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Elvis Mitchell, Pauline Kael and Kenneth Turan.

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07082008_elvismitchell.jpgElvis Mitchell, former New York Times film critic, Harvard lecturer, documentary writer/producer and consistently excellent dresser, has a new show on TCM called “Elvis Mitchell: Under the Influence,” in which actors and directors come in to, you know, chat. The show had its premiere last night — at Slate, Troy Patterson writes that it’s “warm, insightful, and only about 30 percent too snazzy for its own good.”

This is a journalist who knows a good boondoggle when he sees one, and among the many influences of Under the Influence are the panel discussion, the post-panel Q and A, and the strategically flattering post-Q-and-A bull session.

Mitchell’s other big influence is Pauline Kael, of course: There’s the brassy double-entendre of the show’s title–a name exactly as obnoxious as I Lost It at the Movies. In the interviews, Mitchell digs at his guest’s filmic inspirations and obsessions–and they respond in Kaelian rambles of association–but the high-hat on the soundtrack, the dangling bulbs in the studio, and the daring narrowness of Mitchell’s lapels also suggest a swinging low-key party. The show tries to pretend it’s been shot inside a champagne glass at Cannes and very nearly pulls it off.

Given that that glass of champagne will run you about $20 US at the festival these days, it must be snazzy indeed. Speaking of Kael, Meryl Streep responded to the critic’s famous assertion that she only acted “from the neck up” in an interview with the Guardian:

“I’m incapable of not thinking about what Pauline wrote,” Streep replies seriously. “And you know what I think? That Pauline was a poor Jewish girl who was at Berkeley with all these rich Pasadena Wasps with long blonde hair, and the heartlessness of them got her. And then, years later, she sees me.”

Kael being quite dead, she can’t address Streep’s psychoanalysis, but one might also think she wouldn’t have gotten far as a critic if she relentlessly avenged these theorized college slights with undeserved digs against everyone on screen with long blonde hair, a not uncommon feature for an actress. One might think it’s possible to simply not like Streep’s acting style.

On that note, LA Times critic Kenneth Turan addresses going against the grain at the paper’s entertainment blog, writing “I am not now nor have I ever been mistaken in my judgment about a film. Now that I’ve gotten your attention with that bit of unwise bravado, let me explain why I feel that asking critics about what they got wrong, or for that matter what they got right, is to fundamentally misunderstand what it is we do and how we do it.”

[Photo: Elvis Mitchell in “The Black List: Volume One,” HBO, 2008]

+ Movie Love (Slate)
+ A legend lightens up (Guardian)
+ On Second Thought: Kenneth Turan on how a film critic can’t go wrong (LA Times)

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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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