DID YOU READ

“Zodiac.”

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"They're already making movies about it."
Of the countless shows based around the hypnotic and reliable rhythms of the crime procedural, our personal favorite, the relatively recent "Criminal Minds," is the likely apex (or nadir). While other shows have staked out their own fields of expertise — sex crimes, Las Vegas, missing persons — "Criminal Minds" wants for itself only the Most Dangerous of Criminals, more often or not that foie gras of the villainous world, the serial killer with a shtick. Its team of diversely attractive FBI agents darts around the country in a private jet, applying their profiling skills wherever needed ("That’s the second murder in a month. He’s escalating!") in order to wrap up a case in 44 minutes. It’s wretchedly silly and absurdly compelling, a show that presumes a world with such a surfeit of psychobabble-enabled malefactors that it necessitates a special government division.

"Zodiac," David Fincher‘s first film since 2002’s "Panic Room," is a procedural in the true sense of the word — it chronicles, in exhausting detail, the minutiae of the investigation into the Zodiac Killer in the late 60s and 70s, a case that remains unsolved. It is also, less successfully, an examination of obsession, of our fascination with and longing for the plotlines and the looming villains so easy to find in film, TV and airport novels, their unhinged minds ready to be unlocked by some intrepid investigator with the right insights. Life is not a paragraph; neither, at two hours and 40 minutes, is "Zodiac," a film that’s more interesting to write about than it is to watch. The real world may well fail to cohere to a convenient narrative; seeing this demonstrated on screen is, as you’d guess, unsatisfying.

"Zodiac" begins with a brutal make-out point murder that chills with its meticulously recreated details, a crime the killer takes credit for when he writes to the San Francisco Chronicle and two other Bay Area papers in August of 1969, demanding they publish a cipher. Political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is at the paper when the letter arrives; his interest is immediate — cryptography and puzzles are his hobby. But he jostles at the sidelines of the film for a long time; the investigation belongs to the competent, slightly showboating Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and his long-suffering partner Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), and to reporter Paul Avery (the always fun Robert Downey Jr.). By the time Graysmith emerges as the main character, he seems to have won by virtue of sticking it out the longest; Toschi drifts away to other cases, Armstrong to other departments, Avery to obscurity, living on a houseboat, wallowing in drugs and alcohol. Graysmith, the Eagle Scout, the cartoonist turned amateur sleuth, can’t put the puzzle down, and so he gets to grace the film with the themes of obsession to which it eventually comes round as a seeming afterthought — after all, the real Robert Graysmith wrote the two books on which the film is based.

The Zodiac Killer loomed large in the imagination; he had San Francisco trembling in his shadow. But it’s likely he only actually killed five people, though he took credit for other murders he didn’t commit — a fact that Avery informs Graysmith, after which he observes "You almost look disappointed." Whatever prompted his first murders is unknown; what kept him going and kept him writing to the papers, on the other hand, is easily apparent. He enjoyed creating his own mythology, and the media was happy to help. A scene involving the killer’s proposed call-in to speak to a local lawyer (played by Brian Cox) on a live morning show could prompt nervous giggles — talking to the killer, on a live broadcast! Frightening, but great TV. It was good business for all involved — Graysmith is the only one without an angle, and the only one unable to put the case down when everyone else was ready to move on.

Fincher, himself responsible for one of pop culture’s most grandly gothic serial killers in "Se7en"‘s John Doe, does takes an ax to the conventions of the crime genre, if such a dramatic phrase can be used for a film that avoids all easy provocations. The murders, along with one late night roadside kidnapping, are all brilliantly staged, chilling in their unfeigned details, and over and done with early in the film. The point is not the killings themselves, nor the murderer, whose possible identity seems so diffuse by the end that everyone and no one could be a suspect. The grind is the point, the weeks passing until they’ve added up to years, the case resting not on dramatic interrogations but on handwriting analysis, evidence spread over four counties not prone to much communication. Fincher keeps his whiz-bang bag of camera tricks closed, keeping his direction unobtrusive save for the occasional flashy shot — one, overhead on the Golden Gate Bridge, has the untethered feel of a dream.

We’re given all of the details, the dead ends, the backtracking, and yet the cumulative effect is not a portrait of obsession, merely evidence of it. The Zodiac Killer, pinned down with the weight of all these documented facts, seems small, not worth dedicating decades to, and that revelation is hardly the equivalent of a one liner before the credits roll.

"Zodiac" opens wide today.

+ "Zodiac" (Paramount)

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Mirror, Mirror

Portlandia Season 7 In Hindsight

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available Online and on the IFC App.

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Another season of Portlandia is behind us, and oh what a season it was. We laughed. We cried. And we chuckled uncomfortably while glancing nervously around the room. Like every season before it, the latest Portlandia has held a mirror up to ridiculousness of modern American life, but more than ever that same mirror has reflected our social reality in ways that are at once hysterical and sneakily thought-provoking. Here are just a few of the issues they tackled:

Nationalism

So long, America, Portland is out! And yes, the idea of Portland seceding is still less ludicrous than building a wall.

Men’s Rights

We all saw this coming. Exit gracefully, dudes.

Protests

Whatever you stand for, stand for it together. Or with at least one other person.

Free Love

No matter who we are or how we love, deep down we all have the ability to get stalky.

Social Status

Modern self-esteem basically hinges on likes, so this isn’t really a stretch at all.

These moments are just the tip of the iceberg, and much more can be found in the full seventh season of #Portlandia, available right now #online and on the #IFC app.

via GIPHY

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