This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Sam Mendes, American dreamer.

Sam Mendes, American dreamer. (photo)

Posted by on

“Away We Go” is hitting the UK, and the London Times‘ Kate Muir points out the weirdness of director Sam Mendes — a native of Reading — setting himself up to be the premiere chronicler of the “American Dream.”

Muir cites the scolding given the film by New York Times critic A.O. Scott, who castigates Mendes as “a literary tourist from Britain who has missed the point every time he has crossed the ocean”: “The vague, secondhand ideas about the blight of the suburbs that sloshed around ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Revolutionary Road’ are now complemented by an equally incoherent set of notions about the open road, the pioneer spirit, the idealism of youth.”

Not everyone would agree; no less an American sage than Bill Clinton loved “American Beauty” (“an amazing film”). But it’s true that notions of America as an endless open road stretching out to a Woody Guthrie soundtrack (or alternately, as a disheartening series of strip malls and chain stores, apparently the only antidote) are perpetual and annoying. The road trip, the endless possibilities — none of them make much sense to the way anyone I know lives. The truth, as always, is neither that romantic not that dystopian.

One thing that “Away We Go” relishes that can’t be done in England is, as Muir writes, “selecting a city to match your character: becoming an ironic New Yorker, a New Age San Franciscan, a lesbian in Provincetown, a lush in New Orleans.” It’s not an idea that’s very Hollywood, either — big-budget studio films tend to show a shocking lack of regional specificity, with Toronto standing as a generic metropolis, New Zealand turning out to be a perfectly acceptable place to shoot the suburbs, and New York/LA representing most of America, apparently.

The places we’re really dedicated to shooting in are the burn-outs and leftovers. The city that’s gotten the most play in recent years, oddly enough, is post-Katrina New Orleans, thanks to a series of tax breaks put in place. Movies like “Deja Vu” and “12 Rounds” have grounded themselves in an admittedly iconic city. “Gran Torino” eulogized Detroit; “The Wire” anatomized Baltimore’s decay. Hollywood’s lack of regional care is due to financial considerations rather than deliberate indifference, but it’s still weird: why do we only film our blights and our generic stand-ins? As someone who left Austin five years ago and pretty much miss it every day, even a lousy movie like “Spy Kids” gives me a little thrill when I recognize familiar streets. Every American region deserves that thrill, really.

[Photo: “Away We Go,” Focus Features, 2009]

Watch More

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

Posted by on

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

Watch More

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

Posted by on

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.

Watch More

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

Watch More