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“Idiots and Angels,” Reviewed

“Idiots and Angels,” Reviewed (photo)

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It’s been 2 years since animator Bill Plympton’s “Idiots and Angels” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Since then, Plympton’s been unable to find a distributor, and it’s not too hard to see why. From top (an animated film with adult content and absolutely no dialogue) to bottom (a sketchy visual aesthetic and muddy color pallette) this is an uncommercial project far from the mainstream of animation. It’s not an easy time for independent distributors, and I guess it’s tough to take a chance on something that has “Idiots and Angels”‘ unconventional pedigree, subject matter, and style. Too bad. Plympton should be rewarded for following his artistic impulses and for making a truly unique and beautiful piece of art.

The film is about a misanthrope who wakes one morning to find small wings sprouting from his back. He chops them off but they grow back, and no matter what he does, he can’t seem to shake them. Plympton follows the scenario down a impressive run of variations. The man’s battle with his own inner angels begins as a series of ingenious physical comedy riffs; he wants to fly around and rob people or spy on naked sunbathers, but the wings refuse to cooperate. Their early wars remind me of another unlikely hero’s “Three Stooges”-esque struggle with himself: Ash (Bruce Campbell) vs. his possessed hand in “Evil Dead 2.”

Though these sequences are often very funny, “Idiots and Angels” eventually takes on more mournful tone, and the scenes between the reluctant angel and his feather appendages become darker and surprisingly moving (one involving a chainsaw — perhaps another echo of “Evil Dead 2” — is grotesquely beautiful). That’s where Plympton’s dirty/pretty style begins to reap real emotional dividends. Unlike the refined lines and bright colors of most Hollywood animation, “Idiots and Angels” has an unfinished, sketchy look — the shading looks like they was done in pencil, not ink — and a personality all its own. The film is basically silent, though there’s music and occassional grunts or laughs from the characters, which is the right choice. Plympton’s expressive drawings say it all.

“Drawings” is the key word. “Idiots and Angels”‘s looks like it was hand-drawn, frame by painstaking frame. You’re constantly reminded of Plympton’s presence and of the effort it surely took to make this film. It’s a clear labor of love from a guy who wanted to tell a personal story in a personal style, like an angel sacrificing himself for the people he saves regardless of the consequences.

“Idiots and Angels” is playing through October 14 at the IFC Center in New York City and opens on October 29 in Los Angeles.

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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

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

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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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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

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