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Trendspotting: Brownface, bags, polibiopics.

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I remain on the lookout for an overview trend as convenient and analysis-friendly as last year’s Summer of Threequels, but so far, not so much. Will “the season of overlong run-times” count? How about “the summer of our discontent”?

06052008_tropicthunder.jpgTrend: Brownface

“Outside of color-blind Shakespeare adaptations, cross-race casting has been one of Hollywood’s obvious taboos for decades now — a no-no so basic it didn’t even merit discussion. No more: Enough Hollywood stars are enthusiastically applying bronzer in 2008, either for a quick gag or for a serious leading role, that we’re forced to hesitatingly declare this movie season the Summer of Brownface.” —New York‘s Vulture blog

As evidenced by: Adam Sandler going Israeli and Rob Schneider Arab in “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan”; Robert Downey Jr. donning blackface in “Tropic Thunder”; Fred Armisen as Barack Obama on “Saturday Night Live”

Possible significance: “In the age of Barack Obama, the idealistic interpretation is that it’s simply not a big deal, and what we’re witnessing is Hollywood’s unusually astute reaction to the onset of the post-racial society… A more cynical explanation is the delayed box-office aftershocks from Borat: If Americans were ready to laugh at a Hebrew-speaking British Jew pretending to be a Russian-speaking Kazakh oaf, then why not fake Arabs and Israelis?”

06052008_baghead.jpgTrend: Bags o’ fright

“The thought of ‘bags over heads’ creating chills has reached phenomenon status lately.” —Matt Dentler

As evidenced by: “The Orphanage,” “The Strangers,” “Baghead”

Possible significance: Lo-fi scares? “In a way, Baghead is a parody of those films but it’s still very creepy and scary at moments. It’s kinda like a DIY version of Scream, a knowing wink to the conventions of genre but also fully embracing those genres all the while.”

06052008_w.jpgTrend: Failed Republican president biopics

“Two portrayals of failed, bordering-on-tragic Republican presidents opening within seven weeks of each other means high expectations, lots of political baggage and possibly an Oscar competition of sorts.” — Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere

As evidenced by: Oliver Stone’s “W.”, Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon”

Possible significance: “The temptation to call them a pair of political IEDs being lobbed by Hollywood liberals at John McCain’s campaign will be considerable… the two films taken together will certainly remind audiences of the Republican potential for Oval Office screw-ups and arrogance.”

Meanwhile, the recently revealed “W.” poster (subtitle: “The Improbable President”), which lists out G.W. misspeakings and malapropisms, seems to indicate that Stone’s film will be a sharper-edged than his earlier sallies of “fair, true portrait” have augured.

[Photos: “Tropic Thunder,” DreamWorks Distribution, 2008; “Baghead,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2008; “W.,” Lionsgate, 2008]

+ The Summer of Brownface (New York)
+ AusChron: Austin’s Got a Brand-New Bag (Matt Dentler’s Blog)
+ Two of a Kind (Hollywood Elsewhere)
+ Dub-ya: A Tragedy of Words to be Played out on the Big Screen (IonCinema)

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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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