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Neil Gaiman, fantasy champion.

Neil Gaiman, fantasy champion. (photo)

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The New Yorker goes long on Neil Gaiman this week, more or less approved by the man himself. Like pretty much all New Yorker profiles, it’s compulsively readable even when it’s not digging into the dirt. That’s the case with Dana Goodyear’s effort, which prefers to skim entertainingly over the juicier personal stuff (a childhood in Scientology, a relationship with ex-Dresden Dolls frontwoman Amanda Palmer) and hit the highlights rather than delving into analysis.

Certainly, if you were reading it without knowing who Gaiman is, you wouldn’t understand that Gaiman is, in some ways, the only hope for fantasy filmmaking right now. I’m one of those unreconstructed types who likes my books to be unattractively laid-out in dense paragraphs, and I like my fiction mostly mundane. But on-screen, Gaiman’s work is the real thing: inventive, spry, and visually resourceful.

His works are also getting adapted for the big screen frequently of late, which helps; Gaiman’s career goes back to the ’80s, but only recently has he started to dominate. 2005’s underseen “MirrorMask” created a whole plausible world for $4 million, with the help of gauzy CGI that was more conceptual and motif-based than detailed and dazzling. There was the dismal “Stardust,” which Gaiman didn’t write, and the intriguing “Beowulf,” which he co-wrote. And finally, there was the deserved success of last year’s “Coraline” — which he didn’t adapt himself, but was perfectly happy to promote with an enjoyably creepy monologue about buttons. It’s that last credit that stands out; the tough-sell-ish “Coraline” — creepy enough as an adult viewer, downright terrifying for kids — made back more than its $60 million budget domestically, and quietly resurrected Henry Selick’s career after the debacle of “Monkeybone.”

“Coraline” wasn’t just the most successful fantasy film in years (critically and commercially), but gave Gaiman the chance to be something of a brand name in a genre known mostly for the odd movie about dragons every few years (“Reign of Fire,” “Dragonheart,” “Dragonslayer” and so on), the collected cinema of Terry Gilliam and some stragglers here and there. That’s a shame: I won’t read fantasy — the archetypal Joseph Campbell crap bugs me, with the hero cycle combined with the vaguely self-congratulatory insinuation that appreciating fantasy per se makes you your own hero in a mundane world — but watching really inventive fantasy is about as fun as it gets.

01252010_mirrormask.jpgWhat’s interesting about “MirrorMask” and “Coraline” — and perversely gratifying — is the way they punish their (respectively) adolescent and pre-pubescent heroines for dreaming selfishly. They’re essentially the same movie: a young girl resents her parents, dreams of an alternate world, endangers her parents in the process and has to win in the world she’s wished for and terminate it to save everything. Unlike Gilliam’s self-congratulatory dreamers and visionaries, Gaiman makes fantasy worlds that demands a price for entering; it’s got a bite to it that’s unusual.

Now, it’s safe to assume Gaiman has at least a little clout and has — if he plays his cards right and has the interest — the opportunity to smuggle a little pure visual fantasy and inventiveness back on-screen. “Coraline” was the most inventive and surprising $60 million I’ve seen spent in a while; here’s hoping for more.

[Photos: “Coraline,” Focus Features, 2009; “MirrorMask,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2005.]

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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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