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The star-powered movie isn’t dead, it’s just resting.

The star-powered movie isn’t dead, it’s just resting. (photo)

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Wendy Ide at the London Times makes an Oscary point that’s become almost a meme I’d like to dispatch once and for all if I could. She claims the nominations are playing out “a struggle for the future of Hollywood.” But… remember the famous 1996 arthouse shoot-out of “The English Patient,” “Fargo,” “Secrets & Lies” and “Shine”? Remember how that changed the industry forever? Precisely.

Ide also resurrects the idea that the day of the star vehicle is done and no-name movies are the best bets, pointing out that only three of the nominees have names attached, but her reasoning’s faulty. No one went to see “Inglourious Basterds” because of Brad Pitt, who hasn’t had a non-“Ocean’s” hit in years (even though he’s been doing some of the best work of his career); they went to see it because of the bang-up marketing job and because Quentin Tarantino is one of the few directors to have name-recognition in this country.

People did, however, very much go to see “Up In The Air” because of George Clooney’s involvement — if it was just marketed as “From the director of ‘Juno,'” we’d be looking at “Jennifer’s Body”-type results. And while Sandra Bullock fans were surely legion for “The Blind Side,” that movie’s success goes way above and beyond anything she’s had in her career, so it’s more than just her personal pull.

The movies from last year you’ll see most cited to support this thesis are either fluke hits with unmatchable gimmicks — like “Paranormal Activity” and “District 9” — or hypertrophied blockbusters that don’t need stars; they’ve got brand names and/or technology driving them. (You could make a case that “Star Trek” would actually have been super-distracting with big stars in the cast.)

02032010_bluevalentine.jpgThe star-driven movie isn’t over. Look at what was bought at Sundance recently — “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. “Buried,” starring Ryan Reynolds. “The Kids Are All Right,” featuring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. “Hesher,” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The problem with the Stars Are Dead argument is that it leads you down a Hollywood cul-de-sac: you’ve got a whole bunch of movies built around a high concept, a franchise or a director who’s got strong awareness. You need someone, or something, with fans. None of the actors I cited in the last paragraph are burning down the block, but they’re not unknown. And that’s what it takes to get most non-genre movies made in the Holly-/Indiewood system: because that’s what people respond to.

[Photos: “The English Patient,” Miramax, 1996; “Blue Valentine,” The Weinstein Company, 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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