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Sundance 2009: The Truth Was Out There

Sundance 2009: The Truth Was Out There (photo)

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Everyone at the Sundance Film Festival is looking for something. Filmmakers are looking for distributors. Distributors are looking for hits. Attendees are looking for tickets. Publicists are looking for good press. Journalists are looking for good stories. Sponsors are looking for stars to take pictures with their products. Volunteers are looking to get noticed. I don’t get to see too many movies at Sundance — sadly, my schedule is so crammed with interviews that I barely have time to see any of the films I’m talking to people about — but of the dozen or so films I saw, nearly half revolved around characters who were looking for truth and finding it in unlikely places.

The idea was most explicit in “Passing Strange” which was, incredibly, director Spike Lee’s first film ever to premiere at the festival (because, according to Lee, he’s never had a film completed in January before). The documentary is a record of the final performances of the warm and funny musical of the same name from July of last year. The vibe is sort of “‘The Last Waltz’ on Broadway” — the air of finality in the actors and musicians’ sweaty faces is palpable, and Lee, like Scorsese, uses a fleet of cameras to take us onto the stage and into the ensemble. The autobiographical story follows an African-American teenager (played by Daniel Breaker as well as the show’s creator Stew, who narrates and provides musical commentary on the action), who leaves his home in middle class Los Angeles for artistic inspiration in bohemian Europe. Stew believes that “normal everyday things are phony,” and he sets off on his journey looking for “the real.” He ultimately comes to the conclusion that “the real” is a construct that can only be found in art, a fine reason to make a film like Lee’s, which makes no attempt to mask the production’s theatricality or expand it beyond the borders of the stage. Stew’s creation and Lee’s filming of it may be highly artificial, but the emotions the filmmakers dredge up are hauntingly true.

01262009_intheloop.jpgTruth is a construct of a much more sinister sort in the scalding British satire “In the Loop,” a production that could best be described as the love child of “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Office.” When British Minister of International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) talks out of turn about the “unforeseeable” nature of war during a radio interview, he becomes the pawn of politicos on both sides of the pond on the issue of invasion. “In the Loop” paints a brutally unflattering portrait of the halls of Western power, where decisions are determined entirely by careerism, and those in charge are so wrapped up in their own bullshit — two different characters are unhappy with the way their office is set up — they remain oblivious to the mess they’re making of the world (Steve Coogan has a funny cameo as a man whose mother’s garden wall is symbolically crumbling). Nothing is immutable except self-interest, least of all the truth, which is pointedly manipulated throughout. A U.S. diplomat blatantly falsifies the minutes of a meeting to erase the evidence of the existence of a secret war committee (to reflect “what was intended to be said”); later, a U.K. minister defends his own changes to a document by explaining, “whether it happened or not is irrelevant. It’s true.” When Simon begins to feel the pressure of the manipulation coming from all signs, he wonders if it is braver to resign in protest of injustice or to remain on the job in order to fight it. Should someone sacrifice his principles to keep fighting for them? “In the Loop” has no good answer.

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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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