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What’s it all about, Hollywood?

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Ewan McGregor and Scarlett JohanssonLet us go then, you and the royal we, into August, the dog days of summer, or, if you will, the place where movies go to die. A month where, this year, at least, the intended hot and heavy months of June and July have turned out to be more like an unpleasantly lukewarm spot you’d encounter in a swimming pool, and critics thoughts turn to larger things. For instance, over at the LA Times, four pieces on the state of things and what could follow the apparently death of the blockbuster:

Movie reviewer Kevin Thomas is overjoyed, seeing the Great Slump of ’05 as something that "could turn out to be the best thing that’s happened to Hollywood in years. Maybe the powers that be would be forced to take chances once again." Thomas sees this a chance to return to the cinema of the 70s, or, in a train of thought we don’t quite follow, as a path for more multiculturalism in the multiplexes. We’d love to see more diversity in casting and story lines, but it seems disingenuous to suggest "a saga about a Japanese American family’s trials and triumphs" or "the odyssey of Madame C.J. Walker, a laundress born into poverty to former slaves" as the antidote to failing summer films — America’s reluctance to watch most non-white actors in major roles is another issue worth an article or its own.

Carina Chocano gets all sassy, writing about the genre that is the blockbuster:

This newfangled hit would not depend on word-of-mouth from a platformed release. Instead, with the help of an ad campaign in the double-digit millions and an opening so wide you could see the movie’s tonsils, it would be turned into an audience "event" and a studio "tent pole." "Blockbuster" was redefined to mean a big concept, three massive fireballs and an A-list male lead yelling "Run!" and "Over there!" and "Where is she?"

To which the buxom love interest with a PhD would respond "I can’t do this" and disappear until the big rescue.

Kenneth Turan suggests that movies have been slumping for a lot longer than a year, and that higher ticket prices and inflation have helped mask the fact. Also, he covers something we had a long, tipsy conversation about this weekend — Hollywood movies aren’t for adults anymore. Summer films in particular are aimed squarely at that less-picky 13-18 or so bracket, and "What seems to be happening this summer is that, for the moment at least, the kids have decided they have better things to do and the adults are not around to replace them."

Neal Gabler writes about the odd effect the celebrity media barrage is having on us — when we are supplied, by gossip magazine, sites, and television, with so many details about the private lives and make-up-less morning coffee runs of celebs, why would we ever bother with going to see them in a film? We were kicking around some inappropriate drug metaphor (mainlining versus smoking, such and such), but we’re in a hurry, so we’ll let you think of your own and insert it here: ________________.

James Surowiecki in the New Yorker covers similar themes (also quoting from Edward Jay Epstein’s "The Big Picture," which seems to be the tome of the season), drawing parallels to the box office slump of 1918 ("The producer…is not producing good enough pictures. Unless he does so, and does so promptly, the movie business cannot hope long to endure," said the critics).

+ Hollywood’s big ho-hum (LA Times)
+ Making movies by the numbers (LA Times)
+ The piper’s being paid (LA Times)
+ Movies just don’t matter (LA Times)
+ Disk Averse (New Yorker)

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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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