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Japan vs. “The Cove”: The battle continues.

Japan vs. “The Cove”: The battle continues. (photo)

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“The Cove” is the little documentary that just won’t quit. All along, it’s been clear that “The Cove” is really two separate movies: one of them is an entertaining, “Ocean’s”-style activism-as-heist-film designed for outside-of-Japan viewing. The other is designed to be shown in Japan in order to get a national dialogue going about ending whaling/dolphin slaughter.

But a mere three theaters in Japan agreed to show the film, and they all canceled “after receiving a flood of angry phone calls and warnings of protests by nationalists, who have been screaming slogans outside the Tokyo office of the Japanese distributor in recent months.”

A group of cultural figures, including Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Still Walking,” “After Life”), signed a counter-petition, saying that regardless of the divisiveness of the subject, “This is a film that has been widely shown abroad. If the work, which is about Japan, cannot be shown in Japan, it only underlines the weakness of the freedom of speech in Japan.”

06082010_cove.jpg“The Cove” has been an on-and-off source of outrage since last September, the first time the movie screened in Japan and, coincidentally, when whaling season begins. It’s a hot button issue: Two anti-whaling activist face 18 months in jail for stealing whale meat; Australia is suing Japan over whaling in the International Court of Justice; two former whalers just went whistleblower on the research program.

Against this background, a key talking point has emerged on the part of people who don’t want “The Cove” released in Japan — it’s racist and culturally insensitive. Take a gander, for example, at Japanese news clip from last year, in which a man from the local Taiji government speaks calmly about how he thinks “one should recognize that different people have different points of view and different cultural beliefs. […] I’d like to ask them one more time to discuss things in a more friendly manner.” The newscast is painted in terms of foreigners inexplicably coming into this town and trying to disrupt a 400-year-old tradition.

But Richard O’Barry — the main activist featured in the film — seems like the kind of mono-minded loon who really cares about animals more than people. I mean that as a compliment, sort of — there’s little evidence O’Barry cares where he is, he only cares about the dolphins.

06082010_freewilly.jpgAnd nowhere in any of the arguments over the film is the most salient point (and the only one that won over someone like me, who could care less about animals): the meat being sold has potentially toxic amounts of mercury in it.

In the meantime, if you want to get a feel for the tenor of the debate, here’s an entertaining clip from Japanese TV with a panel of Japanese vs. foreigners (and it’s cast in those terms). Takeshi Kitano is there, for some reason, though he doesn’t say a single word (perhaps wisely). People yell about whether whales are smart or not, and about cannibalism. They argue about whether people are just getting worked up about cute animals (point, kinda). It’s nuts:

[Photos: “The Cove,” Roadside Attractions, 2009; “Free Willy,” Warner Bros., 1993]

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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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