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Blockbuster goes down, again.

Blockbuster goes down, again. (photo)

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The most surprising thing about the news that Blockbuster may have bankruptcy forced upon it is that it took so long. The longtime rental monolith has been having its once-unparalleled preeminence handed back to it on a platter by Netflix for a long time now; the last time I personally saw the inside of one (the only time in about a decade) was to scour the remainders of a store that was going out of business.

Who will lament the death of Blockbuster (and the slow, seemingly inevitable erosion of brick-and-mortar rental stores in general)? Since being inside most Blockbusters was like being trapped in an airport waiting area, only with brighter lights and stacks of direct-to-video garbage everywhere, I believe few will mourn.

The overwhelming sensation associated with a Blockbuster is of a place where the store’s perimeter — the “New Releases” wall — demarcates the boundaries. Of course, you could stroll down the various lumped-together genre aisles (“Drama,” “Comedy,” “Action,” “Horror” and “Foreign”) where the single copy of “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” or the like may be rented out. But why would you when you can walk over to the wall, where a blockbuster from six or nine months ago sits side by side with the latest direct-to-video Steven Seagal extravaganza, stocked with way more copies than you would expect? The turnover is pretty amazing, and most of what’s on tap is pretty awful. The employees are underpaid and act it. All in all, it can be a depressing place to be.

Culturally pervasive though it may have been, Blockbuster also got little love from pop culture. People rarely seemed to go there in the movies, preferring small, quirky outlets: “Clerks,” of course, or the shoddy likes of the deservedly-little-seen Cillian Murphy-Lucy Liu romance “Watching The Detectives,” or “Be Kind Rewind,” the ultimate in analog fetishization.

03192010_clerks.jpgYou can see a Blockbuster card in Donnie Darko’s wallet; Richard Kelly claims to show that “You were restricted only to the blockbuster films in a small town. If you don’t have access to ‘The Bicycle Thief,’ you’re never going to know that it exists or be enlightened to a piece of art like that.” Ouch. There’s the memorable narrative-stopping scene in “Ghost World,” where a customer at a Blockbuster-like store looking for “8 1/2” is directed to “9 1/2 Weeks.”

Blockbuster’s kindest eulogy can be found in Michael Almereyda’s slacker update of “Hamlet,” with brooding prince Ethan Hawke walking through the “Action” aisle as he recites “To be or not to be.” It’s probably the funniest version ever attempted, defusing, for a moment, Hawke’s moping:

[Photos: Blockbuster store in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada via Wikipedia Commons, the work of “Stu pendousmat,” 2008; “Clerks,” Miramax, 1994]

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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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