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Bad Boys Grow Up

Bad Boys Grow Up (photo)

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Let’s start with a few images: A psycho jive artist dancing around as he cuts a man’s ear off. A retired bullfighter slumped in front of a television set, masturbating furiously to slasher movies. Scenes like those, from Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Pedro Almodóvar’s “Matador,” pretty much secured the bad-boy reputations of their creators. Tarantino came to be regarded as a hyped-up pop culture junkie spritzing bloodshed and movie references in equal measure. And Almodóvar was thought of as something like the post-Franco John Waters, mixing ’50s Hollywood-style melodrama with cheerful hedonism awash in sex and drugs.

But at this year’s New York Film Festival, it was Almodóvar’s latest, “Broken Embraces,” that was chosen for the stately closing night slot. And about a month or so before the festival, Tarantino’s latest film, the epic World War II adventure “Inglourious Basterds,” became the unlikeliest hit of the year. What links both of these films is that, for each filmmaker, they represent a point at which they demonstrate a mastery of craft equal to the Hollywood films that inspired them.

It’s not to take away anything from Tarantino or Almodóvar to say that their affinity to classic Hollywood narrative is more obvious right now because Hollywood movies are in such lousy shape. Spectacle, juvenilia and movies that look as though they were made by someone with ADD have taken over. Stories don’t make sense, action sequences are incoherently shot and edited (there’s often no telling where characters are in relation to each other) and by the time audiences go in on opening weekend, they’ve been so saturated by trailers and ads that they’ve already seen the most surprising moments of the movie they’re about to watch dozens of times. And then, after the hype and the weekend grosses, everything becomes old news on Monday morning and the next week’s round of hype begins.

11182009_KillBill1.jpgIt wasn’t always clear that Quentin Tarantino was going to stand apart from the shallowness of contemporary American movies. But the “Kill Bill” movies, though containing more action set-pieces than all his previous work put together, showed a mature confidence that was new. The story was a quest for revenge, but the movie worked as an extended metaphor for putting away the past. Uma Thurman’s Bride isn’t just killing her enemies; she’s parting with almost everything that’s made her who she is — which is why the entire epic climaxes with a breakup scene. Tarantino has always used nonlinear storytelling and multilayered narratives. By “Kill Bill, Vol. 2,” he’s come to rely almost completely on dialogue, and not compendiums of pop culture references but long, character-driven interrogations.

Even “Death Proof,” Tarantino’s half of the trash-movie homage “Grindhouse,” was a declaration of independence from the current movie scene. It’d be wrong to say that the movies Tarantino referenced were in any way innocent — they were too calculated, too sadistic for that. But there was less bullshit to them. Put it this way: the exploitation filmmakers who lured in audiences with promises of the leading lady taking her shirt off or blood-splattered action seem to be scamming a buck with a lot more honesty than the studio merchandising execs who sell toys at Burger King, or the publicists who get correspondents on the networks the studios own to interview a new movie’s stars as if that constituted news.

A popular movie that doesn’t follow that pattern is an anomaly. This summer, at J.J. Abrams’ retelling of “Star Trek,” you could almost hear the audience sigh over the luxury of seeing beloved characters given the chance to talk to one another, and at having a story with a coherent emotional arc. As they did a few years before at “Casino Royale,” moviegoers were watching something that wasn’t going to evaporate the moment they left the theater.

Disposable junk is largely what Hollywood makes now. The pictures nominated for Oscars, the ones the studios have always pointed to as evidence of their interest in making quality films, have become, in terms of the audience they attract and how they figure on balance sheets, niche movies. Even an expensive picture like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” isn’t thought of as having potential to break out. The days when the big hits, like “In the Heat of the Night” or “The Godfather,” could also be Oscar winners are far in the past.

11182009_Motherhood.jpgAnd American indie movies haven’t filled the void. To submit yourself to the half-baked whimsy of yet another ensemble comedy with patented quirky characters, or to another 90 minutes of shaky-cam and characters who look as if they can’t be bothered to shave or iron their clothes, seems like a denial of the wit and style and beauty that drew us to movies in the first place. I couldn’t face Katherine Dieckmann’s “Motherhood.” The trailer depressed me. I didn’t want to watch Uma Thurman, one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen, reduced to a frazzled frump dealing with strollers and playdates. I can see that in Park Slope.

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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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