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Buying in and selling out.

Buying in and selling out. (photo)

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The Toronto International Film Festival ends tomorrow, but most journalists have already skipped ahead to extrapolating trends. There’s much loose talk about potential Oscar front-runners — “Up In The Air” apparently has a lock — and much free-floating despair about the tough climate for making, purchasing and marketing indie films. But at least one person thinks the recession’s been good for movies, by getting those arty directors to tone it down.

Peter Howell of the Toronto Star wraps up the festival sounding exhilarated and gratified for all the wrong reasons. He salutes Steven Soderbergh, Atom Egoyan, Werner Herzog, Todd Solondz et al. for showing “they’re willing to compromise if it keeps them behind the camera in tough economic times… Did they sell out? No, they bought in, if you accept the notion that it’s okay to appeal to more than just film critics and fellow directors, especially if you can do so while retaining your signature style… They realize there’s little to be gained in current times by making hermetic cinematic statements that few people get, and which distributors and exhibitors don’t want to carry.”

Let’s discuss. Howell seems to be willfully misinterpreting the motives of most of the directors he’s discussing. If Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” is indeed a commercial comedy, it’s also by all accounts a very strange one, slapping ’70s TV stars and an anachronistic Marvin Hamlisch score on top of a ’90s story. Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant” is reportedly as insane as anything he’s ever done; I suppose that working with Nicolas Cage in English could count as a “compromise,” just barely. Solondz gave “Life During Wartime” “his strongest narrative in years,” but that doesn’t really seem like “moving to the middle.”

In Egoyan’s case, Howell has a point: the director worked with Ivan Reitman (of “Ghostbusters”) to massage his sensibility into a mainstreamish erotic thriller. But one director who’s had a tough streak over the last decade and accordingly is doing something about it doesn’t make a trend.

Howell’s also, annoying, suggesting that the type of films festivals value are incompatible with “fun,” which is unfair. Fun is, of course, relative, but in the case of a guy like Soderbergh — who’s made some of the most insanely stylized and instantly recognizable blockbusters of the decade — it’s ridiculous to claim that personal expression and entertaining a broad audience are mutually incompatible.

This is reverse snobbism, a patronizing pat on the head for filmmakers who grow up and stop being so arty, like a business school kid getting angry about the art school layabouts across the street and then praising them for making ads. You can be personal and make commercial movies. You can even alternate commercial and uncommercial films, and they’ll be equally personal. A recession doesn’t make movies better if they pander.

[Photo: “The Informant!”, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009]

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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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