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“Running With Arnold”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Running With Arnold,” Red Envelope Entertainment, 2008]

It’s one thing to make a one-sided documentary and it’s quite another to make a one-sided documentary and claim impartiality. Though in the film’s press notes, director Dan Cox claims he was “determined to maintain an objective stance,” his documentary “Running With Arnold” is chock full of the sort of techniques that he claims in the same statement are “anathema to journalism.”

Cox, a former Variety editor, says that Michael Moore “manipulates images and facts to create over-the-top points that ultimately ring hollow.” Perhaps, but one could easily level the same critique on “Running With Arnold.” Consider a scene late in the film, after Schwarzenegger has won the California recall and become the world’s first Governator. As part of a larger sequence about how Schwarzenegger reneged on populist campaign promises to fall in line with the national Republican agenda, Alec Baldwin’s narration describes Arnold’s plan to privatize the state pension plans. “It made sense,” Baldwin says, “Certainly, corporations knew how to manage the futures of their employees.” Cut to a shot of Kenneth Lay being dragged away in handcuffs and then one of Anderson Cooper talking about Enron’s collapse.

Most of “Running With Arnold” is laced with that sort of derisive tone. There’re as many sound bytes from comics like as Bill Maher, Rob Schneider and the members of a comedy troupe called Laughing Liberally as there are from journalists, historians or cultural critics. The film is only 70 minutes long to begin with, but with that many jokes, superficial digs and guys impersonating President Bush, there’s not much time for more weighty material.

Some of the comedians’ material is clever, but I’m of the opinion that Schwarzenegger’s legacy in both the political and cinematic arenas is worthy of far more serious discussion. When Cox does dial down the snark and focuses more on the issues, his investigative findings are mild at best and pretty one-sided. In discussing Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial record, he observes, with loads of outrage, that he consistently promised one thing during his campaign and then did something different when he got into office. This is shocking how, exactly? Isn’t that what most politicians do?

He tends to assume the worst of Schwarzenegger — for instance, during his discussion of Schwarzenegger’s father’s history with the Nazi party, Cox suggests that the Governator’s donations and work with the Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center were part of a “careful manipulation of the media” to smooth over potentially damaging public relations, without even acknowledging the awards Schwarzenegger has won for his work with the Center or the possibility that his actions could have been well-intentioned. Cox’s attempt to tie Schwarzenegger to the Nazis was the source of Baldwin’s widely reported complaints with the film and the reason for his attempt to remove his name and voiceover from the picture over a year ago, calling the images “unfair,” “ultimately offensive” and “over the line” in a piece he wrote on The Huffington Post.

I would never vote for Schwarzenegger for public office and I’d agree with Cox that he was underqualified for his new career path in public service. But that doesn’t mean Arnold is or was stupid. If he was, he’d own a gym somewhere in Venice Beach and spend all day telling his employees about the glory days of making “Hercules in New York.” Instead of treating him like an opportunistic dummy, Schwarzenegger deserves a documentary (evenhanded or not) that treats his legacy seriously and confronts it critically.

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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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