DID YOU READ

Cornell Boxes

Cornell Boxes (photo)

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Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson has a completely distinctive way of making movies — which translates to, he’s fortunate enough to have happened on a visual vocabulary that’s at the same time unique and deadpan and invigorating. Famously, Andersson has made only four features in over 40 years; after the failure of his second, 1975’s “Giliap,” he “retired” and spent over two decades going gangbusters as a commercial director, and developed his distinctive style, a kind of full-frontal, cold-blooded Beckettian art-comedy. Only in 2000, with “Songs from the Second Floor,” did Andersson decide the dry one-shot trope that was so funny in TV ads could work differently, mordantly, at length, and could build a feature.

Shot in wide angle from a personal-space-respecting distance in a fluorescent-lit world of moldy green pastels and ashen-faced zombie-humans acting out the absurd machinations of modern life, Andersson’s mature films make his dyspeptic Scando-brother Aki Kaurismäki look like Baz Luhrmann by comparison. Yet they’re funny and ecstatic, a parade of little Cornell boxes of life, coincidence, bad fortune and hope. “You, the Living,” his latest, is almost the shadow side of the previous film’s apocalypse-on-the-march tableaux; the world is the same, but instead of absurd dread, there’s a hesitant sense of jubilation and forgiveness.

01122010_YoutheLiving2.jpgAndersson’s movies are so mysterious and rigorous that they demand you use words like that — words that imply a vision of humanity larger than just a filmgoing experience. In this world, the various characters we meet often speak directly to us, sometimes about their dreams, which are then revealed as well, in real time. All the while, we see these people in entire rooms, and there’s no hurry.

A man stuck in a drizzly traffic jam shouts at us from his car, telling us about a dream that we then see, and which ends badly, in the electric chair. Desolate musicians abound, practicing their tubas and bass drums at home and driving their neighbors insane, and they reappear endlessly, playing at funerals and in parades in which other characters participate, before meeting to practice and ripping into a Dixie riff during a hellacious lightning storm. (It seems like a mildly random attack of scenarios at first, but see it twice and it suddenly appears to have a very tight weave.)

A young waif recounts her daydreamy crush on a local club-band guitarist, and her dream is a showstopper: the two are newlyweds, and as the hyper-coiffed rocker vamps on his axe, the whole apartment block they’re in motors across the landscape like a train, eventually pulling into a station where a crowd of hundreds congratulates them. All of this in one shot, of course. “You, the Living” is all set-piece, all the time — it doesn’t tell a story so much as tracks the fissures in everyday life.

01122010_YoutheLiving3.jpgBut Andersson’s single-shot wonders are not just digitized-Steadicam maneuvers, but the results of extraordinary orchestration, as well as fascinating spatial depth and expert comic timing. (A priceless moment involves a portly caller knocking on a door and presenting a bouquet, only to have the door slammed right on the flowers, leaving them sticking out into the air as the schmuck mopes away.)

It’s the kind of movie that could have a character pickpocketed right in plain view, and because you’re looking elsewhere, you’re not aware of it anymore than he is. The physical dynamics of the film reminded me of what’s possible with expertly timed stop-motion animation — but of course Andersson’s canvas is huge and human, and sometimes involves entire city blocks. The movie redefines “bittersweet” as a qualifier — it’s 80% cacao, and what sugar there is burnt and half-fermented, and bites your throat.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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