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Buzzed-about drama “The New Year” finds a new star in its outstanding lead actress.

Buzzed-about drama “The New Year” finds a new star in its outstanding lead actress. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.

“The New Year” is not a film that benefits from high expectations, an unfortunate situation Brett Haley’s delicate debut finds itself in, having been hailed as the buzziest film at this year’s L.A. Film Festival. Shot for $8,000 in only 12 days, it’s a modest character study that looks every bit its budget, but has one of the few things money can’t buy — a genuine starmaking turn from Trieste Kelly Dunn.

Festivalgoers might already be familiar with Dunn, thanks to a supporting turn in Aaron Katz’s lo-fi mystery “Cold Weather,” playing Bacall to Cris Lakenau’s slacker Bogart (minus the sexual tension — they’re siblings) and blasting her way through second-banana status on snark and stoicism.

In “The New Year,” she’s presented a similar opportunity to plunge into the confusion and restlessness of a post-collegiate funk as Sunny, the diligent daughter of a cancer-stricken college professor. She returns home to tend to her father and sprays the insides of bowling shoes at the local alley to support herself. The alley itself is a dying reminder of her high school glory days, the ball polisher screaming “Make It Happen” in fluorescent red and orange lights, even though “it” obviously won’t any time soon.

06252010_TheNewYear2.jpgDunn can roll her eyes and unsheathe a sharp one-liner with the best of them, but her most impressive feat with Sunny is expressing frustration while never showing defeat. She’s strong, to be sure, jousting daily with her father over things as banal as his TV habits and demonstrating an uncanny knack for throwing strikes when she finally gives into trying bowling for the first time.

Yet in her more quiet moments, there’s searching behind her eyes and a certain smokiness in her voice that suggest even as she’s experiencing a quarterlife crisis, the worst is already behind her.

It’s this same strength that dogs “The New Year” — Sunny’s central dilemma is choosing between two guys who can hardly keep up with her. That they seem to know it is a credit to co-writer/director Haley, but as in so many small-town-set tales, Sunny is forced to pick between the guy who represents staying around and the guy who represents heading somewhere new.

In this case, the divide’s embodied by Jane Austen-reading Tae Kwon Do instructor (and local boy) Neal (Kevin Wheatley) and Isaac (Ryan Hunter), a friend from high school whose new life in New York intrigues her to the point of laughing extra hard at his largely unfunny routine as a stand-up comedian.

06252010_TheNewYear3.jpgAs choices, both are well-balanced, amiable fellows, not like the ne’er do well husband of Sunny’s chatty best friend (Linda Lee McBride) who is used as the film’s yardstick (and comic relief). However, neither can match Sunny for dimension or depth, nor can the actors playing them quite match Dunn.

Perhaps such is the curse of building a film around an actress who runs with her performance as stridently as Dunn does. Haley’s smart enough to step back and let her do her thing. Moments that could be treacly between Sunny and her ailing father are unusually touching, and although Haley’s attempts at humor are sometimes crude, he generally goes for subtlety without ever being solemn, which separates “The New Year” from much of its low-budget brethren.

Still, the film belongs to Dunn, who tellingly interrupted her director during the Q & A of “The New Year”‘s third screening at the L.A. Film Fest and sweetly apologized, “Sorry, did I steal your spotlight?”

She did, and I suspect she’s not letting go any time soon.

“The New Year” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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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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