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The week’s critic wrangle: Some Scorsese guy, “Little Children,” “Shortbus.”

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"When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?"
+ "The Departed": We had a suspicion Martin Scorsese‘s latest wasn’t going to be so great — no reason, except that perhaps it seemed a too good to be true. Scorsese returning to crime and criminals; Scorsese remaking "Infernal Affairs"; Scorsese doing Boston! Well, looks like we were wrong, thank gods.

At LA Weekly, Scott Foundas calls "The Departed" "the best thing [Scorsese]’s done in ages," and while noting that he "wouldn’t rush to call the movie one of Scorsese’s best," also concludes rather nicely that

Indeed, the very vibrancy of this movie is tied to its familiarity, to the thrill of seeing “Marty” shrug off his yen for enshrinement in some ersatz canon and rekindle the old razzle-dazzle — the pulse-quickening energy, the restless zooms and tracking shots, the explosions of gory violence — that once made every young film student in America want to be him (before they decided they wanted to be Tarantino instead).

Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly thinks that the shift of setting to Boston has freed Scorsese up: "In embracing this new locale, Scorsese creates a movie built on the foundations of GoodFellas and Mean Streets but not chained to it, a picture that feels as effortless as The Aviator and Gangs of New York felt effortful." At New York, David Edelstein writes that "[t]he movie works smashingly, especially if you haven’t seen its Hong Kong counterpart and haven’t a clue what’s coming. But for all its snap, crackle, and pop, it’s nowhere near as galvanic emotionally." He also finds DiCaprio a little "lumpish," and Nicholson a little too much "Jack," an emotion seconded by Manohla Dargis at the New York Times: "[H]e’s playing bigger and badder than life with engines roaring. It’s a loud, showy performance." In comparing this remake with the original, she adds that "Hong Kong and Hollywood action films are themselves doppelgängers of a sort, and Mr. Scorsese, himself larger than life, is one of their biggest, baddest daddies."

Dana Stevens at Slate (who cautions that "The Departed isn’t the masterpiece I have the feeling some may hail it as. It feels like the kind of movie critics might overpraise, if only because it’s nice to see Scorsese back in the saddle and a treat to find a cops-and-robbers thriller with some energy and wit.") is one of several to hail Mark Wahlberg‘s performance: "As the foul-mouthed putdown artist Dignam, Wahlberg can’t deliver a line without cracking the audience up. He shines even amidst a uniformly strong cast, just as he did in I Heart Huckabees."

At Salon, Stephanie Zacharek writes that "This is a picture of grand gestures and subtle intricacies, a movie that, even at more than two hours long, feels miraculously lean. It’s a smart shot of lucid storytelling." She goes so far as to say

People will want to compare "The Departed" with "Goodfellas," but the movies are worlds apart: "Goodfellas," for all its violence, carries nearly no emotional weight — it’s a tooting fairground organ with no soul. "The Departed" has weight and bite, although it’s also a thrilling entertainment.

And J. Hoberman at the Village Voice compares and contrasts "The Departed" with "Infernal Affairs" more than anyone else, finding the former lacking and "[n]either a debacle nor a bore." His problem, too, is Jack, and he slips in that "Scorsese has a long history of burdening films with unpleasant and even atrocious central performances, and Nicholson seems bent on twirling the mustache off Daniel Day-Lewis‘s heavy in Gangs of New York—a role that really belonged to producer Harvey Weinstein."



Pedophiles away.
+ "Little Children": While soundly derided by everyone we spoke to at the New York Film Festival (we passed on it — Matt Singer reviews it here), Todd Field’s second directorial effort has attracted mixed-to-good reviews from the general critical mass. Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly declares the film a "jolting, artfully made drama set in and around a suburban playground somewhere between American Beauty and In the Bedroom on America’s psychic highway," and A.O. Scott at the New York Times, in a thoroughly rapturous review, heralds Field as "among the most literary of American filmmakers, one of the few who tries to find a visual language suited to the ambiguous plainness of contemporary realist fiction."

Elsewhere, other aren’t impressed. At LA Weekly, Ella Taylor bemoans that the film "divides its time evenly between melodrama and black comedy, uneasy bedfellows under most conditions but especially in a movie that solicits sympathy for its wounded souls." David Edelstein at New York calls the film "an unusually powerful mess," but ultimately finds that it works: "This is satire that doesn’t diminish its characters. It makes them bottomless."

And Andrew O’Hehir at Salon wraps it all up:

"Little Children" is going to get some very good reviews, and right now its producers are expecting to line up onstage at awards shows toward the end of winter. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s an unholy mess, simultaneously too Gothic and too sarcastic, that preaches liberation and delivers only puritanism. It’s a craftsmanlike but robotic imitation of "interesting" filmmaking, only in patches, and by accident, the real thing. Let it win awards; no one will even remember it in five years.


"I like cute people."
+ "Shortbus": The surprise champion of John Cameron Mitchell‘s melange of unsimulated sex and post-9/11 trauma is Armond White at the New York Press, who sets aside his aversion for all things hipster to declare "If Gregg Araki’s kaleidoscopic Nowhere was Gen X’s La Dolce Vita, this is Gen Y’s funny-and-raunchy Rules of the Game":

I never expected a movie this playfully adroit and poignant from the director/star of the calamitous Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The events of 9/11 must have sent a jolt through Mitchell, causing him to understand that boho grandstanding on its own has little justification.

Others liking the film include Scott Foundas at LA Weekly, who writes:

The sex in the movie is “real” not just because it isn’t simulated, but because the bodies taking part in it are of all shapes and sizes, including a great many that would never pass a Hollywood screen test. But the boldest provocation of Mitchell’s sweet, tender and gently funny film may be its exuberant celebration of community and togetherness at a cultural moment rife with fatalism and disconnect.

Manohla Dargis at the New York Times is charmed: "Mr. Mitchell isn’t the first non-pornographic filmmaker to incorporate sexually explicit material into his work, but he may be the most optimistic and good-natured…Make those bodies laugh as well as writhe, as Mr. Mitchell does here, and the metaphors can feel less punishing, more palatable." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon is also charmed:

[T]he sex is the most unremarkable thing about it. What surprised me most about this gentle-spirited sprawl of a movie, set in post-9/11 New York City, is what I can only call the friendly, Midwestern quality of the filmmaking… This may be a movie made by a New Yorker (albeit a Texas-born one), yet it’s anything but insular. Gregarious, neurotic, maybe a little guilty of oversharing: "Shortbus" is American right to its nonexistent short shorts.

Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly declares that "If I’m going to see sex on
screen — as opposed to the brushing of teeth — I want something hotter.
I find these people silly, and desperately antic." And Reverse Shot‘s trio, which this week is made up of
Michael Koresky, Keith Uhlich and Jeannette Catsoulis, are mixed. Uhlich dislikes the "false-hearted pathos/catharsis," while Catsoulis and Koresky love and like it, with Koresky writing that:

Mitchell’s cinematic instincts — so musical, so grandiose, so spectacularly queer yet attempting to be hetero-friendly — are so dead-on ("Shortbus" contains the most humane, compassionate use of the close-up of any American film this year) that it will be easy for many to overlook "Shortbus"’s slightly faulty wiring and precarious plot pivots.

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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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