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The week’s critic wrangle: “The War Tapes,” “The Cult of the Suicide Bomber,” “District 13.”

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Specialist Mike Moriarty.
"The War Tapes": Deborah Scranton‘s guardsmen-shot documentary, which won the Best Documentary prize at Tribeca, provokes reactions ranging from impressed to frustrated. At the New York Times, A.O. Scott‘s in the first camp, writing that

Whatever your opinion of the war — and however it has changed over the years — this movie is sure to challenge your thinking and disturb your composure. It provides no reassurance, no euphemism, no closure. Given the subject and the circumstances, how could it?

Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice is startlingly dismissive: "[As] a piece of sociopolitical culture with context and ramifications of its own, it’s a worthless ration of war propaganda—ethnocentric, redneck, and enabling." He crowns the film "the cinematic equivalent to a ribbon magnet," and bemoans the fact that it is gathering awards and attention while what he sees as other, better docs on the subject are being ignored. The Reverse Shot three at indieWIRE are mixed: Michael Joshua Rowin finds the film has s "simple premise yielding revelatory results"; he doesn’t think it’s fair to call it more objective than others simply because it’s shot by the soldiers themselves, but does think it’s "powerful reportage." Chris Wisniewski writes that it’s "not as groundbreaking in practice as it is in principle," Nicolas Rapold is won over by the way the film "courageously spans terrific highs and lows of wartime experience."

And at New York, David Edelstein urges "See ‘The War Tapes.’ Maybe this picture can be worth a thousand lives."


"It was a good path for him to take. So why would we stop him?"
+ "The Cult of the Suicide Bomber": It’s a fun week for film.

This documentary from David Batty and Kevin Toolis, made for Britain’s Channel 4 and written and narrated by Robert Baer, the real-life basis for George Clooney‘s "Syriana" character, gets a small theatrical release here from The Disinformation Company. In the New Yorker, David Denby describes the film as "a pageant of fanaticism, sacrifice, and death," and is most intrigued (and frustrated) by Baer’s interview with the families of bombers:

The families utterly reject the word "suicide." The appropriate word is "martyr," a bomber’s sister firmly tells Baer. Suicide, it seems, implies the possibility of unhappiness or compulsion, an emotional need that has not been met, whereas martyrdom, as the families present it, is always rationally chosen, and a gift to everyone.

At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis finds the film "engrossing if intellectually thin," and bemoans the fact that

Like so many political films of this type made for British television, this documentary contains more information than analysis, not to mention predictably spooky music. Despite its title, this is not a film about the cult of suicide bombings in general; rather, it is about a specific cult that has developed in the Middle East over the last few decades.

[It’s certainly too much ground for a single feature, but it’d be infinitely more interesting to see a study of suicide attacks across history and culture: Dargis writes that these angles are ignored or brushed over.]

Michael Atkinson at the Voice calls the film "rough-hewn," but adds that "Forgive the ’60 Minutes’–style cutaways to Baer, and the experience of Muslim life knotted by destruction—not a TV pundits’ opinions of such—can be eye-opening."


"It's undemocratic, but it works."
+ "District B13": It’s dumb, it’s fun, and you don’t want to see "The Break-up," do you? — of Pierre Morel‘s French futuristic action flick, Jim Ridley at the (New Times) Voice heralds the film as "the most (maybe the only) fun action movie of the summer"; Nathan Lee at the New York Times writes that the film’s extreme sport-hook, parkour, is "a gorgeously choreographed gymnastics of pain that elevates ‘District B13’ over the impossible missions and last stands of the season."

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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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