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A Combustible Mix

A Combustible Mix (photo)

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It’s fitting that Mike Judge’s last two movies have been released over Labor Day weekend, since he’s one of few American filmmakers actively concerned with the world of work. Workplace dramas have dominated TV for years, effectively replacing shows that revolved around the nuclear family; none of the overachievers on “ER” or “Law & Order” had time for anything more than a fleeting assignation in between saving lives and catching perps. But movies have, by and large, been reluctant to tread the same ground. It falls to indie realists like Ramin Bahrani (“Chop Shop”) and Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy”) to illuminate the mundane business of making — or, in the latter case, not making — a living.

Judge is an exception, and a more noteworthy one for developing a style that incorporates satire and outright farce without losing track of the real world. (Does anyone know what the characters on “30 Rock” actually do?) The impenetrable jargon of “Office Space” — T.P.S. reports and the like — may not mean anything, but it feels like it does, enough that Judge’s anti-conformist broadside has been embraced, “Dilbert”-style, by cubicle drones who want to be in on the joke.

“Extract,” Judge’s fourth film as a director, climbs the corporate ladder from working stiff to bossman. Joel (Jason Bateman) not only runs Reynold’s Extract, a small factory that turns out bottles of concentrated flavor, he owns the shop. Judge, however, doesn’t use the change in perspective to attack the tyranny of management from the inside. He paints Joel as just another laboring drudge, albeit one with bigger problems than locating his missing stapler.

Although it’s far less pointed than the caustic “Idiocracy,” “Extract” has the same underlying theme: the unstoppable forward march of the morons. From “Beavis and Butthead” and “King of the Hill” through his feature films, Judge has established himself as the poet laureate of American stupidity, a trait he embraces as much as he assaults. It’s no coincidence both “Idiocracy” and “Extract” prominently feature a man getting whacked in the balls. The victim of “Extract”‘s testicular mashing is Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), a loyal sorter and would-be floor manager whose workplace injury is caused by the cumulative thick-wittedness of several co-workers: a bottler who lets the assembly line back up to show her disapproval of the plant’s new Mexican employee, a forklift operator who’s more interested in talking up his death metal band than learning to drive.

09022009_Extract2.jpgThat’s only the beginning of Joel’s misfortunes, which multiply when a lucrative offer to buy out the factory makes Step the target of a comely con artist named Cindy (Mila Kunis), who cajoles him into filing a workman’s comp lawsuit, which in turn endangers the company’s sale. At Cindy’s suggestion, he hires lawyer Joe Adler (a pustulent Gene Simmons, of the band KISS) a local ambulance chaser whose negotiating tactics involve inviting Joel to crush his testicles in a doorjamb.

There’s some domestic mishegoss as well, involving Joel’s attempts to get his wife (Kristin Wiig) to sleep with a featherbrained hustler (Dustin Milligan), so he won’t feel guilty about making a play for Cindy — a plot cooked up by his friend Dean (a semi-dreadlocked Ben Affleck) and okayed while Joel is under the influence of ketamine. But when Judge steps out of the workplace, he loses his footing. The only moments of sharpness on the home front come when Joel’s interacting with his unctuous neighbor played by David Koechner. Diligently worming his way into Joel’s life, Koechner’s Nathan pounces on every opportunity for a conversation, deaf to Joel’s attempts to shut him down. Koechner walks the line between passive aggression and genuine obliviousness, with just enough mania in his eyes to make his ardor genuinely unnerving.

Judge is a gifted writer, but he doesn’t know how to shape a scene, or use the camera to do anything but watch people talk. That nondescript style fit the deadened environs of “Office Space,” but here it drags everything downward. The spaces between jokes lay fallow, with only perfunctory efforts at character-building to move things along. Perhaps Judge is better suited to cartoons, where the characters return to their starting points at the end of each episode and wait in cold storage until they’re pulled out again.

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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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