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New Wave and Old Guard

New Wave and Old Guard (photo)

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“The only thing important is where somebody’s going.” That bit of existential wisdom comes from none other than John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), the soft-spoken, bank-jacking antihero of “Public Enemies,” Michael Mann’s latest epic about unhappy tough guys doing what they do best. It’s offered by way of flirtation, as part of Dillinger’s out-of-nowhere and all-out attempt to impress a gorgeous hat-check girl named Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) — a pitch of woo so intense, and so divorced from what Billie considers realistic feeling, that it both unsettles and amuses her. “I’m catching up, meeting someone like you,” he tells her. “Boy, you’re in a hurry,” she deadpans. “If you were looking at what I’m looking at,” “Public Enemy” Number One informs her, “you’d be in a hurry, too.”

On first viewing, I was inclined to call “Public Enemies” minor Mann, a characterization meant not as a putdown, but a simple summary. As anyone who’s read me before well knows, I’m a student of the poetic-bombastic filmmaker, whose worst films are more visually arresting and artistically committed than almost any recent Oscar winner I can recall. His films often play like Samuel Fuller by way of Michelangelo Antonioni — violent tone poems exploring the angst of machismo and the impossibility of deep and lasting connection by way of dreamy montage, hypnotic music and disorienting, off-center compositions. I’m hugely impressed by Mann’s formal restlessness, his thematic consistency and his willingness to change up his game over time (moving from the Stanley Kubrick-level anal retentiveness of his work prior to 1999’s “The Insider” to a more visually and dramatically loose aesthetic, much of it stemming from his recent conversion to high-definition video and mostly handheld camerawork).

That said, “Public Enemies” initially struck me as a signpost/stopgap feature along the lines of “Collateral,” a Michael Mann 101 movie that compressed some of his signature tropes into easily graspable baubles, a work less interesting for its situations and set pieces than for the way in which it seemed to find its director taking stock of recent preoccupations and stylistic tics before moving on. (Conscious callbacks to prior Mann movies abound, such as the mirroring of obsessed cops and robbers, and gestures such as Dillinger somewhat gingerly laying his gun on a tabletop when he enters a hotel-room-as-domestic-sanctuary, and telling bank customers he’s after the bank’s money, not theirs — all echoes of key moments in “Heat” and its TV movie inspiration, “L.A. Takedown.”) The structure of Mann, Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman’s script is episodic, patchy even. Judged against the norms of modern screenwriting convention, the film doesn’t cover much ground; it’s episodic in a manner faintly reminiscent of mid-period Oliver Stone (think “Born on the Fourth of July” or “The Doors,” films that traded narrative-advancing montage for a spare assortment of protracted, often borderline real-time scenes).

07012009_PublicEnemies1.jpgAnd yet, in the two-plus weeks since I first saw “Public Enemies,” it has lingered in my mind more vividly than almost any Hollywood film of the past couple of years — and I’m convinced that its ostentatiously un-blockbustery tendencies are the source of the movie’s vividness. While offering many of the core elements that the marketplace demands (including a badass antihero, a crime-and-violence storyline and a love story), “Public Enemies” gives those same elements short shrift, the better to concentrate on intense but largely unarticulated feelings and psychological states.

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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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