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Rooting for the bull instead of the bullfighter.

Rooting for the bull instead of the bullfighter. (photo)

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Friday sees the French release of “Manolete,” in which Adrien Brody plays the famous matador whose death led General Francisco Franco to order three days of national mourning, complete with funeral dirges on the radio. The teaser trailer attempts to draw sensual parallels between Manolete’s prowess in the ring and in the bedroom, which leads to a rather silly cut from Brody’s hand on a bull’s ass to Penelope Cruz’s. But whatever works.

The problem, predictably, is the animal rights groups inevitably outraged that this ancient, cruel and so on practice is being valorized on-screen. It’s “inadmissable,” says the French anti-bullfighting group Alliance Anticorrida. “If they are properly informed, a great number of spectators will avoid this new film.” It’s unclear what information they might require — it’s hard to be much clearer than killing a bull about what’s happening — but there it is. (PETA, to their momentarily sane credit, is pleased the bullfighting scenes were shot without real animals. “Let’s thank Lola Films for making a compassionate choice for bulls,” they say.) Even if Manolete did get gored, that’s apparently not enough revenge for the bulls.

As someone who neither has plans to ever attend a bullfight nor to picket one, I do find this a bit insane, but that’s my problem. At least it’s true that the organizations involved in this teapot-tempest seem interested in the ethics of treatment of animals, rather than their cute factor. (Europeans! They do not understand funny animal pictures.)

04012010_greenberg.jpgTo see animal fetishization nicely mocked, you should turn to “Greenberg.” As Christian Lorentzen points out over at N Plus One, a sub-plot involving taking care of a sick dog with an autoimmune disorder costs thousands of dollars, “an undigested reference to the sick cult of pet worship in America.” Oh, it’s digested alright — I don’t doubt Baumbach knew what he was doing with that thread.

Throughout the course of “Greenberg,” real people with real feelings are running around, hurting each other and getting hurt. But that is not as compelling to some people as the fact that OMG A DOG MIGHT DIE — as happened, say, to a friend who found himself despising everyone on-screen and rooting for the dog. Just because people aren’t the nicest doesn’t mean you should cheer only for the animal. But that seems to be Baumbach’s point: are you really worried about that dog? Well, who’s the asshole now? The audience member who values animal life more than human feelings, that’s who.

If a matador getting killed by a bull at his biopic’s (presumed) end isn’t enough correction, certain priorities may need to be reevaluated. Otherwise one day you’ll wake up and find yourself rooting for the bull — and that’s just unfair.

[Photos: “Manolete,” HandMade Films, 2007; “Greenberg,” Focus Features, 2010]

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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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