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HCFF: Rick Baker on designing the “Men In Black 3” aliens

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You know who Rick Baker is even if you’ve never heard his name. The legendary make-up artist is responsible for the look of characters and creatures in movies like “An American Werewolf in London,” “Harry and the Hendersons” or “Men in Black” — or, you know, watched Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video — then you’ve seen some of Baker’s amazing creations.

He took the time to swing by the Hero Complex Film Festival on Saturday in a surprise appearance, bringing along one of his “Men in Black” alien masks to show off to the audience. With “Men in Black 3,” his latest endeavor, hitting theaters on Friday, it wasn’t much of a surprise that talk turned to that movie.

“The ‘Men in Black’ movies have a lot of things in them, and sometimes they don’t all make it to the screen. On ‘Men in Black 3,’ we made 127 aliens on last count, so that’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of fun,” he said. “What’s cool about ‘Men in Black’ is I get to do a little bit of everything that I do on all these other films. I mean, we have like likeness makeups, we have crazy aliens, we have puppets and animatronic things. They’re just a blast to work on.”

Baker has plenty of good stories to share from the sets of his many projects, but our favorite was his tale about the making of “Thriller.” He’s the man who’s responsibly for the “werecat” creature that Jackson turns into at the end of the video — an image that has gone on to be almost as iconic as the “Thriller” dance. Baker said that it wasn’t until he was watching the music video film in front of him that he realized how huge it was going to be.

“One of the main memories I have is actually standing in the middle of the night in Vernon, which is downtown Los Angeles,” he said. “I was standing there and it was Michael Jackson and all the zombies that we had just made up doing the ‘Thriller’ dance for the first time, and all of the sudden — up until that point it was craziness in trying to get all this stuff made up and I had all these people to get made up and it was this crazy beat-the-clock thing — and all of the sudden I just sort of saw this and I was like, ‘Oh my god, look at what I’m witnessing here.'”

One audience member asked Baker what his favorite creation he’s ever made was, and his answer shouldn’t surprise fans of Baker’s work.

“I usually say Harry from ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ is one of my favorite creatures that I’ve done. I quite like Harry and feel that he holds up really well,” Baker said. “I mean, that was made in the ’80s and I feel you can show that movie today and people would still accept it. That’s the one I usually say.”

In terms of effects that other people have done, Baker said that the work his protégée Rob Bottin did on “The Thing” is some of his favorite make-up design around.

“We used to sit and talk about, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do this and wouldn’t it be cool to do that,’ and then Rob ended up doing ‘The Thing’ and did everything that we ever talked about times a hundred,” he said. “I think the stuff in John Carpenter’s ‘Thing’ that Rob did is outstanding. That’s still the quintessential make-up effects movie.”

Are you intrigued by Baker’s take on the movie-making process? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.

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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.

via GIPHY

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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