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Jennifer Lopez’s Working Class Roots

Jennifer Lopez’s Working Class Roots (photo)

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The prevailing story of Jennifer Lopez’s film career has been one of decline, the promise of “Out of Sight” collapsing in a string of simple romantic comedies. Watching these post-Soderbergh movies as a group, though, reveals that Lopez is actually a sly, insolently funny performer, and one who repeatedly selects roles that are defined by their work. Lopez has played a wedding planner, a maid, a dance instructor, a temp, a caterer, a dog walker, and she’s actually depicted on the job.

Hollywood generally prefers to ignore the day-to-day expertise that goes into cleaning a room or serving an appetizer (a telling sign in “Maid in Manhattan” reads, “strive to be invisible”), but Lopez actively seeks out these moments. “The Wedding Planner,” “Maid in Manhattan,” “Shall We Dance,” and “Monster-in-Law” are a remarkably similar quartet in this respect, presenting Lopez as the rare actor who can be read as an auteur (she’s returning to the big screen this weekend with a new rom-com, “The Back-up Plan,” after a four-year absence).

Lopez was famously raised in the Bronx by her Puerto Rican parents, and dropped out of Baruch College after a semester in order to take dance and voice classes. After some work on TV (a backup dancer on “In Living Color,” a supporting role in “South Central”), she shifted to film, landing some minor parts before breaking out with the lead in “Selena.” She plays the late Mexican-American pop star with disarming naïveté, an immaculately carefree teen oblivious to the traps that fame has set for her.

04212010_selena1.jpgImmensely proud of her heritage, Lopez seems to explode with energy in the films set in the Latino community (the aforementioned “Selena,” “Mi Familia” and “El Cantante”), while in her mainstream Hollywood productions she becomes more withholding, mischievous and sarcastic. Perhaps fearful of falling prey to the “hot-blooded Latina” stereotype, Lopez’s romantic comedy roles present her as a series of fiercely independent loners, in love with their jobs more than the men they inevitably marry. Working well within the clichés of the genre, Lopez still manages to offer a more nuanced vision of modern womanhood than her competitors.

Katherine Heigl, the current rom-com queen, is a pleasantly stiff actress, but has never played a character that could possibly exist without a man, or even hold down a job with actual responsibility. In the workplace, which is invariably a brightly lit modernist office, Heigl or Aniston or Bullock wear titles of “editor,” “executive” or “attorney” like a designer dress, their only duty to pursue connubial bliss. In “27 Dresses,” Heigl is solely defined by her “always the bridesmaid” guilt, in love with her boss at an environmental non-profit, which apparently employs her to pine away at a lucite desk. In “The Wedding Planner,” Lopez is at the top of her field and close to making partner. She’s shown expertly corralling a drunk father-in-law, feeding a speech to a nervous best man, and composing the shots for the wedding video.

Heigl is abjectly miserable where Lopez is merely melancholy (and very busy). The plots end up in the same hetero-normative place, but the crucial difference is that Lopez’s eventual marriage is a matter of choice, whereas with Heigl (and Aniston, and Bullock, and so on), it’s posed as a metaphysical necessity. And it’s this freedom to Lopez’s characters that make her comedies so much more fun and revealing, lifting these otherwise rote genre exercises into the category of what Andrew Sarris termed “subjects for further research.” It is what makes her career worth investigating.

04212010_maidinmanhattan1.jpgThis freedom would mean little if Lopez was a bore on-screen, but she has a nifty comedic repertoire. She tends towards arrogance and insolence, hair pulled back and head tilted high, as she steamrolls her way through the workday, a grin creeping in through pursed lips when she lands a verbal or physical blow. When she finally cracks up, it’s with staccato monologues and impulsive bits of violence.

In her best film, “Maid in Manhattan,” she’s a harried hotel maid and single mom, cutting down Amy Sedaris after an offhand racist slur, casually smacking her with the bedspread while in the act of folding. Partly set in the Bronx, it’s an homage to the industrious spirit of her parents, a class-conscious “Cinderella” story that never patronizes its working class characters, and halfway earns the storybook ending. (Notably, in the end credit montage, she’s shown making the cover of Hotel Manager magazine with no bridal publications in sight).

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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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