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Manohla Dargis is mean.

Manohla Dargis is mean. (photo)

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Or so says Patrick Goldstein at his blog at the LA Times, deeming her a “movie killer” and adding:

It’s an open secret in indie Hollywood that no one wants Manohla Dargis to review their movie, fearing that the outspoken critic will tear their film limb from limb. It’s the ultimate backhanded compliment, since what they really fear is Manohla’s persuasiveness — that she’ll write a review whose combination of vitriolic snarkiness and intellectual heft will actually persuade high-brow moviegoers to drop the film from their must-see list.

Which is all very well, except Goldstein then digs into Dargis’ review of “The Reader,” which he interprets (I’d say wrongly) as “total damnation” of the film, writing that she “manages to trash the film’s source material, Bernhard Schlink’s much-praised novel… as well as the film itself.” That “much-praised” is a cheap dig; the “But Oprah liked it!” argument doesn’t make Dargis’ opinion of it any less valid. And Goldstein goes on:

What causes so much fear and loathing in the filmmaking community about Manohla’s work as a critic isn’t her blunt appraisals but her seeming lack of empathy for the challenge of tackling difficult material. No one blinks an eye when a critic eviscerates a dumb summer comedy — that’s a fair target. It’s the filmmakers who’ve aimed high and been brought to their knees by a Dargis pan who feel as if they’ve been gored for sport.

Beyond my fundamental disagreement with the idea that when a move is Serious it deserves a softer critical touch because it’s somehow trying harder, this also misses by a mile the point of the final paragraph of Dargis’ review, which is that “The Reader” is, under its glaze of Academy bait, just as much a commercial enterprise as, say, that theoretical “dumb summer comedy,” and one that returns to the eternal cinema spring of the Holocaust as proof of its supposed depth and worthiness. God knows, she’s certainly gentler with Stephen Daldry’s film than she was in her excellent dismissal of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” which faced the same complaint.

Dargis is a critic I’ve found comes across sharper in out-of-context phrases than in the opinion expressed in each review as a whole, which may also be why studios are averse — so pullquote unfriendly! But the divvying up of reviews by the NY Times critics has generally seemed fair and mindful of the paper’s place and power — the co-chiefs give attention and word count to films that are interesting in a positive or negative sense, and often seem to pass off pans of uninteresting films, even if they’re larger, to other writers. It’s only once in a while, as when Dargis came down full-force on A J Schnack’s “About a Son” when it received a small release, that it’s felt unbalanced. At any rate, “The Reader,” which is from a two-time Oscar nominated director, is based on a best-selling novel and stars both Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet — it doesn’t need or deserve a handicap.

[Photo: “The Reader,” Weinstein Company, 2008]

+ Manohla Dargis: The critic as movie killer (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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