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Critic wrangle: “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

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08152008_vickycristinabarcelona.jpgAs many have pointed out, it’s damning “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” with faint praise to call it Woody Allen’s best film since “Match Point,” a minimal achievement if ever there was one. I liked the film at Cannes, and like it even more in retrospect, where it seems a little crueler, for all that it looks like a soft-focus sex farce. Reviews are, for the most part, quite good.

“[M]aybe it was the Gaudi architecture or the restorative Mediterranean breeze,” muses Michael Koresky at indieWIRE, “but on a very basic level, ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ works, flowing along even and steady, and infectiously fascinated by its principals (and its principles, as any Allen film worth its weight in moral dilemmas must be).” “Given its particulars–Allen’s creepy-old-man gaze, the subtext-free dialogue, the Michelin-guide tour of Catalan art and architecture, the predictable dramatic arc–Vicky Cristina Barcelona ought to have been an eye-roller,” adds David Edelstein at New York. “What a surprise that it’s so seductive. The Woodman lives!”

Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly writes that “I for one found something oddly elating in the movie’s assurance that it is better to have made passionate love and maybe almost died at the hands of a jealous mistress than never to have loved at all.” “[T]hrough it all, Vicky Cristina Barcelona remains unaccountably romantic, a confirmation that love, elusive and painful as it can be, is still worth pursuing,” agrees Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club. David Denby, at the New Yorker, speculates that “One is meant to emerge from ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ believing that happiness may be elusive, even impossible, but that life has a richness greater than one’s personal satisfaction.” For Manohla Dargis at the New York Times, the film “reverberates with implacable melancholy, a sense of loss.”

Roger Ebert sums “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” up as “all fairly harmless, although fraught with dire possibilities,” while Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer goes as far as saying the film is “one of the most felicitously written, edited, acted and directed romantic comedies of his entire career.”

Andrew O’Hehir at Salon is not as enchanted, guessing that Allen “was shooting for a Henry James-style parable about American innocents abroad, but what he wound up with was an intermittently amusing fairy tale with a nasty sting in its tail, one that punishes its American characters for their shallowness and cowardice and rewards its Europeans for their worldly sophistication.” Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly finds the sentiment more ’60s in spirit: “[T]here is no vision — no possibility — of a relationship that is long-term and monogamous yet amorous in spirit…I hope it’s not too bourgeois of me to point out that for a director who is trying to make a worldly romantic comedy, this is quite a shallow and jejune point of view.”

Not feeling it at all: Ed Gonzalez at Slant, who proposes for “what may be described as an Upper East Sider’s version of Hostel” the alternate title of “Pan-Seared Misogyny in Hot-Blooded Balsamic Mediterranean Reduction.” And Armond White at the New York Press, in his contortions to tear at Allen’s film by way of praising Rohmer’s “The Romance of Astrea and Celadon,” comes up with pronouncements like “Fatally, there’s no significant nudity in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which means its sexual frankness is specious,” and “Despite the big budget and name stars, Vicky Cristina Barcelona shows Allen’s 98th film stumbling into mumblecore, fumbling with love and class like a spoiled brat who’s never seen a Rohmer, Malle, Renoir or Ophuls masterpiece.”

[Photo: “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” 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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