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Opening This Week: Docs on teens, tightropes and tradition

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07212008_americanteen.jpgBy Neil Pedley

With blockbusters taking a week off after “The Dark Knight” so thoroughly conquered the box office and its core audience descends upon Comic-Con in San Diego, an outstanding array from the indie scene offers plenty of alternative viewing.

“American Teen”
Her longtime collaborator Brett Morgen may be out of the picture, but “The Kid Stays in the Picture” co-director Nanette Burstein infiltrated the cliques, classrooms and hallways of an Indiana high school for her first solo doc, which netted her a directing award at Sundance earlier this year. Burstein follows a cross section of Warsaw High’s senior class for 10 months in pursuit of their respective ambitions and priorities, and discovers that bonding at the library during Saturday detention is no way to communicate when text messaging and IM can be just as intimate.
Opens in limited release.

Mumblecore alumni Jay and Mark Duplass celebrate their favorite genre (and others) by destroying it, taking aim at film festival darlings, amateur actors unafraid of nudity and the ever-so-hip fad of ultra-low budget minimalist horror. This time around, “The Puffy Chair” co-writing and directing team keep the action mostly confined to a cabin in the woods, where a group of wannabe actors and filmmakers (Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller) channel their inner Heather Donahue and set about writing a hit script, only to be stalked by a malevolent stranger who wears a paper bag on his head. Inspiration never came without such perspiration first.
Opens in limited release.

“Boy A”
“Intermission” director John Crowley adapts Jonathan Trigell’s bleak and downbeat tale of unending purgatory, which itself was loosely inspired by a number of infamous child-on-child murders in Britain over the last 20 years. The story follows Jack (Andrew Garfield), a young man freshly released from prison after serving a sentence for murdering a fellow child, and his attempts to rehabilitate himself into society under an assumed identity and lead something approaching a normal life. A critical hit in its native Britain, the film already earned Crowley a BAFTA award for best director.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“Brideshead Revisited”
The only thing braver than adapting a revered period novel that has grown into a veritable British institution for the big screen is doing so and not immediately telephoning Kate Winslet, Colin Firth and Keira Knightley. Here director Julian Jarrold does both with Evelyn Waugh’s masterwork, ably enlisting BAFTA award-winning writers Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies to give this tragic love story a suspenseful shot in the arm. Matthew Goode and Hayley Atwell take the roles of doomed lovers Charles Ryder and Lady Julia Flyte, whose fledgling romance is thwarted at every turn by family, religious obligation and the class system.
Opens in limited release.

“Bustin’ Down The Door”
Writer/director Jeremy Gosch, whose debut feature centered on two best friends taking a snowboarding trip together, once again indulges his passion for extreme sports, but trades fiction for reality. Set against the backdrop of the explosive Hawaii surf scene, Gosch looks back at the mass migration of Australians and South Africans to the North Shore of Oahu leading to the emergence of several future world champion surfers, all of whom set out on a mission to transform surfing into a respectable professional sport.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“CSNY: Déjà Vu”
Bernard Shakey (a.k.a. Neil Young) steps behind the camera once again to document the reunion of his longtime rock ‘n’ roll family of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash for their 2006 “Freedom of Speech” tour across North America. Riding the wave of anti-war sentiment, the quartet performs to raise awareness against perceived injustice in America to an audience that needs their voice now as much as they did 30 years ago.
Opens in limited release.

With the state of Japan’s youth firmly on his mind, writer/director Akihiko Shiota uses the backdrop of the devastating 1995 sarin gas subway attacks to ask some uncomfortable questions of a society he views as decadent, infirm and out of touch. Hoshi Ishida and Mitsuki Tanimura co-star as Koichi, a disillusioned member of the cult responsible for the attack now on the run, and Yuki, a streetwise runaway who recognizes him from the news and helps him pick up the pieces, respectively. In Japanese with subtitles.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on August 8th.

“Late Bloomer”
A portrait of the unending frustration and loneliness of a man trapped inside his own body is the subject of writer/director Go Shibata’s debut feature. All the kindness, support, and goodwill in the world are no comfort for Sumida, a severely disabled man who finds a reservoir of rage and resentment slowly fill inside of him as he watches life happen all around him in maddeningly simple ways he will never experience himself.
Opens in New York.

