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Cannes never lost the plot.

Cannes never lost the plot. (photo)

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The Cannes Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday, beginning 11 of the most exciting days of the cinematic year for arthouse devotees. Even if you can’t go, catching up with the daily reviews from the first screenings of major auteurs’ latest films is the cinephile equivalent of watching the ESPNEWS ticker for the latest scores (which is just as fun and ultimately pointless as it sounds). And with that anticipation comes the customary slew of essays about how Cannes has lost the plot, only appeals to a tiny group of people and doesn’t impact film culture, etc.

I’m not interested in constructing a passionate defense of the often marginal movies I love, or probing the fascinating fact that Cannes is the only place in the world where Manoel de Oliveira can receive almost as much coverage as topless starlets on the beach. But I would like to point out that the idea that the festival has been concentrating on less and less relevant films over the years is nonsense. If anything, their track record has improved. Does that mean Cannes went from darkness to light? Of course not, but within the limits of what Cannes was pretty much born to do — show the best films in the world first, which these days means ignoring a lot of mainstream product outright — it’s more on point than ever.

05112010_flannel.jpgIf you don’t believe me, look at this handy list of every year’s competition films. There is obviously a lot of information that could be extrapolated from this, and I’m not even going to attempt a synoptic overview. A few things, though, can be readily noticed. Example: the ’50s contained a lot more starchy Hollywood movies (“The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit,” Delbert Mann’s “Bachelor Party”) that, after the various New Waves, were largely relegated to non-competition parts of the festival. The slates from the last 50 years contain most of the biggest names in international film, but the further back you go, the more you see titles and names that have long been forgotten. No matter how dedicated a film viewer you are, for example, you may have trouble remembering 1995’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” or Mircea Daneliuc’s “Senatorul Melcilor.” Or take the slate for, say, a revolutionary year like 1968, where half of the titles are utterly unknown quantities from foreign names, plus a movie by future Cannon Films mastermind Menahem Golan.

Certainly some of these names are ripe for rediscovery; for example, speaking of 1968, I’ve been told that Valerio Zurlini has been unjustly forgotten by history and will return to haunt us yet. And yes, surely some of these 2010 titles are just competition bloat, the kind that enters every festival in the world every single year. But Cannes’ roster over the last decade has boasted a solid mix of established masters and hot new voices. The films may not cross over with mainstream audiences, but they definitely excite festival movie fans. And having that many established names makes you more curious and confident in the up-and-comers. If it’s safe to predict anything (it usually isn’t), it’s safe to say these slates will hold up better in 20 years than those of the festival’s alleged apex.

[Photos: “Femme Fatale,” Warner Bros., 2002; “The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit,” 20th Century Fox, 1956.]

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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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