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Gotham City, A Visual History

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Since 1940’s “Batman” #4, and his first movie serial three years later, the Caped Crusader has called Gotham City his home. On screen and on the printed page, its visual representation has changed quite a bit over almost 70 years. At times, the look of the metropolis has been an afterthought; at others, directors have paid more attention to Gotham’s appearance than to the characters living in it, and its latest appearance, in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” may be its most unusual yet. (None the least for sparking a heated New York/Chicago debate.) Here’s a look at eight movies full of gargoyles, dark alleys, and, yes, big naked statues.

07232008_batman1943.jpgBatman (1943)
Directed by Lambert Hillyer
Production Designer: Uncredited

This bargain basement production didn’t even bother giving the Dynamic Duo a Batmobile, letting them make do with a generic black sedan, so it’s no surprise Gotham is equally indistinct. The “Gotham City Foundation” is just a backlot street, and the chase scenes look an awful lot like the Bronson Canyon back roads where the ’60s “Batman” would eventually house its Batcave. The only memorable location is Gotham’s “Little Tokyo” where the serial’s shockingly racist narrator informs us “a wise government” has rounded up all the residents and sent them off to internment camps, turning it into a “virtual ghost street.” It makes for a nice contrast with the numerous scenes set on streets with some un-Gotham-like white picket fences; apparently, Mayberry is one of the town’s rarely discussed suburbs.

07232008_batman1966.jpgBatman (1966)
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Art Direction by Serge Krizman and Jack Martin Smith

This big-screen adaptation of the iconic mid-’60s “Batman” television show was filmed between the series’ first and second series, which explains the series’ notably small scale and scope. Little to no attempt is made to disguise the fact that the production was shot in and around Los Angeles; when the Batcopter winds its way over Gotham, it looks suspiciously like the Hollywood Hills. Most of the action takes around water: at the docks where the super-villains have their hideout, in the Batboat, or atop the Penguin’s pre-atomic submarine. None of these sequences, all shot in water tanks, include any shots of a Gotham skyline. The only major municipal landmark we see is the United World Building, headquartered on “Gotham East River.” This, of course, is simply stock footage of the real life United Nations Building in New York City.

07232008_batman1989.jpgBatman (1989)
Directed by Tim Burton
Production Design by Anton Furst

If audiences still had the Adam “Pow!”-“Zot!” West’s Batman on their minds when they walked into movie theaters in the summer of 1989, the first shot of Tim Burton and production designer Anton Furst’s Gotham City erased all of that in a moment. Their Gotham was a moody, messy tangle of granite and steel peaks and spires. When Burton takes us down to street level, the city assumes even more nightmarish proportions: buildings, which look like they’ve been built on foundations of garbage, are encased in tentacle-like steam pipes. Jack Napier’s transformation into the Joker takes place at Axis Chemicals, a factory that looks like some kind of cancerous growth of concrete, and the finale is set inside the tallest church bell tower in history. Furst’s creations are weird amalgams of different types of structures: apartment buildings with smokestacks, an art museum that looks like a bank vault, as if the place itself is as schizophrenic as its wildly costumed citizens.

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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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