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The week’s critic wrangle: “Tsotsi” and that “Unknown White Male.”

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Presley Chweneyagae.
+ "Tsotsi": Our own review is here — basically, we think this is half of a good movie.

Reviews are good-to-mixed when it comes to Gavin Hood‘s Oscar-nominated film about the redemption of a Johannesburg street thug who unintentionally kidnaps a baby — it’s tough to bash a film that so clearly wears its heart on its battered leather jacket sleeve. But most acknowledge the film’s narrative is hardly a new one. Jessica Winter at the Village Voice sums it up: "tough guy humanized by a cute kid." She also points out that Hood "isn’t inoculated [oof] against cliché; the flashbacks are mawkish, and when Tsotsi sneaks up on a disabled beggar in an abandoned lot, the soundtrack signals the threat with a Sounds ‘R’ Us rattlesnake effect," but acknowledges there’s still a lot to like about the film. Manohla Dargis at the New York Times places "Tsotsi" in a long line of that "carry a patina of sociological import" because they’re about the grim lives of criminals: "[D]espite the flavorful patois and subtitles, ‘Tsotsi’ isn’t much different from every studio cautionary tale with an unhappy past, a criminal present and an unhappier future" — still, she salutes star Presley Chweneyagae‘s performance as well as the film’s sincerity.

Ella Taylor at LA Weekly finds the film manages to sidestep schmaltz despite a plot that’s "verging on crude" she finds it superior to recent releases portraying Africa as lost without the aid of crusading white Westerners because of its "vigorously transcendent spirit of self-help." And Andrew O’Hehir at Salon doesn’t quite get around to reviewing the film, instead interviewing Hood, but does call it "an explosive wide-screen vision of the street life of Soweto, bursting with music, danger and vitality, and the extraordinary story of a ruthless young criminal."


"Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders."
+ "Unknown White Male"
: Half of the reviews about this possible doc about a 35-year-old man who inexplicable loses his memory are more concerned with the current questioning of the film’s veracity than the film itself. J. Hoberman at the Voice (who calls the doc "haunting if sketchy"):

To call this story unbelievable is to say the very least. If it’s a hoax, [Doug] Bruce is a fantastic actor (but then, the movie suggests, so are we all). If not, you may wonder less about Bruce’s personality than his condition. No convincing medical or psychological explanation is ever given; Bruce is a walking metaphor, even a miracle.

Manohla Dargis similarly points out the lack of facts one would think are essential ("conspicuously missing are any firsthand diagnostic discussions") and notes that director Rupert Murray‘s list of influences, which includes Man Ray, Tarkovsky and Buñuel, is notably short on actual documentarians. She concludes that the film wouldn’t be better or worse as a hoax: "this is just one man’s freaky saga, the kind that gets you to thinking about how our lives are built from wisps of memory and markers of memory like photographs."

David Edelstein at New York thinks the film’s a little lightweight, possibly because of Murray’s protectiveness over his friend/subject, and notes that "Murray doesn’t come out and say what many of us are thinking—justly or unjustly-in the new post–James Frey era: that this is all a little neat." And at this week’s Reverse Shot review trinity at indieWIRE, Jeannette Catsoulis is enchanted ("mesmerizing and miraculous"), Michael Joshua Rowin is disturbed by the film’s idealization of its newly wide-eyed subject, and Nicolas Rapold wonder if "Unknown White Male" is "the most hilarious example of the persistence of class-consciousness or what?"

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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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