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Almodóvar, Bardem and other famous Spaniards take on Franco.

Almodóvar, Bardem and other famous Spaniards take on Franco. (photo)

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General Francisco Franco inspired one of “Saturday Night Live”‘s first running gags, in which original Weekend Update anchor Chevy Chase would come up with new and original ways to remind viewers that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead,” a joke which went on for months and months.

Franco’s name was a byword in a certain kind of charged ’60s movie. In “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” ’30s teacher Maggie Smith exhorts his glories to her students, and — of course — one of them goes off to fight for him and dies. In ’60s artifact “I Am Curious (Yellow),” his name gets thrown around by Lena, the spunky protagonist who has nothing better to do than badger strangers about their political views. That spirit of political self-congratulation was roundly mocked by Lukas Moodysson in “Together,” his movie about a dysfunctional commune (the only kind, really), whose members get celebratory on the day of Franco’s death.

Mostly, though, the Spanish Civil War haunts movies obliquely rather than with direct invocations of Franco’s name — see Guillermo del Toro’s “serious” movies “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the latter of which helpfully points out that fascism is bad by having as its villain an evil general who’s constantly checking his watch.

06242010_pan.jpgA more direct attack on this sensitive subject is arriving, thanks to the likes of Pedro Almodóvar and Javier Bardem. The occasion is the strange case of Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish judge who once issued a warrant for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, contemplated prosecuting former Bush administration officials for torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay and has expressed interest in investigating Henry Kissinger.

Garzón’s latest move — attempting to investigate Franco-era “crimes against humanity” dating from a time before the term had any meaning — may get him suspended from practicing law in Spain for up to 20 years.

In solidarity, then, Almodóvar, Bardem, Maribel Verdú and others have appeared in a video that’s mostly remarkable for the fact that it exists. As directed by Azucena Rodríguez, the (unsubtitled, be warned) short film consists entirely of famous Spaniards reciting the testimony of 15 people killed under Franco. The crux — that under Spanish law there’s amnesty for all pre-1977 atrocities — leads to the outro, with a slogan “against the impunity of Franchism.”

For Almodóvar to speak on the judge’s behalf isn’t necessarily terribly “brave” — he’s got little to lose — but it’s worth noting that while he’s the most famous Spanish director in the world today, he’s also far from an establishment kind of guy within his own country.

By lending his name to the cause and leading off the video, what he’s done is simultaneously confirm his own prominence and his anti-establishment cred, at least outside the arthouse. And it seems like a worthy enough cause; anything the Wall Street Journal opposes is probably a good idea. And it’s not like he’ll ever make a movie about it anyway.

[Photos: “Saturday Night Live,” NBC, 1976-present; “Pan’s Labyrinth,” New Line Home Video, 2006]

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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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