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Italian cinema on American shores.

Italian cinema on American shores. (photo)

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There’s never been a better time to indulge in a little Italian cinema, at least if you live on the coasts. For New Yorkers, that’s meant classics from the likes of Visconti, Rossellini and Pietro Germi at the Italian Neo-Realism series at the Lincoln Center, and a new 35mm print of Vittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

If you live on the west coast, mid-November means Cinema Italian Style in Los Angeles and New Italian Cinema in San Francisco and Seattle, where contemporary crime thrillers and comedies straight from Sicily have been the order of the day.

For some of these films, the latter three series will be the only times they’ll screen in the U.S. I still remember seeing Michele Placido’s spellbinding mafia saga “Romanzo Criminale” in 2006 and having to buy a crummy region-free, pan-and-scan Thai DVD for repeat viewings. So rare are the screenings that people at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles applauded when it was announced that a screening of the recent Toronto hit “Giulia Doesn’t Date at Night,” a romantic dramedy starring Valeria Golino, was canceled because the film got a U.S. distribution deal.

Another film with a U.S. distribution deal, Marco Bellocchio’s “Vincere” is the closing night for the just-concluding L.A. festival and will play San Francisco on November 22nd, well in advance of its March U.S. release date. It’s the kind of grand, propulsive epic that justifies having its American title (“Win!”) translated with an exclamation point. Of course, the exclamation point is also a reference to the mantra of Benito Mussolini, whose rise to power obscures and eventually obliterates the existence of his first wife Ida Dalser and their son, Benito Albino, in order to reshape his public image.

11172009_Vincere.jpgFor Americans, the film will draw comparisons to Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” as Dalser begins the film as a wide-eyed revolutionary willing to sell all her belongings and quite literally, the clothes on her back to help fund Mussolini’s newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia. She’s rewarded for her devotion with a trip to the mental asylum, where she’s separated from her young son and will introduce herself as the wife of “Il Duce” to anyone who will listen after all her official government records have been wiped out by the dictatorship. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is fearless in the role of Dalser, though her scheduled appearance in Los Angeles was cut because she fell ill, leaving her co-star Filippo Timi to pick up the slack, which he did ably with stories of cramped hotel rooms in Cannes and working with George Clooney on the upcoming Anton Corbijn thriller “The Assassin.”

The other film to overlap between Los Angeles, San Francisco (where it will play on November 19th) and Seattle (where it will play November 21st) is “The Sicilian Girl,” a credible potboiler from writer/director Marco Amenta, who adapted his own documentary into a thriller about Rita Atria. The 17-year-old daughter of a mafia don, Atria turns to the police after the murders of her father and brother to bring down the crime syndicate whose drug ring operations involve the local mayor. The film largely resembles a Hollywood B-picture of the 1940s, and lead Veronica d’Agostino does her best impression of Susan Hayward as the young woman facing incredible odds (even her mother tells her that she wanted to have an abortion), retaining only a clenched forehead as she moves from town to town as part of the witness protection program awaiting her chance to testify in court against the mob.

Even if you’re not a Californian, Cinema Italian Style and New Italian Cinema schedules offer a worthwhile primer of some off-shore titles to keep an eye out for.

[Photos: “The Sicilian Girl,” Roissy Films, 2009; “Vincere,” IFC Films, 2009]

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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.


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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