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DID YOU READ

Robert Sklar (1936-2011)

Robert Sklar (1936-2011) (photo)

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Details are sketchy at this point, but I just received the very sad news that Robert Sklar, film historian, author, and long-time professor of cinema studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts passed away over the weekend in Spain, apparently of injuries suffered in a cycling accident. Professor Sklar — Bob to his friends, but always Prof. Sklar to me — was my faculty adviser for my two years at NYU and one of the best teachers I ever had, on the subject of film or anything else.

Though you may not recognize his name, Sklar had an enormous impact on the world of film and film studies. His books, including the indispensable “Movie-Made America,”, have become required reading for thousands of cinema studies students. Educated at Princeton and Harvard, Sklar worked as a professor of history at the University of Michigan before moving to NYU’s burgeoning cinema studies department in 1977. He was also a member of the Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board, a former president of the Society for Cinema Studies, a Guggenheim fellow, and a contributing editor to Cineaste Magazine. Unbeknownst to myself and my fellow grad students at the time we were at NYU, Prof. Sklar had another impressive claim to fame: he was a member of the very first fantasy baseball league, Rotisserie Baseball, which was founded by Daniel Okrent, another (far more distinguished) former student of Sklar’s.

When I arrived at Tisch in the fall of 2003, NYU was an intimidating place for a relative newcomer to cinema studies. Many of my colleagues in the graduate program of the cinema studies department had already had four years of undergraduate work under their belts on the subjects of film history, film form, and film theory. They dropped the names of dudes like Balasz and Gunning in casual conversation. I was just a movie nerd who loved the medium, and I was overwhelmed and panic-stricken. The class that convinced me not to run away screaming was Professor Sklar’s History of American Film. Prof. Sklar’s teaching style was laid-back and inclusive: he rarely lectured and instead let the class’ own analysis of films dictate where the lesson went.

The man practiced what he preached: in his introduction to our very first class (yes, I still have my notes), Prof. Sklar asserted that films are not fixed; that time and place tend to change how films are viewed and read. Appropriately, he didn’t force his own opinion of 1931’s “The Public Enemy” on us in that first class, despite the fact that he had written one of the definitive books about James Cagney’s films, “City Boys,” or that a few years later he would record a fantastic commentary track for the film’s Warner’s Gangster Collection DVD. He shared a few of his thoughts about censorship, onscreen violence, homoeroticism, and Hollywood’s representation of “the city” in the 1930s, and then encouraged us to share our own interpretations. He introduced us to films and filmmakers we didn’t know, and gave us new ways to look at familiar ones. He made intimidating films accessible, and brought brilliant textual analysis to so-called empty-headed popcorn entertainments.

Prof. Sklar taught me to trust my instincts and speak my mind; he was the first person to ever encourage my interest in the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and paid me one of the greatest compliments I ever received when told me my finished final paper on the subject was worthy of publication. He showed me that one informed opinion of a film was just as valid as any other, no matter how many or how few credentials that opinion had behind it. He made me feel like I belonged in this world. I’m terrified to consider what I might have done with my life if I had never met him.

I kept in touch with Prof. Sklar occasionally after grad school, and I always looked forward to our run-ins at New York City press screenings; the last time I saw him was at a screening of “The Social Network” last fall. I don’t think I ever told him just how much his classes and his encouragement meant to me, but I know I thanked several times for his help and his advice. I hope he knew how much I meant it.

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Final Countdown

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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Rev Up

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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Give Back

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…