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Tribeca ’08: Rednexploitation! “Tennessee,” “From Within,” “The Wild Man of Natividad.”

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05022008_tennessee.jpgAfter a few rounds on the festival circuit, you start to wonder if the road to indie inauthenticity is paved with Southern accents. “Tennessee” is a banner example of the type of film that aims for grit and heartstrings by way of regional blue-collar misery and ends up seeming as genuine as a McDonald’s sweet tea. The second film from Aaron Woodley, who’s actually Canadian — so Canadian he’s David Cronenberg’s nephew — is indeed about Tennessee, along with New Mexico, and the states through which you’d have to drive in order to get from the latter to the former. In “Tennessee,” all marriages are abusive, everyone drinks their liquor straight and someone can be treated for leukemia without losing a hair on his pretty head. The film’s about two brothers who set off on a road trip to Knoxville to find their estranged father, from whom they fled years ago when he started getting rough with their mother. But you don’t watch the film for them. You watch it, with glee in your heart, for Mariah Carey, who plays Krystal, the singin’, cryin’ Texan waitress who’s on the run from her overbearing State Trooper husband, and whose flirtatious mothering of the siblings makes you wonder if the film is going to head into “Y “Tu Mamá También” realms. (It doesn’t.)

05022008_fromwithin.jpgCarey is still uniquely and engagingly terrible on screen — she gives every line a downward intonation, and appears to wage a continuous, Stalingrad-scale struggle not to make eye contact with the camera. But while “Tennessee” is a true wedge of country-fried cheese, it’s also too downbeat and long to be pleasantly good-bad, much less “Glitter”-worthy. At least it’s harmless, which is more than can be said about “From Within,” a horror movie from longtime cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (“Walk the Line,” “Sideways”) that also made its world premiere at Tribeca this year. Set in the oppressively evangelical Grovestown, where they — for real — still burn witches, the film begins with a guylinered teen shooting himself and kicking off a rash of supernaturally induced suicides. (The first being his girlfriend, worth a mention only because she’s played by Rumer Willis, who’s been touted as one of the film’s big names despite essentially having the Drew Barrymore role in “Scream.”) The lynch-happy townsfolk blame the family of the woman they groundlessly killed before for being different — who, it turns out, actually was a witch, and whose craft is fueling the J-horroresque curse killing off the town’s residents. Derivative scares aside, “From Within” has one of the most egregiously awful portrayals of Christianity I’ve ever seen, one so over the top it’d be silly if it also weren’t earnestly ugly — faith is used to justify monstrous hypocrisy, cruelty and an avalanche of white-trash stereotypes. I’m cheerfully atheist and still found myself getting angry on behalf of fundamentalists, and maybe also the Jews in the audience, who had to negotiate the sight of a rednecked-out Adam Goldberg twanging about being an instrument of the will of God (who came to him, naturally, in prison) before setting a girl on fire for refusing to pray.

05022008_wildmanofthenavidad.jpg“The Wild Man of the Navidad,” directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks (who’s also the star), is a welcome palate cleanser, not the least for being in on its own joke. Produced by Kim Henkel, the writer/producer of 1974’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” the film’s a low-budget, lo-fi look at a mysterious creature wreaking havoc on a small Texas town. The pacing’s erratic, most of the cast is blatantly nonprofessional and the monster looks like (and may in fact be) a dude wearing a pile of animal skins and antlers. It’s all part of the deal — “The Wild Man of the Navidad”‘s a deliberate stylistic echo of a ’70s horror b-movie, and while it’s more funny than frightening, it maintains its own oddball Texas-gothic rhythm. Meeks, awash in flop sweat, plays Dale S. Rogers, forced by circumstance to allow people to hunt in family land occupied by the creature. Eyes darting, he nervously takes their money and sends them off to be slaughtered, while in the background his cockeyed Mexican manservant molests Rogers’ wheelchair-bound wife. At the town’s cafe/bar, the grizzled locals swig moonshine and start to wonder where their friends are disappearing to. There’s not an epiphany in sight.

[Photos: “Tennessee,” Lee Daniels Entertainment, 2008; “From Within,” Burgundy Films, 2008; “The Wild Man of the Navidad,” Greeks Productions, 2008]

+ “Tennessee” (
+ “From Within” (
+ “The Wild Man of the Navidad” (

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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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