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Nothing Else to Do?

Nothing Else to Do? (photo)

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At UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater this past Saturday, Boston Phoenix critic and filmmaker Gerald Peary confessed to a crowd that included David Ehrenstein and David Ansen and filmmakers Mel Stuart (the original “Willy Wonka”) and Allan Arkush (“Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”) that it’s been 16 years since he’s last been in Los Angeles. Here’s hoping the discussion that followed, coming after a screening of his doc about film criticism “For the Love of Movies,” doesn’t scare him from coming back.

On a panel moderated by Anne Thompson, Peary sat idly by for most of the lively hour-long talk that involved Vogue‘s John Powers, former L.A. Weekly and current NPR critic Ella Taylor, former Christian Science Monitor critic David Sterritt and current CSM critic Peter Rainer. But it was now-retired Time critic Richard Schickel who took center stage, both literally and figuratively, with his admission that he never really loved movies, as the title of the documentary suggests of all critics, and questioned whether it would’ve been wiser to spend his 43 years reviewing doing something else.

“Watching all these kind of earnest people discussing the art or whatever the hell it is of criticism, all that, it just made me so sad. You mean they have nothing else to do?” asked Schickel before adding, “I don’t know honestly the function of reviewing anything.”

03012010_RichardSchickel.jpgAnd he was just getting started. As the panel caromed from subjects like the ever-depreciating value of movie reviews at major outlets to the viability of online journalism, Schickel was always ready with the most biting response. On why editors at major publications — i.e. “former beat reporters and city desk guys and rewrite men that managed to stay upright in their chairs before they were finally felled by drink” — are no longer interested in serious film criticism, Schickel remarked, “They’re going to spike your review because it’s insufficiently enthusiastic… It’s like the insufferable optimism of America.”

When asked by Thompson if he ever read criticism online, Schickel gave a forceful “no,” before explaining “Why would you do that? I don’t actually read many reviews. I never did. But I’m not going to go around looking for Harry Knowles [the portly Ain’t It Cool News founder who is featured in the documentary]. I mean look at that person! Why would anybody just looking at him pay the slightest attention to anything he said?!? He’s a gross human being.”

Thompson did her best to bring the conversation back to the web, as there was no one officially on the panel to defend the merits of online film criticism (she eventually prodded Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, who was sitting in the audience, to ask a question), but like Peary’s film itself, the conversation drifted towards eulogizing a bygone era of serious debates about film between the likes of Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris and the dearth of films worth writing about. Powers made the point that “movies back in the ’60s and ’70s were at the center of the culture. They’re not now. And for lots of critics or people who grew up to be critics like myself, we got spoiled.”

03012010_TaxiDriver.jpgHe continued, “I remember talking to Paul Schrader once about how when he came into movies, he thought he entered what was the natural state of movies, which is you got to make ‘Taxi Driver.’ You got to make all these weird, interesting movies and Hollywood wanted you to do it and it was only when it began to stop he realized he was living in the historical aberration. And for a lot of film critics, we are living in the historical aberration probably in the history of the arts where you got to make a lot of money, write about an art form at its peak and actually not only have it at its peak, but the public in general was going to that art form for ways of understanding the world. It’s not that way now.”

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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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