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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Certified Copy”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Certified Copy” (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 time we’re covering “Certified Copy,” the acclaimed new film from Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. But is it a genuine work of art? Let’s find out.

Movie: “Certified Copy”
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Plot Synopsis: The author of a new book about the meaning and importance of authenticity in art (William Shimell) joins a fan (Juliette Binoche) for a tour of the Italian countryside. But their relationship might not be as simple or as casual as it first appears.
What the Critics Said: “[Like] a middle-aged ‘Before Sunrise,'” Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
“A staggering amount of weighty, wide-ranging issues about connection,” David Fear, Time Out New York
“A genuine triumph,” Peter Howell Toronto Star
Were They Right? Well, I already used my own genuine pun in the intro, so I must agree with Howell; yes, this movie is a genuine triumph. Its conversational structure and beautiful European setting does call to mind Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Sunset” films, though the questions and issues Fear mentions turn Kiarostami’s work into something else entirely.

Describing what “Certified Copy” is about is tricky because the movie is constantly in the process of redefining what — and who — it is about. The characters remain the same but their identities are always in flux. Shimell’s James Miller is in Italy for a reading of his new book about authenticity in the art world. Binoche’s unnamed character attends with her son, but has to leave early. She passes an invite to Miller to stop by her local art gallery and he does. When he says he’d like some air, she offers to drive him to a nearby town. Along the way, they talk about Miller’s work and theories about art, and how those theories relate to their own lives. But later in a key moment, Miller and the woman’s relationship inexplicably changes in an instant. Suddenly, they’re acting and talking to one another completely differently. Were they pretending before? Are they pretending now? Are both somehow true? As you can see, the notion of authenticity in art is being explored in “Certified Copy” in more than just Kiarostami’s dialogue.

I’m always astounded by actors in movies like this. How do they know exactly what truth to play when the director doesn’t want the audience to know exactly what that truth is? I don’t know Kiarostami’s direction to Shimell and Binoche, but whatever it was, it worked. Both actors are wonderful as they walk the fine line between intriguing mystery and frustrating obfuscation. Their job is made even more difficult by the fact that the film is essentially plotless and teeming with conversation. The focus is entirely on them. I don’t know that “Certified Copy” could withstand a sequel in the same way that “Before Sunrise” became “Before Sunset,” but I would love to see these two actors share the screen together again.

Even before the film hits its critical juncture point, there are hints of a deeper truth between the characters. Or maybe it’s a deeper lie that binds them together. What makes “Certified Copy” so remarkable is the way it refuses to present itself as an argument, one way or another, on the issue of “fakes” or “copies” in the art world. Instead it presents a scenario as complex and ambiguous as the issue of “fakes” and “copies” in the art world. There are a million ways to interpret that issue, and there are probably a million ways to interpret this movie. Having only seen it once so far I can’t be certain, but I have a feel you could watch “Certified Copy” a hundred times and see new things in it every time. And even then, you still wouldn’t fully understand its secrets. But wouldn’t you love to try? I mean, really.

Worthy of an Oscar Nomination For: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay (Abbas Kiarostami), Best Picture.
Chances of Making My Top Ten: As real as my marriage. …OR ARE THEY??? (Yes. They are. [And it is.])
It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: You enjoy films that are more interested in leaving you with questions than answers; you secretly like “F For Fake” more than “Citizen Kane;” you and your spouse get off on role playing in public.

Previously in Countdown to Top Ten 2K11
“The Descendants,” directed by Alexander Payne
“We Need to Talk About Kevin,” directed by Lynne Ramsay
“Point Blank,” directed by Fred Cavayé
“The Arbor,” directed by Clio Barnard
“Cold Weather,” directed by Aaron Katz
“Meek’s Cutoff,” directed by Kelly Reichardt
“Margin Call,” directed by J.C. Chandor
“Bill Cunningham New York,” directed by Richard Press
“Hanna,” directed by Joe Wright

Have a movie you wanted covered in a future installment of Countdown to Top Ten 2K11? Let me know on Twitter.

IFC_Portlandia-S8_best-of-skits_subaru-blog

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.

Uncle-Buck

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…