DID YOU READ

A Tree of Souls grows in London.

A Tree of Souls grows in London. (photo)

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Amid all the fuss about “Avatar” shattering Blu-ray sales records, there were a few off notes being hit. Some DVDs wouldn’t play, apparently due to anti-piracy software. As one particularly irate customer wrote, “I am so pissed!!! I have spent the whole day trying to get this to play in a LC-42bd80u with no luck!!!” Indeed.

Meanwhile, torrent pirates bragged that they, too, had set a record: “Avatar” is the most pirated Bluray movie ever (perhaps in part by frustrated customers). As “Ernesto” at TorrentFreak.com gloated, we’ve come a long way since “Ice Age 2” became the first Blu-ray to get BitTorrented: “Piracy was rampant but it has not hindered a film that has broken nearly all sales records in motion picture history. That must be somewhat reassuring for the film industry.”

But the most fun side event was the unveiling of a real-world Pandoran Tree of Souls in London’s Hyde Park — granted, only five meters tall, but it’s the thought that counts. It was metal and plastic, with 20 miles of hanging fiber-optic fables; seen in scale with actor Stephen Lang in the front, it looks kind of dinky.

042922010_pandora.jpgA few years ago, Christo and the late Jeanne-Claude embarked on one of their biggest projects, The Gates, the subject of a Maysles documentary. Their projects tend to make people uneasy, and — despite a fine track record — they must always prove that what they’re trying to do isn’t ecologically harmful. In transforming Central Park with a series of orange gates, they heightened the laid-out artifice of the place Manhattanites like to think of as the closest thing they have to nature, but they also made it a playground. It’s the opposite of the fundamental paradox of “Avatar,” which used megatons of technology to preach for nature and ecological conservation. It’s a tension embodied in the very promotional tree: for every person who connected, wifi-wise, a real tree will be planted.

It’s striking how such a silly concept, replicated at scale, could still bring people out — not just gawkers, but the guy who answered (in full make-up!) “Are you a Na’vi?” with “In a way, yes.” Let’s give appropriate credit to James Cameron for making it possible to entirely transform a physical space for some people not with years of planning and great expense, but with a cheap replica of something that’s not real that’s still more evocative for some.

[Photos: “Avatar,” 20th Century Fox, 2009]

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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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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney To Host Spirit Awards

The Spirit Awards Air February 25 LIVE on IFC.

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The 2017 Spirit Awards have finally found their frontmen: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. And it’s no wonder. Just marvel in their splendid chemistry back when they appeared on Comedy Bang! Bang!:

The pair are prolific within the performing arts community: television (Kroll in The League and The Kroll Show, Mulaney as a writer of IFC’s own Documentary Now!), theater (including Broadway’s current Oh Hello Show), and stand-up comedy. In fact, it’s entirely possible that emceeing an awards show is one of the few remaining line items on their professional bucket lists.

It’s important to caveat this announcement, however. Unlike the bigger and more ubiquitously known awards shows, the Spirit Awards are not, well…boring. (We’re talking to you, Oscar.)

They’re funny. They’re honest. They have quality to match the red-carpet fanfare. And that’s alarmingly special. Last year’s show included some legitimately historic moments, like when transgender actress Mya Taylor won best supporting female, or Kate McKinnon’s hilarious and timely parody of Carol. See more highlights here to get the flavor of the Spirit Awards and read all about Film Independent to dig deeper.

The 2017 Spirit Awards air live February 25 at 5P ET exclusively on IFC.

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