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The morality of Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam.

The morality of Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam. (photo)

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No one could say that Paul Greengrass lacks good intentions. As a reporter for the British current affairs show “World In Action,” Greengrass worked on two contentious stories. The first was an interview with IRA hunger striker Raymond McCartney (preparation for which was done via smuggled messages written on cigarette papers), the second a collaboration with former MI5 scientific officer Peter Wright, who claimed his former boss was a Soviet mole. This is probably not true (at least according to Christopher Andrew’s 1032-page authorize MI5 history), but Greengrass has the taste of activist blood on his lips. (The fact that Margaret Thatcher allegedly called the show “just a lot of Trotskyists” was probably music to his ears.)

These aren’t the expected background credits of a man responsible for rebooting a huge action franchise — it’s sort of like imagining Carl Bernstein shooting “Indiana Jones.” But Greengrass became an activist director of sorts, working steadily in film and TV (ghoulish trivia: his 1998 drama “The Theory of Flight” was the last movie reviewed on “Siskel & Ebert” before Siskel died). 2002’s “Bloody Sunday” made a bigger international splash than anything he’d done before, Tony Gilroy told Matt Damon to watch it, and the rest is history.

Greengrass is now rewriting history on-screen. Embodying the “one for them, one for me” ideal like none other, Greengrass followed up “The Bourne Supremacy” with “United 93,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” with this Friday’s “Green Zone.” Two action blockbusters, two Politically Serious films: what could be wrong with that? Plenty.

03102010_united93.jpgIn an interview with Andrew L. Urban, Greengrass described the main message of “United 93” — a total gut-punch, but a seemingly pointless one — as “what the fuck are we going to do about it?” By most reliable accounts, “Green Zone” knows exactly what to do about it, which is to claim a top-down conspiracy of Good vs. Evil. I doubt anyone will top the New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane‘s line that it is “a left-wing movie that looks and sounds like a right-wing one.”

That’s a first for Greengrass, whose ambivalence was previously overpowering, often productively. On “Bloody Sunday,” the stated goal was “to make a film where at the end of it we could all say, yes, it must have been a bit like that.” But tying together all of Greengrass’ work of a decade is that shaky-cam, which yields mixed aesthetic results but always implies the same thing: what you’re watching is real.

That’s a standard mockumentary trope, but it has the weird side-effect of equalizing Matt Damon on the run and 9/11. That makes me queasy, and it’s not just motion sickness. Whether Damon is realistically fleeing fictional CIA overlords or in search of The Truth About Iraq makes no difference (and when “Green Zone” gets into dubious conspiratorial territory, that goes double). Building up off “United 93″‘s almost impeachable veracity, now we have… this. Let the games begin.

[Photos: “Green Zone,” Universal, 2010; “United 93,” Universal, 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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