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The week’s critic wrangle: Gitmo, 9/11 and SoCal skate rats.

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"I understand their concerns. I'd like to end Guantanamo. I'd like it to be over with."
+ "The Road to Guantanamo": It’s almost impossible to look at Michael Winterbottom‘s latest as a film to like or dislike (or in any sense enjoy), but the highly charged hybrid doc in certainly interesting. Our beloved Armond White snarls "This whacked-out piece of anti-American propaganda, pretending Human Rights rhetoric, is a Weapon of Crass misInstruction" and goes onto to grumble that if Winterbottom has "come down to pardoning the Taliban regime just for narrative fodder, then it’s time he folded up his digicam." At the Village Voice, J. Hoberman finds the film "effectively grueling," and writes (with apparent complementary intent) that it is "one of the most oppressive accounts of life in a military detention since Jonas Mekas‘s ‘documentary’ version of ‘The Brig’ or Peter Watkins‘s ‘Punishment Park.’"

At the New York Times, A.O. Scott writes that "Guantanamo," while being "far from a great movie, nonetheless effectively dramatizes a position that has been argued, by principled commentators on the left and the right, for several years now: that the abuse of prisoners, innocent or not, is not only repugnant in its own right." At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir in our favorite review examines both the contents of and the nature of the film, and declares that "’The Road to Guantánamo’ will drive you crazy, if you aren’t crazy yet. It documents a period of acute insanity, and all possible responses to it will sound paranoid to someone."

David Edelstein at New York, questions (as does every other critic) the veracity of the account given by the Tipton Three, or, at least, the film’s faith in this veracity.

The movie is propaganda, and Winterbottom and Whitecross could have bolstered their credibility by challenging some particulars of the Tipton Three’s story—a story that’s probably true but does leave room for suspicion (or eye-rolling). It might, for example, have been prudent for these men to wait longer than ten days after 9/11 to fly to Pakistan for Asif’s arranged marriage and to hold off on a trip to Afghanistan until after the inevitable carpet-bombing.

At the New Yorker, David Denby expresses a similar sentiment: "In some ways, the movie is poorly made, and it is possibly disingenuous. What works in it, however, works terrifyingly well," while at LA Weekly, Ella Taylor muses that the film "falls into a familiar trap of agitprop filmmaking — turning the victim into a hero." Regarding the need to question the Three’s tale, Slate‘s Dana Stevens remarks that "A defender might counter that, given that the United States couldn’t come up with a justification for their detention even after the case went before the Supreme Court in 2002, the burden of proof hardly rests on Michael Winterbottom." And at indieWIRE/Reverse Shot, Nick Pinkerton concludes

The film doesn’t fly as art or entertainment–saddled with off-the-cuff DV cinematography that constantly fumbles for photojournalistic iconography and undistinguished characterizations. The film is a very poor example of either–but it’s intended to function as more than a movie, as an "event," a public advocacy campaign (the film’s British premiere was a national broadcast on Channel 4, watched by 1.6 million) for its protagonists/storytellers.

"She's going to present a ganache?"
+ "The Great New Wonderful": A.O. Scott sums up Danny Leiner‘s post-9/11 drama as a series of "quiet, tidy vignettes," and, while noting that Leiner "has a good eye for the small absurdities of ordinary life, and in particular for the unacknowledged," is frustrated by the studied obliqueness of its messaging. David Edelstein calls the film "spottily affecting," while an extremely unimpressed Ben Kenigsberg at the Village Voice notes that "Ironically, Leiner’s two monuments to pothead delirium seem vastly more coherent than this hazy attempt to mine the zeitgeist, a film every bit as pointed as its nounless title."

The "Mexican Ramones."
+ "Wassup Rockers": Has Larry Clark finally gone soft? Of his latest, and apparently benign skate punk-adventure, J. Hoberman writes that "bod-caressing camerawork aside, it seems as though Uncle Larry’s underlying fantasy might be a neorealist remake of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ or a goofball ‘West Side Story.’" Andrew O’Hehir, who saw it in an earlier form at its premiere, claims that "even at its two-hour Slamdance festival length, it gradually developed its own rhythms and immersed you in these boys’ half-macho, half-naive worldview," and that "[i]f Clark’s attempts to weave in both tragedy and farcical comedy don’t completely click, this journey to the end of the night has an unexpected sweetness and joy at its gooey center." And at the New York Times, Stephen Holden, while not seeing the film as quite the departure others do, notes that "However you respond to ‘Wassup Rockers,’ it is completely alive, unlike any number of teenage Hollywood movies with their stale formulas and second-hand puerility."

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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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