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DID YOU READ

“Project Nim,” Reviewed

“Project Nim,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the Sundance Film Festival 2011.

If James Marsh’s 2008 “Man on Wire” was Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk by way of “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Project NIM” could be described as the story of Herbert S. Terrace’s chimpanzee study by way of, well, “Splice.” But maybe it’s better summed up by one of the interviewees shrugged explanation for what must have looked like a much saner idea at the time: “It was the ’70s.” Terrace, a professor at Columbia, headed up a project to raise a chimp named Nim as a human, to teach him sign and observe to what extent the animal would be able to communicate and form sentences in order to learn more about our own relationship with language development. In theory. In practice, as recounted by the film, the experiment was a hopeless jumble of personal entanglements, squishy hippiedom, safety and ethical concerns and heartbreak. And getting the chimp high, which at least two of his caregivers attempt.

Terrace first hands the infant Nim to Stephanie LaFarge, a psychologist and his former lover, who has no significant experience with chimps or sign language, and who raises him in her family’s Manhattan brownstone as she would a human foundling, swaddling him in diapers, letting him frolic with her other children, even breastfeeding him. When Terrace becomes skeptical of LaFarge’s permissive parenting, he spruces Nim away to an idyllic estate in Riverdale where the chimp is cared for by a series of well-meaning if not always very trained teachers, including the young Laura, with whom Terrace becomes emotionally entangled and then discards, couple Bill and Joyce, sign instructor Renee. It’s Nim who’s the through line in the film, and so as these people pass in and then out of his life, they slide out of the screen, the camera keeping its gaze on the primate’s journey from famous, coddled center of attention in New York to returned resident in the Oklahoma primate colony in which he was born to medical research fodder in a nightmarish facility.

Nim is an adorable baby, a mischievous, destructive youth, a sometimes frightening adult chimp and a slate onto which everyone around him seems to projecy. Most importantly, he is, despite the way he’s treated, an animal, one capable, as the years go on, of considerable destruction. Many of the interviewees bear scars from his attacks, and one almost died at his hand. As for how much ASL Nim has actually learned, it’s a matter of debate — Terrace himself has questioned the validity of the claims of his own study and other similar ones, and as much as we see of the animal in the accrued archival footage of which the film is primarily constructed, the extent to which he has any exceptional ability to communicate or connect with humans seems as much an aspect of the personalities of those claiming to see these things as anything we ourselves glimpse on screen. As the film turns from a fascinating documentation of an experiment that blurred the lines between species into a more depressing and expected tale of animal cruelty, the main revelation of “Project Nim” isn’t that it was inappropriate for these people to treat Nim like a human as much as it was when they all eventually stopped.

“Project NIM” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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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 IFC.com

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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.

Uncle-Buck

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

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…