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How Kathryn Bigelow’s non-political movie has gotten politicized.

How Kathryn Bigelow’s non-political movie has gotten politicized. (photo)

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“The Hurt Locker”‘s biggest achievement has been to get people to talk honestly about how we depict war on screen in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time, with everyone’s cards and biases on the table.

That effect is helped by the vicious feedback loop of Oscar season, where the need to generate daily content about the same material leads to all kinds of weird, non-critical voices being unleashed — which may be the only good thing about awards season.

In the case of “The Hurt Locker,” every laudatory review reminded us that the movie was “apolitical,” presumably in the hope of sucking in those who didn’t want another “Lions for Lambs”-type harangue. And it worked. So why did Kathryn Bigelow feel the need to let it drop last week that this apolitical film does, in fact, take a stand against the war and can hopefully “bring closure to this conflict”?

A few days later, she told The Wrap‘s Steve Pond she feels war is “hell, and a real tragedy, and completely dehumanizing… We made a real effort to portray the brutality and the futility of this conflict.” You’d think she could’ve dropped this little nugget a while ago — but then again, that wouldn’t have helped the film commercially, while it might very well curry favor with the Hollywood establishment, who like lectures.

Melena Ryzik — the new Carpetbagger at The New York Times and by far the least hysterically inclined of the Oscar bloggers — believes that this Newsweek essay from combat veteran Paul Rieckhoff complaining of rampant accuracy could derail Oscar chances. Rieckhoff doesn’t just find the film inaccurate, he thinks it shows a lack of “respect for the American military.” This isn’t a new complaint, dating back at least to last July, sprinkled largely over veterans’ sites and the inevitable right-wing grumbling. But no one really cared til it was awards season; the discussion about How We Portray War Now was deferred. Now that it’s February, suddenly everyone’s listening.

02242010_hurt.jpgFor others, if the film isn’t explicitly criticizing the soldiers, then it’s a failure, end of story. And so Salon readers were treated to a splenetic essay by Cineaste associate editor Martha P. Nochimson, who notes that “Our field of vision is so completely limited to [Will’s] expertise in defusing bombs and dealing with invisible enemies that our capacity to think about the larger context of the American presence in Iraq is replaced by nuance-free instincts more characteristic of the tea party movement.” Again please? A lack of visual depth means you’re endorsing Ron Paul?

Nochimson also puzzlingly calls Bigelow the “Transvestite of Directors” because she traffics in “filmmaking soaked in a reduced notion of masculinity” — a criticism that, at the very least, traffics in a reduced notion of femininity. (She goes on to suggest we admire Nora Ephron instead. Nothing reductive about that.)

Some of the most dazzling insights on film I’ve heard have come from unexpected angles or sources. But there’s something toxic about the combination of politics and Oscars that seems to bring out the worst in people. The veterans’ complaint are their own and just — but to bring them into awards season is the worst kind of parity. (As for Nochimson, I guess she must be an “Avatar” fan. There’s nothing less restricted in field of vision than 3D.) There are real moral issues at stake here, but they’re unresolvable in any kind of objective fashion. To suggest the film is better or worse because it’s “anti-war” or “apolitical” or whatever cheapens both the off-screen issues and lend the awards chase an undue importance.

[Photos: “The Hurt Locker,” Summit Entertainment, 2009]

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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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