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Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See

Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See (photo)

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The Associated Press reported Monday that British director Peter Yates died over the weekend of an illness at the age of 81. As The AP reports, Yates had a unique career path:

“Born in Aldershot, southern England in 1929, Yates trained as an actor, performed in repertory theater and did a stint as a race-car driver before moving into film, first as an editor and then as an assistant director on films including Tony Richardson’s ‘A Taste of Honey’ and J. Lee Thompson’s ‘The Guns of Navarone.'”

Yates had a long and, at times, not-quite-illustrious career: his filmography includes the fantasy cheesefest “Krull” and the underwater cheesecakefest “The Deep”, a “Jaws” knockoff that became a hit mostly because Jacqueline Bisset spent a good portion of the movie in a wet t-shirt. But a couple of duds don’t tarnish an impressive legacy, including at least three films that, in my opinion, every movie fan should see. They are:

“Bullitt” (1968)

01122011_bullitt1.jpgThe Library of Congress selects movies for its National Film Registry based on their “cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance.” No wonder that “Bullitt” was chosen in 2007: it has all three. Steve McQueen’s iconic look as San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Bullitt — sportcoat over turtleneck with that elaborate shoulder holster — still remains one of the signature looks for cops in films. And of course the film’s rightfully famous car chase, which lasts more then ten minutes, remains one of the greatest in movie history.

One of the best things about all of Yates’ films are their real sense of place. “Bullitt” is set in San Francisco: not Toronto playing San Francisco, not a Hollywood backlot doubling for San Francisco, but San Francisco, the real city. That’s never clearer than during that incredible car chase, when the camera assumes the perspective of Bullitt behind the wheel of his 1968 Ford Mustang GT, as he flies down the hilly streets of The City By the Bay.

“Bullitt” is a police procedural free polish and gloss. McQueen is cool, of course, but his job doesn’t look glamorous; it looks exhausting. Bullitt works as hard as he can but he still can’t save everyone; despite his best efforts, people still die, brutally and horribly. With its anti-authoriarian hero and blunt depictions of violence, “Bullitt” made cop movies relevant for 1960s audiences. And it still holds up today.

“The Hot Rock” (1972)

01122011_hotrock1.jpgSteven Soderbergh watched two movies as research for directing “Ocean’s Eleven:” “Ghostbusters” and Yates’ “The Hot Rock.” The influence is obvious from the very first scene: both movies begin with their heroes getting released from prison and immediately diving right back into the con game. In the case of “The Hot Rock,” that hero is John Dortmunder, ably played by Robert Redford with just the right mix of laconic cool and world-weariness. Plus, his sideburns are amazing.

Redford and his brother-in-law Kelp (George Segal) are hired by an African diplomat (Moses Gunn) to steal a rare jewel from the Brooklyn Museum. They pull the heist off but one of their partners gets nabbed by the cops, and he’s the guy who was carrying the stone. That’s Greenberg (Paul Sand). So now they’ve got to break Greenberg out of jail to get at the gem. Only to keep it from the cops, Greenberg had to swallow the rock, and when he, ahem, passed it, he had to stash it in his holding cell in another jail. So now they’ve got to break into that jail, which is on the top floor of a police station. “Couldn’t you just keep swallowing it?” the exasperated diplomat asks. Greenberg thinks about it, as he clearly thought about it in the jail, debating whether or not he could swallow a priceless poop. Finally, he responds. “No!”

I guess you could argue that “The Hot Rock” doesn’t have much going for it in the stakes department, and that Dortmunder’s buddies are so laid-back about robbery and so unfazed by failure that their repeated attempts to nab The Hot Rock don’t amount to much. But “The Hot Rock” is, like Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” as much fun to watch for the lovable characters as it is for the heists. Their repeated failures are bad news for them and great news for us because every time they lose the rock it means we get to spend a little longer with these hilarious screw-ups.

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973)

01122011_coyle1.jpgJust one year after “The Hot Rock,” Yates directed a film that plays like its twisted doppelganger. “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is as gritty and bleak a heist film as “The Hot Rock” is a bubbly and comic one. Both movies are about the same ideas — loyalty, friendship, and family — but where “The Hot Rock” tells a crime story that celebrates and upholds those values, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” shows how all of those ideals mean nothing when tested against the strongest human impulse: self-preservation.

In one of his best performances, Robert Mitchum plays Eddie “Fingers” Coyle, a career criminal awaiting sentencing for a botched truck robbery. His only hope of avoiding jail time is by ratting out the guys he works with, including his gun supplier, who delivers the film’s best line: “This life’s hard, man. But it’s harder if you’re stupid.” From Mitchum on down the line, the cast is fantastic: Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, and Alex Rocco as a bankrobber Coyle sells Brown’s guns to.

The movie includes several terrifying heist sequences featuring Rocco’s gang, clad in eerie, dehumanizing masks, as they pick apart Boston-area banks. But really this is a movie about mortality, about an old guy coming to grips with the fact that he’s all played out and, as such, it’s probably the most fitting movie to watch this week to celebrate Yates. This is a sad movie. The title is so cruel too. A real thief doesn’t have friends: just potential betrayers.

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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.

via GIPHY

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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