DID YOU READ

“Convento,” Reviewed

“Convento,” Reviewed (photo)

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Unorthodox subjects demand an equally unorthodox documentary — an “unortho-doc?” — like “Convento,” a quiet and curious film about a quiet and curious family living in a former monastery in Portugal, the Convento Sao Francisco de Mertola. They’re the Zwanikkens: mother and former prima ballerina Geraldine, animal and nature lover Louis, and Christiaan, the “kinetic artist” who spends most of his time designing bizarre sculptures, like the one above, that fuse animal bones and remains with working robotics to create moving (practically living) works of art. In this former house of God, Christiaan gets to play God himself, giving life to these weird little robo-beasts.

Little attention is given by director/producer/cinematographer/editor Jarred Alterman to the creative impulses that first gave birth to this very strange passion. Rather than looking into the minds of the Zwanikkens, it attempts to replicate how the Zwanikkens look out at their world, through the careful observation of their daily lives and the lush grounds of the Convento Sao Francisco. Alterman’s camera is constantly gliding around his subjects, and its smooth, constant motion echoes the robotic movements of Christiaan’s artwork. The beauty of simple images like water rushing through an antique well or flowers rustling in the wind help us to understand the Zwanikkens’ unusual living arrangements: growing their own food and recycling the junk they find in a nearby dump into gadgets they can use to power their home.

I would have loved to learn more about how Christiaan’s work has been received by art critics, how much interaction the Zwanikkens have with their neighbors (and what those neighbors think of them), and the exact particulars of how this Dutch family came to own this Portugese monastery. But for 50 brief but captivating minutes, I was invited into their strange, occasionally disturbing, and frequently lovely world. This unortho-doc ultimately doesn’t need to explain much more about its subjects’ motivations because its images provide their own explanation. The perpetually flowing visuals create such a sense of serenity that you don’t want them to end. They make it easy to understand why no one would want to leave this mystical, magical place.

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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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Ho Ho Ha

Xmas Miracles You’ll See At Joe’s Pub

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special Premieres December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It’s just so tempting to bah-humbug the holiday season. And while there’s much we can’t wait to put behind us, one thing left to look forward to with pure and wide-eyed joy is Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celebration in the true spirit of those splendid TV specials from the ’70s and ’80s, complete with special guests, musical numbers, awkward segues and an (intentionally) wafer-thin narrative through line.

As if you need more convincing, here are a few juicy nuggets to get excited for…

Tony Hale plying the captive audience with hot chocolate (and it working).

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Bridget Everett dressed like an ornament…

and in a state of nearly constant wardrobe malfunction.
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Matteo Lane hitting a crazy high note in a Snuggie.

Not a Slanket. There’s a meaningful difference.

Lisa Loeb creeping on Kurt Vile.

#hairlikeapony #whynotme
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Judah Friedlander getting replaced by a robot…

and it pretty much going as expected.
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Bottom line: the miracles abound. Grinches, Scrooges, and Tiny Tims alike will find their Holiday joy. And it’ll be awkward–in the most wonderful kind of way.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10p on IFC

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