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DID YOU READ

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010 (photo)

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We got a lot of listener feedback about our two podcasts on the best of 2010 in film. Many listeners offered their own suggestions in our eclectic categories like Best Performance in the Worst Movie. Listener Patrick Fisackerly submitted a nominee in a category of his own devising: Best Scene in the Worst Movie. His pick was the following scene from “Step Up 3D,” a duet to Fred Astaire’s “I Won’t Dance.”

I didn’t get a chance to see “Step Up 3D” in its entirety yet, but this is a very charming scene. And the use of long take certainly amplifies its charms. It shows off the real New York locations and the skill of the dancers, not only physically (they have to perform an entire dance’s choreography perfectly, with no mistakes) but mentally as well (they have to remember all of the steps, as well as all of the ways in which they must interact with their environment).

Watching that scene from “Step Up 3D” reminded me that several dance films in 2010 used similarly impressive long takes, all deployed to similar effect. For example, there was the hauntingly beautiful “Passage For Two” dance atop the High Line in “NY Export: Opus Jazz.” (NOTE: Though this clip intercuts the scene with title cards, the scene in the finished film is one long take for almost all of a five minute dance routine).

Long takes accentuate the passage of time. No cuts means creates a documentary-like connection between a shot and time: for this period of the film, this happened and this much time elapsed. Here the lack of cuts makes us hyperaware of that gorgeous sunset sweeping through the background of the scene. That sky, slowly shifting from orange to purple, lends the dance a magical quality; for this shot to exist, everything had to go right. The dancers had to perform correctly while the notoriously difficult-to-direct Sun had to hit its mark exactly. The lack of cuts also brings us deeper into the atmosphere of the scene and the dancer’s slow, sensual movements. I don’t know what each individual movement of Jerome Robbins’ choreography is meant to suggest, but to me their cumulative impact evokes the fleeting and impossible love: the dancers sway together in perfect sync but their faces remain blank and emotionless, surrounded by the decay of the High Line. To cut during “Passage For Two” (a title that also refers to the passage of time) would be to break the scene’s spell. The long take makes the dance almost hypnotic.

My personal favorite musical long take of 2010, though, was the one in “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.” It spans the entirety of the number “Love in the Fall.”

Here we see how long takes can also accentuate a film’s sense of realism. The scene is a crowded house party jam session and the camera appropriates the perspective of a guy in the room just trying to get the best view of the action, angling around the other spectators and whipping back and forth between the tap dancers and star Jason Palmer’s trumpet solos. Instead of presenting a pristine, omniscient representation of this event, the camera gives us the opportunity to feel like someone actually in the room with the performers, witnessing it as anyone else there would. The whole film values emotion over perfection (which would make it the ideal second half of a double bill with Darren Aronofsky “Black Swan”), and so does the long take: the camera sometimes misses the hoofers’ steps because it’s late panning into position, but it never misses their infectious enthusiasm for their art.

And maybe that is what all of these shots have in common: passion. There are much easier ways to film all of these dance numbers, and if done skillfully, the results wouldn’t be that much less satisfying. But the long takes are difficult. They require so much planning and demand pinpoint execution. In a world of half-assed movies, they say “I care.”

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Final Countdown

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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Rev Up

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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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…