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DID YOU READ

“The Good Heart” and a mind for mischief.

“The Good Heart” and a mind for mischief. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

The last time Paul Dano and Brian Cox shared the screen, it was for 2000’s “L.I.E.,” a film that not only used its Long Island setting for its title, but also employed the desperation of the suburbs and its eternally gray skies as integral story elements. With “The Good Heart,” Dano and Cox finally make it into the city — for a comedy, no less — but while the shabby little piece of real estate that Cox’s speakeasy occupies is in the 212 area code, Icelandic director Dagur Kári’s English-language debut is a Scandinavian import all the way.

In that sense, “The Good Heart” is slightly jarring initially for an American audience — there are recognizable actors in the leads, beautifully shot exteriors of Manhattan and a narrative rhythm that is as bullish on forward progress as a Michael Bay flick. And yet it’s got much more in common with the cinema of Aki Kaurismäki (“The Man Without a Past”) and Bent Hamer (“O’Horten”), full of deadpan humor, abrupt cuts and… a duck, which we’re told is to be served up for dinner eventually, but whose primary function is to offer Kári an extra bit of esoteric set dressing. This may sound like a criticism, it isn’t, but if you’re one who doesn’t enjoy duck on the menu (or off, in this case), be forewarned.

Still, “The Good Heart”‘s marriage of the two cultures bears quite a bit of fruit, beginning with the pairing of the pallid and pious Dano as a homeless man named Lucas and the brusque Cox as a barkeep named Jacques. The two first meet as bedmates in a hospital ward. It isn’t Jacques’ first visit, nor has he endeared himself to the hospital staff that wishes his fallible ticker would just give out and who tell him as much. Lucas, on the other hand, is admitted off the streets with a nasty scar on his left arm and released only after the nurses take up a collection for him (which he promptly gives away to others living on the street.) Neither can continue living the way they do, and Jacques takes the initiative to become a Henry Higgins-type patron to Lucas’ unpolished gentleman, believing that Lucas could inherit the bar as Jacques has alienated everyone ever close to him except for a coffee grower in Martinique. (He even plans for Lucas to marry the coffee grower’s nine-year-old daughter, “when she’s a little older.”)

03122010_GoodHeart2.jpgWhat follows is a Laurel and Hardy routine as imagined by Samuel Beckett. Jacques’ bar is a way station for lost souls of all stripes — an espresso-drinking mute who strongly believes in routine, a trashman who aspires to collect garbage in space, Jules Verne’s great-great grandson who has a case of writer’s block, and a frizzy-haired barfly with a strong resemblance to Julian Schnabel who picks fights with whatever eclectic company strides up to the stool beside him. Cox has no intention of changing the clientele — he says grimly, “we don’t do walk-ins” after pouring a stranger a ketchup-heavy Bloody Mary. And it’s no place for women either, which poses the film’s main complication when April (Islid Le Besco), a wet and sobbing French flight attendant, shuffles into the place asking for a place to stay.

Needless to say, Cox’s killjoy is none too thrilled with this turn of events and vies for Lucas’ attention as his protégé begins to drift away with April, and the narrative finally starts to take shape. While serviceable in that regard in spite of a questionable third act twist, “The Good Heart” works best when Dano and Cox are allowed to play off each other, where Cox’s obvious affection for his “L.I.E.” co-star makes his character’s relationship to Lucas understandable and finds the truth in a film where observations about human nature are abound but real humanity is elusive.

“The Good Heart” will open in New York on April 30th before expanding on May 14th.

[Photos: Brian Cox and Paul Dano in “The Good Heart,” Magnolia Pictures, 2010]

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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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…