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Talking points: Issue films.

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"I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this."
What you need to know to engage in vaguely informed cinema-centric bar talk this week:

From Philip Kennicott at the Washington Post, that "History Boys" has an intriguingly complex and British viewpoint to present on sexually precocious boys and the adults who want to boink them:

The American drama of sexual abuse, played out almost weekly in hysterical terms on "To Catch a Predator," has very little room for the larger continuum of the sexual interactions between adults and youth suggested by [Alan] Bennett‘s play… NBC uses "reality" TV to fictionalize child sexuality as much as Bennett or Nabokov or any other author. But works such as Bennett’s and [Augusten] Burroughs‘s, and even the transcripts of the [Mark] Foley exchanges, suggest that there is a lot more to be learned about how sex is negotiated — especially between adults and youth who are almost adults — than American popular culture is quite ready to acknowledge.

From Tim Lott at the Guardian, that real mental illness is dreary and awful and not romantic at all and goddammit, why is it taking us to long to portray it that way in movies?

The idea was becoming fashionable that mental illness was a creation of, and a response to, social control – and the apotheosis of this idea was Ken Kesey‘s seductive One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, filmed by Milos Forman in 1975. The message of both book and film was unequivocal: mental patients, in this case specifically male mental patients, were the products of a combination of a repressive social system and domineering and dysfunctional mothers, represented by the icy and controlling Nurse Ratched. What they needed was a good dose of untrammelled id, or Jack Nicholson‘s Randall McMurphy, to set them free. But the system would do everything it could to prevent that happening. It would crush the glorious rebel. It would ensure the mad stayed mad for its own psychologically malign purposes.

From Zachary X. Hruby at the San Francisco Chronicle, that "Apocalypto" presents an offensive and historically inaccurate portrayal of the ancient Mayans:

The Maya at the time of Spanish contact are depicted as idyllic hunters and gatherers, or as genocidal murderers, and neither of these scenarios is accurate. The film represents a step backward in our understanding of the complex cultures that existed in the New World before the Spanish invasion, and it is part of a disturbing trend re-emerging in the film industry, portraying non-Western natives as evil savages.

"King Kong" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" show these natives as uncaring, beastlike and virtually inhuman. "Apocalypto" achieves similar goals, but in a much subtler fashion.

From Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post, that "the supply chain" is the new movie evil — recent "SC" (catchy!) films include "Fast Food Nation," "Black Gold" and "Blood Diamond." Also on the topic, from (ahem) Rush and Molloy at the New York Daily News, "Blood Diamond"’s director Edward Zwick has started a "feud" (fueled, it seems, entirely by the gossip columnists themselves) with Russell Simmons over Simmons’ support of the current state of the diamond industry:

Take Simmons’ conclusion that the sale of "conflict diamonds" – used to finance the continent’s bloody wars – has dropped to less than 1% since the Kimberley Process was set up in 2003 to stop the vicious trafficking in those gems.

"That’s a funky number," Zwick said at his movie’s Hollywood premiere. "That number comes from diamonds that are mined in countries that are ‘war-declared.’ Conflict diamonds are also mined in countries where there is not a ‘declared war.’ If you want to know about conflict diamonds, you don’t go to Botswana and South Africa. You go to Sierra Leone and Angola. … Russell Simmons is being embarrassed."

From Stephen Applebaum at The Australian, that no one can decide if "The Queen" is pro- or anti-monarchy:

"This film turns out, much to my surprise, as a mirror in which people see their own feelings projected," [director Stephen Frears]  says. "So people say completely contrary things, like, ‘Oh, you’ve become a monarchist’ and ‘Oh, you’re so critical of the Queen’. I don’t know why that’s happened. I don’t think it’s happened on any other film I’ve made. Maybe it’s because we get it sort of right, so people see what they want to see."

And, from Zoe Williams at the Guardian, that "Happy Feet" has been accused of being "far-left" propaganda, and that one can totally amuse oneself by looking for "propaganda" in other animated films:

One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

Message A few points to make. First, this is a bit of a dual-issue film, virulently anti-fur, passionately anti-smoking. And yet, there are some interesting financial undertones. Cruella de Vil is Ms Moneybags; she tries to buy Pongo’s puppies, and the other 84 have been legitimately bought from pet shops. The message is that money isn’t power, or certainly shouldn’t be – that just because you have the wherewithal to pursue your will, if that will is malign, it shall not prevail.

The overall impression is puppies cannot be bought. They will rise up, and anyone underestimating the intelligence of the puppy will come a horrible cropper. There’s a potent message of direct action. It’s probably the most radical cartoon of its era.

+ The Instructive Message of ‘History Boys’ (Washington Post)
+ Losing the plot (Guardian)
+ ‘Apocalypto’ does disservice to its subjects (SF Chronicle)
+ A Spike in Supply-Chain Muckraking (Washington Post)
+ Bad ‘Blood’ between Simmons and Zwick (New York Daily News)
+ We are most bemused (The Australian)
+ Political animals (Guardian)

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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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