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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Bill Cunningham New York”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Bill Cunningham New York” (photo)

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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 is a column with one simple goal: to help you decide what films you need to see before making your end of the year top ten list. Each installment features my thoughts on a critically acclaimed 2011 movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

This week, we’re covering one of the best reviewed movies of the year. Yesterday it earned a Gotham Award nomination for Best Documentary. Did it deserve it? Let’s find out.

Movie: “Bill Cunningham New York”

Director: Richard Press
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Plot Synopsis: A look at the life and career of photographer Bill Cunningham, whose two regular columns in The New York Times have helped define the discourse of the fashion industry for decades.
What the Critics Said: “Made me happy every moment I was watching it,” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“A delightful documentary,” Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
“A celebration of individualism, integrity, fashion, and passion,” Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
Were They Right? Absolutely. There’s no greater honor you can bestow upon an artist than making a work of art about them, and that’s exactly what director Richard Press did with this film. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in 2011.

President John Kennedy once described the life of an artist as “stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill.” Bill Cunningham lives his life like a man who took those words very seriously. For years, Cunningham lived alone in a tiny apartment in Carnegie Hall. A small bed on the floor belonged to him. The rest of the space was owned by his work: dozens of file cabinets, hundreds of books, and thousands of photographs. Cunningham has very few friends and fewer familial entanglements. He abhors money almost as much as he hates free time. He has spent his entire life thinking about fashion and putting those thoughts into words and images that he shares with his readers in the Times. On the basis of this film, it would seem to be a life well spent.

Press reveals the secrets of the 80-year-old Cunningham’s longevity in the youthful word of fashion: a relentless work ethic and an endlessly upbeat outlook. A melancholic interview late in the film about Cunningham’s personal life reveals some unacknowledged — maybe even unrealized — regrets. But the pleasures of the job far outweigh the burdens and Press shows enough of Cunningham’s photography to make it clear the man isn’t simply enjoying his work, he’s excelling at it. Cunningham devotes his “On the Street” column to celebrating the beauty and style of regular folks he sees while riding his bicycle around Manhattan. Press’ documentary essentially does the same thing. It points a camera at a subject that rarely gets much attention and discovers extraordinary hidden beauty.

Worthy of Oscar Nominations For: Best Documentary
Chances of Making My Top Ten: Not great. Chances of making my top twenty: almost guaranteed.

It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: you’re a fan of documentaries about the practical side of genius; if your two passions in life are women’s shoes and bicycles.

“Bill Cunningham New York” is now available on DVD as well as on Netflix Watch Instantly and Amazon Instant Video. Tell us what you think about the film in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Previously in Countdown to Top Ten 2K11
“Hanna,” directed by Joe Wright

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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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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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