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DID YOU READ

“Blackthorn,” reviewed

“Blackthorn,” reviewed (photo)

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You remember what John Ford taught us about the Old West: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. The legend about Butch Cassidy goes that he died with his partner, The Sundance Kid, in a shootout in Bolivia in 1908. But what if the legend was wrong? The new film “Blackthorn” proposes a counter-legend: Cassidy survived and retired to a life of quiet anonymity as “James Blackthorn,” a rancher in the Bolivian mountains. Twenty years later, Blackthorn decides if he’s getting old enough to die, he might as well die at home, so he sets off for America. But getting back on his horse and picking up his guns seems to bring back all the old ways of the Old West, and before long James Blackthorn is acting like Butch Cassidy again.

The simple but effective “Blackthorn” casts playwright and actor Sam Shepard in the title role, and if ever a man deserved the nickname “Butch,” it’s Sam Shepard. Gruff and silvered but still handsome at age 67, he looks every bit the badass cowboy in the autumn of his years. The film puts most of the dramatic load on Shepard’s grizzled shoulders; his understated line readings carry most of the film while beautiful frontier cinematography by Juan Ruiz Anchía does the rest. Shepard’s worldweary performance and Anchía’s stark camerawork elevate the material beyond your standard revisionist Western fare (odd how revisionist Westerns are now the standard; perhaps revisionism is due for its own revision).

Blackthorn’s return to America in 1927 gets sidetracked when a passing stranger knocks him off his horse and separates him from the life savings hidden in his saddlebags. This man, Eduardo Apodaca (Eduardo Noriega), has stolen $50,000 dollars from a corrupt mining baron, and offers to split it with Blackthorn if he’ll help him escape from the armed men who are chasing him. Blackthorn does and the two slowly develop a friendship and partnership not unlike the one he shared decades earlier with the Sundance Kid. Occasional flashbacks to the famous partners’ last days together in Bolivia provide nostalgic counterpoint to the elegiac “modern” sequences. Shepard and Noriega have decent onscreen chemistry together, but Noriega makes a few serious missteps in his final scenes, crying and screaming and cursing in a way that feels wildly out of place in an otherwise quiet and reflective film.

In Blackthorn’s present, the West — or really the South, where Butch and Sundance fled when there was no West left to explore — has turned bleak and cold. I lost track of how many horses died of exhaustion after death marches through the unforgiving deserts of Bolivia but the number’s got to be close to double digits; director Mateo Gil (screenwriter of “Open Your Eyes” and “The Sea Inside”) holds little back in depicting the grim brutality of the frontier. The West of John Ford’s time was the home to many myths about personal freedom and discovery. The revised West of modern cinema is a sadder, darker place. Shepard is fun to watch but life in Bolivia sure looks like no fun at all. There’s no freedom left to discover, just the labored breathing of a simpler time trudging along on its last legs.

“Blackthorn” is now playing and is also available on VOD. If you see it we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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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

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…