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2006: The Year in Blurbs

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By Michelle Orange, Matt Singer, R. Emmet Sweeney and Alison Willmore

IFC News

[Photo: “The Departed,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 2006]

As the year-end wrap-ups and round-ups roll in, they all seem to groaningly agree that it’s been a pretty mediocre year at the movies. Not that there weren’t plenty of notable losses, highlights, events, performances and screenings — here, we look back at some of the personal bright spots and other memorable moments of the year in film we don’t want overlooked.

The Alamo Drafthouse

For those of you who’ve heard about it but haven’t been, I’m here to tell you: you haven’t seen a movie until you’ve seen it Alamo Drafthouse-style. A small but growing Texas chain, the Alamo — which also created the ingenious Rolling Roadshow, where classic movies are shown in the locations that inspired them — shows movies the way God intended, assuming God is a very lazy film nerd who likes to eat and drink while watching his movies. The Alamo’s presentation involves the most important innovation to moviegoing technology since the stadium seat: food and drink served to you via waiter throughout your movie. No having to miss parts of the movie to hit the concession stand and, more importantly, lots and lots of booze. Once you’ve seen “Talladega Nights” at the Alamo you’ll never want to see it any other way. I’m waiting for a New York branch with bated breath. —Matt Singer

Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed”

Stealth move of the year: while Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon fretted and fumed and furrowed their smooth movie-star brows as a cop-turned-mob mole and a mob mole-turned-cop in Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited return to the crime epic, two former leading men-turned-scene stealers walked off with their movie. Alec Baldwin, who’s been so much fun to watch since he’s been freed from Hollywood jawline roles, plays Captain Ellerby, the head of the Special Investigation Unit and the only character who seems to have not been informed that the weight of the world is resting on his shoulders — thrilled to have cell phone surveillance ability in their first big attempt to nab Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello, he seizes shoulders in glee: “Patriot Act, Patriot Act! I love it, I love it, I love it!” And I would happily watch a movie that simply followed around Mark Wahlberg’s Sergeant Dignam, the foulest-mouthed Statie in New England with, deservedly, all the best lines. The two have one hilarious back-and-forth in front of Ellerby’s squad (“Go fuck yourself.” “I’m tired from fucking your wife.”), while everyone watches and wonders why they aren’t getting to have such a good time. —Alison Willmore

“United 93” opens the Tribeca Film Festival

When it was announced in March that “United 93” was not only going to have its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival but have a place of honor as the opening film, a queasy debate, fueled by emotion and anxiety, was sparked. That a film could provoke such a reaction is the hope of any festival programmer, but in the case of Paul Greengrass’s attempt at a faithful recreation of the hijacking of United flight 93 on September 11, 2001, the circumstances were without precedent, and the heated anticipation was extremely conflicted. Tribeca, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year, was created in the wake of 9/11 in an attempt to revitalize the devastated lower Manhattan neighborhood; almost all of the screenings take place within blocks of where the buildings fell, and as the opening drew closer, festival-goers had to ask themselves whether they were ready for the experience. The fear, of course, was that the movie would be badly handled, but even the best-case scenario was a wrenching one. Filled with trepidation, many attendees to the April 25th opening set up meeting places with their companions in advance, in the seemingly likely event that one of them would leave what is now being hailed as one of the best movies of the year before it ended. —Michelle Orange

Betty Comden, 1915-2006

On November 23 of this year, Betty Comden passed away. Along with her artistic partner Adolph Green (who died in 2002), she wrote “The Barkleys of Broadway” (1949), “On the Town” (1949), “Singin’ In the Rain” (1952), “The Band Wagon” (1953), “It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955) and “Bells Are Ringing” (1960). Read those titles again and try not to crack a smile at any number of Technicolor memories. Have any screenwriters/lyricists ever had a run like this? Comden-Green wrote “Moses Supposes” from “Singin’ In the Rain” and the similarly cadenced “Saturation-Wise” for “It’s Always Fair Weather,” both tunes building up a rhythm by repeating the conversational patter of gasbag experts, a speech therapist in the former, an ad executive in the latter. They turned callow business-speak into joyous, destructive art. She and Adolph had the luck to be paired with Vincente Minnelli on many of their scripts, as his sharp and colorful compositions were a perfect fit for Comden-Green’s cutting wit. The duo had a much longer and successful career as lyricists on Broadway, winning five Tony awards, but my memories of her will be forever tied to Astaire and Kelly getting’ their shoes shined and acting the clown. —R. Emmet Sweeney