07212008_manonwire.jpg“Man on Wire”
One of the major revelations of the festival circuit this year, this retrospective documentary is a inside look at French daredevil Philippe Petit’s audacious and infamous 1974 stroll across tightrope at 1300 feet between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Described by director James Marsh as something of a “heist movie,” the film inserts freshly staged recreations into a wealth of archival footage shot by Petit and his guerrilla crew that details the exhaustive planning and skillful execution of this unprecedented feat, while at the same time chronicling Petit’s own personal history, his obsession with the towers and the genesis of the so-called “artistic crime of the century.”
Opens in limited release.

“No Regret”
Julian Jarrold might be brave for messing with “Brideshead Revisited,” but Leeson Hee-Il is positively fearless in his directorial debut, the first film to feature gay subject matter from an openly gay filmmaker to come out of the doggedly conservative South Korea. Having been forced to leave the orphanage that was his home and subsequently laid-off from his dreary factory job, the film follows Lee Su-min (Lee Yeong-hun) a young man forced to take work as a male lap dancer at a local gay club, where he catches the eye of Song Jae-min (Lee Han), the closeted son of the factory’s CEO whose arranged marriage is quickly approaching. In Korean with subtitles.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles.

“The Order of Myths”
Mobile, Alabama was the site of the very first Mardi Gras celebration way back in 1703 and although over 300 years have passed, little has changed when it comes to the segregated celebrations in the southern city. Opting to ditch the documentary staple of voiceover narration and let her subjects try to explain the situation themselves, filmmaker Margaret Brown charts the almost identical parallel process of planning and executing the two segregated Mardi Gras parades and pageants, tolerated by both blacks and whites, under the guise of “tradition.” Brown’s look at the division in her hometown has had an opposite effect on the festival circuit, where it picked up a Cinematic Vision Award at SilverDocs and praise from our own Alison Willmore.
Opens in New York.

“Red 71”
Mixing the cool of neo-noir with the heat of the desert, this stylish mystery centers on Shane (Nathan Ginn), a gumshoe who becomes smitten with a woman that coaxes him into investing in her husband’s club. When her husband and a few of her other past conquests turn up dead, it’s left up to Shane to figure out who’s on the level in the small desert town.
Opens in New York.

“Step Brothers”
Will Ferrell has built his entire career around playing grown men behaving like immature children, so even if this appears to be a rather on-the-nose retooling of “Grumpy Old Men,” don’t expect Ferrell and co-star John C. Reilly to act their age. “Talladega Nights” director Adam McKay once again directs the duo as Brennan and Dale, a pair of 40-year-old losers, still unemployed and living at home. When their single parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) get hitched, the petulant Peter Pans are forced to share a bedroom where they quickly break out the duvet-and-two-kitchen-chair-forts and wage a territorial battle.
Opens wide.

“Two Tickets to Paradise”
Veteran actor D.B. Sweeney gathers together an impressive ensemble to aide him in his directorial debut about a trio of overgrown juveniles looking to recapture the glory days during an anarchic road trip to the college football championship game in Florida. John C. McGinley, who already played second fiddle in the like-minded “Wild Hogs” a year ago, appears here as a former football pro and Sweeney plays a failed rock star. In a shrewd casting coup that will remind many of the actor’s own glory days, Sweeney’s “Cutting Edge” co-star Moira Kelly plays his wife in the film. M.C. Gainey and Ed Harris round out the eclectic support cast.
Opens in limited release.

“The X-Files: I Want to Believe”
With the sharp decline in quality that quickly followed the departure of Glen Morgan and James Wong from “The X-Files” writing staff and the train wreck of the final two seasons that occurred with David Duchovny’s exit, it’s easy to forget what a masterful blend of intelligent drama, supernatural suspense and conspiracy theory the show used to be. With six years having passed since the series ended and the plot a closely guarded secret, it remains to be seen if the reemergence of Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully will make fans believe again, even with creator Chris Carter at the helm and the addition of Billy Connolly as psychic priest.
Opens wide.

[Photos: “American Teen,” Paramount Vantage, 2008; “Man on Wire,” Magnolia Pictures, 2008]

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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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