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Tracking: “Jarhead.”

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Peter SarsgaardWe’re intrigued by "Jarhead" for several reasons — it’s adapted from a remarkable book, it’s tackling an immensely spiny subject, and it features our imaginary boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard. Plus, it’s directed by Sam Mendes, who made the middlebrow classic of our time (every time we use that word we slap ourselves in the face, it’s our new rule) and followed it up with a grave disappointment (not that "Road to Perdition" was so terrible, but expectations made its success nearly impossible). He’s got something to prove, and "Jarhead" is nothing if not ambitious — it’s also got the cast to back it up.

Really, though, we want to see what Mendes can do in the face of "Three Kings," a movie that seems to develop sharper edges every time we see it — or perhaps just as time passes.

Anyway, two early and lengthy reviews: Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer and David Poland at The Hot Button. Sarris gushes, at least as much as we’ve ever seen him, devoting much of him column to simply describing the film. And it looks like Sarris, in his meandering way, is a Sarsgaard fan too:

When Swoff [Jake Gyllenhaal] is teamed up with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) in a two-man sniper unit, in which one man scouts and the other shoots, he comes to realize that despite Troy’s criminal record as a drug dealer, he is the only politically sophisticated member of the platoon. Troy keeps asking his comrades why they’re fighting this war, and he’s the only one who refuses to take the experimental drugs issued by the U.S. military as anti-biological-warfare agents because they’ve never been adequately tested, and he doesn’t relish the thought of becoming a guinea pig, thank you. Mr. Sarsgaard brings his accustomed charismatic conviction to the role from the first moment we spot him in the group. I found myself wondering why he hasn’t been cast as the leading man long ago. Perhaps that extra “a” in his name makes it seem too eccentric for star billing, or perhaps it’s too close to that of the excellent Swedish actor, Stellan Skarsgård. Then, too, perhaps it’s the authority he brings to serious, even villainous parts that makes him seem too valuable an acting resource to be wasted on vapid lead characters.

This also sounds promising:

In one scene, the Marines are energized and inspired by watching a screening of the Wagnerian helicopter flights in Francis Ford Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now" (1979). Walter Murch, the editor of "Jarhead," was also the editor of the Coppola classic. Ironically,
then, "Apocalypse Now" — with its intended anti-Vietnam War
message — eventually served to make a later generation of Marines more warlike and bloodthirsty. So much for the benign, pacificism-enhancing effects on audiences of violent war movies.

But of course. No matter how much a film protests that war is hell, it also inevitably takes advantage of the fact that war is inherently cinematic, and that war (that violence) is one of the great universal visual intoxicants. Coppola’s helicopter scenes were disturbing, swollen with irony and dear, but they were also undeniably cool — that’s why David O. Russell‘s updating of the scene for "Three Kings" was so good. As George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze pull into an oppressively quiet, dusty village in Iraq, the soundtrack swells: the Beach Boys’ "I Get Around." The music video that never was?

In his review of "Jarhead," David Poland dislikes what Sarris finds so powerful:

Jarhead is the Seinfeld of the holiday movie season… a movie about nothing…As I start to write a little about story, I think I should offer that there will be no spoiler warning because, again, nothing happens. The only spoiler is, in fact, that nothing really happens because there is no tension either.

It goes on along the same lines. Poland’s smart and impossibly prolific, but we rarely agree with him when it comes to review. Nevertheless, an interesting pair. We’re cautiously optimistic.

+ Mendes’ Memoir-Pic Jarhead: What Happened ‘Over There’? (NY Observer)
+ October 27, 2005 (The Hot Button)

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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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