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James Cameron says “Stay in school.”

James Cameron says “Stay in school.” (photo)

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Here’s a weird blast from the past: a video of James Cameron visiting the late Jaime Escalante’s classroom in 1989, after production on “The Abyss” had wrapped. Escalante — the subject of the prototypical inspirational-teacher movie “Stand And Deliver” — had a PBS show called “Futures,” and Cameron showed up to talk about moving immense amounts of water, cubic measurements and how the industry he works in is all about science and technology. Yes, kids, do your physics homework, and someday you too can make “Terminator 2.” What’s interesting is how normal Cameron seems before he became king of the world and gained permission to grow his hair as terrifyingly long as he felt like:

Seeing “The Abyss” as a kid, the same summer I first saw “Lawrence of Arabia,” I was blown away — I didn’t know movies could be so big. That spirit of excess is part of what makes “The Abyss” great. In the video, Cameron notes that everything in the movie (besides the aliens, we presume) is scientifically accurate, but that’s only half the story.

Technically that is how an underwater oil rig would would work, but it’s also true that an underwater oil rig would be too overwhelmingly expensive to be practical, which could be a metaphor for Cameron’s entire career — as well as the production of the film itself, which was far more contentious and difficult than Cameron lets on. (Watch the making-of on the DVD if you get a chance; it’s not quite “Burden of Dreams,” but it’s unusually candid.)

05262010_abyss.jpgAll that ocean, though, works: “The Abyss” doesn’t look like any other movie set underwater, and Cameron’s much-noted action skills are flexed nicely. It’s an oddly influential movie — it’s hard to imagine the end of “The Fifth Element,” where Milla Jovavich wavers about saving the world after watching a war montage very similar to the one the aliens show in “The Abyss,” without it.

The contentious female protagonist whose convictions are both respected and bad for relationships, the apocalyptic scenario, the obsession with fictional verisimilitude — these are all signature Cameron elements. And of course, there’s the fascination with the team-coordination logistics of this fantasy workplace — between “The Abyss,” “Aliens” and “Avatar,” rarely has one man marshaled so many expensive resources to talk about being a good manager.

[Photos: James Cameron on “Futures,” 1989; “The Abyss,” 20th Century Fox, 1989]

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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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