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Dissecting the Oscar doc shortlist.

Dissecting the Oscar doc shortlist. (photo)

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Bemoaning the failures of the Oscars in the Best Documentary department has become an annual ritual, like spazzing about filing your income taxes or dusting off stale jokes about March Madness obsessions. So the news that this year’s doc shortlist of 15 potential nominees is full of omissions and small obscurities is not a surprise.

Many folks would’ve liked to have seen “Anvil! The Story Of Anvil,” “Collapse,” “Crude,” “Tyson,” “We Live In Public,” “The September Issue” or “It Might Get Loud” on the list. So it goes. Some of those omissions are reasonable — there’s not much in “Tyson” you can’t find on YouTube, and “Collapse” wasn’t eligible — others, not so much. But this category has a long history of leaving out prime picks. Not nominated in the past: “Grey Gardens,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Don’t Look Back,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Shoah,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Crumb.” You know, the very bricks and mortar of a burgeoning appreciation of documentary film.

What’s on the list is the usual hodgepodge. Delightful to see “The Beaches of Agnes” on there: Agnes Varda’s essay on her life is twisty and Gondry-esque in all the right ways, even if it’s barely a “documentary” in the traditional Academy sense. I’m pleased, too, that “The Cove” — populist activism done right — is there, and will probably win. (Right?)

11192009_facingali.jpgI’d like to see “Burma VJ” and “Facing Ali,” but much of the rest seems middling — based on the Academy’s track record, I feel reasonably safe in saying that. I walked out of “Garbage Dreams” after 15 minutes at SXSW: I never need to see another movie with wailing female vocals and sad-eyed children digging through trash. I get it, that’s a bad thing. “Under Our Skin” is a reasonably dull documentary about how Lyme’s Disease is probably one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse that’ll kill us all. Gina Telaroli — who watches more docs than anyone I know — assures me “Which Way Home” is “more exploitative than informative” (and lazily jacks the score from “The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” to boot), so there’s more token liberal-guilt porn.

The big lesson here seems to be that the so-called documentary renaissance of 2002-06 — when movies like “Bowling for Columbine,” “Spellbound,” “Super Size Me,” “March of the Penguins” and “An Inconvenient Truth” took box-office prisoners and got nominations — is definitely over. Of the 15 short-listees, only three made over $1 million. Two of those, “Valentino: The Last Emperor” (about the fashion designer) and “Every Little Step” (about “A Chorus Line”) had built-in constituencies who would’ve seen them no matter what. (The other was “Food Inc.,” which apparently is a cut above your usual activist doc.)

We may never know why the public decided, for five years, that they were actually okay with some (admittedly pretty slick) non-fiction movies, but that’s done. So we’re back to the status quo in more ways than one now, wondering about what does go on in that selection process? I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to figure it out.

[Photo: Dropped — “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” VH1, 2008. In — “Facing Ali,” Lionsgate, 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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