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Critic wrangle: “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

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"Let your imagination set you free" - season's worst tagline?
In many ways, Julian Schnabel’s often majestically off-putting presence in person makes the excellent reviews that "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is receiving all the more impressive — one never wants to encourage someone so secure in the conviction of his own genius. The film, which is based on the memoir Jean-Dominique Bauby dictated by blinking his left eyelid after a stoke left the rest of him paralyzed, is now looking like a major year-end best-of/award candidate. We liked it too, though not as much — our review from the New York Film Festival is here.

"Whatever Schnabel’s posturings as a painter," writes David Edelstein at New York, "he’s a major film director, alive not only to light and texture but to characters’ emotions—which twist the light and warp the textures and permeate the canvas." Raves David Denby at the New Yorker, "Schnabel’s movie… is a gloriously unlocked experience, with some of the freest and most creative uses of the camera and some of the most daring, cruel, and heartbreaking emotional explorations that have appeared in recent movies." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly is cautious of the overly gorgeous film, noting that "I tend to be wary of ethereal composition applied to unpoetic, human, physical mess, for its romanticizing, narcotizing effect," but in this case finding that "this assertive adaptation brings Jean-Dominique Bauby’s phenomenal memoir… to life honestly." Armond White at the New York Press, chooses to devote most of his review to ragging on "Control," but still declares that "Diving Bell" "tells a real person’s life story so
inventively you might forget how rotten recent biopics have been."

Glenn Kenny at Premiere
notes that "Diving Bell" is "an exemplary film about the so-called
triumph of the human spirit by largely upending every cliché the usual
cinematic treatment of the triumph of the human spirit indulges." "At
times, ‘Bell’ seems heightened and romanticized, particularly in the
way everyone around Bauby remains supportive and attentive, even at
their own expense," adds Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club.
"But that just prevents the film from becoming standard-arc
disease-of-the-week fare, with its programmed trials and inevitable
victories. Instead, Schnabel’s sleepy, drifty, at times morbidly funny
film tackles something more ambitious, by getting into the head of
someone who’s trying to get out of there himself."

A.O. Scott at the New York Times writes that Schnabel "demonstrates his own imaginative freedom in every frame and sequence, dispensing with narrative and expository conventions in favor of a wild, intuitive honesty," and Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek muses that "The picture is so imaginatively made, so attuned to sensual pleasure, so keyed in to the indescribable something that makes life life, that it speaks of something far more elemental than mere filmmaking skill: This is what movies, at their best, can be." "Conscious life itself, even at its most extremely limited parameters, has never been so richly ennobled on the screen as it is here," concludes Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer.

Dissenters: Chris Wisniewski at indieWIRE is ambivalent: "So is this art cinema posing as a middle-brow biopic, or a middle-brow
biopic posing as art cinema? Either way, it’s an engrossing oddity, a
film that is too superficial and obvious to be truly profound but also
too strikingly vivid and affecting to be dismissed." Nick Schager at Slant is not, and declares that Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have adapted Bauby’s memoir "with only slightly more restraint than that shown by competitive gorger Kobayashi at Nathan’s annual hot dog-eating contest. It’s Johnny Got His Gun (or, at least, the portions used in Metallica’s ‘One’ video) via My Left Foot, stylistically Miramax-ized to within an inch of its life."  And Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly writes, hilariously, that if the Cannes Best Director award (which "Diving Bell" won) "were determined solely on the basis of quantity, there would be no question that Schnabel’s was deserved, for there is more directing per square inch of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly than one is likely to find in any other movie released this year."

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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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