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Critic wrangle: “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.”

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11072008_boyinstripedpajamas.jpgAmong a certain group of critics, the mere mention of Roberto Benigni’s Holocaust… dramedy?… “Life is Beautiful” is enough to provoke hours of enraging ranting. It’s doubtful that Mark Herman’s “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” will endure in theaters or memory long enough to be worth such a reaction, but there’s still plenty of outrage to go around. An adaptation of John Boyne’s child POV novel about Bruno, whose Nazi-commander father is transferred by “the Fury”, family is tow, to “Out-With,” where “farmers” wearing “striped pajamas” mill around behind a fence, among them a young boy Bruno befriends, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” stars Vera Farmiga and David Thewlis.

“See the Holocaust trivialized, glossed over, kitsched up, commercially exploited and hijacked for a tragedy about a Nazi family. Better yet and in all sincerity: don’t,” writes Manohla Dargis at the New York Times. Stephanie Zacharek at Salon allows that “I realize that at least in vague terms, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ is defensible as a tale of hope and friendship in the face of unspeakable and inhuman horror. And Herman takes great pains to keep the proceedings as tasteful as possible — which makes it worse.”

Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly believes that “As a Holocaust-for-kids fable, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is an appalling, jaw-dropping movie that will cause serious nightmares,” a sentiment seconded by Logan Hill at New York, who finds that “[t]he switcheroo finale is jaw-droppingly ludicrous.” But before that ending, suggests Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE, the film is, for a while, a worthy response to “Life is Beautiful: “Benigni’s coddling, regressive approach toward reality deserves to be combated, but ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ succeeds as a corrective for only so long until a manipulative and wrongheaded ending completely undoes everything Herman… has worked toward.”

Not everyone dislikes the film. Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club admits “It sounds ridiculous, and yet thanks to a remarkable concatenation of talent, it’s horrifying rather than risible.” Chuck Wilson at the Village Voice notes that while he first found the ending “absurdly melodramatic,” “a moment later, it occurred to me that the finale might just devastate–and educate–middle- and high-school-age audiences themselves only a little less naive than Bruno, who could do worse than have this earnest, well-made film be their first Holocaust drama.” (This smacks of the critical approach of “I don’t like horror/animated/scifi/children’s films, but people who do might enjoy this,” which I find pointless.) Roger Ebert gives it three and a half stars, and writes that it “is not only about Germany during the war, although the story it tells is heartbreaking in more than one way. It is about a value system that survives like a virus.”

[Photo: “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” Miramax, 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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