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Transcendence and world peace through explosions.

Transcendence and world peace through explosions. (photo)

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Perhaps you’ve heard — the “Avatar” trailer has arrived. And I’d call it a canny, good-looking piece of work; if you’re going to market a 3-D IMAX event movie with a 2-D trailer, this is the way to do it.

By this point, you’re either a) awaiting “Avatar” with every fiber of your existence b) sick and tired of hearing about the damn thing c) don’t know what this is all about. And despite the fanboy hype, I suspect c) is more common than Fox would like (they’ve sold the geeks; now they just need to sell the rest of the world). And the internet is filled with people who’d love for James “King of the world” Cameron to fall flat on this face. At Ain’t It Cool, things degenerated quickly from unity in cursing Apple’s inability to get the trailer up on time to a war of “THIS IS AWESOME” vs. “THIS LOOKS LIKE A PS3 GAME.” (Or, more colorfully, “no way you’re raping my eyeballs with that limp, flacid [sic], little, miniature cock of a teaser.”)

Cameron is the Terrence Malick of action movies, by which I mean he really does believe he can create transcendence, most often through blowing shit up. While Cameron’s been on hiatus, Michael Bay’s become the dominant name in action filmmaking. Bay — to his credit? — has zero illusions about his ambitions or place in the world; he likes to make money, and he happens to enjoy fast cars and cleavage. Cameron, on the other hand, can be accused of hubris, but never of purely mercenary inclinations or insincerity. With the exception of 1986’s “Aliens,” all of his work from 1984-1994 functioned, on some level, as a plea against nuclear proliferation. The Terminator films are nothing if not concerned about nuclear holocaust, but they’re tame next to 1989’s “The Abyss,” a movie which — at least in its director’s cut — builds for two-and-a-half grueling hours to a climax where underwater aliens tell us to quit stockpiling weapons.

For all their technical sophistication, Cameron’s movies have the odd naïveté of someone truly convinced he or she can change the world through entertainment. But the Cold War’s over. There’s been speculation that “Avatar” will be a coded allegory about Iraq (please God no), but the notable thing about the trailer is how CGI-bound it is. All of Cameron’s films have been technology boundary-pushers, but — with the exception of “The Terminator”‘s climactic stop-motion animation — they’ve all aged flawlessly, with effects grounded in well-done reality.

“Avatar” takes Cameron out of the Cold War and into fantasy land; when you randomly freeze-frame the HD trailer, everything looks pretty awesome, but there’s no doubt you’re looking at nicely textured CGI creatures. The question really is if Cameron’s action directing skills have atrophied or if he’ll be able to immerse audiences as always (and, judging by the sentimental tenor, how far into the movie and for how long the inevitable love plot will turn everything into sap, as Cameron likes to do).

When Cameron talks about a new kind of movie, he’s basically asking audiences to embrace a new kind of artifice: fewer fireballs, more dragons. It’s reminiscent of Robert Zemeckis’ money-losing experiments in motion capture (like “Beowulf”), only with even more at stake. And just as audiences have been resistant to Zemeckis’ (intriguing, really!) work, they may turn Cameron down. Embrace your inner D&D nerd, America! James Cameron says it should be so.

[Photo: “Avatar,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2009]

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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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