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Buying in and selling out.

Buying in and selling out. (photo)

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The Toronto International Film Festival ends tomorrow, but most journalists have already skipped ahead to extrapolating trends. There’s much loose talk about potential Oscar front-runners — “Up In The Air” apparently has a lock — and much free-floating despair about the tough climate for making, purchasing and marketing indie films. But at least one person thinks the recession’s been good for movies, by getting those arty directors to tone it down.

Peter Howell of the Toronto Star wraps up the festival sounding exhilarated and gratified for all the wrong reasons. He salutes Steven Soderbergh, Atom Egoyan, Werner Herzog, Todd Solondz et al. for showing “they’re willing to compromise if it keeps them behind the camera in tough economic times… Did they sell out? No, they bought in, if you accept the notion that it’s okay to appeal to more than just film critics and fellow directors, especially if you can do so while retaining your signature style… They realize there’s little to be gained in current times by making hermetic cinematic statements that few people get, and which distributors and exhibitors don’t want to carry.”

Let’s discuss. Howell seems to be willfully misinterpreting the motives of most of the directors he’s discussing. If Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” is indeed a commercial comedy, it’s also by all accounts a very strange one, slapping ’70s TV stars and an anachronistic Marvin Hamlisch score on top of a ’90s story. Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant” is reportedly as insane as anything he’s ever done; I suppose that working with Nicolas Cage in English could count as a “compromise,” just barely. Solondz gave “Life During Wartime” “his strongest narrative in years,” but that doesn’t really seem like “moving to the middle.”

In Egoyan’s case, Howell has a point: the director worked with Ivan Reitman (of “Ghostbusters”) to massage his sensibility into a mainstreamish erotic thriller. But one director who’s had a tough streak over the last decade and accordingly is doing something about it doesn’t make a trend.

Howell’s also, annoying, suggesting that the type of films festivals value are incompatible with “fun,” which is unfair. Fun is, of course, relative, but in the case of a guy like Soderbergh — who’s made some of the most insanely stylized and instantly recognizable blockbusters of the decade — it’s ridiculous to claim that personal expression and entertaining a broad audience are mutually incompatible.

This is reverse snobbism, a patronizing pat on the head for filmmakers who grow up and stop being so arty, like a business school kid getting angry about the art school layabouts across the street and then praising them for making ads. You can be personal and make commercial movies. You can even alternate commercial and uncommercial films, and they’ll be equally personal. A recession doesn’t make movies better if they pander.

[Photo: “The Informant!”, Warner Bros. Pictures, 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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