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Space is the place where indie film should head.

Space is the place where indie film should head. (photo)

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So far I’ve seen two low-budget sci-fi exercises here at SXSW: the witty and playful “Mars” and a bizarro fiasco called “Earthling.” (There are no words. At least no nice ones.) The two have served me due notice of something that should’ve been sooner: space is the place where indies should go.

“Science fiction” is supposed to have at least, you know, some science in it, even if it’s all speculative. That used to mean lots of attempts — both expensive and cheap — at staging realistic spaceflight dramas and battles. As it turned out — “The Right Stuff” aside — this wasn’t always compelling cinema. Who remembers the likes of “Marooned” (Gregory Peck as a NASA director!) or “Space Camp,” except as, well, camp?

If you can avoid the expensive effects, it turns out space can be a cheap and liberating way to avoid realistic drabness. “Moon” is okay and all, but still keeps closer to the old breed of space sci-fi, winking allusions to “2001” and all. But something like the heady “A Scanner Darkly” suggests a way out: science fiction as a relatively inexpensive series of visual ideas that can open up your film. (Or you can make “Christmas on Mars” and have that be your whole deal. Whatever works.)

03142010_moon.jpgThe old, literal-minded insistence on hardware is unnecessary. The very fact that you can tap into a new and original idea means that suggesting its outlines on screen visually is enough: imagination will do the heavy lifting.

So here’s a modest suggestion: sci-fi, like fantasy, should ditch the science and go straight for the metaphorical jugular. NASA’s on the ground and no one’s invested in our space program anymore (which is, honestly, a bummer). Time to ditch all those Apollo dreams and rewrite the rules — like “A Scanner Darkly,” like “Mars,” even (I guess) like “Moon.” The quotidian, you’re on notice: an indie sci-fi wave would be most welcome.

[Photos: “Mars,” That Mars Film, 2010; “Moon,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2009]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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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