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DID YOU READ

Hal Holbrook’s Sunny Disposition

Hal Holbrook’s Sunny Disposition (photo)

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At 84 years young, actor Hal Holbrook has had drama coursing through his veins for over a half-century, going back to when Ed Sullivan had him on TV to perform a piece from his beloved one-man play, “Mark Twain Tonight.” But Holbrook remains prolific in his twilight years, especially after receiving a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for “Into the Wild.” He can most recently be seen headlining director Scott Teems’ gorgeously atmospheric “That Evening Sun,” in which he steals the show as an irritable Tennessee coot named Abner Meecham. After escaping a nursing home to find his land has been rented out by his lawyer son (Walton Goggins) to bad apple Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon) and his family, Abner decides to squat on the property anyway, and the southern-fried tensions soon rise. With an avuncular delivery reminiscent of his Twain characterization, Holbrook phoned from California to talk about the family member who inspired the character of Abner, why he rejects the idea of retirement, and how prescient ol’ Samuel Clemens was about today’s economic mess.

You’ve worked with so many acclaimed filmmakers, and Scott Teems is still a relatively unknown name. Why did you take a chance on a newcomer?

I just did the same thing a month or two ago with another film. The film business changes a lot, and for an actor who’s interested in character work, I suppose you might say, I don’t get offered these films where you have to jump out of an airplane with a machine gun, land on both feet and take out half the crowd. When a good script and character comes along, usually there’s not much money in it either, but it’s much more interesting for an actor. Most of us take a shot at that opportunity. It was a bit worrisome working with a new director, but it turned out to be a great idea. You do it because of the material.

Has that ever backfired, like when you pursued a great screenplay, but the director didn’t have the same understanding of it as you?

That’s something you have to arrive at. Sometimes with a director, it just seems like a perfect match, like with Sean Penn and “Into the Wild.” Sean said very little to me. We just seemed to be on the same wavelength. No matter what you’re doing as an actor, there’s always a little strain of tension because you’re not too sure whether what you’re doing is okay. You hope it is. Scott had a very specific idea about how these characters should relate and behave. The character in this movie had to be dried out. That’s the best way I can say it.

There’s always an instinct in an actor to protect his character, to try to somehow get the audience to feel sympathetic. That’s a fly in the ointment sometimes. I learned something very valuable by just doing another take, and another take, drying the character out and not asking for any sympathy. The thing that surprises me, frankly, is that this film has taken a hold of audiences the way it has because I thought it would be too dark and gloomy. When we went to Austin for [South by Southwest] where it premiered, the audience got the humor of the sarcastic insults my character and Lonzo Choat were throwing at each other, and I thought, “My god, that’s wonderful. They’re laughing!”

11052009_ThatEveningSun4.jpgYour wife, Dixie Carter, who also has a small role in the film, is from Tennessee. What have you gleaned from your time in the South?

I’ve learned a great deal from my association with my Tennessee family. People down South have an extraordinary family component. They are very encompassing and defensive about the family. Coming from the no-family structure that I came from, this was a whole new world to me. My father-in-law passed away about three years ago. He lived with us for 20 years or more, and when he was in really bad shape, he said to Dixie one day, “Darling, I’m getting dyin’ signals. I want to go back to Tennessee.” So we moved there, it turns out to be for two years. My father-in-law was in my mind a lot when I played this character because he was a no-nonsense man, and when he said something, you could believe it. He didn’t pussyfoot around. You would never get a word of advice from him. He would never say, “I think you should do this in this way.” But if you asked him for his opinion, you got it. Bang!

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Final Countdown

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 IFC.com

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Rev Up

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.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

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…