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The week’s critic wrangle: Bewitching the Dead, Yes!

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Simon Abkarian and Joan Allen+ Yes: Despite our fears that many critics would think it was just hilarious to review Sally Potter‘s film in the rhyming iambic pentameter in which its written, only one ventures that far. And it’s Anthony Lane, of course:

You may get off on this enthralling stuff,

But after half an hour I’d had enough.

He actually does quite a good job of it, and seems to thoroughly enjoy pretending he’s the love child of Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde (now there’s a grand romantic pairing for you). Anyway, he doesn’t buy the verse gimmick, finds the film padded, and while he admires Joan Allen and the ambition behind the film, he ultimately finds it lacking. So does A. O. Scott: ""Yes" is not just a movie…it’s a poem. A bad poem."


He has many issues with the film, particularly with Potter’s high-minded attempts at commentary on the state of the post-9/11 world: "’Yes’ offers a case study in the moral complacency of the creative class, and its verbal cleverness cannot disguise the vacuous self-affirmation summed up in the title."

We suspect our personal preferences are seeping through here, so for the record, we do not care for the films of Ms. Potter. Perhaps we go so far as to loathe them and find them insufferably dull, humorless and agonizingly self-important. That being said, many did care for "Yes." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon finds that the film works despite itself, and is particularly impressed by Joan Allen’s apparently smokingly hot performance, though he finds the film falls apart at the end. Holly Willis at the LA Weekly is impressed by Potter’s use of verse to represent the social structures that prevent her characters from connecting:

He and She may quarrel, but their inchoate rage must find expression in verse. The result is at once frustrating and striking. We desperately
want them to connect, but they can’t step outside the codes that at once enable and debilitate them.

Laura Sinagra at the Village Voice finds "Yes" cautiously refreshing, and the week’s indieWIRE/Reverse Shot crew like it/love it, Jeannette Catsoulis with the lead review in particular finding Potter’s wide-ranging embedded political commentary impressive.

Eugene A. Clark+ "Land of the Dead": All hail the return of the zombie king. George A. Romero’s newest addition to the undead canon to which all aspire is getting praise all ’round (at least from the critics we care about).

Perhaps Sally Potter should take a leaf from Romero’s book (of the dead! bwahaha!). His film seems to offer more complex politically commentary than her overtly messagey one. La Manohla points out that:

With "Revenge of the Sith" and "Batman Begins," "Land of the Dead" makes the third studio release of the summer season to present an allegory, either naked or not, of our contemporary political landscape… One of the enormous pleasures of genre filmmaking is watching great directors push against form and predictability, as Mr. Romero does brilliantly in "Land of the Dead."

She notes that as Romero’s films have progressed, the dead seems to become more human, while the living seem less and less in touch with their humanity.

David Edelstein finds "Land" "more formulaic than its predecessors"; nevertheless, "The zombie with the flip-top noggin is an instant classic. And the sociopolitical subtext is good, too." Edelstein heralds each of Romero’s previous "Dead" films as classics in their own way, though the greatest remains, of course, 1968’s "Night of the Living Dead": "I saw it at age 12, and it didn’t just scare the living crap out of me, it turned my world inside out."

Roger Ebert attempts to understand the mechanisms of Romero’s world:

The most intriguing single shot…is a commercial for Fiddler’s Green, showing tanned and smiling residents,
dressed in elegant leisurewear, living the good life. The shot is intriguing for two reasons: (1) Why does
Fiddler’s Green need to advertise, when it is full and people are literally dying to get in? and (2) What is going through the minds of its residents, as they relax in luxury, sip drinks, shop in designer stores and live the good life? Don’t they know the world outside is one of unremitting conflict and misery?

Of course, that’s Romero’s point.

Nicole Kidman+ "Bewitched": Roger Ebert‘s the only one unfamiliar with Nora Ephron‘s source material, which is perhaps why he liked it the best ("tolerably entertaining", two and a half stars). We’ve seen maybe two or three episodes of the original show ourselves, so we were mildly surprised to see it declared and defended from various sides as a subversive somethingerother, though perhaps it looks better in comparison to this "reimagining." Anthony Lane, on the earlier televised incarnation, claims "You could read Samantha’s gifts as subversion in deep disguise or as a smiling gesture to the radical—just enough to leave the status quo refreshed," while Armond White sites the "legitimate antecedents" of the "witch longing for a normal life" genre.

Stephanie Zacharek declares that Nicole Kidman has proven she can rise about the most dismal of material, while her performance works for Manohla Dargis for a different reason:

Because the ethereally beautiful Ms. Kidman no longer resembles a real person, having been buffed to almost supernatural perfection in the way of most modern stars, casting her as a witch was inspired.

For David Edelstein, though, "she’s playing Meg Ryan—and even Meg Ryan has moved beyond playing Meg Ryan." He says the movie is at least not as bad as Ephron’s last few, while reminding us that he’s "grading on a curve that dips, at its lowest point, into the abyss." He is particularly put out by the use of R.E.M.’s anti-suicide song "Everybody Hurts" over a montage of Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, um, hurting, but it’s Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice who should get final say on the musical montages here:

As always a fool for wealth porn, Ephron also jams her scenes with swatches and memorabilia from the old show—postmod!—and virtually every sequence change is an occasion for a song interlude. "Witchy Woman," "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead," Sinatra on "Witchcraft," the Police’s "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." I’m dying!

We’d twitch our nose and make it better if we could, darling.

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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

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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.

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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

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