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Going Solo: Movies With (Mostly) Just One Actor

Going Solo: Movies With (Mostly) Just One Actor (photo)

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“127 Hours” is James Franco’s show — there are other people in the cast, like Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn as hikers his character, Aron Ralston, encounters while exploring the canyons near Moab, UT. There’s his family, his coworker and his former lover, all glimpsed in memories, but for the majority of the runtime of Danny Boyle’s film Franco is alone on screen, doing a remarkable job of holding our attention with no one to talk to but his camera and his own increasingly desperate self.

Movies may be a visual medium, but it’s through dialogue that we tend to get to know characters and grasp plots. So having an actor alone on screen is a tricky proposition, one that often requires gimmicks, games or just letting go of any traditional narrative. Here’s a look at a few films, recent and older, that have offered significant solo time for a character.


“Wrecked” (2010)
Directed by Michael Greenspan
Soloist: Adrien Brody

A man wakes up in a wrecked car in the middle of the woods. His leg is pinned under the dash and there’s a dead body in the back seat. Also, he’s Adrien Brody, so we know some serious emoting is going to be going on in this Canadian indie, the feature debut of director Michael Greenspan. Aside from a few flashbacks and the sporadic appearances of a woman (“Wonderfall”‘s Caroline Dhavernas) and a dog who may or may not be real, Brody spends most of this film alone, telegraphing his pain, frustration and confusion (he doesn’t remember anything about who he is or how he ended up in the car) through the kind of half-muttered interjections you make to keep yourself company when you’re sure you’re totally alone. “Wrecked” is intriguing when it keeps to the unprotected confines of the car and the mystery of who its passengers are, but eventually it has to open up to the larger woods and a somewhat silly threat to our hero.


“Buried” (2010)
Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
Soloist: Ryan Reynolds

A man wakes up in a coffin buried in the sand. In Iraq! Like “Wrecked,” Rodrigo Cortés’ film is a high-concept one-man show about a character trapped in a claustrophobic space, though here there’s an attempt at topicality. The sense of time running out is also upped, with limited oxygen and an unstable space posing threats to Ryan Reynolds’ Paul Conroy, captured convoy driver. On the other hand, Paul has a cell phone, which means he actually has people to talk to. Reynolds is remarkably game, but is also given off-screen characters with which to interact, relieving some of the burden of having to be exciting on screen all by oneself.

“Symbol” (2010)
Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto
Soloist: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Comedian and filmmaker Hitoshi Matsumoto (of “Big Man Japan”) pits two seemingly unrelated storylines against each other in his second feature. In one, the patriarch of a Mexican family prepares for a lucha libre match against intimidating opponents. In the other, a man (played by Matsumoto) awakens by himself in a white room with no doors or windows, just switches that are actually the genitalia of snickering cherubim hiding in the walls. Alone, Matsumoto displays his gift for physical comedy — the unnamed man he plays, clad in bright pajamas and sporting a bowl cut, isn’t terribly bright but is amusing prone to burst of loud frustration. His exploration into what the switches do is a prolonged, and very funny, absurdist journey.


“Yaadein” (1964)
Directed by Sunil Dutt
Soloist: Sunil Dutt

You can’t fault Sunil Dutt for a lack of confidence — he directed himself in this black and white 1964 Hindi film, aside from a silhouette toward the end, the only actor on screen. “Yaadein” (Memories) consists of a monologue from Anil, played by Dutt, who reminisces about his marriage to Priya, the birth of their children, his straying and its effects on the family. He’s come home to an empty house, and believes his wife has finally left him, despairing at his mistakes and overcome with regret. This film is apparently one of three sharing a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Fewest actors in a narrative film.”

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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 IFC.com

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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

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…