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“Up In The Air”: pundits love it!

“Up In The Air”: pundits love it! (photo)

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From time to time, political pundits feel the need to take on an Important Movie. (They never seem to go digging through genre releases for hidden messages, though I’d give a lot to read, say, Thomas Friedman explaining how “Ninja Assassin” validates “glocalization” or whatever with its leveraging of Korean stars, Japanese history and American money.)

The film of choice this season is Jason Reitman’s “Up In The Air,” which recently became the target of competing op-eds a week apart from different sides of the political aisle. Liberal Frank Rich went first last weekend in the New York Times, followed this weekend by George F. Will in the Washington Post.

Both love the movie, because both believe it confirms the way they see the world (which really speaks — like “Juno” — to how watery Jason Reitman’s vision is).

In his piece, Rich notes early on that it’s “not a political movie,” and that it “won’t be mistaken for either a Michael Moore or Ayn Rand polemic on capitalism.” Instead, it’s about an entirely non-political subject, “an America whose battered inhabitants realize that the economic deck is stacked against them, gamed by distant, powerful figures they can’t see or know.” So, yes, not political in the slightest.

He proposes that the folks who got us into the recession “never saw the workers whose jobs were shredded by their cunning games of financial looting” and therefore we live in “two Americas” — “corporate culture” and “the rest of us,” which seems a bit simple-minded (as is the implicit suggestion that if only they saw what they were doing, we’d all be living in a paradise of responsibly self-regulating and non-rapacious capitalism). Oh, and “the fate of Americans on the ground remains very much up in the air.” (Emphasis mine.) Come write for a blog! We love that kind of stuff.

Will’s appraisal is half summary (literally: the first page out of two), and he thinks the opening version of “This Land Is Your Land” is “weird”: “this hymn to Depression-era radicalism is catnip for people eager to tickle a political manifesto from any movie that has a contemporary social setting” (as opposed to, I suppose, a contemporary setting whose social mores are taken from the Edwardian era).

12212009_uita4.jpgBut he concludes the movie is not about the recession (because the novel was written before it) but instead indicts “a welfare state that siphons increasing amounts of wealth from the economy to give to the elderly. Having willed this end, America must will the means to it — sometimes severe economic efficiency to generate revenue to finance the entitlement culture. ” Unchecked capitalism is the fault of Medicare! Also, this “is sobering entertainment for a nation contemplating a giant addition to the entitlement menu.” “Up In The Air” is actually about how health care reform is bad!

These piece are certainly no more painful than, say, Armond White’s experiments in neo-con reviewing masquerading as disinterested artistic shot-calling, or Jonathan Rosenbaum saying “Bobby” is better than “Nashville” because it’s less cynical. If anything, pundits seem more tentative in their political readings of films than film critics, who are often inclined to baldly assigning political values and worths to their subjects.

But in the end, neither of these readings are convincing: they just endorse the film as a talking point for (let’s face it) elitist-esque columnists, fodder to be plugged into the weekly agenda as another example, which is somehow the dullest way to talk about movies.

This is why I don’t read op-eds. Seriously.

[Photos: “Up In The Air,” Paramount, 2009]

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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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