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The Good Book

The Good Book (photo)

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Sometimes it’s the small moments.

As in life, in a movie one little thing can have the power to send you into a bittersweet reverie of love lost, or fill your heart with enigmatic emotions. For me, it usually involves music.

There are too many music-in-movie moments throughout the history of cinema to discuss here, but often, even during the shortest bursts of soundtrack — shorter than say, Harold waiting for the fate of Maude and driving his car towards that cliff to the entire tune of Cat Stevens’ “Trouble” (one of the most heart-achingly beautiful and brilliantly edited mergings of song and image) — if set properly, I can get chills just watching a few moments of a musical interlude.

Last year, it occurred in Davis Guggenheim’s documentary “It Might Get Loud,” when Jimmy Page air-guitared to his own old 45 of Link Wray’s “Rumble.” How disarming, touching, oddly life-affirming it was to watch a master air-strum to the thick, evil, inspirational power chords of that other master, Wray, with the beaming smile of a little boy and a lifelong fan. Perfection.

This year (and it’s early yet), it happened in “The Book of Eli” in which directors Albert and Allen Hughes make the inspired decision to meld Denzel Washington with Al Green.

01132010_BookofEli3.jpgOf course, Al Green is easy. Easy in the way that you can’t insert an Al Green song in a movie and not make me feel something. You can’t play an Al Green song in a car without making me look at the world differently. So introducing Washington, after trudging through post-apocalyptic desolation, covered in scarves and layers and grime and dust, and then unwrapping all of this coating to reveal an older face, a scarred body and a mysterious, sadder demeanor, to the tune of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (written by the Gibb brothers — nice touch, Hughes brothers) was one of the most poignant movie moments I’ve seen this year (and I repeat, it’s early yet).

And then there’s the fact that Washington puts the song on himself, taking refuge in a bombed-out house, then grabbing his battered MP3 player with a dying battery to escape the world’s ugliness to the lyrics (and please, hear Green’s soulfully introspective falsetto as you read this): “I can think of younger days, when living for my life was everything a man could want to do. I could never see tomorrow, but I was never told about the sorrow.” Washington choosing that song makes it more affecting. Thank god he chose that song. And, of course he chose that song. This is what Denzel Washington would listen to. He’s not a young man. He’s a man. Further, he’s a god-damn man. And a movie star. He’s a dying breed.

As is the expressive resonance of Al Green. Now, if only the directors had allowed that song to play throughout the entire scene. And if only another Green tune closed the picture. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Choosing a singer who still resides as reverend at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, TN works a dual purpose in that “The Book of Eli” is about The Book, as in the Good Book — the Bible, the book that Washington’s mysterious wanderer Eli has held in his possession, spending 30 years of his life braving a dangerous scorched landscape to protect the text. People want it. Why? Because the words written in that leatherette edition you pass over in your hotel bedside drawer are also contained in Eli’s much-loved locked copy, the only one left in the world.

01132010_bookofeli12.jpgBefore you go “Oh, no! The Hughes brothers (who haven’t made a feature film in nine years, since 2001’s “From Hell”) are getting all Jesus-y Christ-y, Tyler Perry’s Post-Apocalyptic Family Reunion, Kirk Cameron Explains The End Times on us!” — they’re not. Not in the preachy way you might imagine. Not that this would matter — if it works, it works (see “The Passion of the Christ” and leave me alone about it).

With some major nods to “A Boy and His Dog,” “Mad Max,” spaghetti westerns, samurai pictures, the Zatoichi series, “Fahrenheit 451” and even “Deadwood,” the potentially exceptional story (scripted by Gary Whitta) — though not developed to the extent that it could have, and weirdly, not as outlandish as it should have been — finds Eli up against a vicious dictator, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who rules one of the few semi-working devastated towns. Carnegie holds power because, like Eli, he can actually read (part of world decimation has meant that most of the population is now illiterate) and, on top of this talent, he enjoys his books. He frequently dispatches his goons to gather him reading material, which he peruses with relish. (He’s reading a biography on Mussolini upon introduction, which seemed a bit on the nose. Why not Ayn Rand or Céline or Nicholas Sparks?)

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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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