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NYAFF 2006: “Funky Forest: The First Contact,” “Ski Jumping Pairs: Road to Torino 2006.”

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Guitar Brother.Still wounded — here’s one we had prewritten:

You do not know strange until you’ve seen "Funky Forest: The First Contact," from a team of three writers/directors that includes Katsuhito Ishii, whose "The Taste of Tea" won the audience award at last year’s festival. "The Taste of Tea," while also off-kilter, did have a narrative; "Funky Forest" is a collection of sketches strung together by
barely overlapping characters that resembles nothing so much as the experience of late night flipping through public access channels while half asleep on the couch. Powerfully bizarre, often hilarious public access channels: reoccuring characters include the "Unpopular-With-Women Brothers" (one practices elaborate dance routines, another is a chubby white kid, and the third is Tadanobu Asano, strumming solemnly and not very skillfully on a guitar) and the "Babbling Hot Spring Vixens" (self-explanatory?). At various times the film can recall David Cronenberg, Bill Plympton, the more non sequitur-prone moments of Monty Python and, oddly enough, Wes Anderson, but mainly it defies description, two and a half hours of aliens, variety show comedy, rambling anecdotes, dream sequences and dance-offs, interrupted halfway-through with a message that Side A is over and that Side B will start after a three-minute intermission. If you can get on its wavelength (which for some may require chemical aid) there’s lots of fun to be had, particularly in any of the scenes featuring Asano, surely the oddest international heartthrob around with his infallibly befuddled earnestness.

Quietly just as strange, and possibly our favorite film in the festival, is Riichiro Mashima and Masaki Kobayashi’s "Ski Jumping Pairs: Road to Torino 2006," a mockumentary about a fake sport. We know; we’re all for a ten-year moratorium on the genre ourselves, but the delirium of "Ski Jumping Pairs" is impossible to deny: done in the form of a drippy Olympic network special leading up to finals, the film fetishistically layers on all of the elements of a sentimental look at the history of a homegrown sport, from a somber presenter (Shosuke Tanihara, who actually does host TV programs), archival and home movie footage, reflective talking heads, effusive narration and heavy-handed foreshadowing, all to tell the story of brilliant physicist Toshifumi Harada, who, growing up in Hokkaido "devoted himself to skiing and Einstein" and became determined to apply his theory of "special flying object mitosis," aka the Rendezvous Theory, to the sport of ski jumping, using his twin sons as the pioneers. There are of course obstacles and tragedies to overcome, but "Ski Jumping Pairs" never overplays its watery-eyed, subdued sincerity, poking fun at the unavoidable Japanese spirit of ganbaru, of hanging in there and trying one’s best. The film started as a CGI short, and towards the end the main action shifts over to CG work of a quality that will impress no one; still, by that time we were well caught up in the saga of the Harada brothers, who barrel towards a final triumph that is inevitable, ludicrous, and still, somehow, somewhat touching.

"Funky Forest" screens tonight and June 24th at the Anthology; "Ski
Jumping Pairs" also screens tonight and on June 23rd at the Anthology.

+ "Funky Forest: The First Contact" (NYAFF)
+ "Ski Jumping Pairs: Road To Torino 2006" (NYAFF)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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

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