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Christopher Nolan is the new James Cameron.

Christopher Nolan is the new James Cameron. (photo)

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11 years ago, Glenn Kenny (then of Premiere) was attending Sun-/Slamdance and shared a bus ride with a dejected-looking British pair. “The couple were feeling a little down,” he wrote recently, “as they had a film… in its way as formally daring as ‘Blair Witch’ was, but it didn’t matter, as ‘Blair Witch’ was garnering not just all the money but all the critical hype.” The movie was “Following,” and the couple were Christopher Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas.

How far we’ve come. Now Christopher Nolan sits poised on top of the world. Following the success of “Batman Begins” and the billion-plus worldwide gross of “The Dark Knight,” Nolan has somehow gotten Warner Bros. to give him $200 million for “Inception,” a movie that star Leonardo DiCaprio has described as “Chris delving into dream psychoanalysis and, at the same time, making a high-octane, surreal film that came from his mind. He wrote the entire thing, and it all made sense to him. It didn’t make sense to many of us when we were doing it.”

These are not things that happen ordinarily. No matter how successful you are, you’re not supposed to get $200 million to make something that’ll mightily screw with people. (The last time I heard a description remotely like that, we got “Southland Tales,” and look how that turned out.) But, per Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming, “Nolan is considered something of a god at Warner Bros.” And now that Nolan has an idea for a third Batman film and has agreed to “godfather” a “Superman” reboot (whatever that means), that’s not going to change anytime soon.

02092010_inception.jpgThat places Nolan in very rarefied company indeed; effectively, it means he gets to fight it out with James Cameron for king of the world status, given carte blanche to write and direct his own distinctive blockbusters. At this moment, he might be even higher: Cameron had to tussle with Fox in order to sneak his “Ferngully” aspirations into “Avatar,” straightforward or not. In contrast, Warner Bros. snapped up “Inception” just to make sure no one else would get it, not stopping to worry about whether or not it would make sense.

The funny thing is that when it comes to name recognition, I don’t get the sense that Nolan has the same brand-value as Cameron. People loved “The Dark Knight” (and many of them got a kick out of “Batman Begins”), but “The Prestige” was a sleeper hit at best. Cameron’s name and technology were pretty much all “Avatar” had to work with, and it worked well. Maybe Cameron’s much-derided tendency to be self-aggrandizing in public reminds people who he is — Nolan remains safely in the background, not so interested in building a public image for himself.

Nonetheless, Nolan’s the new face of the Blockbuster Future, one short decade after quietly emerging to no fanfare in particular. And I don’t think he’s going anywhere: he has more ideas (and better ones, frankly) than Cameron, plus the budget to disguise their knottiness. “Inception” is the big gamble, with deliberately confounding trailers that invite you to place your trust solely in the hands of the director of “The Dark Knight.” And if it fails? Well, Cameron bounced back from “The Abyss” just fine. Game on.

[Photos: “Following,” 1998, ColumbiaTristar Home Entertainment; “Inception,” Warner Bros, 2010]

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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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