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The Ten Best Straight-to-DVD Releases of 2010

The Ten Best Straight-to-DVD Releases of 2010 (photo)

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For the fifth year running, we tally up the Other Year’s Best — the films that made it to DVD (or onto U.S. home video in any format) but not to theatrical, which generally meant they posed too much of a marketing challenge. As in, the films were either too odd, too original, too archival, too subtle, too something. DVDs still stand as our go-to B-movie-distribution stream of choice, although as I’ve barked every year, video debuts are still not eligible for any year-end toasts or trophies. Except ours.

10. “Parking” (Chung Mong-hong, Taiwan) At first blush a Taiwanese riff on “After Hours,” this measured little odyssey is more realistic, evoking those all-night odysseys we’ve all had, when time evaporates and tiny logistical dilemmas drive us insane and eventually it’s morning and something about our lives is different. Chung doesn’t spring for laughs when you think he will — he holds back, shoots his urban tapestry as if he were Wong Kar-wai and Ridley Scott’s bastard son, and luxuriates in the secretive weirdness. Asian demigod Chen Chang stars as a husband in a shaky marriage who stops to buy a cake for his wife, and returns to his car to find it blocked by double-parking, sending him across the paths of two crisscrossing gangster herds, a beleaguered Chinese hooker, a one-handed barber with a secret past, an executed murderer’s family, a mishandled fish head, and so on. (The original review.) (Evokative Films)

9. “How to Live in the German Federal Republic” (Haroun Farocki, Germany) A scrapbook toss-off by one of Europe’s most adventurous documentarians, this assemblage stares dead-eyed at more than 30 real-life scenarios, all shot before reunification, in which West Germans are being trained for living, engaging in classroom reenactments of everything from diapering babies to handling job interviews, launching shoulder rockets, having domestic fights, setting dinner tables, even stripping in nightclubs. Life, here, is not even a movie but an endless preparation for one; it’s a doc, but it’s 100% pretend. (The original review.) (Facets)

12082010_skeletons1.jpg8. “Skeletons” (Nick Whitfield, Great Britain) This deadpan metaphorical farce posits two shabby, suited contractors in black suits making house calls to literally extract poisonous secrets out of people’s closets. Of course they cross their profession’s line and must be exorcised themselves, but the textures are funny and mysterious, and the symbology gets richer the deeper you go. (Indiepix)

7. “Yesterday Girl” (Alexander Kluge, West Germany) Kluge, a New German Cinema pioneer all but unknown here, grabbed the New Wave mantle for his homeland with this intimate, Godardian 1966 critique, in which a disaffected, rebellious girl from East Germany confronts the Darwinian recalcitrance of modern Capitalism in Berlin, beginning with a prison stint for a petty crime. Cut like a pile of mirror shards, and beguilingly generational. (Facets)

6. “Daytime Drinking” (Noh Young-seok, South Korea) A peripatetic generation-Z comedy that’s as eventless, but as seductive and wistful, as a real afternoon boozing spree, following a lovelorn dope as he drunkenly buses to a snowy vacation town expecting to meet his buddies, but arrives alone, and can’t quite leave. Soju-soaked and shruggingly comic, Noh’s movie isn’t high concept, but rather Jarmuschian, ambling along organically, as if it happened on its own, like a mushroom patch or blast of sunlight on a cloudy day. (The original review.) (Evokative Films)

5. “Mary & Max” (Adam Elliot, Australia) A claymation true story as lachrymose and despairing as it is texturally outrageous, this uneasy saga is not for kids, pivoting on child neglect and alcoholism and New Globalism and Asperger’s and loneliness and death. Framed by understated, ironic narration (read by Barry Humphries) that complements Elliott’s handmade visuals like sugar in very black coffee, the movie chronicles the happenstance pen-pal relationship between an abused Australian girl and an obese, middle-aged New York man with debilitating Asperger’s, which does not end well. Elliot’s visual/sculptural invention is fascinating, and the story’s beautifully sad. This loitered around in festivals and in short runs so long it may seem like it was released, but it wasn’t. (The original review.) (MPI)

