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Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See

Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See (photo)

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The Associated Press reported Monday that British director Peter Yates died over the weekend of an illness at the age of 81. As The AP reports, Yates had a unique career path:

“Born in Aldershot, southern England in 1929, Yates trained as an actor, performed in repertory theater and did a stint as a race-car driver before moving into film, first as an editor and then as an assistant director on films including Tony Richardson’s ‘A Taste of Honey’ and J. Lee Thompson’s ‘The Guns of Navarone.'”

Yates had a long and, at times, not-quite-illustrious career: his filmography includes the fantasy cheesefest “Krull” and the underwater cheesecakefest “The Deep”, a “Jaws” knockoff that became a hit mostly because Jacqueline Bisset spent a good portion of the movie in a wet t-shirt. But a couple of duds don’t tarnish an impressive legacy, including at least three films that, in my opinion, every movie fan should see. They are:

“Bullitt” (1968)

01122011_bullitt1.jpgThe Library of Congress selects movies for its National Film Registry based on their “cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance.” No wonder that “Bullitt” was chosen in 2007: it has all three. Steve McQueen’s iconic look as San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Bullitt — sportcoat over turtleneck with that elaborate shoulder holster — still remains one of the signature looks for cops in films. And of course the film’s rightfully famous car chase, which lasts more then ten minutes, remains one of the greatest in movie history.

One of the best things about all of Yates’ films are their real sense of place. “Bullitt” is set in San Francisco: not Toronto playing San Francisco, not a Hollywood backlot doubling for San Francisco, but San Francisco, the real city. That’s never clearer than during that incredible car chase, when the camera assumes the perspective of Bullitt behind the wheel of his 1968 Ford Mustang GT, as he flies down the hilly streets of The City By the Bay.

“Bullitt” is a police procedural free polish and gloss. McQueen is cool, of course, but his job doesn’t look glamorous; it looks exhausting. Bullitt works as hard as he can but he still can’t save everyone; despite his best efforts, people still die, brutally and horribly. With its anti-authoriarian hero and blunt depictions of violence, “Bullitt” made cop movies relevant for 1960s audiences. And it still holds up today.

“The Hot Rock” (1972)

01122011_hotrock1.jpgSteven Soderbergh watched two movies as research for directing “Ocean’s Eleven:” “Ghostbusters” and Yates’ “The Hot Rock.” The influence is obvious from the very first scene: both movies begin with their heroes getting released from prison and immediately diving right back into the con game. In the case of “The Hot Rock,” that hero is John Dortmunder, ably played by Robert Redford with just the right mix of laconic cool and world-weariness. Plus, his sideburns are amazing.

Redford and his brother-in-law Kelp (George Segal) are hired by an African diplomat (Moses Gunn) to steal a rare jewel from the Brooklyn Museum. They pull the heist off but one of their partners gets nabbed by the cops, and he’s the guy who was carrying the stone. That’s Greenberg (Paul Sand). So now they’ve got to break Greenberg out of jail to get at the gem. Only to keep it from the cops, Greenberg had to swallow the rock, and when he, ahem, passed it, he had to stash it in his holding cell in another jail. So now they’ve got to break into that jail, which is on the top floor of a police station. “Couldn’t you just keep swallowing it?” the exasperated diplomat asks. Greenberg thinks about it, as he clearly thought about it in the jail, debating whether or not he could swallow a priceless poop. Finally, he responds. “No!”

I guess you could argue that “The Hot Rock” doesn’t have much going for it in the stakes department, and that Dortmunder’s buddies are so laid-back about robbery and so unfazed by failure that their repeated attempts to nab The Hot Rock don’t amount to much. But “The Hot Rock” is, like Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” as much fun to watch for the lovable characters as it is for the heists. Their repeated failures are bad news for them and great news for us because every time they lose the rock it means we get to spend a little longer with these hilarious screw-ups.

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973)

01122011_coyle1.jpgJust one year after “The Hot Rock,” Yates directed a film that plays like its twisted doppelganger. “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is as gritty and bleak a heist film as “The Hot Rock” is a bubbly and comic one. Both movies are about the same ideas — loyalty, friendship, and family — but where “The Hot Rock” tells a crime story that celebrates and upholds those values, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” shows how all of those ideals mean nothing when tested against the strongest human impulse: self-preservation.

In one of his best performances, Robert Mitchum plays Eddie “Fingers” Coyle, a career criminal awaiting sentencing for a botched truck robbery. His only hope of avoiding jail time is by ratting out the guys he works with, including his gun supplier, who delivers the film’s best line: “This life’s hard, man. But it’s harder if you’re stupid.” From Mitchum on down the line, the cast is fantastic: Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, and Alex Rocco as a bankrobber Coyle sells Brown’s guns to.

The movie includes several terrifying heist sequences featuring Rocco’s gang, clad in eerie, dehumanizing masks, as they pick apart Boston-area banks. But really this is a movie about mortality, about an old guy coming to grips with the fact that he’s all played out and, as such, it’s probably the most fitting movie to watch this week to celebrate Yates. This is a sad movie. The title is so cruel too. A real thief doesn’t have friends: just potential betrayers.

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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…