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Giving the people what they want — whatever that might be.

Giving the people what they want — whatever that might be. (photo)

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Every year, the Los Angeles Times‘ Patrick gathers an informal teen focus group to go over the summer’s trailers and offer their thoughts.

Goldstein notes that this isn’t precisely scientific — his past samplings, largely made up of private school kids ,were objected to by marketers as “not representative of typical American teenagers.” So this year he got public schoolers from Orange County and ran the tests. (Aside: is Orange County — home of Disneyland, scrupulous political conservatism and the Richard Nixon Memorial Library — really “representative of typical American teenagers”? This sounds like of one of those “only in LA ” ideas to me.)

I don’t really talk much with teenagers on a regular basis, but a 17-year-old who says (re: “Robin Hood”) that Ridley Scott is “one of the few directors who could make an exciting movie just with arrows” is already way ahead of most average adult movie-goers, who tend to be indifferent to keeping track of who made what.

The kids do sound a lot like their private school counter-parts of last year, whose predictions included great excitement about “Terminator: Salvation” (which made $125 million domestically) and were less than excited about “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Star Trek.” But what this really seems to prove is that kids who live close to the entertainment capitol of the world are on a whole other page.

05042010_monsters.jpgWhat’s interesting about Goldstein’s article is the fundamental disconnect between the people who write about movies professionally and the audiences they ostensibly understand. For example: at the end of March, when “How To Train Your Dragon”‘s opening weekend disappointed, Steven Zeitchik quickly pumped out a little think piece about how animated movies might be developing a “success-quality gap.”

The evidence: the only “well-reviewed” animated movies that do really well are Pixar films, while “critics’ favorites” like “Coraline” and “Wallace & Gromit” flounder. The final damning instance: “Monsters Vs Aliens” made more money than “Dragon” with weaker reviews — which, unfortunately, after this weekend will no longer be true. The conclusion? “You can create really good animated films but, as a rule, you’ll have more success if your films aren’t that great.”

The math on this is obviously now not checking out, but this is just one blip. Entertainment writers always make generalizations about the viewing public: sometimes it’s that they’re easily manipulated byf advertising, sometimes it’s that quality “actually matters,” and sometimes it’s some variant of the critics-vs.-public theme. But the reality always delivers exceptions, and it’s just about impossible to tell with perfect certainty what a blockbuster-size crowd wants.

05042010_dragon.jpgThis much we know: formulaic, demographic-conflating movies tend to make much more money than other types, which isn’t much of a surprise when most people get their information about movies from advertising and word-of-mouth. But while audiences can easily be led, they can just as easily, with no warning, refuse to show up, something that has little to do with notions of “good” and “bad.” People who cover the film biz don’t understand “the audience” better than anyone else.

[Photos: “Robin Hood,” Universal, 2010; “Monsters Vs Aliens,” Dreamworks, 2009; “How To Train Your Dragon,” Dreamworks, 2010]

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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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