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2009 was an excellent year for film…just wait.

2009 was an excellent year for film…just wait. (photo)

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Let’s try to simultaneously move forward and backwards here for a moment. On Thursday, Cannes will begin announcing its lineup, which will terminate the rampant speculation about which world-class auteurs will and won’t be walking the Croisette and begin a new round of speculation about the films themselves — to be followed, subsequently, by an intense barrage of disparate, often disagreeing dispatches from the festival itself, and the slow, auto-drip downwards percolation of these films into smaller festivals and (for an increasingly lucky few) theatrical distribution, eventually trickling onto DVD and so forth.

Point being it’s awfully hard to wrap your head around the global implications and trends of a year’s worth of film within the time span of a year, even if you’re one of the fortunate few who can afford to jaunt from fest to fest. There should be some kind of moratorium on wrapping up the year in film for at least half a year afterwards. Because only in the last few weeks was it revealed that 2009 was secretly an excellent year for film, no matter how much people complained.

The problem with this proposition is that you’re going to have to agree with me about what constitutes excellence, and you’re largely going to have to take my word for it; many of 2009’s most exciting movies are decidedly not coming to a theater anytime soon, and maybe not even to a high-profile festival. And they are — and I say this as a fan — incredibly arty and not destined for any kind of high-profile success.

There were the consensus moments in blockbuster excellence enjoyed in 2009 (“Up” and, to a lesser extent, “Star Trek”), but there is more to enjoy — much more, in fact, than was initially evident. Exhibit A, if you please: Alain Guiraudie’s “The King of Escape,” which skulked out of a side-section of Cannes to less high-profile Stateside engagements (I saw it at Lincoln Center’s “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema,” the annual clearing house of French films that have evaded bigger U.S. premieres). In the genre of gay films, there’s frequently less to commend than good intentions. Not so with “The King of Escape,” Guiraudie’s lightest and most accessible film yet: imagine David Lynch’s personality-transference dream-dramas reconfigured as goofy, sexually explicit comedy and you’ll only start to get the mindbending idea at play here.

“The King of Escape” is an excellent movie that didn’t make the cut for David Hudson’s provocative and chewy attempt at starting to collate the emerging cinematic trends of this and last year. There’s a lot to wrap our head around in Hudson’s piece: the disparate parallel tracks of austerely drab realism (brought to you by the heirs of the Dardenne brothers) and extreme provocation (Lars von Trier, Gasper Noé and so on), but lost in all this are some excellent movies that aren’t getting discussed quite possibly because they don’t fit any of the dominant narratives about where arthouse film is (or isn’t) going at this moment.

04122010_coldweather.jpgWatching “The King of Escape” suggested one counter-narrative: ultra-formalistic gay arthouse filmmaking is coming into its own — a necessarily simplified reductive formula, but in the wake of Gus Van Sant’s elegant “Last Days,” filmmakers like Guiraudie and João Pedro Rodrigues (whose super-excellent transvestite drama “To Die Like A Man” rocked NYFF last year) have shifted the conversation from films that merely exist to push things forward to elegant, sexually aggressive films that can’t be ignored.

Another possible narrative that is evolving from films made during 2009 is represented well by Aaron Katz’s super-fun “Cold Weather” (still inexplicably without distribution, not that that should last long), which proves that you can make a seriously crowd-pleasing comedy without falling into the Sundance tropes of tweeness, color-coordinated quirk and indie-friendly soundtrack. Just as the Duplass brothers move ever closer to the mainstream with “Cyrus,” Katz’s latest demonstrates that crowd-pleasing need no longer be synonymous with cynical pandering. It shouldn’t hurt that ground zero for these types of films — Sundance (no matter what its self-aggrandizing airs) — is once again showcasing movies of interest as long as you’re ready to do some heavy sifting.

Because everyone seemed to have such a good time in 2007, and the following few years have been filled with economic despair for all and a great deal of navel-gazing about all matters cinematic — per Wallace Stevens, everyone’s imagination seemingly staring at the end of an era — it’s always tempting to draw conclusions about Where Film Is as quickly as possible, erring on the side of doom and gloom. And while it’s useful to slot films in taxonomical ways, always with the temptation of crowning something a trend as quickly as possible, it’s even more important to sit down, shut up and wait for a while. The movies’ll keep.

[Photos: “The King of Escape,” Les Films du Losange, 2009; “Cold Weather,” Parts and Weather, 2010.]

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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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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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