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Doom, gloom and Michael Haneke.

Doom, gloom and Michael Haneke. (photo)

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As Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning laugh riot “The White Ribbon” opens in the UK and Sony Classics ramps up for the December 30th US release of the film, Hari Kunzru comes forth to praise the director and Stuart Klawans to (covertly) bury him.

What’s funny is they both end up pointing out the same thing.

Kunzru — the awesome British novelist whose “Transmission” is one of my favorite novels of the decade — offers up his thoughts on the political context of Haneke’s films, and on the groundswell of disgust at the way Austria tried to disassociate itself from its Nazi past. But he gets into shaky territory when he gets to Haneke’s more recent work, generalizing about “the link between the personal and the political, the influence of the media, video surveillance, social control and the possibility of authentic human community.” His inadvertent conclusion is that Haneke’s indictments aren’t nearly as universal as he’d like — outside Austria, he’s just another media-decrying doomsday pessimist.

Klawans goes about his work in an entirely different way. Haneke’s refused to point-blank say that “The White Ribbon” — which is set in Germany just before WWI — is about how Nazism came about, though the narrator does say the tale might “clarify some things that happened later in our country.” So Klawans talks to a number of historians who, unsurprisingly, are unimpressed with the film’s suggestion that sexual repression laid the stage for mass genocide.

“There are people all over the globe who are sexually repressed,” Jeffrey Herf snipes. “Why is it that this particular repression took the form of National Socialism?” And when Haneke protests his film isn’t specifically about Nazism but about anything awful you want it to be about — Islamic terrorism, etc — the professors are equally unimpressed by his lack of specificity.

The further Haneke gets drawn into the “big picture” (i.e., people are awful) and further away from his specifically Austrian-critiquing roots, what he sees as “ambiguity” and being thoughtful starts to seem kind of silly. Or as Klawans puts it, “The White Ribbon” just doesn’t justify its cavalcade of over-the-top misery.

[Photo: “The White Ribbon,” Sony Pictures Classics, 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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