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“Red State,” Reviewed

“Red State,” Reviewed (photo)

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Kevin Smith’s personality now looms so large that it can seem inextricable from the films he produces, that buying into his on-screen work means also buying into Team View Askew. Smith has proven himself a mighty wielder of his own personal brand, using podcasts, his Twitter feed, his website, his speaking tours to cement a dedicated fanbase that “gets it,” that gets him. Which is why, I’ve always imagined, he takes criticism of his movies so poorly and can’t help but see it as personal — disliking his work has somehow become tantamount to disliking him, even if that work is a for-hire buddy cop comedy whose stars appear to find it painful to be in the same shot.

With the circus that was the Sundance “Red State” premiere, culminating in Smith telling the distributors in the audience that he can and plans to do a better job releasing his movie than they would have (something I don’t necessarily disagree with), and the director’s earlier campaign, post-“Cop Out,” against critics, Smith has ensured a lot of people don’t like him right now, which will make it all the easier to write them off as biased. So let me just get this out there: There are a lot of lovely, very nice people who’ve made lousy movies, and vice versa. If “Red State” were good, it’d hardly be the first time an asshole had turned out a worthy work of art or entertainment. It’s not good. It’s not a complete write-off, but it is bruisingly heavy-handed, poorly paced and messy, dealing in such nasty, over-the-top caricatures of religious extremists and whatever-means-necessary law enforcement that whatever point it tries for about the increasingly fiery, violence-ready state of our nation ends up seeming glib and juvenile.

The good, or at least the interesting, is the way that “Red State” shifts its emphasis over its different acts, forcing several times a reevaluation of who, if anyone, the hero might be. The film finds Smith getting away from the static shots that have defined his visual style, trying out different angles and more frenetic, occasionally “Bourne”esque camerawork and editing, which are better suited to the subject matter if sometimes distracting. And Michael Parks, as the head of the Westboro Baptist Church-inspired Five Points group that forms “Red State”‘s deadly center, gives a memorably clammy performance.

But for a film that tackles such ripe, relevant subject matter, “Red State” sets up and then knocks down incredibly easy targets. The members of the Five Points Church are, with few exceptions, hammy one-note monsters, the film stopping dead early on for Parks’ character to spew a long, circuitous hate speech-filled sermon while the congregation, which includes children and knitting woman, chime in their agreement. Later, the group matriarch (played by Melissa Leo) extols a girl to get herself together, pray for forgiveness, then retrieve her gun and join her family in shooting at the ATF “like a good Christian.” (An ATF higher-up gets a similarly flip line later in the film, justifying an action with a “Patriot act, bitch.”)

The film shifts from teen comedy (the beginning, in which three high school boys try to get laid, has the most typically Smith-like dialogue) to gothic horror to overwrought action to topical satire without any sense of control or intent. Is the Five Points Church scary? Ostensibly, since they kill people and stuff. But I find Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who were, as promised, protesting outside, far scarier. They, presumably, arrived at their extreme stance through some kind of process of belief and crazed logic, instead of just being drawn that way. And they, like Mr. Smith, know how to goad the press to their own ends.

“Red State” will be self-distributed by Smith through SModcast Pictures on October 19th.

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Give Back

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.

via GIPHY

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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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