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The Unbearable Rambo-ness of Being

The Unbearable Rambo-ness of Being (photo)

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     God didn’t make Rambo; I made him!

In the ’80s, Americans found a new brand of movie hero that corresponded precisely with Reagan-era conservative values. Ripped, vengeful and violent, action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson and a beefed-up Bruce Willis helped reestablish myths of rugged individualism, militarism and machismo through an awesome display of fire power and pectoral muscles.

The bang-bang decade that saw the releases of “First Blood,” “Die Hard,” “Lethal Weapon,” “The Terminator,” “Robocop,” “Top Gun,” “Batman,” “Predator” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” may seem like a distant memory in these leaner Obama days. But the superheroic display of tough guys wreaking havoc continues to have resonance — particularly for the legions of boys whose impressionable minds were shaped by the time, and who are now, some 25 years later, playing out those fantasies once again on screens (with a limited budget).

01072010_SonofRambow.jpgThe story of “Rambo” alone has spawned two recent indie film retellings. In 37-year-old UK director Garth Jennings’ 2007 “Son of Rambow,” two British lads attempt to remake “First Blood” in their neighborhood with a home video camera. And while “Son of Rambow” largely plays its action movie references for laughs, New York theater maven-turned-filmmaker Zachary Oberzan’s no-budget “Flooding with Love for the Kid” (playing at New York’s Anthology Film Archives this week) seems more emblematic of fan fiction. Made by himself in his 220 square foot New York apartment, the movie is a fascinating, self-serious, artisanal reclamation of its source material.

While many fan films are parodies, others pay homage to the original texts — as was the case with “Raiders: The Adaptation,” the shot-for-shot remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” made, over the course of several years, by two Mississippi kids in the ’80s. The video-clerk-homemade films in Michel Gondry’s 2008 “Be Kind Rewind” — “sweded” takes on such era hits as “Ghostbusters,” “RoboCop” and “Back to the Future” — draw laughter, but not because Gondry is making fun of them. The film’s protagonist, a movie-mad Jack Black, never takes his amateur filmmaking less than seriously. For him, and his community, remaking the movies is a deeply personal act of re-appropriation.

Most of the time, this process of video-made reverence goes hand in hand with reliving the filmmakers’ youthful obsessions. Jack Marshall, a director and executive producer on the fan-series “Star Trek: New Voyages,” explained during a 2005 podcast about their productions, “For people who grew up with that series, the overwhelming sense of childhood that washes over you when you walk onto that set, it’s amazing. It’s like going to the home that you grew up in,” he continued. “Everything is familiar; everything is in its place.”

01072010_FloodedWithLove4.jpgZachary Oberzan’s return to Rambo as a 35-year-old man also stems from childhood first impressions and a sense of nostalgia. “I was 9 or 10 years old,” recalls Oberzan, about the first time he saw “First Blood,” Ted Kotcheff’s 1982 adaptation of David Morrell’s novel about a mistreated Vietnam vet. “I remember staying up late at night to watch it, and I was very taken by the film, as many young boys were, for a variety of reasons: it’s about being falsely accused, rebelling against authority and the incredible resourcefulness and this superhuman ability to survive.”

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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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