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Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Something Borrowed, Something Blue (photo)

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src=””>I can imagine Robert Zemeckis — whose botched motion-capture animated features “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol” were full of rubbery, dead-eyed, freakish-looking human constructs — watching James Cameron’s “Avatar” with an expression on his face not unlike F. Murray Abraham’s Salieri listening to his first Mozart composition in “Amadeus.”

From a technical standpoint, “Avatar” is a game-changer, a paradigm shift, the greatest thing since sliced “2001.” In the same way that “The Matrix” and its technological advances reverberated over the ensuing decade, so will “Avatar” act as a bellwether for the next wave of effects-heavy genre films.

I just wish it were a better movie. For all of Cameron’s soaring accomplishments in creating realistic motion-capture characters and his deft handling of the new era of 3D, “Avatar” feels both familiar and overlong. You’ve traveled this road before, even if now you’re doing it in a blinged-out luxury vehicle with personal seat-warmers and a dozen cupholders.

12162009_Avatar2.jpgSam Worthington (“Terminator Salvation”) stars as Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine who gets recruited by a corporation to take over a job for his recently deceased twin brother. The gig involves sleeping through a five-year space voyage and arriving at Pandora, a moon chock-full of a valuable element called Unobtainium; the Na’vi, the local race, haven’t meshed well with the humans, so the corporation has created beings out of human and Na’vi DNA.

These beings are controlled by human operators and act as, ta-dah, avatars. Jake, naturally, is thrilled to be back in a body that can stand and walk, even if it’s via mental remote control. The avatar work is a scientific expedition run by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who’s not thrilled about having Jake around since he doesn’t have the training (or Na’vi language skills) of his late brother. But security chief Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang) — the claw marks on his skull indicate no love lost between himself and the indigenous population — wants Jake to spy for him and find out what the Na’vi will barter for; failing that, the colonel wants intel on how best to wipe out the tall, blue local creatures.

Jake’s background as a warrior and not a scientist comes in handy when he meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, “Star Trek”), who becomes his trainer in the Na’vi ways. She shows him how to communicate with the local flora and fauna, to fall from great heights and land gently with the help of the leafy plants in the rainforest and to bond with and control the local flying creatures.

You can guess what happens next: love story, invasion of the white man, trail of tears, revenge of the underdog. Cameron’s screenplay, for all its vivid characterizations and rich depiction of an alien race, has no shame about set-ups along the lines of “Only two of our greatest warriors have ever captured the golden French fry,” followed by, inevitably, “Gasp! He has captured the golden French fry!”

12162009_avatar19.jpgStill, “Avatar” demands to be seen on the big screen. The interaction of human and animated characters reaches a new level of seamlessness, and the avatars for Jake and Grace retain elements of Worthington’s and Weaver’s faces while still looking believably alien. (Cameron claims he could do human motion-captures that are as realistic as his blue creatures, but until he really does it, his boast seems far-fetched.) It’s almost impossible to tell where the real people and objects on his set end and the fakery begins, and that’s the ultimate goal for effects work, right?

Visually, the movie veers back and forth between eye-popping visual poetry and shots that wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of a pulpy ’70s sci-fi paperback. Cameron’s script seems similarly trapped between the sublime and the ridiculous.

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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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