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Unlikely Activist Success Stories, Pt. 1: “The Cove”

Unlikely Activist Success Stories, Pt. 1: “The Cove” (photo)

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Most people generally are bothered by watching animals getting inefficiently slaughtered and writhing in agony; it’s kind of a given, regardless of context. With dolphins being killed as its climax, Louie Psihoyos’ “The Cove” is a slam dunk that way: it’s unambiguous propaganda with a very specific goal, using cheap but effective narrative devices (and massive entertainment value) to win you over. The titular cove is in Taiji, Japan, where dolphins are speared bloodily, then their meat sold all over Japan with toxic levels of mercury inside; Psihoyos would understandably like to stop this, so he secretly filmed it.

The film itself is supposed to only act as a way of getting audiences riled up enough to join activist groups and for the star of the film, former “Flipper” trainer Ric O’Barry, to attract media scrutiny on Taiji; whether or not the movie lives on for years seems kind of irrelevant. And the propaganda worked yesterday, when O’Barry showed up in Taiji for the start of dolphin-killing season and no hunters were there. Which means that the movie — which has financially underperformed domestically — is “working” in the most important sense.

The thing is, I’m a cold-blooded guy; if you tell me in advance you’re going to show me footage of dolphins being slaughtered until, finally, I’m watching dolphins being slaughtered, it probably won’t change my mind about anything. “The Cove” does two things well. As widely noted (and as referenced in the movie itself), it’s supposed to be an aquatic “Ocean’s Eleven,” a slickly packaged caper operation movie — which it is. But it also does a good job of showing how — even if the footage doesn’t change your mind about anything — it could work that way for others. It’s a movie that allows you to be sympathetic yet detached; it doesn’t demand that you freak out at the end.

But the most important thing “The Cove” does is mediate between an activist and potentially activist but noncommittal audience. What Psihoyos does is retain O’Barry’s passion and knowledge while mitigating the shrillness and overstatement that almost invariably attends any activist’s persona. Those aren’t bad things — they give you focus and drive — but they make it hard to convert the unconverted. O’Barry’s news is great (although, you know, it’s premature to assume that the dolphin killers maybe weren’t just smart enough to skip that day and/or relocate), but the way he delivers it is kind of ridiculous. My favorite part of his statement: “Yes, today was a good day for dolphins. […] Tomorrow, too, I predict will be a good day for dolphins.” That’s ridiculous and exactly the kind of thing that would kill my interest. And that’s exactly the kind of thing the movie was smart enough not to have people say. So good luck to O’Barry, and hopefully the media will keep getting his back, but this is about as far as I go.

[Photo: Ric O’Barry in “The Cove,” Lionsgate, 2009]


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


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.


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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…