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“Turkey Bowl,” Reviewed

“Turkey Bowl,” Reviewed (photo)

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It’s hard to make a movie as good as “Turkey Bowl” precisely because it looks so easy. It’s just a 65 minute film told in real time about the annual football game between a bunch of old college buddies, right? Wrong. Think of all the nearly invisible elements that had to go right. The continuity in every shot has to match, from the quality and color of the lighting to the spreading sweat stains on the player’s shirts. Each play had to be diagramed and executed, and re-executed from every necessary angle, and then edited together to tell the story not only of the game but of all the rivalries, friendships, and feuds playing out on its sidelines. The only reason “Turkey Bowl” looks easy is because director Kyle Smith executed it with the skill and finesse of a Pro Bowl quarterback.

Smith — who, full disclosure, went to school with my brother (we’ve never met) — wrote the film and cast many of his friends to play fictionalized versions of themselves. Mostly they’re buddies from college, though Kerry (Kerry Bishé from the final season of “Scrubs”) recruits two strangers she meets in the park to join the squad. As they’re welcomed into the group, we meet the rest of the guys, like meathead Bob (Bob Turton), wiseass Morgan (Morgan Beck), and (my favorite) droll Tom (Tom DiMenna). They make a believable group of college friends: the sort thrown together by random chance and proximity and then united by shared experience and intense living arrangements. Like true old friends, they don’t spend much time voicing their feelings; part of the fun of “Turkey Bowl” is intuiting the histories between these characters from the dirty looks they exchange, or bitter jokes they make.

Like true old friends, some of them are closer than others. Without the intense living arrangements, others have started to drift apart. Again, little of that is said, but all of it is present in the way they play this game. It’s a small, compact film, but it feels like it’s been drawn from a bigger, expansive world. The film is just 65 minutes, short for a feature, but the right length for “Turkey Day,” even if it diminishes its chances of finding national distribution. 65 minutes is just enough time to get invested in the characters and the game and not enough time to get bored with the fairly repetitive nature of its structure.

As funny as “Turkey Bowl” often is, its melancholy ending underscores just how sad such annual rituals like this are. Even as they give us an opportunity to reconnect with friends, they remind us that we’re getting older and growing apart from the people we love. “Turkey Bowl”‘s single location and real-time structure (it begins with the arrival of the first players and ends with the departure of the last) isn’t just a low-budget trick or a narrative gimmick. Emphasizing the passage of time in the story forces us to consider the passage of time in our own lives, to realize how fleeting those happy moments are and how they matter so much more than the score of a football game. Yes, the film’s short. So is life.

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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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