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Better than a Poke in the Eye with a Stick

Better than a Poke in the Eye with a Stick (photo)

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The Oscars may be just a horse-race between larcenous, ego-queen jockeys riding $100 million braindead nags, but even so, sometimes the right movie wins. Often the wrong movie wins, and other times we can be thankful a middling movie or actor wins by the grace of fate so that another movie, a real populist crater, doesn’t. With these you can almost feel the hand of divine intervention come down and coax the Price Waterhouse envelopes open like an accountant’s zipper.

Yesterday, the perfectly serviceable if rather Top Gun-ish “Hurt Locker” won instead of “Avatar,” and so we were saved from seeing James Cameron speak in that stupid language of his in front of half a billion viewers. Even people who hate Kathryn Bigelow movies want to buy her a cocktail now, and her big win is part of an all too infrequent contemporary Academy reflex. Sometimes, Hollywood decides to save us from itself. Here, a brief history of the Thank-God-It’s-Not Oscar Block:

“The Apartment”: Best Picture, 1960
A small, Yiddische Billy Wilder comedy, elevated to AFI-classic status after the postwar Academy members decided they’d had enough for the moment of historical epics (“The Alamo”) and lit-class melodramas (“Sons and Lovers,” “Elmer Gantry”). You couldn’t blame them.

“Tom Jones”: Best Picture, 1964
Nobody’s idea of a masterpiece, this extremely goofy bit of retro-Brit-ness blocked the lumbering, monstrously wasteful, absurdly popular “Cleopatra,” and for that it can be fondly remembered, if not for much else.

03082010_catballou2.jpgLee Marvin, “Cat Ballou”: Best Actor in a Leading Role, 1966
Honestly, the Academy nomination-voted itself into a corner on this one, and so they had to essentially decide between awarding either Rod Steiger or Richard Burton for being stone-faced, or Laurence Oliver for parading in blackface (for “Othello”), or Marvin for having drunken fun in a stupid spoof. I’d give an Oscar to Marvin for getting out of bed in the morning, which for him wasn’t always easy.

“In the Heat of the Night”: Best Picture, 1968
In 1967, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was exactly the sort of cold oatmeal everyone expected the ever-aging Academy to fete, but sanity somehow took hold. Since both “Bonnie & Clyde” and “The Graduate” were a little too radical in their own ways, the nod went to this modest, civics-minded policier. Given the times, they had to pick a Sidney Poitier movie, and with a degree of surprising grace they picked the one that doesn’t make you taste your own stomach acid.

“Patton”: Best Picture, 1971
This is, frankly, a rotten movie, but it’s more bearable than either “Love Story” or “Airport,” which both made much more money and had bestselling novel points in their favor. “Five Easy Pieces” and “M*A*S*H” were too new-generation, too anti-establishment, to stand a chance. Imagine a world in which “Love Story” won a best picture Oscar — you wouldn’t have been able to forget about it until now.

Louise Fletcher, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1976
Generally regarded as one of the most puzzling of all best actress awards, this one makes sense if you look at the competition — Isabelle Adjani, being French, couldn’t really qualify, and Carol Kane, in micro-indie “Hester Street,” couldn’t either. But no one wanted to give it to Glenda Jackson doing Ibsen (she’d already won twice, and they were not good memories), and certainly no one wanted to give top prize to Ann-Margaret in “Tommy,” the sheer nomination of whom may be the strangest fucking thing the Academy has ever done, and I’m remembering Rob Lowe and Snow White.

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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.


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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