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Requiem for Another Dreamer

Requiem for Another Dreamer (photo)

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What can be said, post-Oscar-fuggup, about this sick-hearted anti-American Dream that hasn’t already been said, and kudoed: Darren Aronofsky’s channeling of the Dardennes’ immediacy, Mickey Rourke’s Herculean self-deprecation, both of which currents combining to prove the script’s essential conventionality to be irrelevant, just at a moment in American film in which we had all good reason to think the Industry was completely bankrupt of balls, curiosity, respect and a sense of America itself. (Let’s consider in this broad formulation that 2007 was a modern aberration, unleashing a wave of nation-autopsying megaworks — “There Will Be Blood,” “The Assassination of Jesse James,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Zodiac,” etc. — the likes of which have not been seen since at least 1991; as in, “My Own Private Idaho,” “The Rapture,” “Slacker,” “Tribulation 99,” “Naked Lunch,” et al.)

However you cube it, “The Wrestler” is a gift, for the most part because Rourke was not transforming himself into a preconceived character so much as simply living it, putting his own catastrophes on the table, sacrificing his own body for the sake of the character’s sadness, taking on the story’s essentially Sisyphean nature as if it were his own Calvary. It’s an achievement — far more substantial than Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk impersonation — that resembles the tribulational experience at the heart of a Wiseman or Maysles documentary, more “Grey Gardens” than Method, more self-conscious reality then calculated artifice. Once Rourke was a peerless realist craftsman, but here he’s a found object, incontestable and painful. The mortal fear in his eyes, not in mid-staple-gun-&-barbed-wire assault but even earlier, in the first bouts we see, speaks unprecedented volumes about the cold and merciless heart of American popular culture.

Which is what “The Wrestler” comes down to in terms of text — a lacerating bad-breath vision of exactly how our culture creates and then devours idols, leaving the humiliated, fame-haunted detritus of our media distractions shambling across the landscape in broken old age like stray dogs hunting for roadside scraps. American entertainment culture eats its young, and anyone entering into it for the sake of stage love or glory will most likely end up an embarrassing wreck, trying to get gin mill band gigs or doing dinner theater in Dayton or hawking adult diapers on late-night TV or, as with Rourke’s Randy the Ram, playacting a comic-book brawl in a South Jersey VFW hall, at an age when he absolutely shouldn’t.

04212009_thewrestler3.jpgIt’s scary to consider how much of the audience for “The Wrestler” — nearly $30 million in box office receipts in this country, for a film that cost $7 million — have seen it because of their affection for the milieu, and it’s even scarier to contemplate how many viewers misunderstood the film’s implicit critique of the brutal idiocy of professional wrestling and its lower echelons, and, by extension, the bloodsport instinct oozing from so much of American life. Randy is a pathetic victim, and the film is a majestic tragedy.

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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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