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“Plastic Bag” = activist filmmaking done right.

“Plastic Bag” = activist filmmaking done right. (photo)

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Last September, the assorted press corps gathered for a New York Film Festival screening of Jacques Rivette’s “Around A Small Mountain.” We knew it was to be preceded by a short film from Rahmin Bahrani. Little did we know that that short would include Werner Herzog’s voice speaking from the perspective of a plastic bag. The room went wild! It was like MJ had come back from the grave.

“Plastic Bag,” as it turns out, is part of a new ITVS initiative called “Futurestates,” which, per the press release, is “an intriguing collection of 11 short films offering diverse visions about what life in America will be like in the decades and centuries to come.” The visions, as it happens, aren’t so much diverse as micro-focused on possible dystopias.

Take the opening minutes of Ben Rekhi’s “Fallout”: “Two million people man. Just gone. Poof.” This is how the world ends: not with a bang, but with some hillside LA whimpering. Ditto the opening lines of Greg Pak’s “Mister Green”: “Now that catastrophic global warming has gone from theory to fact, no one seems to care. The environmental movement used to generation a thousand emails a day to the president.” Or Amyn Kaderali’s “The Other Side,” which revisits a joke that was actually handled better by “The Day After Tomorrow” in which it’s the Americans illegally crossing the border.

03092010_bag2.jpgSo yeah, activist filmmaking can still be a hot mess. But Bahrani’s “Plastic Bag” is something else, graceful and playful instead of heavy with talking points. Bahrani, who has three features to his name — “Man Push Cart,” “Chop Shop” and “Goodbye Solo” — tends to be thought of as either the quiet savior of understated social filmmaking or so much dour granola. Regardless, this short actually does what it’s supposed to do. (I’ve certainly been trying to avoid using plastic bags ever since I saw it.) If you can ignore the unavoidable “American Beauty” overtones, it’s pretty fun.

[Photos: “Plastic Bag,” ITVS, 2009]

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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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