Mexico rules

There they were at the Gotham Awards, arms around each other on the red carpet. There they were on Charlie Rose, discussing which of them is the best looking. Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu are the casual filmmaking kings of the year, each arriving with a film that effortlessly combines genre sensibility with arthouse intelligence. Cuarón’s “Children of Men” is a bleak and brilliant vision of a dystopic future; del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” weaves fantastical imagery with historical horrors; “Babel” spans the globe to paint its portrait of a humanity both splintered and united. Over a decade ago, when the 29-year-old del Toro’s debut “Cronos” opened in scattered US theaters, the director told the Washington Post that there was no “New Mexican Cinema.” One wonders if he’d say the same thing now. Cuarón, del Toro and González would doubtless rather present themselves as three good friends than as the forerunners of a national New Wave, but this is also a year in which Carlos Reygadas’ controversial “Battle in Heaven” astonished and/or infuriated the few who saw it, and Fernando Eimbcke’s delightful debut “Duck Season” combined a Jarmuschesque deadpan tone with fresh, and, yes, Mexican sensibilities. —AW

Coming round to HD

I’ve always been a hard-liner against digital video, bitterly muttering about the muddy ugliness of DV efforts like “Dancer in the Dark” and “Timecode.” Film was still the future of the art, for could video ever produce the colors of “The Band Wagon” or “On the Town”? I thought not. But 2006 softened my stance. Dion Beebe’s work on “Miami Vice” and Gokhan Tiryaki’s on “Climates” is crisp and often stunning. Both utilize the extreme depth of field offered by the new HD cameras, allowing Beebe to frame Colin Farrell’s oily locks flopping in a speedboat in the foreground while the dusky night sky appears with astonishing clarity in the background. Tiryaki’s work is less showy but just as impressive, as director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s setups are stationary, choreographing action inside the frame: a break-up is revealed by a character leaning backwards, revealing his quizzical lover in sharp focus. The most extraordinary effect is achieved in photographing falling snowflakes, which are weighty, detailed, and tactile — and whose dissolve into the ground brilliantly foreshadows the heartbreaking final fade out. —RES

“Borat”‘s Naked Wrestling Scene

From the sacred to the profane we plummet, and indeed it was disbelieving profanity that was muttered under the breath of many a “Borat” viewer when the buck-naked Sasha Baron-Cohen took a faceful of his traveling companion’s balls. In one of the film’s many, let’s say, “echoes” of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” the tall, thin Borat and short, blubbery Azamat get into it after the former finds the latter “borrowing” an image of his Rushmore, his Dulcinea, his Pamela Anderson. Both are naked-not nude-as jaybirds, and the sight of their hairy asses (to start) flailing and floundering through their obscenely ridiculous tussle is a classic “are you in or are you out” moment in a comedy built on its audacity; if you were on the fence, this scene was almost definitely going to traumatize you into a free fall on one side or the other. Most of us, it seems, were in, though the scene itself indicated there was no way to know what we were signing on for: exhilaration is a tricky animal, as many dazed “Borat” viewers found; if there was any doubt, the naked wrestling scene made it clear that, along with clothing, and that last shred of dignity, all bets were off. —MO

“Inland Empire” opens in New York

It may seem like a minor thing (or full-on corporate whoring) but few movie moments this year filled me with as much excitement as the lines down the block outside New York City’s IFC Center not one but two weekends in a row for late-night screenings of David Lynch’s “Inland Empire.” Back in the days of big movie houses and twins, lines for movies were commonplace in New York; in today’s multiplex world, not so much. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing in some ways (i.e. the ones that mean you’ll get a seat for the movie you want), it gave this cinephile a genuine rush to see people waiting, patiently, in the freezing cold, for the chance to see a three-hour art film that doesn’t even make sense to its own lead actress. Take heart nerds: film culture isn’t as dead as advertised. Last week, the IFC Center box office posted a sign: see “Inland Empire” nine times, they’ll let you in a tenth time for free. To the poor soul who does it: kudos and time to reassess that life plan you wrote out in eighth grade. —MS

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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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