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Four Women

Four Women (photo)

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With apologies to Nina Simone, I’d like to dedicate this week in film to four women: Yolande, Mariah, Maya and Joan. In her last two lead performances, Brussels-born Yolande Moreau has shown exceptional nuance and grace in roles that could have easily toppled lesser actresses. “When the Sea Rises” (2004), which Moreau also co-wrote and co-directed, begins with a potentially disastrous premise — a performance artist traveling with her bizarre one-woman show “A Dirty Business of Sex and Crime” begins a tentative relationship with a man who makes giant papier-mâché puppets — and becomes one of the sweetest, most original road-romance movies in recent years. In Martin Provost’s “Séraphine,” the fleshy 56-year-old actress plays the title character, a real-life naïve artist who died in an insane asylum in 1942, courageously forgoing the histrionics usually associated with biopics about the “touched.”

Séraphine, the housekeeper of a German collector, Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), who championed her work in the ’20s and ’30s, may answer to the voice of her guardian angel when it commands her to paint and commune with trees, but she also responds quite avidly to the siren call of cash, reveling in the opportunity to splurge once Uhde has sold a few of her works. Moreau plays the painter as no one’s fool, and, in several scenes marked by silence, conveys Séraphine’s mental state as utterly inscrutable. Moreau, who’s had smaller roles in Agnès Varda’s “Vagabond,” Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie” and Catherine Breillat’s “The Last Mistress,” was justly awarded the Best Actress César for “Séraphine” and “When the Sea Rises”; let’s hope that will translate to more recognition — and appreciation — stateside.

06022009_Tennessee.jpgIt’s unlikely that Mariah Carey will be weighed down with trophies for her role in the soggy redemption movie “Tennessee,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, but her solid acting, as a diner waitress in Texas who flees an abusive cop-husband and hits the road with two brothers, is definitely part of the Rehabilitation of Mimi. “The whole ‘Glitter’ experience was very, very hard to go through,” Carey says in “Tennessee”‘s press notes, referring to her critically drubbed, semi-autobiographical 2001 movie; nothing spurs a diva on more than proving people wrong. MC’s Lone Star twang is consistent, and when she disappears from the action, staying behind in Nashville while the brothers board a Knoxville-bound Greyhound, you wish she’d come back, with her cornrows, kerchiefs and acoustic guitar, to save us from the siblings working out their still-simmering family trauma. Perhaps all Carey needed to regain onscreen confidence was the unwavering support of “Tennessee” producer Lee Daniels; judging from the amazing performance the singer gives in the upcoming “Precious,” which Daniels directed, it’s clear he’s her charm bracelet.

06022009_AwayWeGo.jpgMariah Carey may be the only contemporary R&B songstress Maya Rudolph didn’t send up during her brilliant reign, from 2000 to 2007, on “Saturday Night Live.” I wish the actress displayed a bit more of the chameleon-like genius that defined her tenure on the show in “Away We Go,” her first lead role in a film. Rudolph and co-star John Krasinski play Verona and Burt, a couple expecting their first child in search of the perfect town to start their family.

Scripted by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida and directed by Sam Mendes, “Away We Go” incessantly trumpets its lead duo’s superiority, surrounding them with monstrous narcissists and tragically broken survivors. It’d be difficult for any performer to relax in such an overdetermined setup, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so disappointed that Rudolph seems uncharacteristically stiff and, at times, not fully committed to her character. I’m content to patiently wait for the vehicle that fully showcases Rudolph’s formidable talent (already apparent in a very small part in 2000’s “Chuck & Buck”); her appearances on “SNL”‘s “Deep House Dish” can tide me over until then.

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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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