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Presidents on film.

Presidents on film. (photo)

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Wednesday’s State of the Union address gave the Boston Phoenix‘s Peter Keogh the chance to contemplate whether Obama’s first year in office has changed anything about the representation of African-Americans on-screen. (Short answer: no.) But he also reminds us that Obama’s already made his first cameo appearance as President: in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” glimpsed on a JumboTron in Times Square. And he’s shown up as a wuss: We don’t negotiate with terrorists. Or robots.

The insertion of real presidents in fictional contexts is a fairly recent phenomenon. FDR was in all kinds of World War II movies, but that’s the norm for propaganda. Dwight D. Eisenhower had an odd appearance in the Helen Keller documentary “The Unconquered” where she felt his face, but that’s a documentary. You certainly didn’t find footage of LBJ, Nixon, Carter or Reagan in movies made during their presidencies. “Hot Shots! Part Deux” did recap George Bush senior vomiting on the Japanese minister’s lap, but that’s about it.

Bill Clinton was the first guy to get significant, non-documentary screen time during his administration, with appearances in “The Jerky Boys” (really?) and “Contact,” where he looks all pensive about the alien transmission. The usage was neutral — it didn’t really have much to say about Clinton’s image. For true overstatement, you have to turn to the George W. Bush years, cut into “Demonlover” as a sign of the times, “Definitely, Maybe” as the accompaniment to Ryan Reynolds’ political saga, and, of course, the “The Blind Side,” in the moment where the DMV clerk points to a picture of W. as the reason things are so slow.

It’s safe to say that W.’s presidency made him visual shorthand for the war in Iraq and economic freefall; his onscreen iconogoraphy is charged in a way that Clinton’s wasn’t. And Obama? Well, who knows: the “Transformers” shot seems like an anomaly. We’re one year in, though, and people are nervous and antsy. The real question is if all those dreary Iraq movies of the Bush administration will find their equivalent under Obama. Will he be placed on-screen (something not even the ham-handed likes of “Rendition” did)? Because right now, you couldn’t really use him as shorthand for Hope and Change the way you could a year ago.

[Photos: Obama via Wikipedia commons; “Definitely, Maybe,” Universal, 2008]

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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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