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“I learned fried chicken at the school of hard knocks.”

“I learned fried chicken at the school of hard knocks.” (photo)

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Slate‘s annual “Movie Club” meeting of critical minds is off and running, with some of our still-employed stalwarts — Slate‘s own Dana Stevens, the Boston Globe‘s Wesley Morris, Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek, freelancer Dan Kois and Roger Ebert — united in order to hash out…well, “Precious,” again.

But in that process, Morris contributes the first genuinely original, compelling take I’ve read on the film.

It’s about the food. That Precious steals a bunch of fried chicken has been the single most-cited point for those arguing that the film runs towards racist stereotypes. Morris sees it differently:

If all we can see in this melodrama is a kind of “Rhythm Nation”-esque social tract (Illiteracy: No! Ignorance: No! Teen pregnancy as a consequence of incest: No!), then food is one of its complaints. […] There are obvious socioeconomic explanations for why some of us eat what we do, and this is the only film I can think of that manages to fold the problem of class and diet into the larger nightmare of abuse.

These days, food consumption is fraught with class and nutritional implications at all times — especially in a country simultaneously noted for its rampant obesity and its high expense of eating nutritiously.

01062010_informant5.jpgI’d argue that “The Informant!” also foregrounds the whole class/food connection in its portrait of an industry foisting a deeply unhealthy product (corn derivatives) on an unaware public. “The Informant!” briefly dramatizes what a movie like “Food Inc.” builds itself around: the idea that the way we eat (unless we’re very lucky, spend enormous amounts of time and money on food and can generally afford to be exceptionally conscientious) is not up to us to control, which is truer and truer the further down the economic ladder we go.

Soderbergh covered the other end of the spectrum with “The Girlfriend Experience,” in which sometimes it seems the only reason Sasha Grey is an escort is to afford designer risotto which she picks at.

I’d also point to Nimrod Antal’s “Armored” as a subtle(r) corollary to “Precious,” its working class milieu equally menaced by social workers and bordered by lousy nutritional options; everyone’s chowing down on greasy hot dogs for lunch and cheap beer for dinner as a matter of course.

The loser in all of this? “Julie & Julia,” whose depiction of Julie Powell’s quest to master the Julia Child ouevre isn’t just oddly low on the kind of food porn you’d expect from the kind of movie that logically should slot next to “Babette’s Feast” and “Big Night,” it’s inadequate in thinking about how harassed, low-paying, living-in-Queens Powell got specialty ingredients for a whole year.

[Photos: “Precious,” Lionsgate, 2009; “The Informant!,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 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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