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Critic wrangle: “No Country For Old Men.”

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"It'll do till the mess gets here."
Even the New York PressArmond White likes the Coen brothers’ "No Country For Old Men," adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy: "It would be pathetic to reduce/praise No Country as a thriller. The Coens’ technique goes far beyond that. Moss, Chirgurh and Bell’s appointments with mortality lift the film from plot mechanisms to a confrontation with fate." Solid to delirious praise from most of the rest of our usual round of critics. We particularly liked this, from A.O. Scott at the New York Times:

[T]he most lasting impression left by this film is likely to be the deep satisfaction that comes from witnessing the nearly perfect execution of a difficult task. “No Country for Old Men” is purgatory for the squeamish and the easily spooked. For formalists — those moviegoers sent into raptures by tight editing, nimble camera work and faultless sound design — it’s pure heaven.

"’No Country for Old Men’ is as good a film as the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, have ever made, and they made ‘Fargo,’" adds Roger Ebert. "This movie is a masterful evocation of time, place, character, moral choices, immoral certainties, human nature and fate. It is also, in the photography by Roger Deakins, the editing by the Coens and the music by Carter Burwell, startlingly beautiful, stark and lonely." From Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly:

It’s easy to imagine how the Coens, whose Achilles’ heel has always been their predilection for smug irony and easy caricature, might have turned McCarthy’s taciturn Texans into simplistic western-mythos archetypes: the amoral criminal, the righteous peacekeeper, and the naive but basically good-hearted rube in over his head. Instead, they’ve made a film of great, enveloping gravitas, in which words like "hero" and "villain" carry ever less weight the deeper we follow the characters into their desperate journeys.

Keith Phipps at the Onion AV Club deems the film "a strong return after a few years off" for the Coens, while Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly writes that the film "reverses [their] slide into arch pastiche, brilliantly." Glenn Kenny at Premiere suggests that "the picture represents a high-water mark for the Coens. It’s their best picture, and could well turn out to be the best picture of the year." And of the ending, which goes in directions you might not expect, Michael Koresky at indieWIRE writes that  "The Coens close the film with what might be the most take-your-breath-away ending since Richard Linklater both refused and granted our wishes with "Before Sunset"’s final fade-out."

Among the less-sold: Anthony Lane at the New Yorker is impressed by the technical skill of the film, but is left emotionally cold: "[T]here remains a nagging sense that the Coens are not so much investing their emotions in a cinematic genre—in this case, the Western revenge drama—as picking it up, inspecting it, and then setting themselves the task of constructing a perfect copy." So is Slate‘s Dana Stevens, who declares that "while it may be their most ambitious and successful film in years, remains just a Coen brothers movie, a curio to collect rather than an experience to remember." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon adds that the film "feels less like a breathing, thinking movie than an exercise."

David Edelstein at New York calls it "a near masterpiece" but also "a cosmic bummer": "No one, not even Jones’s sheriff, has comparable weight, and so, in the end, cruelty, chaos, and resignation swamp everything—including the Coens’ evident delight in their crackerjack thriller set pieces and soulfully weird actors." Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer echoes that "I cannot look at it and write about it in any other way than as an exercise in cosmic futility," though he concludes that he’s not sorry he saw it. And Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader writes a fascinating if frustrating pan in which he essentially deems the film’s perceived nihilism a kind of perverse panacea for a troubled national psyche. He places Chigurh alongside Hannibal Lecter as figures that are "a savior of sorts, a saintlike holy psycho who made us feel less uneasy about wanton slaughter," writing that "the picture of human nature in No Country for Old Men is… so bleak I wonder if it must provide for some a reassuring explanation for our defeatism and apathy in the face of atrocity."

As for us, we’ve shrieked our love for this film out enough already. Our review from Cannes is here; we’re eager to see how it’ll do at the box office. It’s hard to believe any other film this year will receive comparative praise, but it also seems a little too dark, too strange for mainstream or award success. We’d love to be proven wrong.

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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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