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Roadtrip/no roadtrip.

Roadtrip/no roadtrip. (photo)

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Nothing says 1969 like “Easy Rider,” the bad-trip Altamont to the ebullient celebration of the next year’s “Woodstock.” While the hippies were partying down, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson were discovering there was no place for them in America, either old or new. On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, Keith Phipps retraced the road trip taken by the gang.

The week-long series is halfway done on Slate, and it’s a good read, tracing what’s the same and what’s different. The biggest difference, though, is the gap between the “Easy Rider” trio and Phipps, whose mode of travel is a “rented PT Cruiser — a far cry from Wyatt and Billy’s choppers” and who knows he’s going home after he reaches New Orleans.

I dig the articles, but I kind of hate “Easy Rider.” As Mike D’Angelo once put it, that “ain’t my favorite film, man, and that’s like an understatement, man, okay, man?” But then, there’s always something inherently smug to me about Baby Boomers cultural artifacts, whether recent or of the moment. “Easy Rider” is despairing, yes, but in a way that congratulates the audience for sharing that despair.

A more enlightening eulogy for the death of ’60s idealism is Robert Kramer’s less celebrated 1975 brick of a movie, “Milestones.” At three hours and change, it’s not for the faint of heart; it can be grating, yes, but in a way that criticizes rather than embraces the reasons it’s grating.

11182009_milestones.jpgAs the title immodestly suggests, this seemingly mundane procession of ’60s acid casualties living their ’70s lives is meant to suggest the transition of an entire generation. As Melissa Anderson puts it, it tracks “the painful process through which collective action gave way to the Me Decade’s enraged narcissism,” spelling out the rancid final destination “Easy Rider” can only glimpse through the combined fug of pot smoke and motorcycle exhaust fumes. The territory overlaps a bit — commune time in “Easy Rider” is even longer in “Milestones,” self-righteous nudists and all — but their overall approaches to the same psychic terrain couldn’t be more different.

What “Easy Rider” does is take the camera along with the characters, getting all subjective: the mobility is both the film’s and its characters. “Milestones” reserves mobility only for the camera: its huge cast is spread out all over, mired in the traps they’ve set for themselves and unable to move.

Which is what makes it more authentic and rewarding than “Easy Rider,” whose locations are iconic enough for Phipps to revisit and compare/contrast the past and present of. “Milestones” is the “real America”: not the mythical nowhere and everywhere Dennis Hopper found, but anonymity, gloom and doom in run-down cities and the countryside you couldn’t figure out where in the world they were if your life depended on it.

If “Easy Rider” says going everywhere ultimately takes you nowhere — except in the iconic imagery it’s not too proud to hypocritically take — “Milestones” says nowhere is pretty much everywhere: a good lesson for the pervasive grunginess of the ’70s. It’s not on DVD, regrettably, but a new print was struck this year that’s making its way around the country sporadically. If it comes near you, it’s worth a look. Here’s a clip:

[Photo: “Easy Rider,” Sony, 1969; “Milestones,” Robert Kramer and John Douglas, 1975]

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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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