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A New Experience Home and Abroad

A New Experience Home and Abroad (photo)

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With all the emerging talent on display at this year’s Spirit Awards, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s new and next in terms of the films we’ll be seeing in the future, but what’s often overlooked is the surfeit of new places and experiences that has been on display in independent cinema over the course of the past year. Actors routinely take audiences into emotional terrain where they haven’t been before, but in 2010, it was often the surroundings that shared the spotlight.

In “Winter’s Bone,” director Debra Granik showed off a side of America that’s rarely seen onscreen with the poverty-stricken rural community that exists as its own insular world in the mountains of Missouri and Best First Feature nominee “Get Low” showed the majesty of Tennessee during the ’30s. “The Kids Are All Right” and “Greenberg” reveled in both sides of Los Angeles, demonstrating the way the sun can shine or burn, depending on which way its denizens fall on the thin line between success and failure while New York got an unusual closeup in films like Best First Screenplay nominee “The Exploding Girl,” where the cacophony of the city wreaked havoc on its main character, or Best First Feature nominee “Tiny Furniture,” in which Manhattan is a playground for a college grad who knows not what to do with her life.

This year’s Someone to Watch category may as well be called the “Somewhere to Watch” category since each of the three nominees take a camera to places where it’s rarely been before – into the underground of Iran for Hossein Keshavarz’s “Dog Sweat,” on the bumpy road from Florida to Nashville in Laurel Nakadate’s “The Wolf Knife” and the California desert through the eyes of two Japanese tourists in Mike Ott’s “Littlerock.”

However, nowhere is this the sensation of new and next felt more than in this year’s race for Best Documentary where two of the nominees are from distinctly different mediums than film and naturally bring perspectives that can safely be considered outside the box. For “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” renowned troublemaker and street artist Banksy put down the spray paint can and picked up a DV camera to turn the tables on a paparazzo-turned-graffiti artist named Mr. Brainwash who had been making his own documentary about the street art scene in Los Angeles. The result was one of the most audacious, not to mention harrowing, films of the year as it exposed audiences to the always elusive Banksy and a group of artists that uses urban landscapes as their canvas while the rest of us sleep at night.

Of more serious consequence, but equally innovative when taking a camera into a place it’s never been before, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s “Restrepo” follows a group of U.S. soldiers during a year in Afghanistan, taking audiences closer to the day-to-day experience of war than perhaps had ever been experienced in film. Part of this had to do with the equipment, which naturally is smaller and more technically advanced than ever before, but much more had to do with the collected experience and skills of Hetherington’s as a war photographer and Junger as a veteran reporter to first get access to a military outpost that had been unprecedented and then know exactly how to document the action and emotion that was unfolding in front of them while being seemingly invisible.

Being invisible was also a key part of Ilisa Barbaash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s “Sweetgrass,” which uses no soundtrack or narration to tell the story of a group of Montana sheepherders on their last drive through the Beartooth Mountains in 2003. The film captures both a way of life that is dying and yet the vibrant environment still largely untouched by modern-day life, preserved for those of us in the cities and suburbs in a way so that we can visit without harming nature’s beauty.

The two other nominees in the Best Documentary category also capture beauty in unique ways, even if their actual settings may seem quite familiar. Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol” tells the story of a man who creates his own World War II-themed town populated by era-attired G.I. Joe figurines and Barbies after a brutal attack leaves him psychologically wounded in Kingston, New York, while Mark Landsman’s “Thunder Soul” chronicles the rise and reunion of Houston’s Kashmere Stage Band, a high school funk band that were better than most professionals during the ’70s and gather together once more in the present day to see if they can still jam. Both films, like many of this year’s Spirit Award nominees, show there are no limits to what’s new and next since they demonstrate how art can take us to a different world altogether.

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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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