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Toronto 2009: “Micmacs”‘ Charming Arms Race

Toronto 2009: “Micmacs”‘ Charming Arms Race (photo)

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Why there were a few scattered empty seats left at the world premiere of “Micmacs,” I don’t know. This is Jean-Pierre Jeunet, dammit, and after putting the excess of “A Very Long Engagement” behind him, he arrived in Toronto with a leaner and meaner comedy that seems to have been designed as a playground for his visual ingenuity and boundless imagination.

His partner in crime, the French star Dany Boon (“My Best Friend”), stars as Bazil, a video store clerk who’s introduced to us playfully mouthing along to the dialogue in “The Big Sleep” before a freak gun accident leaves him with a bullet lodged in his brain. (The operating surgeon flips a coin to decide whether to keep it in or remove it and risk putting him into a coma.) Already having lost his father to a landmine during war, Bazil becomes an unlikely peace activist, igniting a feud between the heads of the two arms factories responsible for the tragedies he and his family have suffered. He finds an even unlikelier crew to help him — the denizens of a scrap heap who include in their number a human cannonball (Dominique Pinon), a bespeckled measurement expert named Calculette (Marie-Julie Baup) and a contortionist who can fold herself into a fridge (Julie Ferrier).

Jeunet leaves plenty of room for a sequel, which seems a must, since he can’t help but give short shrift to all of his wonderful characters and creations here. Still, as far as a first adventure, “Micmacs” delivers in spades. Although the body contortions are best left to Ferrier, Boon’s machinations are nearly as twisty in pitting the head of a landmine company (Nicolas Marié) and the head of a bullet company (André Dussollier) against each other to their ultimate destruction, starting out by interfering in a trade between the two of prized baubles like Marilyn Monroe’s molar and Mussolini’s eye.

From there, the tension rises between the two men, and Bazil and crew build bigger and bigger mouse traps for the arms manufacturers to ensnare themselves in. Much to the audience’s delight, Jeunet puts all his creative energy into the details of Bazil’s gadgets and elaborate schemes. Like Fatih Akin’s “Soul Kitchen,” “Micmacs” might seem like a diversion from bigger, more ambitious films for Jeunet, but it’s a wildly entertaining one, as a standing ovation from the Toronto crowd attested. (Sony Pictures Classics recently picked up the rights.) Just don’t ask Jeunet about the title: in his opening remarks, he turned to Boon to explain what it meant, to which Boon replied, “It’s a kind of hamburger, but with a pronunciation problem.”

09172009_TheJoneses.jpgOne wishes that “The Joneses” were a little more creative — not with its plot, which is one of the most inventive for a suburban-set comedy, but in its dialogue, which only occasionally rises to the ingenuity of the premise. I’d prefer not to spoil the twist in Derrick Borte’s comedy here (though, with fair warning, you can find it here), even though it arrives just a little over 15 minutes after meeting the titular foursome, a family that quickly ingratiates themselves into an unidentified middle class American town and become the envy of the community with both their charms and their considerable collection of fancy cars, pricey jewelry and general cache of luxury goods. Consumerism has taken a beating this year in Toronto with Michael Moore’s new doc and to a degree, “Up in the Air,” and the fate that awaits Steve and Kate Jones (David Duchovny and Demi Moore) and their two teenage children (Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth) for flaunting their wares around town comes down like a sledgehammer.

Still, after “The Joneses” reveals its true nature, it isn’t nearly as daring or audacious as its set-up, although the film does benefit from some fine performances. Duchovny and Moore, two actors I must admit I’ve rarely enjoyed on film, have a natural chemistry and give performances that suggest that with age, they’ve shed some of the impervious cool that inhibited their earlier work. As a first-time filmmaker, Borte needs all the help he can get, and while he deserves credit for ably bringing his tricky script to the screen without compromise, he also makes some rookie miscalculations, like being too overt in signifying the film’s overarching theme and using an overamped Ting Tings track to boost the film’s pulse when the dialogue just isn’t crackling. That said, Borte’s debut is worth a look for its central idea alone, and Borte appears to be a filmmaker to watch in the future.

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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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