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NYFF: “Bubble.”

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Debbie Doebereiner as MarthaWhat to make of Steven Soderbergh‘s latest? It’s a bemusing piece of work. Shot in HD and the first of a series of super-cheap films being released simultaneously in theaters and on DVD and TV for HDNet Films, "Bubble" has attracted some minor controversy after a caustic Hollywood Reporter review out of Venice claimed that "The sense is of a filmmaker looking down his nose at a kind of life of which he has not the slightest understanding."

It’s easy to see how the film, which features all non-professional actors from the Ohio/West Virginia border area where it was shot, could be read as condescending — there’s an air of conscious, deadpan naïveté about it, that, coming from a director responsible for two of the most coyly stylish, celebrity-packed films in recent times ("Ocean’s Eleven" and its lesser sequel), is far too tempting to read as ironic. But Soderbergh doesn’t seem to be trying for some postmodern commentary on small town America; if anything, he seems to be having a kind of Dogme moment, taking on a straightforward, dramatic story, and keeping the camerawork simple and largely still to make the most of the video. When he attempts something flashier, it’s so ingenuous it’s almost a blow to the head. For instance: Martha, played by Debbie Doebereiner (in real life, a Kentucky Fried Chicken manager), is in church. We’ve followed her daily routine — we know that she works in a doll factory; that her only friend is her much-younger co-worker, a good-looking, empty-eyed stoner named Kyle (Dustin James Ashley); that she takes care of her elderly father; and that underneath her placidly cheerful exterior she’s probably roiling over with unhappiness. To enforce this, suddenly she’s brightly lit, while everyone else in the church pews around her falls into darkness. The camera cuts closer, and we’re faced with just her eyes, guilelessly blue and framed with spidery, over-mascaraed lashes. This is Soderbergh?!

In the end, "Bubble" is more admirable than good. The actors, who also include Misty Dawn Wilkins as Rose, an attractive and manipulative single-mother whose arrival at the doll factory leads to tension, are generally tolerable, prone to underplaying their roles, fitting for a world in which the stakes are very high for what may seem unremarkable things. The story, which involves a murder, is involving, though it goes nowhere unexpected. Nor should it — perhaps the ultimate thing to take away from "Bubble" is a sense of how trapped behind a layer of slickness and self-consciousness filmmakers in Hollywood (and Indiewood) have become.  Soderbergh has tried to leave that behind, has tried for something emotionally resonant and raw. He may not have achieved that, but he’s certainly earned something for the effort.

"Bubble" will be releases in Winter 2005 by Magnolia Pictures.

Click here for all the NY Film Festival reviews thus far.

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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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