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DID YOU READ

More Than This

More Than This (photo)

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End times are with us again, it seems, peaking in the American brainpan beyond even the levels enjoyed during the Cold War, and doubtlessly fed by the river of fear-mongering napalm that pours forth from 24-hour news channels, instant cyber-crises and always-alarmed personal media. How could we stand a chance, when plugged into so many cheap sources of input always hungry for eyes and ears and eager for a bank run or apocalyptic prophecy? Maybe in no other year besides 1973 could Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” be made into a major Hollywood production, lean and deadly avalanche-read sonofabitch that it is, speaking into the reader’s ears with the matter-of-fact voice of his or her worst post-nuclear nightmares.

That’s just one hurdle for director John Hillcoat, making the camera speak with McCarthy’s tongue, and Joel and Ethan Coen’s assiduous pauses and chilly distance fared far better than Hillcoat’s plaintive earnestness. But the first thing one must acknowledge about “The Road” is how beautiful and dead serious and respectful it is, and the second thing is how much you find yourself wishing that all of that mattered more in the end.

A long, relentless, serotonin-depleted trek to nowhere, tinted entirely in the color of polluted water, Hillcoat’s movie is a faithful transcription of the book’s physical narrative (minus the infants-on-a-spit), in which a father (Viggo Mortensen, looking more and more as he starves like Roberts Blossom) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trudge across a scorched North America, heading south, looking for food and finding none, and evading the ever-increasing mini-tribes of cannibals that roam in trucks and inhabit farmhouses. There’s no future for the father to tell his son to look forward to. The weather is sunless and cold, always. You can put down McCarthy for a break when you’ve had enough, but after an hour of the film, you cannot be blamed for fondly remembering the jaunty good spirits of “Antichrist.”

Hillcoat did nothing outrageously wrong — except make the film at all, and try to digitize the spectacular doominess we felt between McCarthy’s clipped sentences. There’s a crystal-clear struggle here between the linguistically suggestive and the visual literal, and suggestive wins in a rout.

Still, “The Road” is, in fact, made as carefully as one would hope. The gray vistas of spectacular ruin, the heavy-breathing pessimism, the poetic details (or even unpoetic, like that briefly glimpsed dish of blood with a severed nose poking out of it) — this is not a whitewashed or compromised vision of a painfully possible future, and its resolve is formidable. At various intervals in the discomfiting slog, you will, especially if you’re a parent, get sick in your soul trying not to contemplate how you’d carry yourself through even a single day of McCarthy’s scenario.

11252009_theroad99.jpgBut what we have here otherwise is the unfortunate triumph of message over experience — eventually, the colorless, unending grimness grows dull. Visual ideas, like the lakes filled with dead trees and the evocation of contemporary homeless-person outfitting, are fascinating in their moment, and the bits of McCarthian narration contribute sprouts of lyrical eloquence to the ash. But the dreary uniformity wins out. If only the film were a little pulpier, a little more inventive, had more stuff in it — it’s winnowed down, like McCarthy’s protagonists, to a single dilemma, and the narrative, again like its characters, grows more skeletal and unvarying as it staggers to its end-game.

Charlize Theron’s wife, glimpsed in semi-sunlit flashbacks succumbing to hopelessness and abandoning herself to the wilderness, seems the more reasonable character, which in itself suggests a way this film might survive in our collective memory — the one post-apocalyptic tale in which suicide seems the smart way out. But perhaps not. Admirable as it is, “The Road” pounds its gloom home like a Gregorian chanter pounds the psalm tone, and you quickly grow numb.

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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.

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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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