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Seven bronze-worthy Olympics movies.

Seven bronze-worthy Olympics movies. (photo)

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Today is your last chance to watch the Olympics on TV; Monday brings the closing ceremonies and the end of the 21st Winter Olympics. Would you like to keep the athletic spirit going all year round? Like, in the movies?

The sad fact of the matter is that most films about the Olympics aren’t very good. Aside from a handful of valorized documentaries — “Tokyo Olympiad,” the controversial “Olympia” — they’re more like a genre you turn to for automatic cheese. Here, then, are seven of those:

02262010_walkdontrun.jpg“Walk Don’t Run” (1966)

I’ve always had a soft spot for this comedy, perfunctorily set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics but better known for showcasing Cary Grant’s last performance. The plot’s a bit of nothing, and it’s all rather sexist and racist. You can get the feel from the trailer, below, which invites us to “Take a trip to the land of the rising fun” before going on to some language jokes that would make Sofia Coppola blush — but it’s pretty fun, despite (or because of) that.

02262010_goldengirl.jpg“Goldengirl” (1979)

This movie was intended as a TV mini-series pilot before it was recut for theaters — it’s directed by the undervalued Joseph Sargent (of the 1974 “Taking of Pelham One Two Three”). The premise is that Curt Jurgens — sinister Teuton — has developed vitamins and hormones to develop a superior breed of person and uses adopted daughter Goldine (Susan Anton, best known for Muriel Cigars commercials) as a guinea pig, priming her to win three gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics — the same Olympics, of course, that the US would end up boycotting. The clip below — a test press conference, with Goldengirl batting questions from pre-recorded reporters and a real-time laugh-track — is smart and surreal. Someone put this on DVD, please.

02262010_running.jpg“Running” (1979)

More American running from the Moscow Olympics that didn’t take from another rarity — Michael Douglas as a corporate lawyer drop-out obsessed with running. IMDb users seem uniformly enamored with this movie, and the ten-minute montage below makes a pretty good case. There’s vintage New York footage from all over the city, Eugene Levy as his friend and a populist rage fit at the welfare office.

02262010_anthem.jpg“American Anthem” (1986)

OK, so the Olympics aren’t just about running. There’s also gymnastics. Like Muhammad Ali — who played himself in “The Greatest” — 1984 Gold medalist Mitch Gaylord (the first American to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics) was given a movie despite a total lack of acting experience. Unlike Ali, he played “Steve” in Albert Magnoli’s follow-up to “Purple Rain,” which apparently traces a standard family-difficulty/love redemption arc. Forget that: dude trains on a bar set up in the forest? That’s hardcore. As Roger Ebert pointed out in a tetchy review, the finale has “dozens of strobe lights flashing incessantly and distractingly behind the contestants. I guess these are supposed to represent camera flashbulbs.” But, as he points out,” have you ever thought what it says about our national IQ that a lot of people believe you can take a flash picture from the 20th row?” Point.

02262010_coolrunnings.jpg“Cool Runnings” (1993)

I couldn’t leave this childhood favorite off. Surely the most sanitized portrait of Jamaica ever put on screen, “Cool Runnings” was loosely based on the first national Jamaican bobsled team, even if everything was predictably made up from scratch. It’s not a great film, but it does have some low-key pleasures — John Candy at his relaxed best, a character named “Yul Brenner” — and hits pretty much inspirational-underdog beat on time. Of course, if you would like to watch it without blowing a Netflix slot, it’s all on YouTube.

02262010_pentathlon.jpg“Pentathlon” (1994)

The movie that answers the age-old question, “What if Dolph Lundgren was in the Olympics?” Eric Brogar (Lundgren) defected from East Germany years ago and is restarting his Olympic career as an American. Unfortunately, his old coach Mueller (David Soul) is out to get him. Mueller was a Stasi official who, post-reunification, has become a neo-Nazi mastermind, which — needless to say — doesn’t actually make sense. The trailer promises that on the Lundgren scale of absurdity, this is pretty much a perfect ten. Just like Mitch Gaylord!

02262010_munich.jpg“Munich” (2005)

I suppose I should include a real movie of sorts here for balance. There’s a lot to love about the first 2/3 of Spielberg’s reconstruction of the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics; for a while, this is as good a ’70s thriller throwback as there ever was, recreating the awful Palestinian hostage-taking and murders of Israeli athletes. (It stacks up favorably against Kevin Macdonald’s documentary “One Day In September.”) Unfortunately, the last third is a mess, culminating in the lowlight of Eric Bana having sex with his wife while having flashbacks to Palestinians killing Israelis. The Olympics aren’t supposed to work like that; spy thrillers neither.

[Photos: “Miracle,” Disney, 2004; “Walk Don’t Run,” Columbia, 1966; “Goldengirl,” NBC, 1979; “Running,” Universal, 1979; “American Anthem,” Columbia, 1986; “Cool Runnings,” Disney, 1993; “Pentathlon,” Live Entertainment, 1994; “Munich,” Universal, 2005]


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.


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…


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.