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SXSW 2008: “Humboldt County.”

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03082008_humboldtcounty.jpgTerm I wish someone cleverer than me would coin: one to describe that kind of movie in which a free-spirited (and ever so lightly damaged, like a can of discounted tomatoes) girl latches on to a glum male protagonist and hauls him off to introduce him to joy and laughter — see “Garden State,” see “Elizabethtown,” see everything in between. “Humboldt County,” the feature debut of Danny Jacobs and Darren Grodsky, starts off looking like yet another entry in this genre, with Fairuza Balk playing Bogart, an actress/singer who swoops into L.A. to offer the promise of salvation to depressed med student Peter (Jeremy Strong), whose strict professor father (Peter Bogdanovich) has just failed him in his final class. But after taking Peter home to Humboldt with her after a one night stand, Bogart fades out of the film, which turns instead into a love story between Peter and a way of life — a ramshackle, dilated-pupils day-to-day funded by the illicit farming of marijuana. Brad Dourif, always a loopy pleasure, is a curmudgeonly physics prof who fled academia for a life in the woods with his spacey wife (Frances Conroy), his stepson Max (Chris Messina) and Max’s sprite of a daughter (Madison Davenport).

“Humboldt County” involves a whole bunch of gawkish gazing at a rose-colored representation of the neo-hippie Humboldt lifestyle — constant weed consumption, a local school funded by a community pool of pot plants, an outhouse, gas lamps and plenty of wide-lensed shots of the eye-poppingly gorgeous landscape on this sparsely settled stretch of northern California coast. But despite all the “Look how kooky!,” the film’s genial and pleasant, and the expected transformation of the exaggeratedly buttoned-up Peter into a flannel-wearing expert on DIY irrigation systems is balanced by the less conventional way the film’s main relationship becomes the friendship between him and the prickly Max, who’s smart enough to see that the life his family is living is both an escape and a trap, and who’s gambling on an oversized crop to lift him out of the cycle. Yes, you can stay too long at the party, and eventually the hubristic Max gets his comeuppance, driving Conroy and Dourif into unwieldy monologues and mild overacting — unable to recommend either the outlaw-farmer thing or the rejoin-the-system one, “Humboldt County” settles instead for making the case, vaguely, for doing something in between. Or at least taking a summer off to get really high and look at the ocean, which sounds none too shabby to me.

[Photo: Jeremy Strong in “Humboldt Country,” Embark Productions, 2008]

+ “Humboldt County” (SXSW)
+ “Humboldt County” (Official site)

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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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