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The Coens join the one-a-year club.

The Coens join the one-a-year club. (photo)

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The announcement that the Coen brothers’ “True Grit” will be with us by Christmas means the Coens have managed to release a new movie every year for four years in a row. This places them in a weird, elite club of filmmakers who really have nothing in common besides their uncommon productivity.

The list includes Woody Allen (who hasn’t had a year off since 1981), Clint Eastwood (who compensated for missing 2005 and and 2007 by putting out two movies in ’06 and ’08), Werner Herzog (pretty much the same since 1995, TV and shorts included) and the infamously prolific Steven Soderbergh (14 movies since 1998, plus one short and 10 episodes of “K Street”).

Their reasons are all different: Allen’s compulsive by nature (in an interview buried in the poorly indexed archives of the Austin American-Statesman, I remember him comparing his one-a-year pace to someone in a lunatic asylum weaving hand-baskets to keep steady). Eastwood — something of an auteurist hero these days for American critics looking for a successor of Hollywood classicism and professionalism — is in the mold of the old-school directors he admires, who cranked the hits out within the studio system. Herzog’s just got too many places in the world he’d like to visit, too many things to see. And Soderbergh has too many radically different formal approaches he’d like to try.

It’s interesting and instructive that a lot of Hollywood hacks don’t work this fast, even though what they’re doing is (we presume) a lot easier, and certainly less risky. Because one thing all these filmmakers do have in common is that they don’t really make hits, at least not consistently; the fact they generally make medium-budget films actually makes things harder on them. With whatever perseverance and skill they have, they’ve managed not to let that slow them down.


Making movies is no longer as fast as it used to be. One of the marvelous things about the old school Hollywood auteurs is how much of their work there is to explore, if one is so inclined. By contrast, Tarantino’s one of the best we have, and we’ll be lucky if he leaves us with, say, 10 movies before he conks out or quits, whichever comes first. Like Tarantino, we shouldn’t expect a voluminous oeuvre from the Andersons (P.T. and Wes), either, because they work very, very slowly just in the writing phase.

That’s a shame. There’s something to be said for working steadily, even if a lot of what emerges is imperfect or half-assed, but I fear P.T. Anderson may never make the unadulterated masterpiece he clearly has in him at the rate of three films a decade. I’ve been mixed-ish on the last two Coen brothers films — and about half their films, really — but I’m glad they keep at it; the more they do, the clearer the picture gets.

[Photos: “True Grit,” Paramount, 1969; “Punch-Drunk Love,” Sony, 2002.]

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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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