4. “Sing a Song of Sex” (Nagisa Oshima, Japan) So much happen in the ’60s we never saw – thanks to Criterion, three rare ’60s bonfires by the Japanese New Wave’s most recalcitrant pain in the ass, Nagisa Oshima, qualify as 2010 debuts. Released in 1967, this discontented narrative essay (the actual title is “A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs”) is framed around four students who chase women after their exams, imagine compounded rape scenarios, wonder why they’re not bummed about the death of a professor, and generally stand in for the soulless, aimless generation Oshima witnessed caring little for adult society but barely even caring about the carnage of Vietnam. Absolutely of a piece with “If…,” “La Chinoise” and Bertolucci’s “Before the Revolution,” and entirely improvised, the film is one of the late ’60s key documents, a generational holler with double-bladed edges. Same goes for Oshima’s “Japanese Summer: Double Suicide,” another 1967 assault that is almost pure chaos, pointless violence and anarchic behavior, taking the fragmented wager of late-decade Godard and tripling the bet. Closer to Japanese Makavejev, absolutely logic-free, and completely adorable. (The original review.) (Criterion)

12082010_threedrunkards.jpg3. “Three Resurrected Drunkards” (Nagisa Oshima, Japan) The last “new” Oshima, this absurdist goof lacerates Japanese bigotry, beginning with the three titular idiots, gamboling Monkees-style, going swimming only to have a mysterious hand pop out of the sand and replace their clothes with immigrant-Korean duds. From there, they are persecuted and pursued, captured, shipped out to Vietnam and back, constantly changing clothes in order to better conform but never quite succeeding. Then, after a documentary fissure where the characters interview people on the street (who all say they’re Korean), the entire film begins again but gradually deviates from the first half, as the three schmucks cease resisting being defined one way or another ethnically but instead embrace however they’re perceived. Only Oshima. (The original review.) (Criterion)

2. “The Last Stage” (Wanda Jakubowska, Poland) Where had this history-changer been hiding? Released in 1948, it’s a Polish film about life in Auschwitz, made less than three years after liberation of the camp, shot on location in Auschwitz itself, using real liberated prisoners as extras, filmed by a woman (female Polish directors in the ’40s?) who had been imprisoned in Auschwitz just three years earlier. However professionally glossy (?!), Jakubowska has her shaky hands on what she seemed to already know was the most loaded real location of the 20th century: the train tracks, the front gate, the Nazis guards lined up against the sky as the transports roll in, the inmate crowds so huge (thousands, at least) that Jakubowska could have only recruited extras from displaced person camps in Poland. If any forgotten movie deserves to enter the broader discourse about contemporary history, this is it. (The original review.) (Facets)

1. “Shirin” (Abba Kiarostami, Iran) The Iranian master’s most innovative, and taxing, anti-movie, in which he adapts a classic Persian legend full of romance and swordfights but only as an off-screen rapture enjoyed by dozens and dozens of women in the audience, watching the film that isn’t there. (They’re not even listening — typically for him, AK concocted the hot-blooded soundtrack later.) Sounds simple, but self-reflexivity gets refluxed and refracted right back at ya. (Cinema Guild)

Runners-up: “Searchers 2.0” (Alex Cox, U.S., 2007); “Salto” (Tadeusz Konwicki, Poland, 1965); “Divided Heaven” (Konrad Wolf, East Germany, 1964); “Destricted” (Marina Abramovic, Larry Clark, Matthew Barney, Gaspar Noé, et al., U.S./Great Britain, 2006); “The Disappeared” (Johnny Kevorkian, Great Britain, 2008); “Don’t Look Back” (Marina de Van, France, 2009); “Getting Home” (Zhang Yang, China, 2007); “Towards Zero” (Pascal Thomas, France, 2007); “Storm” (Hans-Christian Schmid, Germany, 2009); “Possible Lives” (Sandra Gugliotta, Argentina, 2007); “Ex-Drummer” (Koen Mortier, Belgium, 2007).

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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