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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: “Sicko,” “A Mighty Heart.”

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"If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people."
+ "Sicko": "Sicko" is only open in New York this week, so we’ll be returning to it in the next as more reviews are published. So far, so relatively good for the latest film from Michael Moore, whose wielding of the documentary as a polemical tool has not always endeared him to cinephiles or those hoping for balance. J. Hoberman at the Village Voice notes that "[a]s filmmaking, Sicko sometimes resembles an infomercial for Ozark real estate and elsewhere demonstrates a Kenneth Anger-like flare for vertical montage." He finds the film’s collection of health care horror stories "devastating," but is troubled by Moore’s rose-colored portraits of the universal coverage in Canada, Great Britain, France, and, yes: "If the American health-insurance industry is Moore’s unspoken metaphor for Capital (feeding vampire-like on human labor), Cuba is his unconvincing socialist paradise."

At Salon, Stephanie Zacharek writes, "[W]hile ‘Sicko’ is, in my view, the most persuasive and least aggravating of all of Moore’s movies, it still bears many of the frustrating Moore earmarks — most notably, a deliberately simplistic desire to render everything in black-and-white terms, as if he didn’t trust his audience enough to follow him into some of the far more complex gray areas." Despite this, she finds "there’s plenty to admire and respect," though not as much as does A.O. Scott at the New York Times, who justifies what he admits is "a bit of theatrical faux-naïveté" on the filmmakers part by adding "Yes, the utopian picture of France in ‘Sicko’ may be overstated, but show me the filmmaker — especially a two-time Cannes prizewinner — who isn’t a Francophile of one kind or another." He concludes that "’Sicko’ is the least controversial and most broadly appealing of Mr. Moore’s movies. (It is also, perhaps improbably, the funniest and the most tightly edited.)" Michael Koresky at indieWIRE suggest that "’Sicko’ must be tagged as a qualified success. At this point, it can’t be ignored that Moore is this country’s most popular and persuasive capturer of the details and nuances of the American lower middle class. And that’s no small accomplishment." And, according to Ed Gonzalez at Slant:

[W]ith Moore, it is almost necessary to take the good with the bad, and Sicko features some of the filmmaker’s more insightful and embarrassing moments… Only a monster would be unaffected by Sicko, but a smarter exposé of our country’s health care system might openly argue that the tenets on which our government is built would need to be completely reconfigured for us to attain the basic right of universal health care.

 

"I am not terrorized."
+ "A Mighty Heart": There are two discussions dominating the reviews of Michael Winterbottom‘s depiction of the days following the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. First is the question of what the film’s purpose is in mining such a relatively recent tragedy, and second, and apparently more pressing, is the issue of Angelina Jolie, who plays Pearl’s widow, Mariane. So let’s start with that; it is the lamely glib basis of a decent portion of Anthony Lane‘s piece in the New Yorker, who finally comes around to write that "We brace ourselves for a star turn, a hundred minutes of vanity project, but here’s the thing: it never happens." J. Hoberman at the Village Voice observes:

No less than Jolie, the actual Mariane ascended the red carpet at Cannes; in the movie, her character is imagined as a star. Possessed of an iron will and a miraculous presence of mind, she’s surrounded by an entourage yet awesomely solitary in her tragic isolation. When the worst inevitably occurs, no one is able to hug or even comfort her—she goes off alone. The movie is fundamentally a solo, and the creepiest thing about A Mighty Heart is the ease with which this terrible tale becomes a meditation on divadom.

At Slate, Dana Stevens adds that the final portion of the film is "a hagiographic chronicle of the martyrdom of Mariane Pearl": "After more than an hour of dense, layered storytelling that took pains
not to turn into The Angelina Jolie Show, it was baffling to watch A
Mighty Heart trade on Jolie’s status as tabloid saint, U.N. goodwill
ambassador, and all-around ‘best woman in the world.’" Mariane Pearl wasn’t "the real story" at the time, argues Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, Daniel was, and "[d]espite the best of intentions, an actress who makes her own headlines gets in the way of the big picture." Ed Gonzalez at Slant, deeming the film "useless," does write that "Winterbottom recognizes the actress’s iconicity as a force that must be reckoned with—which is to say, disguised. Except the tricks he employs to help the actress disappear into the film’s tapestry of uncertainty aren’t exactly new and reek of evasiveness." At the Onion AV Club, Scott Tobias lauds the way, "one major misstep aside, she slips into Winterbottom’s wide-ranging
procedural and asserts herself only when dramatically necessary."

As for the film itself, Manohla Dargis at the New York Times calls it "surprising, insistently political work of commercial art," suggesting that "in its modest, at times awkward, way, this little movie with the big movie star tries to bring us into a conversation that, at least in this country, is often relegated to the bummer front pages of your daily paper or glimpsed on television in between diet tips and, yes, news about Brangelina." The LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor admires the way the film’s "primary purpose is to place us sympathetically inside Mariane’s crisis, and only tangentially to parse the wider significance of this horrible event." Roger Ebert (!) agrees that the film "is notable for what it leaves out… What is best about ‘A Mighty Heart’ is that it doesn’t reduce the Daniel Pearl story to a plot, but elevates it to a tragedy."

"I think," reflects Stephanie Zacharek at Salon, "Winterbottom proceeds from the notion that politics always touch us personally, whether we’re aware of it or not, that things happening half a world away can change us, harm us or enrich us in ways we can never calculate." David Edelstein at New York notes that the film does not recreate Daniel Pearl’s videotaped death, something he’s both glad and regretful of: "Winterbottom shows admirable respect for Mariane Pearl and the memory of her husband, but the film needs an exclamation point, something visceral to drive home the fate of Daniel Pearl."

And at the New York Press, Armond White, no Winterbottom fan (he breaks out his favorite vilification, "smug"), writes that "While a simple tearjerker about a freedom-loving widow would risk an embarrassing emotional display, Pitt, Jolie and Winterbottom maintain their cool status with this fashionably cynical propaganda film. Its effect is not cathartic, just frustrating."

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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.

via GIPHY

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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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