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Whatever happened to Lasse Hallström?

Whatever happened to Lasse Hallström? (photo)

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No one bats an eye when actors fall from toplining movies into the direct-to-video slough; with theatrical release down 14% from last year, it’s becoming increasingly common. (Not even a Bruce Willis cameo can save you.) But what does it mean when an Oscar-nominated director ends a decade of decreasing returns by making a dog movie that goes straight to DVD.

In the ’70s, Lasse Hallström shot out of the Swedish film industry by being lucky enough to direct all but seven of ABBA’s music videos. At the same time, he was making a name for himself with movies like 1975’s “A Girl and a Guy,” about a hypochondriac named Lasse who’s a master with the ladies until he falls for one Lena. (Freakily, the real Hallström met Lena Olin in 1992 and married her in 1994.)

But it was 1985’s “My Life As A Dog” which made his name — a movie now enshrined by Criterion, complete with reflections from none other than Kurt Vonnegut — and eventually brought him to Hollywood. For a while, all was well: “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was Sundance-prescient quirk, “The Cider House Rules” melodramatic schmaltz so understatedly done even I liked it.

From there, though, it was downhill fast. There was the duo of “The Shipping News” and “An Unfinished Life,” the cinematic equivalents of Quality Novels set in New England amidst the falling leaves and marital desperation. There were “Casanova” and “The Hoax,” two would-be frothy farces that came and went.

12212009_hachiko.jpgAnd now there’s “Hachiko: A Dog’s Story,” which The Wrap reports is headed straight to DVD despite the fact that it “boasts Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallström and a big star in lead actor Richard Gere. Add in a heartwarming true story about a loyal pooch and you’d think it would stand to clean up at the box office.”

Well, last I checked, Gere’s good for older-skewing romances like “Nights In Rodanthe” and little more, and Hallström’s career has clearly been on the path to hell for a while now. What’s happened, I guess, is that a presumed gift for understated melodrama has been abused one too many times: no longer in control of his career trajectory, he’s now being thrown at anything remotely soapy in the hopes of keeping it in check. Which can’t really work unless you’re Douglas Sirk.

Witness the trailer for his next film: “Dear John,” a Nicholas Sparks adaptation whose summary is soapy beyond belief and which stars Channing Tatum. “You don’t scare me, John.” “Well you scare me.”

Then wash that taste out of your mouth with an ABBA music video which, when all’s said and done, said body of work may be Hallström’s lasting legacy.

[Photos: “ABBA: The Movie,” Universal Music, 1977; “Hachiko: A Dog’s Story,” Stage 6 Films, 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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