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“Gray Matters,” “Glastonbury”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Gray Matters,” Yari Film Group, 2007]

Gray Matters

There’s something to the idea of a gay reimagining of
the classic screwball comedy as a love triangle
between a straight brother and his gay sister who both
fall in love with the same woman. But “Gray Matters”
takes that charming premise in charmless and
unsophisticated directions.

Writer/director Sue Kramer acknowledges in the press
notes that she wanted to capture the “elegance and
grace of [a] 1940s movie classic,” but her film feels,
sounds and looks more like an episode of “Mad About
You” than like a film by Howard Hawks or Gregory La
Cava. Her characters talk quickly enough to exist
within a screwball comedy world, but what they say
never even approximates the wit of Preston Sturges or
Billy Wilder. Granted, the comparison is unfair;
Kramer is a first-time filmmaker and I’m measuring her
against some of the giants of the art form. But if
she’s retooling these filmmakers’ movies for a modern
audience who else can I compare her to?

Heather Graham plays Gray (sadly, she does not have a
crazy sidekick named Matters), a bubbly ad exec who
lives with her doctor brother Sam (Tom Cavanaugh). The
two share a life of dinner parties, jogging in the
park, being mistaken for a couple, and, occasionally,
working. They’re both single, partly because the
furnishings in their apartment have more personality
than they do. Enter Charlie (Bridget Moynahan), a
zoologist who happens to be the perfect mate for both:
she is a 1940s film buff, she loves dogs and she
never wears a bra. She falls for Sam and Gray falls
for her and realizes for the first time in her life
that she may be gay. Molly Shannon is Gray’s easily
excitable co-worker; Alan Cumming plays one of her
straight suitors and later dresses like a woman.

According to the press notes Kramer is not gay, and it
leaves my curious why she chose to explore the topic
when she, evidentially, doesn’t have a great deal to
say about the (gray) matter. Gray’s acceptance of her
own homosexuality is one big joke (including “wacky”
therapy sessions with Dr. Sissy Spacek at bowling
alleys or on rock climbing walls) and her big coming
out story a time in her past when she literally came
out of a closet. Kramer’s better when dealing with
more general female topics, like how society and media
and, yes, men give women warped self-images; Gray is
terrified, for instance, of her unsightly chin fat,
but, of course, Heather Graham has no chin fat (and as
one who does, I should know).

It’s an idiosyncratic picture; whatever else you can
say about it, it’s hard to deny “Gray Matters” comes
from an singular voice, even if that voice is mostly
interested in cheap therapist jokes and giving all due
praise to that remarkable spice nutmeg (seriously,
count how many times it comes up in casual
conversation). Still, in one delightful moment,
Kramer hits her target. Gray comes home to find
Charlie alone, watching a classic musical that both
love and know by heart. The two begin reenacting the
dance, and for once, the promise of that gay
reimagining of classical Hollywood cinema is realized
is a moment of true beauty and charm, one that carries
the same blissful high as the movies Gray, Charlie and Kramer love. But then Sam walks in, the moment passes and it’s back to business as usual.


Epic in length and scope, if not level of success,
Julien Temple’s documentary about the Glastonbury
Music Festival is sort of like a history lesson by a
professor on a long, strange drug trip. Forget
chronology or story: free association reigns as Temple
pieces together his nearly two and a half hour
chronicle of Britain’s longest running and most famous
celebration of music, hippie culture and building
sculpture out of garbage. It’s Burning Man with a
better soundtrack.

A few totally bitchin’ moments aside — who knew
Richie Havens could wail on the acoustic guitar?!?
— watching “Glastonbury” is like watching someone
else’s home movies: they have all this nostalgia and
all these fabulous personal stories associated with
the images. We just see a bunch of guys on drugs
flopping around in some mud for 140 minutes.

There’s lots of footage of Glastonbury musical
performances from Radiohead, Coldplay, Joe Strummer,
The Prodigy, Pulp, and many, many more (though
rarely full songs, which kind of sucks) spliced with
lots of footage of Glastonbury attendees, using the
public toilets, doing drugs, sneaking their way onto
the festival grounds. Temple covers a lot of ground,
literally and figuratively, but the buzz that everyone
at Glastonbury gets from being there didn’t transfer
to the film. Even if most everyone on screen looks
like they’re having a pretty good time, we’re not
really having one watching them.

The movie is too long and too focused to fully enjoy.
Rather than a theatrical release, the project would be
best served as a DVD, where you could skip around and
watch the performances at your leisure. With Temple’s
hand on the remote control, as it were, the concert
tends to run long.

“Gray Matters” in limited release February 23rd (official site). “Glastonbruy” opens in Los Angeles on February 23rd (official site).

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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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