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Five Rules For Making a Modern Spoof Film

Five Rules For Making a Modern Spoof Film (photo)

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“Dance Flick,” from a group perhaps best described as the Wayans Brothers: The Next Generation (Keenen Ivory’s nephew Damien Dante produced and directed the film, which stars his cousin Damon Jr.) opens today, the fifth parody movie (or spoof) since the start of last year. This astonishing burst of productivity has coalesced around a new set of rules for making spoof films that places them in stark contrast to watershed predecessors like “Young Frankenstein” or “Airplane!”

Here are five reliable new school spoofing guidelines. There’s a 50/50 chance these will work for “Dance Flick” too, though there’s only a ten percent chance of that.

1. You can never have too many references.

It’s not that the spoofs of yesteryear didn’t reference other movies — they did. But they were traditionally woven into the film by way of flashbacks or dream sequences – think of the “Battleship Potemkin”/”Untouchables” opening to “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.” Recently, spoofmakers have dispensed with these devices in order to pile on the parodies. A single scene from last year’s “Disaster Movie” by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer contains 14 different pop culture send-ups, including “Superbad,” “Wanted,” “Juno,” “High School Musical” and most surreally, “No Country For Old Men.” What does one have to do with the other? Or, for that matter, the notion of disaster movies? Absolutely nothing. At a certain point, all the non-sequiturs become simply nonsensical. But modern spoofs prize topicality over all else; to compete with the immediacy of an ever-shortening news cycle and the world of Internet video, they must sacrifice coherence and selectivity, not to mention the benefit of hindsight.

05222009_DisasterMovie.jpgThe spoof genre’s epochal texts feasted on the clichés accumulated over decades of formulization. Their creators were historians with senses of humor. Now, spoofers must play cultural meteorologists, forecasting which movies we’ll be talking about by the time their next one comes out. Guess wrong, and you get “Disaster Movie,” with references to such conversational non-starters as “10,000 B.C.,” “The Love Guru” and “Jumper.” Perversely, these “timely” spoofs are already more dated than their decades-old predecessors, though they do come close to fulfilling the now-ominous line from the trailer to 1998’s “Fugitive” spoof “Wrongfully Accused.” “It’s not just a movie,” it warned, “It’s every movie!” Something like “Disaster Movie” very nearly is.

2. Spoofing a celebrity is just as good as spoofing a movie.

True to its title, the trailer for Friedberg and Seltzer’s “Epic Movie” promises parodies of cinematic epics as varied as “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Harry Potter,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and… Paris Hilton? Yes, betwixt all the movie spoofs appears a dead-on Hilton look-alike who coos “I’m hot” before getting cartoonishly flattened. She’s not the only one, either: the trailer also promises an appearance by a P. Diddy P. Doppelganger, who appears during a “Narnia” sketch, dances around awkwardly and gets smashed in the face with a bottle of Cristal. Sensing a pattern? It goes something like this: dress someone up like a celebrity (like, say, Michael Jackson), drop them into an incongruous movie spoof (like, say, “Speed Racer”), konk them over the noggin (like, say, with the trunk of a car), repeat.

05222009_EpicMovie.jpgThe audience gets hit over the head with this stuff too: despite the fact that the impressions make it perfectly clear who’s getting mocked, the filmmakers always have someone announce who they’re razzing — “Look! It’s Michael Jackson!” — before they do it. There’s not much more to these gags than the discrepancy between the celeb and the setting they’re placed in, with a couple of outlandish pratfalls tossed in; often these bits smack less of satire than outright bitterness. David Zucker, the old school spooficist behind “Airplane!” and “Naked Gun” series, even deployed an unflattering celebrity impersonation as the lead of his last film, 2008’s right-wing diatribe “An American Carol,” where Kevin Farley stood in for documentarian Michael Moore. To Zucker’s credit, the Paris Hilton cameo in his movie was provided by the real deal.


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


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.


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…