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Ingmar Bergman’s favorite Muppet.

Ingmar Bergman’s favorite Muppet. (photo)

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W. Magazine‘s article on the auctioning off of the late Ingmar Bergman’s home and belongings confirmed what I’d long suspected: Animal was, in fact, his favorite Muppet.

Bergman was also known to relish the odd blockbuster during his two daily film viewings at a screening room ten minutes’ drive from his house. Watching “Jurassic Park,” he exclaimed enthusiastically: “Those Americans know how to put on the pants!”

That our masters of rigor often have a taste for the frivolous should no longer be a surprise. Very few haven’t admitted, on the record, to some kind of cultural fondness that’s, you know, unworthy of their work or whatever.

In the ’60s, Robert Bresson expressed great enthusiasm for “Goldfinger”; Stanley Kubrick was obsessed with beer commercials and had James Cameron come over and explain the effects in “True Lies” to him. Just as it’s an axiom that musicians listen to way more stuff than makes it into their work (unless you’re David Byrne or — god help us — Ry Cooder), directors can and should take in a lot of different material.

It’s that adventurous attitude that seems to be missing from the guardians of the highbrow vanguard, who’d like to impose an either/or choice: embrace the underground, avoid the multiplex, pare down your options. The best-known exponent of this view is Cassavetes champion Ray Carney, whose one-man war against everything he doesn’t approve of has been going on for years. In a representative ’90s speech, Carney provided a typically austere suggested viewing list, “any one of which is more important than Spike Lee’s, Oliver Stone’s, Steven Spielberg’s, Joel and Ethan Coen’s, and Quentin Tarantino’s complete work.” Preach it!

11302009_manhunter.jpgExcept no: when your idea of what’s worthy is more hermetic than that of the people producing it, you’re missing something. For example, Carney deems Tom Noonan “the greatest living American director,” part of the continuity of resistance. But Noonan’s also a working actor who thinks Michael Mann is “one of the best directors ever.”

And that’s the problem with lists like the aforementioned TIFF list: they’re more restrictive than the filmmakers they’re touting. A balanced viewing diet isn’t just for the filmmaker sorting through new ideas; these days, sifting through the major releases for traces of life is as adventurous as anything you could be doing.

It takes work to dig up an alternate canon of the rigorous (and yes, frequently awesome), but these days, it seems it’s even harder for critics in the mainstream of arthouse viewing to dig up anything else. In memory of Bergman, then, let’s try harder. A re-evaluation of “Spider-Man 3,” anyone?

[Photo: “The Muppet Show,” Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 1976-80; Tom Noonan in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter,” De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 1986]

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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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