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Movie marketing in post-Obama America.

Movie marketing in post-Obama America. (photo)

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“Death at a Funeral,” which opens tomorrow, does not appear to be bringing out the finest in post-Obama, “post-racial” language. In an odd article at the Los Angeles Times, John Horn fixates over the tracking numbers for the film, which predict a $20 million opening weekend, “with some appeal for non-black moviegoers, although not as much as Screen Gems had hoped.”

The story tells us that “hiring LaBute was part of Screen Gems’ effort to expand the “Death at a Funeral” audience,” and — more revealingly — gives us a list of reasons why white people should want to show up: “In addition to being directed by a white man and costarring [James] Marsden, ‘Death at a Funeral’ also features Luke Wilson and Peter Dinklage (reprising his role from the first film).” Screen Gems President Clint Culpepper frets: “”The trailer killed with white audiences, and yet you have to ask yourself… why is the tracking reflecting what it is reflecting? We need to wind up [as a nation] where we have no black stories and no white stories. There are just stories.”

Ah, yes, the “white people love Luke Wilson” factor: the levels of racial fretting must be off the charts if we’re counting on a guy whose highest profile gigs lately have been in AT&T commercial to bring in audiences. The reminder — twice! — that LaBute is a white director is even weirder. No matter how many big studio films he makes — especially if those films are, say, “The Wicker Man” and “Lakeview Terrace” — he’s never going to be a name-brand director to mass audiences. Only people who remember him from his breakout independent work (and theater geeks) will know that he’s white. That’s a bizarre justification, one I’ve never seen pulled before. Like, “Next Friday” was an “urban comedy” and it was directed by the lily-white Steve Carr; 2007’s “Who’s Your Caddy” was directed by the three-first-named white Don Michael Paul.

04152010_obsessed.jpgLast year’s “Obsessed” — noted in the article as a crossover hit, with 30% of its audience being white — wasn’t just directed by a white guy, but a British one no less (Steve Shill), information theater-goers no doubt carefully checked before purchasing their tickets. (You could argue that “Obsessed” — with its nasty little subtext of crazy white bitch vs. upper-middle-class black family, one surprisingly unexploited and silent in the movie — prospered because it called allegedly “post-racial” America on the nonsense of that wishful thinking.)

It’s nice to fantasize about a post-racial America that patently isn’t here in our national cultural life. It’s another thing entirely to annex the self-righteous language of “no black or white stories, only stories” to, you know, a movie with diarrhea jokes and gay dwarf escorts. It seems unnecessarily grandiose. Wondering why white audiences won’t come to a movie with a crossover star like Chris Rock? Maybe that’s because he has a bad track record in film, and the rest of the cast isn’t exactly crossover name-brand (as fine an actress as Loretta Devine is), and Peter Dinklage isn’t a star, and movies with predominantly black casts tend to be marketed that way. Don’t blame the audience; that’s just precedent.

[Photos: “Death At A Funeral,” Screen Gems, 2010; “Obsessed,” Screen Gems, 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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