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The doubtful harm of the comedy.

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"And in these films, this is jamming. This is actor jamming."
At Slate, Bryan Curtis writes that "Only someone truly uncharitable could resist the charms of Christopher Guest, the ringleader of an agile troupe of mockumentarians. After watching Guest’s oeuvre, including his latest, For Your Consideration, I am afraid I am that man." We’ve been off Guest for, oh, a decade now, so we’re not ones to argue. Why would we need to when David Poland is there to do it for us? Curtis takes issue with the fact that Guest "rarely chooses satirical targets that present much of a challenge," and that he’s given critical leeway because his films are improvised: "To read his reviews, you would get the idea that improvisation is a funnier—and more authentic—form of comedy than conventional mirth-making." At The Hot Button, Poland responds that

Consensus is not a valueless thing. I am happy to have Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. But taking a critical position based on one’s perceived notion of consensus is insanity. And had Curtis bothered to check RT before getting so upset that Guest was "getting away with it," he would have seen a 53% rating for Guest’s latest film.

If Curtis’ piece were more of a hatchet job that would seem a bit more reasonable, but it’s not, and we’d still agree with him that Guest is a bit of a sacred cow. While on the subject of "For Your Consideration," Susan Wloszczyna at USA Today writes of Catherine O’Hara‘s fearsome end facelift face:

"She did it herself," says director Christopher Guest, who has used the actress in all his improv satires, including Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. "I said to her, ‘You play a character who has a face lift.’ She said, ‘I can’t put anything on my skin. It’s too sensitive. But I can do that look myself.’ She can only do that face for three minutes, it’s so tiring. But she is brilliant."

And a quick update on the "Borat" backlash: Carl DiOrio at the Hollywood Reporter writes about Fox’s current legal troubles, and adds that:

Meanwhile, much has been made of whether British-born Baron Cohen — who came to prominence in this country on HBO’s similar mockumentary series "Da Ali G Show" — will be able to pull off his phony-interview high jinks again in a planned picture for Universal, "Bruno," based on another one of his fictional characters. But film and legal community observers also have been wondering whether Universal will be watching for legal lessons learned in the process of Fox’s defending itself from "Borat"-related litigation.

George Saunders at the New Yorker suggests some "reshoots":

“GANGSTA” SECTION: The scene where Borat says something intentionally offensive to the inner-city black guys—where is that scene? I have been unable to find it. Here I definitely suggest a reshoot. In the attachment, I have provided a list of common racial slurs that Sacha could try out on “the brothers,” just to see what they do to him. My thought is, that seems to be the ethos of the rest of the film—i.e., Sacha saying/doing the most offensive things possible, in order to elicit a reaction—so I sense a little inconsistency here. Thoughts?

Hah. Jeremy Dauber at the Christian Science Monitor has a "modest proposal" (but Swift, he is not) that we use the threat of satire for foreign relations:

Just imagine Condoleezza Rice suggesting across the negotiating table that, in return for certain guarantees of liberal reform, the "Borat" sequel could be arranged to be set in, say, Turkmenistan rather than Azerbaijan. Or the stick: imagine John Bolton sidling over to a member of a certain UN delegation, slipping a screenplay into their hands, and intimating that if particular non-proliferation treaties aren’t entered into, South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone will set "Team America II" entirely in their capital city.

The Guardian‘s Joe Queenan does not attempt humor or subtlety:

When Borat was first released, blue-state sophisticates in New York and Los Angeles were delirious, overjoyed that Baron Cohen was savaging evangelicals and cowboys and hicks, as if this were either daring or original. Their rationale was that Cohen was merely playing with our heads, forcing us to reassess our convictions. No, he isn’t. Baron Cohen is just another English public school boy who hates Americans. It is fine to hate Americans; it is one of Europe’s oldest traditions. But the men who flew the bombing raids over Berlin and the men who died at Omaha Beach and the women who built the Flying Fortresses and Sherman tanks that helped defeat Hitler are the very same people that Baron Cohen pisses all over in Borat. A lot of folks named Cohen would not even be here making anti-American movies if it were not for the hayseeds he despises.

And at the Toronto Star, Peter Howell writes about the "Borat effect," linking the film to Michael Richards‘ racist nightclub outburst:

As Borat showed us, shock humour now has to be about something, or rather someone. Find someone to pick on, even if they aren’t your own size, and take ’em down with hate — but remember to keep smiling while you’re doing it. Even better, pretend that you’re doing it to demonstrate the hatred that resides within all of us, which is Cohen’s professed justification.

We? Are simultaneously exhausted by reading about the film and fascinated by the discussion — particularly those who would call into question Baron Cohen’s politics, subversiveness or lack thereof.

+ Christopher Guest (Slate)
+ November 27, 2006 (The Hot Button)
+ ‘Consideration’ gets a lift from O’Hara (USA Today)
+ Fox fires back at ‘Borat’ suit (HR)
+ “BORAT”: THE MEMO (New Yorker)
+ For make benefit of world peace (CS Monitor)
+ ‘The honeymoon is over’ (Guardian)
+ Blame it on Borat effect (Toronto Star)

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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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