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Pedro Almodóvar holds court.

Pedro Almodóvar holds court. (photo)

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The latest film from Pedro Almodóvar, “Broken Embraces,” closes the New York Film Festival after coasting in on a wave of mediocre advance word. The most common complaint has been that Almodóvar is blatantly recycling himself, throwing around the same motifs as always (mothers and sons, melodrama, abuse) to lesser effect. But whatever, with Almodóvar and star Penélope Cruz in attendance, this was the conference with the most star power of the fest; multiple TV crews were on stand-by.

Speaking depending on his excitement level, alternately in Spanish and English, Almodóvar discussed the origins of his tale of a now-blind writer/director (Lluís Homar) and his torrid affair with Lena (Cruz), a muse struggling to get out of a relationship with an abusive business tycoon. It began with Almodóvar telling himself stories to amuse himself during frequent migraines; sitting in the dark, he came up with the blind director first. “At the beginning, this blind director was very sexually active,” Almodóvar explained. “The first sequence I thought about was that this man, physically, is very good, and he does the same things that he did when he could see. He’d get up, he’d go to the kiosk, buy the newspaper; he doesn’t read it, but it’s a habit that he doesn’t want to lose. And he goes to the same place to have some coffee, and perhaps he talks with people. And usually, on the way to his place, he tries to flirt with girls whose perfume he enjoys. It was actually kind of a pornographic film about a blind man and lots of girls.”

Another possibility that got discarded: “In front of his place, there is an academy of models, and then they are like the urban legend, that in the neighborhood there is a blind man who is the greatest fucker in the world. And some of them sometimes, when they go to the street, they fantasize about meeting this blind man. And, of course, many of them found him.”

The film-within-a-film the director on his muse are working on is “Girls and Suitcases,” a blatant rip-off of 1988’s “Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” The reason isn’t a complicated meta-riff, but cheap pragmatism: “I wanted for them to make a comedy, just because the drama and the suffering that is in their lives will be more clear if in the background I put a comedy. I decided for ‘Women on the Verge’ because it was cheaper for me, and also easier because I could just adapt it without asking permission for anything.”

Another criticism coming up of this film is that Almodóvar’s been living the high life for so long there’s none of the messy, Bohemian vitality of his early work. Cruz inadvertently gave the haters some evidence when discussing her character’s loveless partnership with a wealthy man and how she came to be an actor both in her life and in art: “She would have been watching two or three movies every night, exploring that art. And then she’s forced to use that in her life, because she has no choice. She does it better than most people would, because that passion for acting and wanting to understand human behavior is there. Maybe if she could have chosen, she would have chosen to express all of that in her work and not having to lie or manipulate in her life.” Some of us might argue that having gold necklaces isn’t exactly a choice one is forced into: the little people sometimes have to live on their secretarial salaries. But hey, I’m not one to quibble: whatever Almodóvar’s indulgences, this is the first film of his I’ve enjoyed since 2002’s “Talk To Her.”

[Photo: Almodóvar and Cruz at the press conference. Photo courtesy of Jason Shawhan.]

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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

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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