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Cinélycée: teaching movies and values.

Cinélycée: teaching movies and values. (photo)

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In what is, to my knowledge, some kind of first, France is set to make cinema part of the public school curriculum. Specifically: each secondary school will have a teacher who gets paid extra to be the “culture czar” (alert Fox News!), working alongside five students to craft a specialized roster for each month. The movies can be screened during literature/history classes or after-school screenings; discussion is encouraged. The goal: to combat what French president Nicolas Sarkozy has deemed “an unlikely and dangerous situation, where the culture of cinematography for our pupils seems inversely proportional to the quantity – which is immense – of images and videos that they consume each day. It is urgent to develop their critical regard, and anchor their relationship with the moving image in a culture heritage.”

The translation seems a little ad hoc, but this is certainly a terrific idea, even if the curriculum seems to be, by design, a little staid: everything’s pre-1980, with an emphasis on bricks-and-mortar classics like “Children of Paradise,” “The Rules of the Game,” and “Citizen Kane.” The goals are both cultural and, in a roundabout way, teaching critical thinking: Sarkozy’s convinced “Kane” is a great way to teach about “the machinations of power.” It seems likely all concerned are underestimating the degree to which most kids hate to watch anything made before they were, say, ten years old, but it’s certainly a start.

05192010_magnificent.jpgIn a way, this is the diametrical opposite of the now less-prominent calls for media literacy I heard so much about when still in the public school system. Media literacy is about being able to engage with actively deceptive and mendacious material: to pick up on would-be subliminal advertising, call bullshit as needed, and generally not be a slave of manipulative content. What the Cinélycée initiative seems to be calling for is something different: engaging with classic cinema the same way literature is taught, i.e. with an eye for cultural worth that stands outside of time. The Cinélycée folks hope that if they sharpen young mind on substance from the past, maybe they’ll actively tune out the garbage and seek out better art in the present.

Hopefully they’ll do a better job than American public schools, which use movies to give teachers extra time to catch up on grading and administrative stuff. In seventh grade, my Texas History class spent a whole week watching “The Magnificent Seven” on a loop (we made it through the whole thing two-and-a-half times) while making quilts, which was apparently supposed to teach us about what life in a Mexican mission town was like. The enterprise did not prosper. It’ll be ages before anyone here decides movies — which, for better or worse, have certainly supplanted books for many — should be taught systematically as something important, rather used as simple time-killers.

[Photos: “Citizen Kane,” Warner Home Video, 1941; “The Magnificent Seven,” MGM Home Entertainment, 1960.]

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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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