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The seven strangest faces of Gary Oldman.

The seven strangest faces of Gary Oldman. (photo)

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When I first saw the trailer for “The Book of Eli,” I thought “Wow, that bad guy looks familiar, but I can’t place him.” It was irritating. Then I looked it up and realized it was Gary Oldman, and the reason I didn’t recognize him is because we almost never see his real face. Almost certainly one of the most talented actors in the world today — one of the few who doesn’t make radical transformations for a role as a stunt — Oldman keeps himself fresh precisely because it’s sometimes hard to remember what he looks like when you take off all the makeup and facial fair. His makeovers are like no one else’s. Here’s seven of his strangest:

Drexl Spivey, “True Romance” (1993)

Even people like me who don’t like “True Romance” too much — Tony Scott amps up Tarantino’s worst aspects, though Tarantino himself was a big fan — have to bow before the flawless conceit of Oldman as a dreadlocked pimp and all-round bad guy speaking some kind of accent only he thinks is right and discoursing on the genius of “The Mack.” Tarantino’s received much (understandable) flack for his unapologetic co-opting of African-American culture and loaded epithets; Oldman’s genius, for once, gives him a plausible white stand-in with the same issues, equal parts convincing and ridiculous. (It goes without saying this is NSFW.)

Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, “The Fifth Element” (1997)

Luc Besson’s super-expensive pièce de résistance — all $80 million is on-screen — if you’re going to make the most expensive film in French history (to date, anyway), this is the way to do it. But giving all the special effects a run for their money is Oldman: half his head is shaved and covered by a translucent plate, the other half is a slicked-over cowlick, and the voice is an unlikely tribute to H. Ross Perot.

Buford Dill, “Nobody’s Baby” (2001)

This is an obscure vehicle in which Gary Oldman and Skeet Ulrich are given equal billing, which speaks for itself. (Direct to DVD? Indeed.) The real story, apparently, is Oldman as one “Buford Dill,” a criminal with mutton chops tucked beneath a cowboy hat. The plot apparently involves Oldman and Ulrich taking care of a baby rescued from a car crash while the quirky denizens of the local trailer park help out. Below, watch Oldman do a weird little dance on someone’s lawn; if you stick it out to the end of the movie, apparently you get to see Oldman and Mary Steenburgen line-dancing. Maybe I should rent this.

Mason Verger, “Hannibal” (2001)

In the original theatrical release of “Hannibal,” Oldman isn’t even in the credits; depending on who you believe, that’s either because he threw a violent hissy-fit when his request to be equally billed alongside Julianne Moore and Anthony Hopkins was denied, or (according to him) a tacit acknowledgment of his shape-shifting ways. Either way, with a violently mauled face that would render anyone unrecognizable, Oldman camps it up in one of the few true guilty pleasures I have. This is a movie so fearsomely inept that it uses the “Goldberg Variations” as Hannibal’s motif, “The Blue Danube” as Verger’s, and simply plays them both at the same time when they meet.

Rolfe, “Tiptoes” (2003)

The legendarily misguided “Tiptoes” stars Matthew McConaughey as the only person in his family who isn’t a dwarf, causing all kinds of angst about how to break the news to fiancée Kate Beckinsale (playing Jewish!) and concern whether he should extend the family tree. Oldman shrinks to play a little person, or rather the entire performance has the actor kneeling with prosthetics. For once, the effort may not have been worth it. Not because he isn’t convincing (when isn’t he?), but because we’re supposed to believe he’s McConaughey’s twin brother.

Commissioner Gordon, “Batman Begins” (2005)/“The Dark Knight” (2008)

In the life imitates art category: correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t really remember Gary Oldman rocking a thick, plushy mustache before the Batman franchise was rebooted. In my mind’s eye, a recognizable Oldman is basically an Oldman without facial hair, whether he’s a British soccer hooligan or Lee Harvey Oswald. But after the Batman movies, you can see him rocking Gordon’s thick ‘stache extracurricularly on a regular basis. Or maybe the fact that he wore it to “The Book of Eli”‘s premiere speaks to his commitment to a third Batman film. Surely, you don’t think Oldman would be so shameful as to use a fake mustache?

Gary Oldman, “Greg The Bunny” (2002)

Okay, so this is Oldman as himself (although even that’s kind of disorienting), but it’s too good to leave off. This is the best “Hamlet” audition you’ll ever see.

[Photo: “The Book of Eli,” Warner Bros., 2010.]

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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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