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The week’s critic wrangle: “American Dreamz” and “Somersault.”

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No new reviews from us this week — we ain’t seen nothin’.

Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore.
+ "American Dreamz": Roger Ebert ledes with "’American Dreamz’ is a comedy, not a satire. We have that on the authority of its writer-director, Paul Weitz, who told Variety: ‘Satire is what closes on Saturday night. So it’s a comedy.’ Actually, it’s a satire. Its comedy is only fairly funny, but its satire is mean, tending toward vicious." Ebert, who gives the film three stars out of four, is one of the few impressed by Weitz’s satirical talents — Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek (who was also a big fan of Weitz’s "About A Boy") is also won over by "the outrage, and the deep frustration, embedded…in the movie as a whole." She’s also writes that "isn’t a subversive comedy — in fact, it’s so unapologetically upfront that I suspect some moviegoers will accuse it of lacking teeth"…and in fact, some critics do. At the Village Voice, J. Hoberman, while not overwhelming negative (he finds the film more interesting than edgy), does conclude that "Ultimately, ‘American Dreamz’ is less social satire than social realism—the contestants are virtually indistinguishable from those on the real American Idol; the pols are as comfortingly stupid as we might wish them to be." And according to New York‘s David Edelstein:

Paul Weitz’s politics-showbiz parody suggests that the biggest problem facing satirists today is that they can’t begin to compete with what’s happening in Washington, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, or even the sleazy corridors of network TV. Consider the reality: the fourth amendment in tatters; carnage in Iraq; a potential U.S. nuclear strike on Iran; Simon Cowell as an arbiter of taste. It’s so much wilder than it is in "Dr. Strangelove" or "Wag the Dog," let alone in this spottily funny clown-show, which is dwarfed in its insights (and its laughs) by even a bad day on "The Daily Show."

At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis is the least impressed, wondering "where’s the beef and, as important, where are the jokes, the heart and the understanding that every age creates its own variation on the American dream?"

Incidentally, the lack of comedy in this, er, comedy is a point raised by several critics: Dargis, Hoberman and Anthony Lane at the New Yorker ("I winced three times, and gave a couple of short laughs, but that was it."). Finally, at the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas suggests that only at its conclusion does the film manage anything actually provocative by "suggesting that the global fascination with American kitsch could just be the thing that will stop us from destroying each other. In which case, may I propose Paula Abdul for president?"


Abbie Cornish.
+ "Somersault": Cate Shortland‘s award-winning Aussie debut about a teenage runaway has garnered mostly positive (if generally removed) reviews — it’s one of the odd effects of the triumph of the capsule review for these smaller releases that people seem to use up their entire 200 words just describing the film, or don’t get around to that in making fun of it. But no one’s making fun of "Somersault" (though the most opinion Melissa Levine in the Village Voice manages is calling saluting the film’s "dreamy, sexy, rather chilly style"). Stephen Holden at the New York Times guardedly likes it and Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly calls it "remarkable," while at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir writes that

I’m sure some people will be driven mad by the deliberate ambiguities of "Somersault," and by its characters’ near-total inability to understand themselves or express themselves. But to me, that makes it uncannily true to life.

But screw this, let’s get down to the important part: how hot is star Abbie Cornish (who, because all Australian actresses have been grown in vats in the same Outback clone farm, has been called both a younger Nicole Kidman and a younger Naomi Watts)?

Foundas: "the talented Cornish, who asserts the role with sexy, know-it-all confidence, then shows us the trembling little girl lurking just beneath."

Holden: "With the face of an angel and a sexual magnetism she wields with only a partial awareness of its seismic force, Heidi (Abbie Cornish), the blond 16-year-old runaway who thrashes through Cate Shortland’s "Somersault," is the kind of young woman who drives men crazy."

Levine: "…beautiful…"

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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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