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Katrina: Too Big for the Movies?

Katrina: Too Big for the Movies? (photo)

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“New Orleans still is waiting for that first major Katrina movie,” observed Mike Scott at the Times-Picayune last week. “Surely, it’s not still too soon to tell them. After all, Oliver Stone’s ‘World Trade Center’ went into production in October 2005 — four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It landed in theaters in August 2006, just before the fifth anniversary. Paul Greengrass’ ‘United 93’ arrived even earlier, in April 2006. So where are the Katrina movies?”

It’s an intriguing question, even if I wouldn’t want to wish a Katrina equivalent of Stone’s film on anyone. I don’t think the answer is that it’s too soon — more that Katrina seems simply too large for the confines of a normal movie, too complicated and bitter a mixture of natural disaster and national failure swirling around a city that has always proven challenging to capture with authenticity on screen. It makes sense that Katrina’s so far remained the realm of documentary and television — it encompasses such a kaleidoscope of issues, from corruption and governmental negligence to divides of race and class and region and politics, that to narrow the scope to one narrative thread seems daunting or just unfair.

While “Trouble the Water” may be, with its Oscar nomination, the highest profile nonfiction film coverage of Katrina (though not the only one, with festival entries like “The Axe in the Attic” and “Mine” taking different angles on post-hurricane fallout) it’s Spike Lee‘s two four-hour TV documentaries, “When the Levees Broke” (2006) and “If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise” (2010), sprawling, messy and angry works, that seem most thorough and, because of their sweep, most sure.

Even when it comes to fiction, reality seems to intrude into the weave of a narrative, a giant, unignorable presence. David Simon’s “Treme” spun its observational multi-thread story around actual figures in the community, some appearing as themselves, others providing the inspiration for characters. Indie films “New Orleans, Mon Amour” (2008), which involves a relief worker, and “Low and Behold” (2007) (newly available on DVD), about an insurance claims adjuster, are wandering dramas set in the city soon after the storm that provide a passage through the wrecked landscape and the rebuilding to highlight the individual stories of real people affected by the storm.

Here’s “New Orleans, Mon Amour,” courtesy of Hulu:

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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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