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The Best Straight-to-DVD Films of 2008

The Best Straight-to-DVD Films of 2008 (photo)

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Our official “B-movie” distribution stream — straight-to-DVD releases — grows in number and variety every year, as fewer films can be, or at least are, affordably shown theatrically than ever before. And these titles still can’t qualify for awards or polls of any kind, or often even reviews, as the number of theatrical screens continues to drop. Does this make any sense? Here’re my favorites from this year, the movies that first saw American screens (big or small) on digital video in 2008, be they brand new or decades old.

1. “Sophie’s Place”
Lawrence Jordan, U.S., 1986

The renowned yet all-but-forgotten avant-garde filmmaker’s grand animated masterpiece, a Victorian-styled dream-collage-painting-fever-feature brimming with hundreds of inexplicable epiphanies and a sense of visual magic that is all but utterly unique to Jordan. This honey was ensconced in Facets’ lavish, under-celebrated set “The Lawrence Jordan Album,” which in itself is more of an honor than I ever guessed an “underground” filmmaker would get in this country, and at this late date.

2. “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?”
William Klein, France, 1966

Klein’s first feature lays into the maelstrom of Euro-fashion mercilessly, making vicious fun of men and sexism and media shallowness and Diana Vreeland and haute couture (the opening sequence plays out behind the scenes at a runway show where a designer has outfitted his girls entirely in giant shards of sharp-edged aluminum) along the way. It’s nothing less than Voltairean in its exactitude.

12172008_shadow.jpg3. “Shadow”
Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Poland, 1956

A contemporary of Andrzej Wajda who’s little acknowledged in this country, Kawalerowicz helped break the Polish New Wave in the mid-’50s, but even within his underexamined filmography, 1956’s “Shadow” is a mysterious and rarely discussed work, a lurking examination of collaborationism and resistance as it’s expressed in an investigation into the identity of a dead man. Where has this strange, stealthy film been all these years, we may well ask, but you may have to watch it twice before the tendons of the plot reveal themselves to you.

4. “Diva Dolorosa”
Peter Delpeut, Netherlands, 1999

This assemblage constructed of Italian silent-movie footage from the Black Romantic melodramas of the 1910s is literally a litany of mad, love-damned swoons. But Delpeut is crafting a found-object poem here, with a rhapsodic orchestral score and a sure sense of how such weepy, proto-campy mega-sadness can collect in your head as a statement about its own culture, and also as a love song about cinema itself, and therefore about lost time.

5. “Wings”
Larisa Shepitko, U.S.S.R., 1966

The first feature by the martyred demi-goddess of the Soviet New Wave, and a refreshing, heartfelt character portrait of a middle-aged woman (played by beloved character star Maya Bulgakova) caught in a menopausal lostness between her current lonely and unadventurous life as a headmistress, and her previous one as an aviatrix and war heroine. Made when Shepitko was only 28, it’s one of the great movies about women’s lives (that is, not about their place in the lives of men), and a rare exploration of female mid-life crisis.

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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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