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The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled (photo)

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Almost universally deplored last year, Jared Hess’ “Gentlemen Broncos” is far from a self-immolating indie-comedy disaster, but neither is it, as New Yorker film editor Richard Brody maintains, one of 2009’s best films. Honestly, it’s just different, like an idiot child who dresses funny or a spinster who gives all of her cats the same name, and the film’s idiosyncratic personality simply seemed to rub most people the wrong way. (It doesn’t help that the title is off-puttingly dull and irrelevant.) Brody, who even pitched for it on NPR, apparently got rubbed nicely, thank you.

Like his debut “Napoleon Dynamite,” Hess’ movie doesn’t explore all-American geekdom so much as drop you into alien territory and let you fend for yourself. But this time, the terrain isn’t just a high school in the quirky midlands, and we don’t have Jon Heder’s toothsome monster nebbish to laugh at. It’s all quite a bit stranger.

03082010_GentlemenBroncos4.jpgParse this plot arc: our hero, Benjamin (Michael Angarano), is a nervous, penniless home-schooled Utah kid who writes sci-fi fantasy fiction with titles like “Yeast Lords” from the geodesic-dome house he shares with his cretinous nightgown-designing mother (Jennifer Coolidge) and her boyfriend, a dim-witted thug/”guardian angel” with a loose-boweled white python (Mike White), and goes off to a writers’ camp and gets his handwritten novel stolen by a ludicrously pompous sci-fi author (Jemaine Clement), even as a queeny hack filmmaker in Salt Lake City decides to make it into a no-budget video…

You’re never sure in “Gentlemen Broncos” what the hell is being made fun of, but the fact is, it’s funny in a bizarre non-sequitur-saturated kind of way. I don’t know why Coolidge’s ditzy mom tries to sell giant balls of stale popcorn (two in a bag, scrotally), for instance, but the running joke of having to break them apart with hammer-to-the-piggy-bank force worked on me.

Meanwhile, we’re offered vivid mini-movie depictions throughout of “Yeast Lords” (subtitled, for reasons known only to Hess, “The Bronco Years”) as it presumably appears in its author’s mind’s eye, complete with taxidermied-deer battle-bots, dune-buggy cyclops armies, fluorescent skies, a running interstellar contention about yeast (which is sometimes vomited up in defensive pink geysers), and Sam Rockwell as a Texas-accented mountain man/space warrior. Don’t ask me.

03082010_GentlemenBroncos2.jpgThere’s almost nothing in Hess’ script (co-written, as always, with wife Jerusha) that makes clear satirical sense — the slice of America it lunches on is so distinctive that it’s unfamiliar to most of us. Which can be a blast — I’ve never been to a fantasy writers’ camp, but Hess’ rip through this terrarium’s norms and gestures is a riot, and Clement, with his lizard eyes and plummy what-the-fuck-is-that-accent, shreds the pretentious William Gibson-Neil Gaiman-Alan Moore-Neal Stephenson pulp demigod into little pieces. (The “master’s class” we see him teach is hilariously focused only on “crafting” gladiator-ish character names — a student names a troll in her story “Teacup,” and Clement’s withering jerk practically has an aneurysm.)

Without the context of the hype and expectations around its theatrical release, it’s hard not to like “Gentlemen Broncos,” because you never know what it’ll throw at you, and because genuine eccentricity in Hollywood comedies is as uncommon as genuine wit. In fact, the meme-crazy cult following that attached itself to “Napoleon Dynamite” could well sprout around this one as well, in time.

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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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