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At the movies with David Foster Wallace.

At the movies with David Foster Wallace. (photo)

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Anyone interested in the late David Foster Wallace should think about reading excellent essay about David Lynch, there’s a lot of movie talk in the book, mostly centered around the Hollywood products he was most invested in. It’s 1996, so Lipsky and Wallace go to “Broken Arrow.” Wallace casually says things like “You ever see ‘Johnny Mnemonic’?” and suggests Pauline Kael would be a “a good model” for passionate criticism. He doesn’t like Woody Allen (“I don’t think his humor’s all that subtle, it seems like a schtick to me”) and thinks James L. Brooks “has the heart of a whore.” There are a lot more asides along those lines.

Beyond the fun of seeing Wallace kick around such specific ephemeral moments, there are a few bigger points worth noting. Regarding shows like “Love Boat” and “Baywatch,” he speculates that “the stuff that makes no attempt to surprise or do anything artistic, is so profoundly soothing… artwise maybe not the greatest art. But the function it provides is deep in a certain way.” Not, he adds, that “you should go around being some kind of scholar of pop culture,” but that some art “finds a way to take care of you […] kind of despite itself.” But four pages later, talking about predictability in mainstream movies, he notes to Lipsky that “we’re viewers where you know if you’ve got Tom Sizemore, that you’ve ruined the movie for us.” Because Sizemore always gets typecast as the psycho.

Wallace talks at multiple points about the need to find a way out of being buried by a cultural field of crap while also being completely conversant with it, completely aware (and predictably self-conscious) he feels at least a little guilty about that. But moreover he’s talking about watching stuff that’s supposed to be comfortingly predictable and playing games with it; he’s hypnotized once he destroys the very comforts that come with just sitting and letting the movie walk over you.

04272010_brazil.jpgIt’s clear that he found those experiences meaningful, discussing (and, more revealingly, quoting) them casually with great knowledge. Outside of “Blue Velvet” and “Brazil” (both of whose personal importance he discusses at length), it seems possible that his most enjoyable viewing experiences came engaging with the very stuff whose seductive powers he could both see right through and get totally sucked into.

This is a different beast from the argument that movies are “just movies” and should be enjoyed without guilt or thought, nor is it about fetishizing exceptionally bad ones. It’s about really enjoying mediocrity and diving into it, reveling in the tiniest cracks between the formulaic and the odd surprise, treating every movie as something to toy with — an experience that’s maybe more exhilarating than watching something that actively challenges you, because you’re the one doing all the work. The movie’s just something to impose yourself on and figure out how this Sizemore appearance differs from all others (or doesn’t).

[Photos: “Broken Arrow,” 20th Century Fox, 1996; “Brazil,” Criterion, 1985]

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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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