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Misspent Youth

Misspent Youth (photo)

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The most remarkable thing about Sacha Gervasi’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” may be that it is unarguably one of the most heart-swelling and moving films ever made about rock ‘n’ roll, and at the same time, it is very unlikely to convert any viewers into passionate Anvil fans. In fact, the movie barely bothers to make a case for Anvil, the orphaned band maudit from the ’80s surge in heavy metal heavy hitters, as musicians, and doesn’t allow you to hear a single song all the way through. (Contrast that to, say, Jeff Stein’s “The Kids Are Alright,” which has certainly transformed innocent non-partisans into life-grabbing Who fans, and did it with whole songs played beginning to end.)

Frankly, Anvil’s thunking, adolescent caterwaul isn’t very promising, even if Anvil’s commercial fate seems less surprising in retrospect than the success of bands like Mötley Crüe, Anthrax and Megadeth. It’s no news: show business and its audiences are fickle bitches, utterly careless and sometimes cruel with the fates of the starry-eyed. As it is, Gervasi, a die-hard fan and ex-roadie, may love Anvil, but he knows his film couldn’t sell the Canadian band’s music to non-metalheads, and so he very smartly focuses instead on the group’s two standing members, Steve Kudlow and Robb Reiner, both of whom are terribly easy to love and root for. There, at the outset, we’re faced with the heartbreaking B-side of the American showbiz dream: once on the verge of global stardom, Kudlow and Reiner are now back in small-town Canada, cobbling together low-rent livings as a food-service deliveryman and a jackhammering construction workhorse, respectively. And they’ve been there for 20 years, still touring on occasion (playing to often threadbare audiences, sometimes to no one at all), and still hoping their luck will turn around.

Well, of course it has, thanks to Gervasi’s film, which, like Errol Morris’s “The Thin Blue Line” has literally rescued its own subjects from the fate the film documents. (Anvil is now backing up AC/DC, has had their self-promoted latest album rereleased by VH1, and is now a vet of late-night talk shows.) If anyone has earned it, Kudlow and Reiner have, and not just with longevity, but with purity of heart — they were going to their graves playing as Anvil, even if it meant playing only to their loyal wives and kids.

Steve “Lips” Kudlow is the protagonist here, the most guileless and endearingly unpretentious aging rocker of all time, his watery basset-hound eyes and huge crooked grin beseeching an unfair world for another chance to play classics like “Metal on Metal,” “Flight of the Bumble Beast” and “Infanticide.” Reiner, the drummer and the more widely acknowledged musical innovator, is far more introverted, but naturally Gervasi’s film becomes a portrait of the two men’s lifelong hard rock marriage-of-passion, a working friendship that has lasted so long it seems more durable than any other relationship in their lives. But the reason “Anvil!” has been a phenomenon is because the boys’ arc from menopausal zeroes to heroes had already begun, in the mysterious differential between a ripoff Berlin nightclub appearance featuring a few dozen spectators and a invitation to a festival in Japan, where for some reason the stadium fills with thousands of raving young Asian fans. Kudlow and Reiner stepped in shit somewhere, but so did Gervasi.

10062009_Princess.jpgFeel free to sour your feel-good Anvil buzz with Anders Morgenthaler’s “Princess,” a Danish anime (!) from Lars von Trier’s production company that tackles the hot zone between the porn industry and children, and then pulls you into the dogfight with a suicide’s desperation. Juxtaposing old-fashioned frame-by-frame sketch drawing and swoony digital flourishes, the movie begins with the shooting of a pregnant gangbang, witnessed by the actress’ priest brother, and then rolls out into a revenge flick sans frontières, as the disillusioned man rescues the abused five-year-old daughter of his now-dead sister from a brothel, and becomes an Andrew Vachss-ish avenging angel.

Blood, or in Godard’s phrase “red,” puddles and sprays in great quantities, when it’s not supplementing the action with live-action home-movie flashbacks. Morgenthaler’s world is hyperbolic in the graphic novel way — the dead actress’ exploiteer-boyfriend erects a lavish tomb for her surrounded by giant stone penises — but its sense of outrage is curdling, and its moral balance sheet is complex, since the brother was culpable at the beginning of his sister’s career, and the little girl is a semi-civilized ruined thing prone to grabbing at adult crotches. She is, in fact, drawn a little too much like Boo from “Monsters, Inc.” for comfort — but nothing about “Princess” is supposed to be comforting, except perhaps the tour de force sequence in which the porn company’s entire operation is burned to the ground to the tune of Edith Piaf’s “No Regrets.” When the five-year-old musters the rage to finish off a porn lackey with a tire iron, you know there’s no salvation ahead.

[Additional photo: “Princess,” Zentropa Entertainments, 2006]

“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (VH1 Films) and “Princess” (Palisades Tartan) are now available on DVD.

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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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