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Bodies of work.

Bodies of work. (photo)

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Writing about this week’s DVD release of “Where The Wild Things Are” in the LA Times, Dennis Lim notes that to really understand Spike Jonze, you can’t stop at his three feature films. “A true appreciation of Jonze’s sensibility requires a familiarity with his shorts, videos and promos,” he writes. It’s true — you can learn more about Jonze from a 90-second Gap ad than from “Adapatation.” and “Being John Malkovich,” both great fun, but both about Jonze putting his skills at the service of Charlie Kaufman.

Watching that “Pardon our dust” spot gives you all of the Wild Rumpus and Jonze’s skater background in a condensed fashion; watching “Adaptation.” just tells you he knows how to keep a straight face.

Jonze is an extreme case, though a lot of filmmakers now work outside of features on a regular basis. Many supplement their income with commercials, but there’s other ways to go. The L.A. Opera has brought in film directors: Woody Allen, William Friedkin, David Cronenberg — even (yes!) Garry Marshall. It’s possible that Franco Zeffirelli’s staging of “La Boheme” for the Met — performed more times than any other production in the company’s history — is more important than any of his movies, except for maybe the 1968 “Romeo and Juliet.”

Or look at the art world. The sum total of Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s shorts and installations likely adds up to something close to the duration of his five features. (Weerasethakul’s unspeakably awesome “Anthem” condenses his entire body of work down to its most purely pleasurable five-minute essence — if it were on YouTube, he’d be famous by Friday.)

03022010_anthem.jpgAtom Egoyan also puts out the odd video installation and he’s made at least one film — 2006’s “Citadel” — he seems positively thrilled was seen by hardly anyone. In an interview that’s not, unfortunately, available online in “Dekalog 3,” he purrs “I really haven’t shown it at any festival at al because it wasn’t meant to be a commercial project and was made with no budget whatsoever. […] I prefer to see it as a purely artisanal project.”

That film directors can do non-film work is a fairly recent innovation: Frank Capra dabbled in educational TV in the ’50s, but he was an anomaly. Decades into the auteur theory, many directors seem self-conscious about how their movies are scrutinized and pieced together as a larger body of work. I’d imagine there’s a certain amount of relief in working in areas it’s harder to keep track of, to blow off steam and try new tricks in an arena that either won’t be preserved for posterity or will take years for most people to be able to access. At least when Wes Anderson makes an IKEA commercial no one’s going to talk about how twee it is, you know?

[Photos: Spike Jonze’s unused Gap ad, 2005; “Anthem,” made for LUX/Frieze Art Fair, 2006]

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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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