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Why it’s so hard to say what’s good when it comes to movies.

Why it’s so hard to say what’s good when it comes to movies. (photo)

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Barring whatever Artforum cooks up, you’re unlikely to find a more uncompromisingly festival/arthouse/”difficult”-centric best-of-the-decade list than the TIFF Cinematheque’s Top 30 of the decade — which is actually 54 films long due to a truly staggering number of ties, but who’s counting?

The most “popular” movies on the list — I use that word advisedly — are probably “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “A History of Violence” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” I’ve seen all but nine of the rest — the list tops out with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Syndromes and a Century,” the definitive beloved-by-critics-and-seen-by-almost-no-one-else 2006 film.

All the movies on the list are worth taking seriously. Some of them I love viscerally, some of them I respect abstractly and some of them I frankly despise (looking at you, “Colossal Youth”). But is the whole thing a bit airless? Definitely.

It’s tough enough to get the festival world’s elite to agree on what the best non-festival movies might be (try to get ten reasonable people to agree about “Zodiac” or, hell, “Spider-Man 2”) but it is a bit surprising that the cineastes of the world couldn’t get it together to at least, I dunno, champion something perverse like “Speed Racer.”

Guess the highbrow world really has given up on trying to find signs of life in the studio system, which is a shame. It really is harder work. Art films announce themselves and, at a certain level, have an easier time breeding consensus on what’s “the best” than finding common ground on more popular fare.

11252009_pulpfiction.jpgThere’s just something a little lazy and presumptive about the TIFF list, even though it does reflect where my head’s at a lot of the time. These are not movies anyone has to defend: even if they aren’t all as great as the list says, they do come pre-packaged with the label of greatness. (Most of them, incidentally, also screened at TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, itself — the festival circuit is more and more of a closed loop when it comes to launching works that can be seen in enough places to get word of mouth out. TIFF’s list confirms its status as the key place for critical respect, if not commercial success.)

Maybe future high-brow film historians will have to put more effort into re-excavating and re-evaluating Hollywood and mainstream fare than they will to identify the great arthouse hits of the aughts. Even in the ’90s most of us could agree on, I dunno, “Pulp Fiction” or “Unforgiven.” 20 years from now, I hope “The Devil’s Rejects” is rediscovered and venerated.

Incidentally, TIFF’s list makes no discriminations between shorts and features. So if you haven’t seen one of the entries for #23 — Guy Maddin’s “The Heart of the World” — now is a perfect time to do so. In a just world, this would’ve been broadcast and beloved on Adult Swim, where it would’ve fit in perfectly:

[Photos: “A History of Violence,” New Line Cinema, 2005; “Pulp Fiction,” Miramax Films, 1994]

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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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