This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.

DID YOU READ

The two Americas of “World’s Largest” and “Citizen Architect.”

The two Americas of “World’s Largest” and “Citizen Architect.” (photo)

Posted by on

Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

America may be under siege by killer bees in Texas and giant buffaloes in the middle of North Dakota, if “World’s Largest” is to be believed. The people in small towns are getting stung and stomped not by creatures’ tails and hooves, but rather by the hope that building large fiberglass monuments in their honor will lure tourists to their tiny burg off the side of the highway. Of course, roadside attractions have been a staple of American pop culture for well over half a century and as co-directors Amy Elliott and Elizabeth Donius exhaustively and sometimes exhaustingly demonstrate, what started as a nifty gimmick in rural areas to benefit the chamber of commerce has now become a last-ditch effort in some communities to stop the bleeding of a bad economy and the urban flight of younger generations.

Although the film breathlessly criss-crosses the country from an oversized Boll Weevil in Alabama to the Minnesota Paul Bunyan statues immortalized in “Fargo,” “World’s Largest” finds a home in Soap Lake, WA, where there is a battle brewing over the town’s plans to build a 65-ft. tall lava lamp downtown. Nevermind that Soap Lake has a natural claim to fame — the world’s biggest natural mineral lake — or the health hazard for potential heatstroke posed by the requisite 65,000 gallons of glowing goo, as one angry resident complains; with nothing else on the horizon, some in Soap Lake print up pamphlets with “Lava Love in the Sun” and T-shirts to sell, even though the town can’t afford the lamp, leading one pro-lava lamper to muse, “You don’t want to throw the word ‘hoax’ out there [with regards to the unbuilt lamp], but you do start to wonder.”

03182010_WorldsLargest.jpgUnfortunately, the hoax appears to not affect the disappointed few who roll into Soap Lake expecting to bask in the warmth of a gargantuan lava lamp, but rather the mostly lower-class and largely elderly communities of Soap Lakes around the U.S. that delude themselves into believing that they’re one extravagant tourist trap away from reenergizing their town. Elliott and Donius travel near and far to places where Elks Clubs and VFWs still reign supreme and parades down Main Street require mandatory attendance, yet the local businesses have closed their doors and all that’s left in their wake is a huge Swedish coffee pot. (Actually, two towns came up with that one.)

While eulogizing a bygone era when Americans could afford such largesse and there was more interest in pulling off I-95 to take a picture with a giant frying pan, the film is far from the downer I may be making it sound like, simultaneously serving as a celebration of these man-made wonders and taking the temperature of communities that might not be on the map without them. Elliott and Donius have many monuments to get through and the film’s breakneck pace occasionally turns the towns and their local dignitaries into a bit of a blur, though that may be the point — places that once were vibrant and had an identity are now desperately trying to find one. “World’s Largest,” on the other hand, has no problem being vibrant or with its identity, since it’s so thorough.

03182010_CitizenArchitect.jpgIf one is looking for a rosier outlook for American ingenuity and cultural uplift through architecture at SXSW, you couldn’t be more energized by any film than Sam Wainwright-Douglas’ “Citizen Architect.” Given its running time of a mere hour, one is well-aware that the doc is destined for public television, but that would be doing a disservice to the big-screen worthy architecture on display from the Rural Studio, an undergraduate program at Auburn University that builds astoundingly inventive housing and buildings for the underprivileged in Hale County, Alabama. Utilizing materials ranging from scrap metal to rubber tires (as seen in the memorable Yancel Tire Chapel), Auburn’s architectural students not only get an education in designing structures but forging relationships with their clientele who are less concerned with buttresses than simply having shelter.

The program was the brainchild of Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee, an Auburn professor, and even though he passed away from leukemia in 2001, his influence for cleverly designed, low-cost housing has extended to others around the world. Just for good measure, Douglas interviews Yale architecture professor Peter Eisenman to balance out the warm, humanitarian vibe of the film, saying such things as “”I’ve never seen any architecture that helps to make a better world; as a matter of fact, I think architecture creates problems rather than solves problems.” But Eisenman has obviously never met a Hale County resident simply known as Music Man, the recipient of a small but beautifully built home from the class, the construction of which serves as the backdrop for the film. If there’s a downside to the doc, it’s that we don’t learn more about Mockbee, who appears to be a colorful character that almost comes off as a deity here (the director is his son-in-law), but in fact what the Rural Studio does is a godsend and “Citizen Architect” is nearly as elegant as the architecture it presents.

“World’s Largest” is currently without U.S. distribution; “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio” will air this summer on PBS after its festival run.

[Photos: “World’s Largest,” 2010; “Citizen Architect,” Big Beard Films, 2010]

IFC_Portlandia-S8_best-of-skits_subaru-blog

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

Posted by on

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

IFC_Portlandia-S8_pick-a-lane_subaru-blog

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

Posted by on

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.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
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…