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Connecting Ridley Scott’s color schemes, from his commercials to his films.

Connecting Ridley Scott’s color schemes, from his commercials to his films. (photo)

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By his own estimation, Sir Ridley Scott has directed over 2,000 commercials — valuable training for his career as a visual stylist and a trail-blazer in the field of commercials directors who transitioned over to the movies. That’s an enormous body of work, but the stylistic transitions from each decade are surprisingly consistent. In the ’70s, Scott did earth-tones, in the ’80s, he did neon, and after that, he pretty much did anything that would stick.

Scott’s biggest commercial from the ’70s is the Hovis bread “Bike” ad, which readers of the Independent voted their favorite commercial of all time in 2006. Viewed without any nostalgia or context, it’s a hokey piece of work — in a far-off time that never was, a young lad pushes a bike up cobblestone streets while the voiceover mutters something about delivering bread to “ol’ Ma Beggarty’s place” while the “New World” symphony plays, conflating magical old Britain with a symphony designed to evoke America. Here it is:

At that point, Ridley Scott was a British director, something driven home by “The Duellists,” his 1977 feature debut that follows similar visual guidelines. At the time, it was noted for conspicuous stylization, but it’s got nothing on what was to follow — the colors of the outside world bear an actual resemblance to what the world actually looks like. Once he left, his work would never be as self-consciously earthy or faux-naturalistic:

1979’s “Alien” elevated Scott to a whole new level, but it wasn’t until he discovered neon that he found his signature look. “Blade Runner” set the standard for what the future looked like circa the ’80s, and it connected the dots between the rising business specter of Japan and a particular aesthetic (which Scott took it even further with 1989’s “Black Rain,” aka “Michael Douglas vs. The Yakuza”).

This was the point when Scott’s work was actually about something, and some of his most prominent commercials from the period are very clear on this. 1985’s famous “Pepsi: Choice of a New Generation” ad practically looks like an outtake, and even more so the cavernous gloom of a 1986 ad that never saw TV about budget deficits. In the future, we will all live in neon-lit colonies of Japan.

After “Thelma and Louise,” Scott’s work became less distinctive — not just in the floptastic period of “White Squall” and “G.I. Jane,” but even in his alleged ’00s comeback. The difference is a visual one as well. In the ’70s and ’80s, Scott’s lighting was, as they say, “motivated” — you could tell where all the colors were coming from within the set. The commercials are similarly random:

After that, it’s all kind of random, dependent more upon whatever allegedly looks the most cool. I have no idea why the opening battle scene of “Gladiator” is so blue; my only guess is that Sir Ridley decided to follow the lead of his brother Tony (“Top Gun,” “Deja Vu”), the king of unmotivated color palettes. In any case, it hasn’t done his work any favors.

[Photo: The “bike” ad, Hovis, 1973]

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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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