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On DVD: Robert Mitchum and Kenneth Anger

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “Angel Face,” Warner, 1952]

Robert Mitchum, whose 54-year career in American movies ended with his death in 1997, is never mentioned when movieheads gather and ponder the Great American Movie Stars or Great American Actors, and he’s never included in the Oscar montages. It’s as if this masterful, unflappable, unpretentious, iconic demi-god wasn’t, in fact, the postwar years’ most consistent and resonant leading man, and true noir’s purest and coolest everyman. (Mitchum’s heroes were never weathered, flawed romantics like Bogart’s — he never thought that much about the past.) He may have also been the era’s best line-reader — you’d search in vain through his massive filmography for a misstep or clumsy moment, which is not something you can say for Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, John Wayne or Burt Lancaster. Mitchum knew how to be on film in a way that eludes most actors; his massive bulk, sleepy eyes and laconic voice disguised a quick, quiet intelligence that always seemed to surprise his co-stars.

He worked in virtually every genre that required a morally centered man of action (musicals were out, thank God), and his best films have only become recognized as some of the mid-century’s all-out finest many years after they vanished from theaters: “Crossfire,” “Out of the Past” and “Pursued” (all 1947), “The Lusty Men” (1952), “Angel Face” (1952), “The Night of the Hunter” (1955), “Cape Fear” (1962), “El Dorado” (1966). The new Warner Mitchum DVD box set comes with at least one now-classic Mitchum movie: Otto Preminger’s “Angel Face,” a beautiful meta-noir set in the blazing California sun, pitting Mitchum’s guileless working-class driver against Jean Simmon’s gorgeous but, it is slowly revealed, psychopathic poor little rich girl. The ending is a throat-catcher, even for those days thick with noirish bile and cynicism. The box also includes the fabulous exotic mishmash “Macao” (1952), Vincente Minnelli’s “Home from the Hill” (1952), Fred Zinneman’s sunny Australian sheep-drover epic “The Sundowners” (1960), the negligible western “The Good Guys & the Bad Guys” (1969), and, take notice, Sydney Pollack and Paul Schrader’s “The Yakuza” (1974), in which the aging Mitchum plunges into the Japanese underworld and wreaks holy havoc.

Meanwhile, in another Hollywood, Kenneth Anger was growing up. Long considered the American avant-garde’s pioneer mythopoet, Anger started, briefly, as a child actor (that’s him as the Changeling Prince in 1935’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” alongside James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland), and began making non-narrative, proto-campy films as a teenager. By the time he made “Scorpio Rising” (1964) — a half-hour mood piece that essentially defined authentic American gay iconography and nascent queer culture for several generations of horny guys — Anger was underground cinema’s dark prince. Hanging with Anaïs Nin and Mick Jagger, channeling Aleister Crowley, getting mixed up with the Manson gang (Bobby Beausoleil buried the negative of “Lucifer Rising” in Death Valley, forcing Anger to reshoot it from scratch) — these were the years to be a cool, counter-cultural experimental filmmaker. (Still, these were avant-garde shorts — he’s still more popularly known as the author of the scandal-shop “Hollywood Babylon” books.) Anger’s films range in palette from bedroom amateurishness to Victorian nursery daydream to epic black mass, but they’re all frantic collages concerned more with your experience as a spectator than making conventional narrative order out of chaos. (Anger has agendas involving “magick” and so forth, but like most writing by and about experimental filmmakers, it’s pure blarney.)

The inaugural Fantoma disc of Anger’s scant oeuvre — hopefully there will be at least two more — saves the confrontational luridness of “Scorpio Rising,” “Invocation of My Demon Brother” and “Lucifer Rising” for later, and instead presents his earlier, more glitzy stage, beginning with his incendiary masturbation symbol-fest “Fireworks” (1947), made when Anger was 19. The films are little half-myths that live in an entirely symbolic sphere, boiling down “normal” movies to a fetishized bank of dislocated gestures and images. For me, Anger’s doomed “Rabbit’s Moon” (1950) is his early triumph, a fully realized fairy tale starring a Pierrot le Fou figure in a cardboard glade under a completely fake moon. It was never finished, and has only been seen in a truncated version until now. Climactically, so to speak, “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” (1954) is a grand, 38-minute, rainbow-candy costume party/pantomime, starring Nin, Anger, director Curtis Harrington, and “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” songwriter Joan Whitney. The lavish extras include wall-to-wall Anger commentary, supplements demonstrating the films’ restorations, production art, excerpts from Nin’s famous diaries, outtakes (!), and a sleek book of history and stills.

“Robert Mitchum — The Signature Collection” (Warner) and “The Films of Kenneth Anger: Volume One” (Fantoma) will be available on DVD on January 23rd.

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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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