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Critic wrangle: “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?”

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04182008_whereintheworldisosama.jpgOn to another doc in Morgan Spurlock style, this one actually made by Morgan Spurlock. “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” attracted a lot of attention when the Weinstein Company picked it up on the basis of just 15 minutes of footage shown to buyers at Berlin last year, and later because of rumors that Spurlock actually, you know, found bin Laden. Well, he didn’t (it was a big ask), and the doc’s been generating lukewarm reviews since its premiere at Sundance, and similar ones now that it’s receiving a theatrical release.

The major complaint from critics seems to be that the film dumbs down its subject matter to an intolerable degree. “Even though we Americans are, according to Mr. Spurlock, conditioned by ‘the media’ to regard all Muslims as violent extremists, he discovers that a lot of them are actually quite nice. Also, you may be interested to learn, the Israelis and Palestinians don’t get along so well, and there are a lot of problems in Afghanistan,” notes A.O. Scott at the New York Times. “Conventional wisdom rules,” agrees J. Hoberman at the Village Voice. “Even more so than in Super Size Me–which applied the same tactics, but to more appropriately trivial issues–Where In The World is a conversation-starter for ADD-stricken adolescents who can’t bear to think about one thing for too long, or too deeply,” writes the Onion AV Club‘s Tasha Robinson, who does find “[t]here’s a lot to like amid Where In The World’s bouncy amiability.”

Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly, who dismisses the film as a “feeble, once-over-lightly tour of the Middle East,” also wonders if Spurlock’s approach might be what’s actually needed to preach to an audience not already singing in the choir:

Spurlock tells you virtually nothing you didn’t already know — and, what’s more, he does it with catchy videogame graphics (Osama boogying to ”U Can’t Touch This”) and faux-naive man-on-the-street interviews that make Michael Moore look like Chet Huntley. The movie, in other words, is so glib and shallow and facile it just might work at the box office.

At New York, David Edelstein admits to the film’s flaws while thinking along the same lines, and drawing a comparison to Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia.” “Would we listen as intently without the People magazine point of entry?” But Ed Gonzalez at Slant is less forgiving, writing that “Spurlock’s aesthetic is opportunistic by design, but what makes the director’s pandering to the masses so vulgar, almost sad, is that he obviously knows better.”

[Photo: “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?,” Weinstein Co, 2008]

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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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