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How to diss the dead.

How to diss the dead. (photo)

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Robert Altman’s been dead for nearly three years, and apparently the time for politeness is over. (Hey, it’s longer than Heath Ledger got).

Mitchel Zuckoff’s “Robert Altman: An Oral Biography” hit shelves last Tuesday, a book built out of Altman’s final interviews and the voices of his collaborators that doesn’t skirt the fact that, however acclaimed he was as a filmmaker, Altman could be a real dick. Janet Maslin notes actor Michael Murphy’s anecdote about how “Bob would make the best bloody mary I’ve ever tasted. Then he would stand up and make a speech, pretty much the same speech every night… ‘No one in this room knows what this movie is about except me.'”

Reviews have been generally respectful, with exception of a blind haymaker from veteran film writer Richard Schickel at the LA Times, who spends, oh, about a paragraph of his 939-word review actually talking about the book before rambling off about how terrible Altman’s movies are, and what a jerk he was to so little end. Schickel likes “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” “Nashville,” “California Split” and that’s it. The rest of Altman’s movies are “solipsistic,” like being “trapped in someone else’s not-very-interesting drug haze.”

The article’s prompted some LA Times infighting, with filmmaker Alan Rudolph (“Afterglow,” “The Secret Lives of Dentists”) writing in to defend his mentor from the wrath of Schickel. “He negates Altman because of his life style. Would he dismiss Huston’s drinking or Hitchcock’s sexual repression as influences on their film gifts?” Furthermore: “Directors, writers and actors don’t have to replicate Altman for him to have impacted their sensibilities. […] Bob’s insistence on doing things his own way was essential. It’s the major struggle. And Altman won.”

For all his influence, no one’s ever successfully imitated Altman stylistically, or even tried. In a way, Rudolph’s admirably intentioned defense does Altman a disservice: it suggests that his major legacy isn’t in the work, but in paving the way for other mavericks who wanted to flip the bird to studios while taking their money. The lesson to take: when a guy like Schickel takes a book assignment for the clear purpose of being a cranky reactionary, it’s really better to just let it be.

[Photo: Altman and Lindsay Lohan on the set of “A Prairie Home Companion,” used without permission]

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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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