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Dream on.

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And I am telling you. We can see why everyone wants to like "Dreamgirls" — it’s this year’s last gasp hope at across-the-board appeal, its final chance to reassure everyone in the industry that there are still Great Films That Everyone Sees, that the very idea is not extinct in this increasingly nichified film world, and that Chris Rock is wrong and frequenters of the Magic Johnson Theater would actually care about an Oscar nominee. Plus, it’s a musical! Old school Hollywood style with a hip-hop starlet.

"Dreamgirls" isn’t particularly good, though we didn’t hate it — it is, however, a drippy apology of a musical that sets almost all of its songs within an in-film performance, as if the sight of someone singing outside of a studio or stage would blow an audience’s collective mind. Why even bother? Okay, outside of "Chicago," which pretty much does the same thing, musicals haven’t been successes unless they’ve been animated or ironic — and in that case, we appreciate what "Moulin Rouge" attempts, but when Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor duel with song lyrics, it recalls nothing so much as a feud between bored record store clerks. But "Dreamgirls" ends up as something halfway between "American Idol" and a collection of forgettable music videos. A great musical number is the most dreamlike, theatrical flaunting of the conventions of narrative realism — "Dreamgirls" catches fire only once, in Jennifer Hudson‘s already much-discussed bellowing of "And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going," a scene cushioned in some of the film’s only sung dialogue and the only scene to convey that the emotions being expressed could not be conveyed through speech, only song.

And so, a pre-weekend list, because it’s possible that the true musical should be relegated to the realms of archaic film vocabulary along with intertitles and rear-projection, and because the best musical numbers in recent film have been more about musical lovers than the songs themselves — here are some films that juxtapose harsh realities with glorious escapist song-and-dance sequences:

"Pennies From Heaven": Better to skip the Steve Martin film for the Bob Hoskins miniseries, but either will do in a pinch. Dennis Potter‘s conceit, studding Depression-era misery with lip-synced numbers from songs of the era ("The Clouds Will Soon Roll By"), always struck us as verging on cruel given the British miseries that occur (and there are no miseries like working-class British miseries), but there’s no denying its power.

"The Hole": Tsai Ming-liang‘s dystopic vision finds scattered urbanites soldiering on in underpopulated Taipei tenements in an unending deluge. The man and woman whose apartments are unintentionally joined by a plumbing accident-provoked breach are lonely, but never talk. The woman has found a form of escape in her own head — up and down the concrete stairwells and landings of the building she images herself in a series of glittering outfits, dancer-accompanied, singing the songs of Grace Chang.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch": Though it may have launched a thousand community theater products, "Hedwig" is best on screen, where tawdry settings can instantly give way to envisioned glamour. Best: "Wig in a Box," where the side of Hedwig’s trailer falls down to become a stage, complete with band.

"Dancer in the Dark"Lars von Trier is generally not one for subtlety, and "Dancer in the Dark"’s compare-contrast devices are more explicit than most. But before it devolves into yet another of von Trier’s actress-torture epics, the film does capture some real magic. Björk‘s Selma, tremulous, glowing, can find music even in factory noises. And ah, the number on the train!

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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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