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“Five Easy Pieces,” still uneasy after all these years.

“Five Easy Pieces,” still uneasy after all these years. (photo)

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Jack Nicholson turned 73 yesterday, making the timing of the week-long Los Angeles revival of “Five Easy Pieces” that starts today all the more appropriate. We tend to think of Nicholson’s archetypal run from “Rider” and “Pieces” to “Carnal Knowledge,” “The Last Detail,” “Chinatown” and “The Passenger,” while omitting the more inconvenient links in between. (He made “A Safe Place” in 1971, with Henry Jaglom, co-starring Orson Welles; there were shouting matches at the New York Film Festival screenings.)

“Five Easy Pieces” is remembered as part of the angry-young-man changing-of-the-guard movies, as well as the start of a promising directorial career that lapsed into indulgence and failure, with Bob Rafelson slotted alongside William Friedkin, Michael Cimino and Peter Bogdanovich as Lessons In Hubris. Seen freshly 40 years on, the film has aged unnervingly well, mostly because it’s not about anything particularly 1970-centric.

Instead, “Five Easy Pieces” circles around some thorny situations whose specifics haven’t changed much in the last forty years — class barriers, upper-class types slumming and hiding out in the lower classes, men treating women badly and getting away with it (see also “Greenberg,” even though the themes are expressed in wildly different ways).

Unlike many landmark films of the time, “Five Easy Pieces”‘ editing is restrained and not particularly worried about fashion. And it addresses, finally, male self-loathing in an indelible rejection from Nicholson’s crush Catherine: “If a person has no love for himself, no respect for himself, no love of his friends, family, work, something — how can he ask for love in return?” (Just once, Zooey Deschanel should’ve worked up that much grit.)

04232010_piecestwo.jpgWhat makes “Five Easy Pieces” a monument, finally, is its portrait of male self-loathing as a phenomenon in and of itself, something that can happen to anyone. He’s not tortured by the ’50s like Don Draper or traumatized by World War II like “The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit”; he’s his own sick, sad creation, and that can’t be explained away through a social context — not entirely anyway.

“Five Easy Pieces” is a kind of perfect antidote to “Garden State” because, by film’s end, even Bobby Dupea himself is sick of his own bullshit. He’s the product of a soft upbringing and a pre-Vietnam guy; his trauma, whatever it is, is an indulgence. In other word: he’s a completely contemporary guy.

[Photos: “Five Easy Pieces,” Sony, 1970]

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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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