wildly different indie film offerings to reflect the wildly different tastes of moviegoers as we leave one decade and move into another. (There are also many different ways to watch them, as you can tell from our Anywhere But a Movie Theater section.)

From November through January, there will be musicals (“Nine”), comedies (Broken Lizard’s “The Slammin’ Salmon”) and stop-motion animated wonderments (“A Town Called Panic”) to entertain and new films from Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodóvar, Richard Linklater, Terry Gilliam and Werner Herzog to ponder. And if new movies aren’t necessarily doing the trick, you can always cozy up in your local repertory theater during the cold winter. Either way, there will be plenty of cinema to light up this holiday season.

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Week Ending November 6

Precious

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire”

The Cast: Gabourey Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz
Director: Lee Daniels
Fest Cred: Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, Deauville, San Sebastián, New York
The Gist: It’s been a long road for Lee Daniels, but after producing such films as “Monster’s Ball” and making his directorial debut on the much-maligned “Shadowboxer,” the multihyphenate is enjoying the best reviews of his career for this searing drama about an overweight teen who attempts to change the course of her life after getting pregnant with a second child by her father. Besides the endorsement of executive producers Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, the film picked up audience awards at Sundance and Toronto and if Matt Singer is to be believed, co-star Mo’Nique, who plays Precious’ abusive mother, is a “mortal lock for an Oscar nomination.”

“Collapse”
Director: Chris Smith
Fest Cred: Toronto
The Gist: Billed as a bit of a breakthrough since it was picked up for a concurrent theatrical and VOD release so soon after its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Chris Smith’s latest doc is far scarier than anything in his making-of-a-horror-film chronicle “American Movie.” Smith sits down with a former police officer named Michael Ruppert, who spends the next 82 minutes detailing the interconnected breakdown of the world’s economy and destruction of the environment, the product of a lifelong pursuit that may have resulted in collateral damage to his own life.

“La Danse: The Paris Ballet Opera”
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Fest Cred: Toronto, London
The Gist: Legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman (“Titicut Follies”) turns his camera towards the Paris Opera Ballet, taking as much pleasure in documenting the artistry of the dancers as the delicate dance the Ballet’s administration must do in fundraising to finance their season. The film gives an insider’s peek at the production of seven ballets including Wayne McGregor’s “Genus,” Angelin Preljocaj’s “Le Songe de Medée,” Mats Ek’s “La Maison de Bernarda,” Pierre Lacotte’s “Paquita,” Rudolph Noureev’s “Casse Noisette,” Pina Bausch’s “Orphée and Eurydice,” and Sasha Waltz’s “Romeo and Juliette.”

“Endgame”
The Cast: William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller, Mark Strong, Derek Jacobi
Director: Pete Travis
Fest Cred: Sundance
The Gist: Based on Robert Harvey’s “The Fall of Apartheid,” this true-life drama stars Ejiofor as African National Congress leader Thabo Mbeki and Hurt as philosophy professor Willie Esterhuyse, two men whose unexpected bond helped forge a truce during secret talks that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa.

“French Gigolo”
The Cast: Nathalie Baye, Eric Caravaca, Isabelle Carré, Josiane Balasko
Writer/Director: Josiane Balasko
Fest Cred: Sundance, Rome, Seattle
The Gist: “French Twist” director Balasko continues her fascination with relationships between men and women with this comedy about a middle-aged woman (Baye) who hires gigolos to satisfy her carnal needs, but develops a different kind of relationship with her new escort Patrick (Caravaca), a part-timer whose wife gets jealous when she discovers how exactly he’s supporting her new hair salon endeavor.

“Humble Pie”
The Cast: Hubbel Palmer, William Baldwin, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce McGill, Vincent Caso, Rae Ritke
Director: Chris Bowman
Fest Cred: Slamdance, U.S. Comedy Arts, AFI Dallas, Starz Denver, Bend
The Gist: After kicking around the festival circuit since 2007 under the title “American Fork,” first-time feature director Bowman takes the reins of this comedy that features writer/star Hubbel Palmer as an overweight Midwesterner who divides his free time between writing poetry and studying acting with an arrogant has-been (Baldwin) when he isn’t working at the local supermarket. The latest from “Napoleon Dynamite” producer Jeremy Coon will open in Portland, Oregon before a December 4th release in Denver.

“The Men Who Stare At Goats”
The Cast: George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang
Director: Grant Heslov
Fest Cred: Venice, Toronto, Fantastic Fest
The Gist: Those who have been waiting to see the return of Jeff Bridges in a “Big Lebowski”-esque free spirit vein won’t be disappointed (though others might be) by this “more true than you’d like to believe” story about a U.S. military unit dedicated to the research of paranormal and psychic powers. McGregor anchors Grant Heslov’s directorial debut as a journalist who accompanies one of the unit’s former members (Clooney) in a drive across Kuwait.

“Splinterheads”
The Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Rachael Taylor, Christopher McDonald, Lea Thompson, Dean Winters, Frankie Faison
Writer/Director: Brant Sersen
Fest Cred: SXSW, Oxford, Woodstock, New Hampshire
The Gist: The title of “Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story” director Sersen’s second feature refers to a small-time con artist (Taylor) who ensnares the affections of a aimless twentysomething (Middleditch) when her carnival comes to town, though he’s the one who is forced to get crafty when her aggressive ex-boyfriend (Winters) and the local policeman (McDonald) get in the way of their burgeoning romance.

“That Evening Sun”
The Cast: Hal Holbrook, Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Mia Wasikowska, Carrie Preston, Barry Corbin, Dixie Carter
Writer/Director: Scott Teems
Fest Cred: SXSW, Nashville, Little Rock, Sarasota, Atlanta
The Gist: Teems’ directorial debut was the hit of SXSW when it premiered in Austin, with many buzzing about the performance of 82-year-old Hal Holbrook as a Tennessee farmer who returns from an unpleasant stay at a nursing home to his farm and finds that his so (Goggins) has leased the land to a ne’er do well (McKinnon) who is trying to get his life together.

“Turning Green”
The Cast: Timothy Hutton, Alessandro Nivola, Colm Meaney, Donal Gallery
Writer/Directors: Michael Aimette & John G. Hofmann
Fest Cred: CineVegas, Newport Beach
The Gist: Why distributor New Films International ditched this dramedy’s original tagline — “The story of a boy, a country, and a box of porn” — for a much more solemn ad campaign fronted by a desperate looking Hutton and a concerned Fiennes and Nivola is a mystery, but not nearly as much as why it took four years for first-time writer/directors Aimette and Hofmann to find a distributor for their film about a 16-year-old American ex-pat who seeks to finance his escape from Ireland by selling adult mags, though the local hoods (Hutton and Nivola) take notice and want in on the action.

“Victory Day”
The Cast: Sean Ramsay, Natalie Shiyanova, Milan Kolik,
Director: Sean Ramsay
The Gist: A triple threat as a writer, director and star, Sean Ramsay puts his dukes up to play a “firebrand journalist with a short fuse” who travels to Prague to take down a Russian oligarch (Kolik), accompanied by a prostitute he rescues from sex slave traffickers (Shiyanova).

“You Cannot Start Without Me”
Director: Allan Miller
The Gist: Appropriately enough, Symphony Space in New York will give a theatrical run to this doc that follows a year in the life of conductor Valery Gergiev, the current director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg as he jumps around the globe to London and New York, preparing for concerts from the rehearsal process to performance.

Continue to November 13th »

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.