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Knowing It All

Knowing It All (photo)

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Woody Allen has returned to New York, but does New York want him back? For the excruciating “Whatever Works,” his first Gotham-set movie since 2004’s “Melinda and Melinda,” Allen dusted off a script written around the time of “Annie Hall,” intended as a vehicle for Zero Mostel, who died a few months after that film was released in 1977. The replacement mouthpiece for Allen’s borscht-y misanthropy is Larry David, who, playing Boris Yellnikoff, frequently breaks the fourth wall, to hector, lecture and obsess. “This is not a feel-good movie,” Boris, addressing the camera, pontificates at the outset. Rather, it is a numbing movie, filled with creaky, wheezy shtick about sex, politics, religion and the city that even the Catskill comics in “Broadway Danny Rose” would have a hard time cracking a smile at.

Boris, who once tried to kill himself during an argument with his psychotherapist wife by throwing himself out of their Beekman Place apartment, now limps along in Lower East Side digs, having given up his spouse and a career as a professor of quantum mechanics at Columbia to verbally abuse kids while teaching them chess. A leggy Mississippi runaway, Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), begs the curmudgeon to spend a night on his couch; cheerily enduring Boris’ insults and screeds on Fred Astaire films (catnip to all women in Allen’s version of Mars-Venus relations), she soon becomes his bride.

Boris, like David’s character on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is exaggerated for affect; both are unbearable narcissists always convinced of their own superiority. But whereas David’s HBO persona frequently gets his comeuppance, whether from one of Susie Essman’s epic cuss-filled blue streaks or Wanda Sykes’ withering glares, the voluble Boris remains unchecked, his cynical, tiresome rants to both the characters and the audience presented as the truth, or at least Allen’s lazy version of it. “I’m the only one who sees the whole picture. That’s what they mean by genius,” Boris says to the audience in the final scene, amidst happily paired-off couples who have no intention of correcting him.

06172009_$999.jpgA quieter expounding on the big picture is heard in Tatia Rosenthal’s feature debut, the stop-motion animation “$9.99”. Rosenthal, co-writing with Etgar Keret, on whose short stories the film is based (a novella of Keret’s was the basis for 2006’s inventive “Wristcutters: A Love Story”; he also co-directed 2007’s “Jellyfish”), concocts a Sydney-set, adult-themed “Davey and Goliath.” Dave Peck (voiced by Samuel Johnson), an unemployed 28-year-old gourmand living at home with his beleaguered dad (Anthony LaPaglia), spends the titular amount for a mail-order-only book on the meaning of life. The earnest premise extends to Dave’s neighbors in his apartment complex: a hospitable retiree visited by a potty-mouthed guardian angel, a squabbling young couple, a magician in the red, a little boy deeply attached to his piggy bank, and a supermodel, for whom Dave’s besotted brother, Lenny, makes bizarre sacrifices.

Like most films about the criss-crossing pursuit of happiness, “$9.99” plays as a pseudo-profound palliative, engaging in naïve bafflement about everyday struggles and heartaches. Though Rosenthal’s animated characters are pleasingly influenced by Lucian Freud’s portraiture — a grim, sometimes macabre look that can cut through the more cloying aspects of the film — the tepid humanism of the project offers only the revelation that, yes, everybody hurts.

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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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