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Why there’s probably not going to be a definitive Tea Party documentary.

Why there’s probably not going to be a definitive Tea Party documentary. (photo)

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American political documentaries tend to either center around campaigns (“Primary” and its many heirs), specific issue-focused activism, preaching to the choir (Michael Moore and Robert Greenwald) or retroactive explanations like “Standard Operating Procedure,” “No End In Sight” and the other films that try to put the pieces together after the damage is done. That’s why I have no hope that right now someone’s out there, prowling the vérité beat around the Tea Party.

The boat was missed during the the last big conservative movement in the ’80s, when Jerry Falwell’s buddy — the Rev. James Robinson — exhorted a nation with the stirring words “I’m sick and tired about hearing about all of the radicals, and the perverts, and the liberals, and the leftists, and the communists coming out of the closet. It’s time for God’s people to come out of the closet, out of the churches and change America.” And so they did — and what do we have to show for it in footage that wasn’t grabbed from TV news? Not a thing.

This week the New York Times decided it was finally time to give the Tea Party some serious attention and served up five pages of the best, concluding with a quote from one Pam Stout, who said “I would give up my life for my country. […] Peaceful means are the best way of going about it. But sometimes you are not given a choice.” Given that, according to the Washington Independent, 11% of Americans now identify in some way or other as Tea Party supporters, it’s about time someone started paying comprehensive attention from the outside. And cobbled together a movie about it.

Where are the documentaries on the biggest thing in conservative politics since the religious right’s emergence in the ’80s? If film history has anything to teach us, it’s that there won’t be any for four or five years. Instead, there’s “Tea Party: The Documentary Film,” a partisan affair hitting DVD next week available on DVD whose premiere drew the likes of Joe “You lie!” Wilson, focusing on six average Americans who participated in the 9/12 marches. Let’s just say I don’t think there’s much evenhanded footage there. (Tagline: “Liberty’s march has a new generation of patriots.”)

02182010_sop.jpgWhen it comes to the Tea Party movement, so far YouTube has been left to do all the heavy lifting, providing us with footage designed to reinforce everyone’s individual bias. As far as I know, there’s no one on the ground capturing the meetings, arguments and, I dunno, the three sane people presumably entangled in this. (Or at least someone who can feign a Ralph Reed-esque demeanor.) Which isn’t surprising: all we want to see are clever campaign strategists and self-congratulatory gatherings. Sometimes all politics aren’t just local, though, and they can’t wait to be analyzed a decade on. I hope someone decides to keep their head down and documents this endlessly fascinating/scary phenomenon. We really don’t need another spin on “The War Room” or more talking heads.

Here’s the “Tea Party” trailer. You can’t make this stuff up:

[Photos: “Tea Party: The Documentary Film,” Ground Floor Video, 2009; “Standard Operating Procedure,” Sony Pictures Classics, 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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