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Making the Cut: A Celebration of Genre Films at the Spirit Awards

Making the Cut: A Celebration of Genre Films at the Spirit Awards (photo)

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One of the ways the Spirit Awards has continued to celebrate what’s new and next has been by honoring genre films that are typically overlooked when it comes to year-end ceremonies and top ten lists. After all, what other non-genre specific awards show would’ve had the gumption to put up “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” for Best Feature as the Spirits did in 1995? Yet that surprising nod shouldn’t come as all that surprising to those who have followed the Spirit Awards through the years, where horror and sci-fi have long been an integral part of the proceedings, not only to highlight what’s been the best for a particular year, but what new voices are on the horizon.

Naturally, the Best First Feature category has been a hotbed for filmmakers who quickly make their mark with genre films. Although audiences didn’t immediately embrace Richard Kelly’s time-travel drama “Donnie Darko” in 2002, the Spirit Awards instantly recognized the qualities that would make it a cult classic with nods in the Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay categories. Likewise, Alex Rivera’s “Sleep Dealer,” which imagined a world where the immigration debate is reframed by companies who use technology to keep people from interacting with each other, raised its profile with a Best First Feature nomination in 2009. Last year, the biggest stir when nominations were announced came with the announcement of Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity,” the surprise box office hit that was made for just around $15,000 by a software programmer and went on to gross $107 million domestically with the simple premise of a couple tormented by supernatural house guests.

This year, another found footage flick found its way into the category with “The Last Exorcism,” which also earned a nomination for its star Ashley Bell in the Best Supporting Female category for her portrayal of a young woman that appears to be possessed by the Devil. Incidentally, the film isn’t actually the first from director Daniel Stamm, whose previous mock doc thriller “A Necessary Death” won an audience award at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles in 2008 and brought him to the attention of executive producer Eli Roth after the film’s original directors, screenwriters Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland had to leave to direct their other script in development, the comedy “The Virginity Hit.” That bit of luck gave Stamm the chance to show his mettle on a substantially larger (but still meager $1.8 million) budget and paired him with Roth, who has injected a much-needed sense of humor into the usually deadly serious arena of horror.

The somewhat tricky nature of Spirit Award paperwork led to a similar nomination oddity in 1997 and 1998, though it was no less prescient when Larry Fessenden picked up the Swatch Someone to Watch Award a year before the Spirit Awards would nominate him again for Best Director – the catch is they were for both for the same film “Habit.” Still, there’s no argument here about acknowledging Fessenden, who has gone on to become one of the most prominent and important promoters of independent genre films, both as a director himself on films like 2006’s Ron Perlman frightfest “The Last Winter,” but as the chief of Glass Eye Pix, which has produced such films recently as “Bitter Feast” and “The House of the Devil,” introducing the world to filmmakers like Ti West and Joe Maggio.

In general, indie filmmakers have long pushed the boundaries that often prevent even most mainstream films from presenting the world as they know it, so it only makes sense that many work in horror and science fiction, where at its best, they can offer effective social commentary in a way few other genres of films can be. That the Spirit Awards chooses to acknowledge it keeps the ceremony on the cutting edge and always ahead of what’s next.


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


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.


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…