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Review: “Zonad,” a liquor-soaked alien invasion.

Review: “Zonad,” a liquor-soaked alien invasion. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Around midnight in front of the Village East Cinemas, a group of friends in front of me were saying they might be inspired to finish that documentary they’ve been kicking around after seeing something as “half-assed” as “Zonad” get into Tribeca.

It may be the only time “Zonad” will be cited as an inspiration itself, since so much of it is inspired by other films. It surely won’t be the first time somebody is disappointed by it. As director John Carney’s follow-up film to “Once” — as delicate and revered as any romantic drama has been in years, if not decades — “Zonad” (co-directed with his brother Kieran) is certainly a shock to the system, yet it’s also all but assured many midnight screenings to come if the right audience finds it.

Like one of those “Saturday Night Live” sketches that begin with a funny premise before getting weird and slightly uncomfortable and then ultimately funny again because of the commitment to the original premise, one’s love of “Zonad” will depend entirely on how much you commit to its absurdity.

Certainly, the Carney brothers are true believers. They touch down in the Irish town of Ballymoran where the local entertainment consists of gazing up at the stars and drinking at the local pub, so imagine the community’s embrace of Zonad (Simon Delaney), a portly stranger in a red latex spacesuit that is found passed out in front of a liquor cabinet.

No one questions Zonad when he comes to, easily accepting his explanation that he passed through a “rip in the fabric of time.” No one wonders if he’s responsible for those empty gin bottles or if it’s a good idea or not to undress in front of him when he claims he’s hibernating.

05012010_Zonad2.jpgEven when the family that takes him in finds their telly and DVD player in the back of his trunk, they trust him implicitly and soon after, their teenage daughter, as well as the rest of the town’s women, fall at his feet. However, Zonad’s godlike treatment only lasts so long since a rival “alien” Bonad (David Pearse) swoops into town and easily sways the locals’ short attention spans.

All of this may sound genteel enough on paper, but the Carneys paint Ballymoran as a ’50s era community of conformity thrown for a loop by the modernism Zonad represents — policemen are compelled to urinate on those unwise enough to question the aliens’ bona fides and once chaste girls are possessed to paint “fuck me” on their eyebrows.

It could be seen as a parody in the vein of the knowing sci-fi spoof “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra,” but “Zonad” is too crude to be considered a loving homage and too wedded to its movieness to be classified as anything else. The fact that it’s a tweener adds to the general hit-and-miss quality of the comedy, but also burnishes it with an unusual charm that’s often elusive to the parodies that rely on a steady succession of empty sight gags and in-jokes.

Given the importance of music in “Once,” it’s not surprising that the Carneys can’t help but slip in some familiar soundtrack cues as well as Bryan Byrne’s incredibly versatile score to add to the humor, but it’s ultimately their dedication to keeping the plot (and the good townsfolk of Ballymoran) simple while continually raising the stakes of what Zonad and Bonad are capable of. When the film ends in a musical number, it’s all too fitting — it’s ridiculous, out of the blue and hits mostly all the right notes.

“Zonad” is currently without U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Zonad,” Element Pictures, 2010]

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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

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Cancel it!

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Forgotten America

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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

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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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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

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