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What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts?

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"Jesus, Joey!"Caryn James‘ "Critics Notebook" piece in today’s New York Times bears more than a slight resemblance to sentiments expressed a whole month ago by one A. O. Scott in the same paper, namely a general grumpiness at the refusal of recent prestige "deep thoughts" films to engage current-day issues. As examples of this "genre of timid films with portentous-sounding themes," she cites "Good Night, and Good Luck" (we’d agree with her there), the utterly uninteresting-looking "North Country," the remake of "All the King’s Men," Matt Damon vehicle "Syriana" and, oddly "A History of Violence." One of these things is not like the others…

As broadly drawn as the graphic novel on which is it based, "A History of Violence" suggests that violence is everywhere and in everyone. That’s not a thoughtful probing of the question, but a spurious and facile statement not up to the level of Mr. Cronenberg’s bravura filmmaking.

We’re still musing on "A History of Violence" ourselves (we did like it lots), but we feel comfortable enough in our interpretations thus far to wonder what Ms. James is smoking, as they say, to come up with such a reductive reading. The film toys with our simultaneous condemnation and enjoyment of depictions of violence in such an unprecedented and disturbing way — if that’s not a "thoughtful probing of the question," we can’t imagine one.  David Thomson at the Independent calls it "the first unmistakably great American film since ‘Mulholland Dr.’, even if it is made by a Canadian," and goes on to gush far more than we have.

Let’s have a look at the other trends shaping our film-soaked world:

Bourgeois self-hate
A. O. Scott picks out "Caché" and "Manderlay" as particularly cutting films aimed at the bohemian bourgeois that, of course, will mainly be watched by the bohemian bourgeois.

Playing gay
Via Lou Lumenick at the New York Post: "’When I saw "The Talented Mr. Ripley" at my local theater in Carmel,
N.Y., a few years ago, the adolescent boys booed and got up and walked
out when they discovered their boy Matt [Damon] was playing a fag,’
["The Dying Gaul" director] Craig Lucas recalled. ‘But when I went to see "Alexander" there last year, nobody in the
audience batted an eyelash when Alexander and his boyfriend were making
goo-goo eyes at each other.’" Well, we would chalk that up to the fact that teenage boys (and everyone else) stayed away from that one in droves. But we do have "Breakfast on Pluto," "Brokeback Mountain," Philip Seymour Hoffman camping it up in "Capote," and Johnny Depp doing whatever in "The Libertine" to make this a very gay awards season. Or is the point to be taken from this just that playing gay is the new playing mentally disabled in terms of sure shots for Oscar nods?

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
At least 350 Mexican women have been murdered in this El Paso-area border town since 1993, and the case is still unsolved. Monica Campbell at the San Francisco Chronicle reports that no less than three films are suddenly in the works about the killings: "The Virgin of Juarez" (with Minnie Driver), "Bordertown" (with J.Lo and Antonio Banderas) and "Loteria for Juarez," in the works for HBO.

+ The Trouble With Films That Try to Think (NY Times)
+ Why are some of the greatest American movies made in Canada? (Independent)
+ The Discreet Masochism of the Bourgeoisie (NY Times)
+ Hollywood takes up cause of 350 dead women (SF Chronicle)

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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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