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DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on the brilliance of “Shame,” out now on DVD

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Because so few movies receive an NC-17 rating, whenever one does it immediately gets waylaid with media attention and a certain amount of leering curiosity about why, exactly, it got such a restrictive rating. A few years ago, the sharply observed romantic drama “Blue Valentine,” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as an unraveling married couple, initially got slapped with an NC-17. The reason was ridiculous — it concerned one scene involving oral sex that was hardly graphic — but after the film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, appealed, it was dropped to an R. Still, the temporary NC-17 gave the film the stigma of being overtly risqué or salacious. In this country, NC-17 equals sex, a topic a lot of people have difficulty discussing, let alone seeing in a film at the multiplex.

One of last year’s best films was NC-17, which meant that a lot of theaters wouldn’t show it. And while that rating was the result of the movie’s sexual content, it’s not porn and it’s not exploitative. And, when you get right down to it, the movie’s not even really about sex. It’s called “Shame,” and it’s out on DVD this week.

If you haven’t seen it, perhaps you’ve heard a little about it. Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a confident, handsome New York executive who has successfully hid his intense sexual cravings from his coworkers for years. Hiring prostitutes, visiting online sex sites, dabbling in the occasional fling, he can’t seem to quench an insatiable thirst. Then his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) arrives in town, much to his annoyance. Though it’s unclear why, there’s an unspoken tension between them. She’s very needy and flighty; he’s very controlled and self-contained.

Because of the NC-17 rating, “Shame” was viewed through the prism of being a movie “about sex,” an understandable impulse considering the main character’s proclivities. But look closer at the film — written and directed by Steve McQueen, who first worked with Fassbender on “Hunger” — and you’ll notice that “Shame” is about the agony of addiction. Usually, that disease is portrayed in the movies through characters who have drug, alcohol or gambling problems. We see the highs, but then we see the crushing lows. But with “Shame,” there is no high: Brandon is at a point in his addiction where he’s merely trying to keep from imploding, which means a constant search for more and more sex.

“Shame’s” austere, dour tone drew complaints from some that the film was too mannered, offering an unrealistic portrait of sexual addiction in order to make a pretentious art film. I disagree completely. Though a touch heavy-handed at times, “Shame” seems to adopt the joyless, extreme mindset of its outwardly composed main character. Thankfully, Fassbender’s performance is so electrifying — carnal and desperate and nuanced all at once — that the thrill of watching him provides all the joy you’ll need. It’s not a showy performance, but it is a consummately convincing one. And it has layers. The first time I saw the film, I thought Brandon was an unknowable phantom figure. The second time, I had intense sympathy for him — the terror and self-hatred seemed much more apparent. I’m not sure either interpretation is wrong. More likely, they’re both right.

If you’ve been tempted by “Shame’s” good reviews but scared off by the NC-17 rating, you should know that the movie’s sexual content — while explicit in parts — isn’t pervasive or horrifying. Frankly, it may not be anything you haven’t seen before. But as opposed to porn, which is sometimes referred to as an “adult film,” “Shame” is a film for adults. It’s for grownups who can recognize a soul in peril — two, actually, if you count Sissy. Its NC-17 notwithstanding, “Shame” is really a universal story about the perils of family and the emotional scars that just won’t heal — no matter what vices we use to try to make ourselves feel better.

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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…