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The week’s critic wrangle: “Hot Fuzz,” “Syndromes and a Century.”

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"You ain't seen 'Bad Boys II'?"
+ "Hot Fuzz": How good is the new film from Team Wright/Pegg? Good enough for even the New York PressArmond White to overcome his dislike for hipsters and comedy to twice deem Wright’s work "Godardian." He writes:

It’s a British Music Hall version of the social myths that cop movies inherited from American westerns. They’re paying tribute to what is most human in an increasingly dehumanized pop genre now gone global. When Angel and Danny get inspired by a drugstore rack of cop-movie DVDs, these clichés are revitalized and given back their roots in cultural/social anxiety. This moment of truth derives from Danny’s infatuation with Kathryn Bigelow’s exotic 1991 film Point Break—a cop/surfer movie, freedom/friendship/fatherhood apotheosis. When Keanu doesn’t shoot the President Reagan-masked robber, it beautifully distills one’s ambivalence toward authority. Referring to Bigelow’s profound incident, Hot Fuzz proves our modern political crises are also cultural.

We worship at the altar of "Point Break" more than anyone, but we admit, "Bigelow’s profound incident" made us snicker… and, perhaps, touched our heart. Going on — Manohla Dargis at the New York Times is most tickled by the film as a reaction to the standard British cinematic import: "Think of it as ‘The Full Monty’ blown to smithereens." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon writes that "Wright and Pegg are masters at balancing great, dumb, obvious jokes with ticklish, oblique ones, gags that zing by, only half-glimpsed." She salutes that way the film is "at once deeply affectionate and sharply observed: There’s never anything smart-alecky about Wright’s approach as a director."

"After Team America: World Police, this brand of blockbuster lampooning is itself something of a tired formula," allows Nick Schager at Slant, still won over by the "sheer, giddy vigor with which Wright and Pegg… faithfully pay tribute to their corny source material." He also writes:

That it self-consciously chooses the odious Bad Boys II as one of its stylistic templates (replete with pointlessly circling pans and slow-motion) is forgivable considering that its other prime influence is the ne plus ultra of modern Hollywood action films, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break, a superlatively cheesy classic whose most overwrought—and unintentionally funny—moment becomes a key plot point during Angel and Butterman’s investigation.

(We’d never have dreamed so many critics harbored a secret fondness for Bigelow’s film — it’s thrilling.)

A nameless Onion AV Club staffer finds that "[l]ike Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz is characterized by an all-too-rare sense of childlike joy in the possibilities of filmmaking, collaboration, and a night out at the movies," while Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly surveys the cast and declare that "[t]his movie set, clearly, was a VIP room for the cool kids." Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE, while not finding in the film the depths seen by Armond White, is nevertheless charmed, particularly by Pegg and costar Nick Frost: "they even pull off the inevitable buddy cop-latent homosexuality gag with winning understatement, never getting all het up and panicky." Robert Wilonsky at the Village Voice calls "Hot Fuzz" "a cult film writ humongous"; David Edelstein at New York ultimately finds that the film is "fun, and it’s nice to see all the English character actors who aren’t busy in Harry Potter films, but it lacks its predecessor’s freshness."

And at the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas observes:

For most of its running time, it’s an enjoyably unpretentious celebration of the guilty pleasure we can take from a stupid-as-all-get-out car chase or from watching things blow up real good. Then, in its final half hour, Wright and Pegg ratchet up the absurdity tenfold and enter the realm of the sublime: Beware of the shotgun-wielding grannies and double-barreled vicars!


"Normally, I sing about teeth and gums. But this album is all love songs."
+ "Syndromes and a Century": Shifting gears — Apichatpong ("Joe") Weerasethakul‘s fifth feature film is at least as deserving of the description "sublime," but proves both less populist and much more difficult to pin down in print. "When I’ve written about Joe’s work in the past, I’ve received angry e-mail from readers who say they tried to watch a Joe movie and were bored out of their skulls," warns Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek. "As with all films that don’t cling to strict narrative structures, one person’s rapturous, pointillist dreamscape is another’s ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’" For her, the film comes down to the following:

Joe has said, "The mind doesn’t work like a camera. The pleasure for me is not in remembering exactly but in recapturing the feeling of the memory — and in blending that with the present." The suggestion is that Nohng and Toey are dream-memory versions of Joe’s parents: He can’t, of course, have known them as young people, so he has to slip back in time to paint them, as their younger selves, with watercolor washes of imagined memory.

A.O. Scott at the New York Times (who also cautions that Weerasethakul’s films are "resistant to summary, at times even to understanding") writes that "’Syndromes and a Century,’ like its curious title, has the logic of a dream, a piece of music or perhaps a John Ashbery poem. Its coherence is evident; it is too lovely and lucid to be frustrating or dull. But it takes place just on the other side of conscious apprehension."

J. Hoberman at the Village Voice muses that "the 37-year-old director’s distinctively casual cine-nigmas are anything but predictable—except, perhaps, in their unaccountable happiness." Nick Schager at Slant writes:

Via his elliptical editing and his tales’ penchant for drifting, on a whim, into flashbacks or visual asides, the director captures the way in which memories subconsciously operate—how they gently blend into one another with little concern for clear-cut sequential arrangement, and how our reminiscences of certain moments in life are often colored by our lucid, almost-tangible recollections of the specific places in which they occurred (hence his frequent cut-aways to empty rooms, hallways, and fields).

Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club notes that the film’s "individual sequences spin along, lovely and mesmerizing, and they’re not really all that hard to understand, in and of themselves. It’s in figuring out how they all fit together that Syndromes And A Century can become maddening. So don’t try too hard."

And Armond White at the New York Press comes in with the dissent that’s actually yet another protracted and hopeless campaign to declare the brilliance of Julián Hernández‘,s "Broken Sky," the film that continues to be White’s Rosebud-like obsession. White writes that the film’s enigmatic nature "allows Western critics to condescend, investing Weerasethakul’s lackluster cinema with inordinate significance. They prefer this bland repetition of what other filmmakers do with excitement. If Syndromes and a Century’s blandness passes for mysteriousness, it indicates a decline in art-cinema culture." Having read the piece twice, we can only glean that White’s complaint is that there’s not enough sex in "Syndromes," which is a powerfully strange thing on which to pin such a negative review — though what do we know about art-cinema culture? 

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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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