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“Sherlock Holmes” by Dan Brown.

“Sherlock Holmes” by Dan Brown. (photo)

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Long story, but over the weekend I found myself simultaneously within arm’s length of Dan Brown’s latest novel — “The Lost Symbol,” the fastest selling adult-market novel in history (whatever that means) — and in a movie theater watching “Sherlock Holmes,” the Guy Ritchie abortion I had no plans of seeing.

It was awfully clever of Ritchie to excuse his normally ADD-via-cubism editing scheme by having Holmes explain in slo-mo how he fights people, then speeding it up. I take it this proves that Ritchie isn’t editing too fast, just that you’re too slow to catch up to the future. Nonetheless, there was an awful lot of dim CGI, sound and fury and the perpetually annoying Rachel McAdams (though that might just be me), and it all ground on for a long time before it was over.

One of the things that didn’t particularly bother me, at least going on, was Holmes’ reinvention as ass-kicking action hero. As Nathan Heller pointed out at Slate, it’s hardly the most outrageous or grievous reinvention of a man whose knowledge of some martial arts is already on the record.

I was, however, reasonably depressed that Holmes had been sent off to fight a super-secret ancient society hellbent on global domination. The villains here are practitioners of Black Magik or some such hoodoo: they wear pins to identify themselves, have meetings, spew vaguely fascist nonsense and love their cryptic symbology. They are the Temple of the Four Orders, who never actually existed, which is worse than what Brown does — at least you can learn some paranoid historical trivia from his work.

Yet both the new “Sherlock” and “The Lost Symbol” tap into the same sense of autodidacticism that has made contemporary heroes as skeptical as the villains they chase. The most captivating passage in the latter — at least in the 40 pages I slogged through — is the implication that anyone casually erudite is probably a psychopath (“The man’s religious and literary references solidified Langdon’s suspicion that he was dealing with a madman”). In Brown’s universe, you need to know about the super-secret conspiracies that rule our society; there’s no other choice.

Which, I suppose, is what’s supposed to make Ritchie’s Holmes redux one for Our Times, more so than its sped-up action and frills. Like Brown’s work (A.O. Scott picked up on the vibe too, the new “Sherlock Holmes” posits a paranoid status quo of self-reliant pedants investigating trivia and arcana, thereby saving the world. Similarly, in Chuck Klosterman’s uneven novel “Downtown Owl,” there’s an elderly character named Horace Jones, who firmly believes he understands how the world and history work because of his copious non-fiction reading, which tends towards biographies and war histories of the most revisionist kind. That, he thinks, is what gives him a clear-eyed perspective on the world.

A kind of Tea Party paranoia writ large, it’s this urge to view the world as dark forces that can be learned about in massive doses of factoids, then defeated with the same, that makes Brown and this “Holmes” more firmly of its time than the much-noted and specious so-called “darkness” of “The Dark Knight,” “There Will Be Blood” and other late-millennium flashpoints. For all the paranoia, it’s peculiarly reassuring.

But still stupid.

[Photo: “Sherlock Holmes,” 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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