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Critic wrangle: “Gone Baby Gone.”

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"I always believed it was the things you don't choose that make you what you are."
After failing to find a satisfactory place for himself in Hollywood as an actor, Ben Affleck has moved behind the camera to helm "Gone Baby Gone," a film which would seem to have all the right elements for his directorial debut: It’s set in Affleck’s native Boston, the city that housed "Good Will Hunting," the film that won him a screenwriting Oscar; it’s an adaptation of a novel from Dennis Lehane, whose "Mystic River" was the basis of Clint Eastwood‘s (over)lauded 2003 film; it stars brother Casey, who happens to be having a pretty good year. And, to our mild surprise, it seems to have all come together, and the critics are fond. David Edelstein at New York, who does note that director Affleck’s "hand is often heavier than it needs to be," declares that the "actors are amazing" and that "Casey Affleck has never had a pedestal like the one his brother provides him, and he earns it." Roger Ebert deems the film "a superior police procedural, and something more — a study in devious human nature," particularly impressed by the way secrets are unfolded, "the way that certain clues are planted in plain view. We can see or hear them just fine. It’s that we don’t know they’re clues." "Affleck gets near-perfect performances from his actors," writes Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club. "Though its procedural goes a little soft in the middle, Gone Baby Gone quietly accumulates in power, leading to one of the more subtly devastating final shots in recent memory."

Nick Schager at Slant finds the supporting character line-up overstuffed with A-list actors, but still likes the way "Affleck’s film eventually laces its routine police procedural plot machinations with a taut and terrifying atmosphere of enveloping confusion, one in which the solutions to the hazards posed by such a world are insufficient, and in fact are often just as problematic as the threats themselves." "If Mr. Affleck hasn’t raised his material to that rarefied level [of "Mystic River"]," writes Manohla Dargis at the New York Times, "he has taken a satisfyingly tough look into conscience, to those dark places where some men also go astray." "As a filmmaker, Affleck is in a coltish stage; his characters veer toward speechiness, and in mixing in so many shots of real Boston faces and places, he leans on found authenticity as a crutch to support what he can’t yet shape on his own," notes an otherwise positive Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly.

Over at the Village Voice, Jim Ridley writes that "In his strikingly downbeat directorial debut, Affleck has created something of a blue-moon rarity: an American movie of genuine moral complexity." Counters Stephanie Zacharek at Salon:

The picture ends on an unsettling, unresolved note. The problem is, you walk away wondering why certain characters take action in a way they think is right, and then just step back lazily and allow the obvious terrible things — the things the rest of us can see coming — to happen. I believe this is supposed to be what passes for "moral complexity," but it doesn’t quite wash.

And our beloved Armond White, who’s on a real tear this week, awesomely condemns the film as "some unholy combination of The Departed and Mystic River" (are there harsher words?) and then rags on Casey Affleck:

I had hoped never to see Casey Affleck in another movie after his whiny turn in Jesse James/Robert Ford, now he’s back—no longer a retard but still whining, still sulky. And this time, he’s morally superior to everyone else. This awful performance confirms the film’s pandering concept.

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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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