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People driving badly.

People driving badly. (photo)

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Generally speaking, it’s poor manners (or much worse) to hope someone will experience a car crash. There’s an exception to this rule — when people drive poorly on-screen, constantly craning their heads over to the passenger seat (or, worse, to the back) to carry on a conversation for longer than two seconds, most of the time nothing bad happens. This is not how the world works.

Forget the pernicious effects of seeing smoking on-screen. Forget, even, the vexing, never-to-be-resolved problems with getting science right. This isn’t about dumb people trying to replicate dangerous car chases, “Jackass”-style. If kids learned everything about driving they knew from movies before they went in for their first lessons, we’d all be dead by now.

That’s because most movies film their driving scenes without anyone ever actually driving. You can green-screen it, or hook up the car to a truck with a camera mounted on it. If you’re feeling super-expedient, you can go the “Blue Velvet” route and have a bunch of stagehands simultaneously rock the car while others run past with lights. If you’re feeling ironic and retro, you can always go with rear-projection. Whatever the case, there’s a good chance the person at the wheel isn’t controlling it.

So I’m always tense watching people drive on screen while carrying on meandering conversations. Driving is dangerous business — there’s always a chance some random drunkard will curtail your life or chop off your limbs for no karmically just reason — and watching people chatter away can be like watching the idiot horror movie supporting character descend down the dark, unlit stairway into the basement. It’s just not one of those things that should be done.

03242010_brownbunny.jpgFor that reason alone, there may be no more satisfyingly retributive car crash than the opening of “Erin Brockovich,” where Julia Roberts drives off and is instantly hit — through no fault of her own — by someone running a red light. The unconscious rules of film grammar don’t tense us up for seeing a famous actress driving a car. We know there’s supposed to be a cut away, to a wide shot or a stunt double or something, but Soderbergh digitally composited a shot of Roberts driving with a radio-controlled car being hit by a stunt driver, delivering a welcome shock to the system.

The only movie I know of that really gets the tedium and danger of driving exactly right is Vincent Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny.” There are multiple shots, through a grimy windshield, of nothing but the road unfolding as music plays — it’s soothingly dull, but it’s also accurate. And it sends the right message (a first for Gallo): keep your eyes on the road. Defensive driving is important.

[Photo: “Smokey and the Bandit,” Universal, 1977; “The Brown Bunny,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2003]

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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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