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Cannes 2009: “Taking Woodstock.”

Cannes 2009: “Taking Woodstock.” (photo)

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Some many questions for such a straightforward comedy! Why would the apparently grown-up Elliot spend himself broke supporting his parents’ run-down Catskills resort in the first place? Why is his mother so crazy? What’s up with the money hoarding? Where did the mafia end up? Did the town actually manage to do anything to fight the concert’s arrival? “Taking Woodstock,” which was directed by Ang Lee from a screenplay written by James Schamus, is based on the autobiography of Elliot Tiber, which explains some of this messiness — real life rarely includes conveniently tied-up narrative ends. But when part of such a middling, conventional overall package, those hanging plot threads just look more like mistakes. Elliot, played ably but unexceptionally in the film by comedian Demetri Martin, was instrumental in bringing Woodstock to the town of Bethel, NY when it was kicked out of Wallkill. He happened to hold a festival permit for his annual attempt at an arts fair, and the struggling hotel owned by his parents needed the business the concert would bring.

“Taking Woodstock” is halfway a melancholy and incomplete-feeling family drama — Imelda Staunton plays Elliot’s miserablist harpy of a mother and Henry Goodman his depressive father. Elliot martyrs himself, giving up what one would think was a happier life as an interior decorator in New York to move home and help his folks, though he doesn’t seem to like them very much. He’s not a hippie, but they need the money, and so he approaches Woodstock Ventures to offer up his family’s property, and, when that seems insufficient, leads them to a local dairy farmer named Max Yasgur (played by Eugene Levy). The rest is history, or more accurately, legend — “Taking Woodstock”‘s glasses are beyond rose-colored. Everything attached to the festival is magical: festival co-creator Michael Lang is magically zen, a random hippie couple provides a magical acid trip, Liev Schreiber arrives as a magical transvestite who feeds Elliot’s parents brownies that have their own magical qualities. And Elliot learns to love his own damn magical self, in the end striking out on his own. The latter fraction of the film, for all its endless era cliches, or because it hits so many of them, is thoughtlessly pleasing to watch. Woodstock — the idea of it that now lives in our common memory as assembled from footage and films and songs and accounts — exudes its own gravitational force, and it’s undemanding to imagine that in temporarily bringing together half a million people for all that peace and music, it helped one gay Jewish 30-something man rediscover joy and life. Yup, totally undemanding.

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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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