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The week’s critic wrangle: How good is that German, really?

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"There's always something worse."
+ "The Good German": Not so good, according to most of the critics — Steven Soderbergh‘s dirrty 40s experiment seems to have left most cold. Manohla Dargis at the New York Times sighs that "while the language routinely waxes raw in ‘The Good German,’ the most striking difference between it and a Hollywood film like ‘Casablanca’ aren’t the expletives, the new film’s calculated cynicism or even that glimpse of bedroom coupling; it’s that the older film feels as if it was made for the satisfaction of the audience while the other feels as if it was made for that of the director alone." Similarly, J. Hoberman at the Village Voice notes that "if Casablanca was the acme of wartime romanticism, The Good German is its self-conscious antithesis. Soderbergh wants to show the birth of postwar moral relativism. It’s hard to believe in anything—his characters most of all."

At Salon, Stephanie Zacharek writes that Soderbergh and screenwriter Paul Attanasio "seem to think they’re giving old-timey sentimental crap a good licking, but all they’re really doing is proving how little they understand postwar (or wartime) American filmmaking in the first place." Anthony Lane at the New Yorker punctuates his typical musings ("What would he have used if the action took place in, say, 1380? Cameras woven from thatch?") with this question: "I hate to ask, but can a filmmaker be too much of a movie buff?"

"It’s all very beautiful, high-minded, and remote," writes David Edelstein at New York, while Ella Taylor at LA Weekly sums it up as "[s]umptuous, clever and cold." Michael Koresky at indieWIRE concludes that "[t]he past (movie and otherwise) doesn’t come to life here; the film remains haplessly sealed off, an object way out of reach." And Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, a bit fonder of the film than everyone else,  nevertheless writes that "The good student will filter Attanasio’s intentionally ‘modern’-sounding dialogue through the actors’ ‘old-fashioned’ declarations and may experience a thrill of time-and-again cinematic dislocation. The leisure-time viewer will say, ‘Hey, this is sort of like Casablanca, so why play it again?’ "


"He doesn't like to be with the others. He's a loner, too."
+ "The Secret Life of Words": Mixed reviews for the second English-language film from Spanish director Isabel CoixetMichael Koresky at indieWIRE:

Coixet’s humanist drive and reach for topicality set [the film] apart from the usual onslaught of good-intention indie films, and, thankfully, its central performance, by the always wonderful Sarah Polley, profoundly committed and convincingly melancholy, goes a long way in helping Coixet make her case. Unfortunately the devastating portrait of historical trauma that makes up the spine of this film, too often succumbs to indie platitudes, and "The Secret Life of Words" falls to pieces trying to put itself together.

Stephen Holden in the New York Times thinks that this film is much better than Coixet’s earlier "My Life Without Me," and that the "exquisitely coordinated performances elicit an empathy as powerful as anything I can remember feeling in a recent film." He does add that "Ms. Coixet may be wonderful with actors. But when it comes to the mechanics of storytelling, she is often ungainly and tin-eared." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon declares the film "a tantalizing and beautiful picture made with tremendous integrity, and anchored by two marvelous performances," but adds that it "still, somehow, doesn’t quite work." Nevertheless, he calls it "a film not to miss." At the Village Voice, Ella Taylor finds the film "exceptionally banal."


"Coming home is the real battle."
+ "Home of the Brave": "The kindest description of ‘Home of the Brave,’ the first Hollywood movie to examine the experience of American soldiers returning from Iraq, might be that it is fueled by noble intentions," writes Stephen Holden at the New York Times, neglecting until the end of his review to also note that Irwin Winkler‘s film does also star one Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, being all Serious Actor. Holden, who sums the film up as "an honorable dud," does note that "Home of the Brave" would like to be the "Best Years of Our Lives" of our era, an aspiration also called out by Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, who sighs that Winkler has "copied the wrong masterpiece at the wrong time. And he’s done so with a crayon. As a result, he’s ended up with a Hallmark TV drama about the very antithesis of a Hallmark moment." Some of the same thoughts from Andrew O’Hehir at Salon, who writes that "at its weaker moments, ‘Home of the Brave’ feels like issue-of-the-week filmmaking." Still, he sees it as a sort of pragmatic production:

[I]t marks the beginning of what may be a long on-screen discussion about the Iraq war and its consequences. None of the Iraq documentaries released so far has found any audience at all, and Winkler’s foursquare dramatic mode and evenhanded approach may reach many American families who feel understandably conflicted about the questions it raises.

Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE also admires the film’s intentions, but concludes that "trite and inept filmmaking places us at a remove just when we want to get close to these people, simplistic stand-ins for much more complex actual veterans." Nathan Lee at the Village Voice writes that "[b]lunt as it is, the movie avoids partisan grandstanding and easy irony; I much prefer its simple heart to the exploitative cynicism of an embarrassment like Blood Diamond." And Armond White at the New York Press of course champions that film, which "clears the air":

Winkler has gone against the political vogue by making an Iraq War drama that offers little of the typical left-leaning, liberal dissent. This film looks at the war for its impact on the lives of Americans at home, coming close to the ambivalence found in some country music and felt outside the New York/Los Angeles media centers.

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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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