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What year did they invent politics again?

What year did they invent politics again? (photo)

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Yesterday I was mugged. After spending the day waiting at police stations and banks, I finally ended up back at home, dispirited and having been away from you, gentle reader, for far too long. I fired up all the blogs I would’ve normally gone through hours ago, and instantly, there was balm for my weary soul. Big Hollywood gifted me with one last inane faux-controversy to end the year, about one of my least favorite people.

“Will Ben Mankiewicz Be Allowed to Destroy Turner Classic Movies?” the headline screamed. This would be the same Mankiewicz who, til of late, co-hosted the failed post-Ebert “At the Movies” alongside the feckless Ben Lyons. Of the two Bens, it was the obviously overwhelmed Lyons who got most of the hatred; next to his co-host’s proudly know-nothing enthusiasm, Mankiewicz came off as just about okay.

But now that he’s out on his own, there’s no lesser figure to draw all the fire. And so it was that Mankiewicz — TCM’s weekend host when the venerable Robert Osborne is off duty — incurred the wrath of Andrew Breitbart’s corner of the right-wing blogosphere this weekend.

The occasion was Elia Kazan’s 1957 “A Face In The Crowd,” an ever-timely parable starring Andy Griffith as a folksy radio show host who becomes a powerful mass media figure. Mankiewicz, as a commenter paraphrased it, “openly wondered if the producers had been able to see 50 years into the future and witnessed how people in this country were being manipulated and duped by angry media personalities, some who could cry on cue. He clearly was referring to conservative talk radio.” (Editorial note: no shit.)

That’s an innocuous enough observation. It’s also true, incidentally, to how Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg thought of the movie themselves: as J. Hoberman writes in the Village Voice, “In the ’80s, Kazan began saying that he and Schulberg had made a movie about Ronald Reagan back in the days when Reagan was still shilling for GE.” Schulberg himself compared Mike Huckabee to the Lonesome Rhodes character.

But that’s not how Big Hollywood sees it. Editor John Nolte fulminated over the slight, seeing it as the beginning of TCM’s transformation from apolitical haven for classic film lovers (who apparently all skew right-wing) to MSNBC liberal talking head: “Those of us who just want to sit back and relax and enjoy something without having to be on guard concerning a cheap sucker shot aimed at who we are and what we believe in have seen it start just like this a thousand times,” he moans, his back against the world.

As usual the commenters drive it into the paranoiac stratosphere. “Jeff Perren” asks: “Is Mankiewicz the grungy fellow who yaks from a set that looks like a SOHO loft, complete with bicycle? […] To the Progressives, nothing good from the past can remain clean and untouched. It has to be ‘modernized’, made ‘hip’.” Guestorama waxes conspiratorial: “Look up Ben on Wikepedia and see what you get – former air america host, had a liberal talk show for years by himself, dad was a super hollywood lib that was on Nixon’s ‘enemies list’. This guy is from ground zero of the liberal world, his whole family is a who’s who of liberalism AND HE JUST HAPPENS TO GET THIS GIG and then HE JUST HAPPENS TO SPOUT HIS LIBERAL DRIVEL.”

The comments are even weirder over on the TCM comments page (which eventually got moderator locked). “mikeroykirk” shared the text of his letter to TCM: “There was no need for this comparison only for Mr Mankiewicz’s need to make a point maybe partially out of jealously and his dislike for Beck,Limbaugh and their fans.”

It’s even funner to watch the comparative praise for Alec Baldwin, who apparently keeps his liberal politics to himself while co-hosting “The Essentials” with Osborne. Seeing Baldwin praised by conservatives; seeing Mankiewicz jeered…man, yesterday almost didn’t completely suck.

[Photos: Ben Mankiewicz, TCM; “A Face In The Crowd,” Warner Bros., 1957]

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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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