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The Naughts: The Actress of the ’00s

The Naughts: The Actress of the ’00s (photo)

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If time is an avenger, then the Naughts have had it both ways with Nicole Kidman. In the span of a decade, Kidman was transformed from arm candy into an artist — the rare movie star who made genuinely interesting choices — eclipsing her ex-husband, Tom Cruise, who filed for divorce in 2000, with an Oscar win and the embrace, finally, of her peers on her own terms.

However, as the ’00s limp to a close, Kidman seems to be succumbing to a personal vendetta against time: by manipulating her face into a mask — a waxworks ideal of “Nicole Kidman” — rather than continuing to deploy it as a functional instrument, an artist’s tool, Kidman is taking perhaps the most surprising risk of her career: she has chosen to age into glacial iconicity. In this, she exemplifies a decade that treated actresses with ambivalence, waving all the flags of empowerment and agency at the post-Julia Roberts cohort, who wanted to have it all without having to play the charming prostitute, only to corral them into the same old pens: ingénue, mother, old maid.

Kidman, of course, showed signs of life during her pre-Naughts career, most notably in her 1989 breakthrough “Dead Calm,” and again in “To Die For” in 1995 and “The Portrait of a Lady” in 1996. Maligned as often for her mannered, on-screen frigidity as she was dismissed for her off-screen attachment to Herr Cruise, audiences gave her her due, particularly for her turn in the Van Sant film, a blackly comic media farce, but it was grudging, as though the director had tapped into a neat utility for Kidman’s innate chill and deserved most of the credit.

12042009_MoulinRouge3.jpgEven as a very young woman, Kidman had a particular savvy for directors, aligning herself with both established and up-and-coming innovators; if her own development seemed erratic through the ’90s, her taste in directors was more consistently inspired. By contrast, Kidman’s ex appeared to be on an artistic roll when he starred alongside his wife in 1999’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” that seems to have ended only months later with his Oscar-nominated role in “Magnolia.” Looking back, it would seem that his most interesting roles were all chosen while he was with Kidman.

For her, not so much: in fact, Kidman’s first role of the decade, as the melancholy performer/courtesan Satine in Baz Luhrman’s “Moulin Rouge!,” doubled as a sort of emancipation announcement. Filmed during the split with Cruise, Kidman seemed to finally find an outlet for her talent, channeling her famously wintry form into affecting mystique, then contrasting that with a full commitment to the unabashed romanticism and goofy spectacle of Luhrman’s meta-musical. The restraint of her previous roles loosened noticeably; here was Kidman singing and dancing and believably falling in love — a triple threat that even her fans hardly suspected she had in her.

In 2001, she also starred in the psychological thriller “The Others,” working with then-29-year-old Alejandro Amenábar to create a portrait of a mother in the midst — perhaps — of a paranoid breakdown. It was the beginning of a dark period in the country; the terrain Kidman seemed compelled to explore was similarly bleak: although she had to give up the lead role in David Fincher’s “Panic Room” due to injury, Kidman took on the role of suicidal writer Virginia Woolf in 2002’s “The Hours.”

Her Oscar win for her portrayal of Woolf seems somewhat compromised by both the relative brevity of her screen time and the run of rewards (cf. Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball” and Charlize Theron in “Monster”) given out to beautiful women willing to ugly up on film in the early part of the decade. Still, the performance confirmed Kidman’s status as a major actress who could hold her own with Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, and as a major Hollywood player who would follow up her Academy Award-winning turn with three films in a single year — “Dogville,” “The Human Stain,” and “Cold Mountain” — that captured in microcosm the actress’ competing impulses.

12042009_Dogville.jpgBy accepting the lead role in Lars von Trier’s staid, electrifying morality play “Dogville,” Kidman furthered her commitment to working with volatile but essential directors, and in this case, submitted, quite literally, to von Trier’s strict vision of beauty as a burden and the casual conspiracies of violence and oppression just below the surface of “civilized” small-town society. With “The Human Stain,” Kidman indulged what seems to be a persistent tendency towards character roles, a need to disappear within an accent or a hairstyle at odds with her movie star genes. Her role as the mysterious janitor in this film (and that of a Russian mail order bride in “Birthday Girl”) work to the extent that Kidman has not developed a persona as strong as that of a star like George Clooney or Angelina Jolie, one that tends to overwhelm any part they’re in, and yet there is enough self-consciousness in Kidman to prevent her from pulling such roles off completely.

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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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