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Cardboard lightning bolts of the gods.

Cardboard lightning bolts of the gods.  (photo)

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As we’ve been told again and again in the run up to “Avatar,” it took James Cameron 15 years to make his movie because he had to wait for the technology to catch up to what he saw inside his head. So it stands to reason that he’s not the only filmmaker who’s been thinking about what was impossible to film even ten years ago and is now rifling through the archives for ways to take advantage of the technology that’s finally here. And maybe that’s why everyone’s decided it’s finally time to get Greek mythology right.

That’s the gist of Geoff Boucher’s LA Times trend piece. The movies in question themselves aren’t much to think about: there’s the stupid upcoming “Clash of the Titans” remake and the even more tepid “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” in which a young boy meets the gods in Manhattan, becomes a hero, etc. (a summary that reminds me of “Hercules in New York”).

After that, Boucher has to stretch for examples — “Battlestar Galactica” “had plenty of references […] and planets named after the Greek zodiac” — but that’s okay, because his key point is solid: mythological fantasies with gods and lightning bolts are coming back because of “their potential in this digital-effects era.” In other words, the opportunity to employ hundreds of diligent f/x laborers to conjure up centaurs and various fantastical happenings.

I can see the pragmatic appeal here for Hollywood execs, but I wonder what’s to be gained even in terms of pure impressive technology. We’re approaching a zero hour for CGI, which can do a lot of amazing things now in creating the illusion of real tactility and sense of weight in its fabricated fantastical creatures. That has the potential downside of making the fantastical mundane.

12142009_clashofthetitanas.jpgWe’re a long ways from the swords-and-sandals cheesefests of the ’50s and ’60s, but I think there are still things to be gained from lo-fi f/x. I don’t just say that out of the usual kneejerk fanboy preference for old-fashioned dated stop-motion so beloved of “Clash of the Titans” fetishists. As (sometime IFC guest critic) Mike D’Angelo pointed out recently writing about the “Large Marge” sequence in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “We’re accustomed by now to seeing apparently real objects undergo a convincing metamorphosis–it’s easily shrugged off, no matter how impressive. Stop-motion’s jerky frame-by-frame process remains oddly unsettling.” True, so when you’re portraying the uncanny, wouldn’t you want to do it in an uncanny way?

I’m not rooting for all stop-motion all the time — the original “Clash of the Titans” isn’t that great either — but something along those lines would be exciting. Debased Kabuki theater? Doing it “Dogville” style, with the set suddenly morphing into CGI terrain at odd moments? Having all the gods played by people and the people played by CGI?

That gap between the familiarity of the source and the oddness of how it ends up being represented on screen would be interesting. Instead, we just get a villainous Steve Coogan running around New York and random lightning bolts. Not nearly as cool.

[Photos: “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” Fox 2000, 2010; “Clash of the Titans,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 2010]

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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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