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The in-other-countries round-up.

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"Takeshis'"It’s tempting to poke fun of Joseph Braude‘s piece in the LA Times about Middle Eastern moviewatching, except we’re not quite sure where to go with it. There’s certainly a lot of worthy stuff in the article, but there’s also a gawkish underlying assumption that it’s surprising that the inhabitants of the Arab world watch and care about films that seems about a decade outdated and that reminds us of the Lexus convertible conversation in "Three Kings" (we just got it on DVD, so it’s been on our mind recently, apologies).

Many governments don’t bother to forbid most American motion pictures. Protesters in Libya, Syria and the Palestinian territories may burn the U.S. flag during street demonstrations, but they catch the latest U.S. films in theaters. All of the Persian Gulf states except Saudi Arabia abound in state-of-the-art movie houses, often in luxurious shopping malls. In fact, Kuwait was the second nation in the world after Austria to introduce technology enabling automatic movie ticket purchases by mobile phone.

A friend of ours who grew up in Iran swore that nothing was more popular there than a satellite channel that played only "Baywatch," but sadly, Braude doesn’t confirm this, though he does get into some interesting points about the relationship between Arab viewers and left-leaning Hollywood.

Fiona Ng at the New York Times reports on "Action English," a Chinese television show that uses film clips to attempt to teach American slang.

At the Japan Times, Mark Schilling takes on Takeshi Kitano‘s latest, "Takeshis’," which premiered at Venice to mixed and bemused reviews, and which is a departure from the actor/director’s previous work, a surreal exploration of Kitano’s persona and previous films that sounds a bit like Akira Kurosawa‘s "Dreams." Schilling compares the film to Seijun Suzuki’s 1967 "Branded to Kill," and wonders if, like that film, it will later be regarded as a masterpiece, though at the present, he doesn’t seem to know what to make of it himself. Either way, a possible turning point for Kitano’s career:

Kitano has described it as a kind of "death"
(pronounced in Japanese, the title is "Takeshisu" or "Take[shi] dies"),
in which he shakes off the mortal coil of his first 11 films and
prepares himself for the next stage of his career. (He says he wants to
make a film that challenges Kurosawa and other Golden Age masters —
whatever that means.)

Also at the Japan Times, Giovanni Fazio becomes the first we’ve seen to defend Lou Ye‘s "Purple Butterfly," which stars Zhang Ziyi and which opened here in a minimal release to fairly bad reviews (we loved his debut, "Suzhou River").

Chris Johnston at The Age has an excellent essay on based-on-actual-events Aussie horror film "Wolf Creek" (which gets a Dimension/Weinstein Co. release on Dec. 25), and its relationship to a particularly beloved national icon:

And then comes the moment. "Bit of a
bugger, eh?" says Mick. Just five little words. But with them, and
other similar moments, Wolf Creek subverts a mainstay of Australian
outback mythology – the noble white bushman, the loveable rogue.

It’s no coincidence that Mick is called Mick. He’s Mick Dundee,
Crocodile Dundee, gone evil. He has the same hat, the same flannel
shirt and the same jeans. He has the same knockabout ways, the same
laconic humour. During Melbourne filmmaker Greg McLean‘s low-budget
horror film, which has become a surprise box office winner, he even
reprises the famous Croc Dundee line "Call that a knife? This is a
knife!" as a victim, Kristy, hopelessly brandishes a tiny, red Swiss
Army penknife. It is puny and useless next to Mick’s long, curved
monster, which he keeps in a leather sheath on his belt.

Alongside picks for who’s going to win, the Sydney Morning Herald talks to the organizers of the Australian Film Institute Awards about revitalizing the presentation and getting Russell Crowe to host them for free. Tom Ryan at The Age is a little more cynical about the choice:

Yet surely he can
be relied upon to bring a bit of spice to the night. Imagine his
response if someone tries to tell him to wind it up. Or if they attempt
to stop him reading the poem or singing the song he’s penned just for
us. Or if he doesn’t get the standing ovation he deserves. Or if a
teleprompter doesn’t work.

Well, we think that all awards show would be a little better with the promise of violence, so good on ya, Australia — scatter some cell phones around the green room and let’s see what happens.

+ Reelpolitik (LA Times)
+ Movie English as a Third Language (NY Times)
+ Kitano beats his own drum (Japan Times)
+ Love and death in Manchuria (Japan Times)
+ Beware a wolf (The Age)
+ AFI Awards: We tip the winners (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ A good deal to Crowe about (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ Rusty oils the wheels of our industry (The Age)

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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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