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"Jesus Christ, it's Jason Bourne!"
Are there any long takes (or what passes for them these days) in "The Bourne Ultimatum"? When in his review of the film Roger Ebert claimed that director Paul Greengrass "not only creates (or seems to create) amazingly long takes but does it without calling attention to them," he was deluged with letters claiming this was a hallucination on Ebert’s part and decrying the shaky camera work and ADD editing. One speculates there’s even a joke hidden in there:

David J Swift, Jackson WY:
Is there a cinematographer’s joke in “The Bourne Ultimatum?” The entire movie shake-a-shakes with an incessant Queasy-Cam affectation — except for one shot. This shot is a POV of Jason peering through a hand-held zillion-power scope to read 12-point type on a document a few hundred feet distant. If there was one shot in the movie should realistically vibrate, it’s this one. Care to ask the powers-that-be if this is an inside joke?

David Bordwell uses the fuss as a launching point to declaring "A spectre is haunting contemporary cinema: the shaky shot." He breaks down the editing frequency (where does one find such facts?) and decides that it’s not really the editing that’s to blame for any motion sickness, it’s the camerawork and continuity:

In The Way Hollywood Tells It, I described contemporary films as employing “intensified continuity,” an amplification and exaggeration of tradition methods of staging, shooting, and cutting. What Greengrass has done is to roughen up intensified continuity, making its conventions a little less easy to take in. Normally, for instance, rack-focus smoothly guides our attention from one plane to another. But in The Bourne Ultimatum, when Jason bursts into a corridor close to the camera, the camera tries but fails to rack focus on his pursuer darting off in the distance. The man never comes into sharp focus. Likewise, most directors fill their scenes with close-ups, and so does Greengrass, but he lets the main figure bounce around the frame or go blurry or slip briefly out of view.

Ultimately, though, this leads to Greengrass being done the disservice of being compared to Tony Scott, which is like comparing an example of precision stunt driving to one of someone flipping their car while fiddling with the radio on the freeway and somehow miraculously ending right-side up.

When he reviewed the film at Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman referenced what Alfred Hitchcock said about "young Spielberg": "He’s the first one of us who doesn’t see the proscenium arch." "Watching The Bourne Ultimatum," Gleiberman goes on, "with its swervy, headlong, you are there images of a man on the run from forces he senses yet cannot see, I remembered Hitchcock’s words, and I thought: If Spielberg doesn’t see the proscenium arch, then Paul Greengrass barely even sees the stage."

So, terrifying vision of the future of cinema or exhilarating glimpse into hitherto unimagined film freedom? While you decide, soothe your over-edited heart with Michael Atkinson‘s musings on the long take at his blog Zero For Conduct.

+ The Bourne Ultimatum (
+ Shake, rattle, and Bourne! (
+ Unsteadicam chronicles (
+ The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) (Entertainment Weekly)
+ A Shot in the Dark (Zero For Conduct)

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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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