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The kind of film about race the Oscars prefer.

The kind of film about race the Oscars prefer. (photo)

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If Clint Eastwood hadn’t directed “Invictus,” it’s safe to say no one would care overmuch about it. At age 79, Eastwood’s pulled himself out of a decade-long slump of indifferent work starting with 2003’s (in my opinion overwrought and terrible) “Mystic River.” He’s brought himself to the forefront again with a string of surprise commercial and critical hits, culminating in “Gran Torino,” one of the rarest (and therefore bravest) attempts at acknowledging lingering racial animosity in the US.

There was a time when you could make a studio movie without having to pretend there aren’t still race-based divides, stereotypes and hardcore hatreds across the country. But that stopped sometime in the ’80s, seemingly right after Eddie Murphy walked into a bar and had to kick some redneck ass to get his White Russian.

“Gran Torino” plays like a “Bad Santa”-esque comedy — unbelievable levels of unceasing profanity, the ante raised with racial epithets — but it is a seriously refreshing attempt to acknowledge what’s actually going on in putatively “post-racial” America.

This, alas, does not win Oscars, and Oscars seem to be what Eastwood wants, again. Hence “Invictus,” a virtual lock for all kinds of awards-season glory. It’s much safer and easier to talk about racial reconciliation and healing if it takes place a while back and in a country recovering from an official legislative racist policy that lasted longer than the America’s. The competition is light in the straight-up inspirational biopic category — “Amelia” already crashed and burned — and certainly the man’s welcome to it.

12092009_invictus.jpgBy all accounts, there are all kinds of problems “Invictus” doesn’t get into, from the fact that rugby’s lily-white nature in South Africa hasn’t changed since 1995 to its evasiveness about the ANC party that helped free Mandela and Winnie Mandela — the inability, in other words, to conceive of a moment not as a turning point, but as a series of conflicting images flattened over time into a generic inspirational tale.

The reason the film’s story can be resurrected as an obscure tale that’s actually a milestone is because it, uh, wasn’t a milestone. There’s always a catch.

Because Eastwood-as-director is prized for his “economical” direction and understatement, it’ll be tempting to view “Invictus” as the genre-hopping auteur’s stab at the sports movie, sandwiched between his comedy-of-racial-errors and his upcoming supernatural thriller “The Hereafter” — just another type of film attempted and conquered. Regardless, it is an awfully odd way to follow up “Gran Torino” — acknowledging the difficulties of race in one country by flattening those of another.

In other news, Clint Eastwood has heard Lady Gaga, and he does not entirely disapprove. But he doesn’t care for “Twilight: New Moon”:

[Photos: “Invictus,” Warner Bros., 2009]

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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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