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“Avatar”‘s filthy habit.

“Avatar”‘s filthy habit. (photo)

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“Avatar” has Sigourney Weaver puffing up a storm front and center — “Where’s my cigarette?”, she demands in her introductory scene — prompting the New York Times to offer yet another scorecard on the year in tobacco (ab)use on-screen.

Stephen A. Glantz — director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UC-San Francisco — is more than displeased by Weaver’s post-jaunt smoke, which he says is “like someone just put a bunch of plutonium in the water supply.”

Personally, I’d like to imagine the scene is a cheeky nod to Weaver’s in-office smoking villainess from “Working Girl,” but I suppose that’s not what was intended. Per Cameron (who’s nothing if not consistently vigilant at deflecting all criticism):

I wanted Grace to be a character who is initially off-putting and even unpleasant. She’s rude, she swears, she drinks, she smokes. She is not meant to be an aspirational role model to teenagers… Also, from a character perspective, we were showing that Grace doesn’t care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in videogames…

Smoking is a filthy habit which I don’t support, and neither, I believe, does Avatar.

The anti-smoking lobby’s persistent inability to establish correlation remains puzzling. Unlike the black-lung ’70s, your modern American cinematic smoker is invariably the villain — see Mr. Bean of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” his beady face illuminated in the darkness by a glowing ember as he plots to make the countryside foxless. — the most humorless and vigilant of the bunch — has more of a case than usual this season, though apparently they can’t adjust for context. I know “Sherlock Holmes” is already plenty revisionist, but did he really have to ditch the pipe, too? How could (god help us) “Nine” function with a nicotine-less Guido? And aren’t we all pleased that the smokers are either in the past or the bad guys?

01062010_youthinrevolt.jpgIf I were working on this lobby, I wouldn’t waste my time on “Avatar.” This Friday’s release of “Youth In Revolt” is where I’d really be going into a frenzy, since Michael Cera’s solution for trying to win over a girl immune to his nerdy charms is to create an alter-ego who commits crime and — yes! — smokes to establish his bad-ass cred. It’s doubtful anyone could take this as anything but a joke about old noir archetypes, but maybe someone will.

The one filmmaker who really should be taking heat over this issue is Wes Anderson, of the aforementioned “Fox.” In “Rushmore,” Max Fisher takes up smoking after having his heart broken by Miss Cross; in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Gwyneth Paltrow’s discovery of the pack of cigarettes she hid as a child is played for climactic catharsis, which, c’mon. And communal, fraternal smoking figures largely in “The Darjeeling Limited.”

In all of these, Anderson’s playing it as a joke — the smoking actually means something, which is unusual, but it’s arguably a bit feckless. Enjoyably so for me, but I could see someone having a legitimate beef with that. The rest? Not so much.

[Photos: “Avatar,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2009; “Youth in Revolt,” Weinstein Co, 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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