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DID YOU READ

Gore Vidal: The Last Patrician Comedian

gore-vidal

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“A narcissist is someone better looking than you are,” is one of the many quips that made Gore Vidal one of the funniest men on the planet during his lengthy sojourn. Of all the documentaries about comedians at the Tribeca Film Festival this year – Richard Pryor, Moms Mabley, immediately come to mind – it is the documentary about Gore Vidal, “The United States of Amnesia” that made on me the strongest impression.

What’s that? You never thought of Gore Vidal as a comedian, per se? Perhaps more of a literati, a polemicist, an intellectual, you say? And yet it is impossible to extricate the comedic side, the acid wit, from the politics. Go ahead: I dare you — try. Have you ever heard Gore talk about human sexuality? Have you ever heard Vidal describe Charlton Heston’s limited acting range? Gore Vidal, particularly on the lecture circuit, was one of the smartest stand-up comedians of all time, employing impersonations as well as improvised skits illustrating, always, the stupidity of politicians. The stupidity of the ruling class – which Gore was born into – is his favorite target. It was with the honey of comedy that Gore administered his medication, a frank political populist message delivered to the masses. Vidal was “occupying Wall Street” decades before the movement sprung up around him and he was still preaching its gospel after everyone went home.

The film begins on a morbid note: Gore, intoning with that patrician accent, as he stands over the grave he will soon occupy in Washington DC. The tomb is half full, already occupied by Howard Austen, his partner of five decades. The film doesn’t remain as maudlin throughout. The cinematography, as well as archived film footage from a memorable life on two continents (Ravello, Italy; Venice; Beverly Hills) as well as interviews with friends and sometimes foes – Vidal had quite a few of those — is beautifully done. The film features candid vérité footage of Vidal in his final days, and while he is brilliantly witty, there is also a sense of sadness because he is about to die, that he doesn’t believe in an afterlife, and that the country he loves so much – these United States – is in rough shape.

At the screening during the Tribeca Film Festival rarely a minute went by without Vidal’s on-screen commentary eliciting raucous laughter from the knowledgeable fans, critics and VIPs assembled. Even Robert DeNiro, the festival’s founder, has said that the film stands out. Nicholas Wrathall, the film’s director, had full access to Gore Vidal’s last months and captures the man in full, winding down his worldly affairs, moving out of his house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Ravello, Italy because he can no longer walk unaided. The film briefly looks backwards at Vidal’s vivid life. But Wrathall mainly focuses on the last days, allowing Vidal and his contemporaries to give their impressions of his life and times. It is like Gore presiding and present at his own wake. That is something that every author craves.

The cinematography is exquisite. The directors of photography: Derek Wiesenhahn, Joel Schwartzberg, Armando De’Ath do a fine job of capturing everything from that gloomy cemetery in Washington where the film begins to the unique natural light of Venice. Everything is gloriously vivid, and the archival footage blends seamlessly into the meat of the film, the present, where Gore Vidal is getting ready to exit stage left.

Gore Vidal was, in many ways, the last patrician comic. . “As I looked back over my life,” Gore Vidal once said, “I realized that I enjoyed nothing–not art, not sex–more than going to the movies.” When he died, at age 86, in 2012, Nicholas Wrathall was still editing this documentary. It is to all of our benefit that this winding down of affairs was captured for posterity. Vidal’s lived an extraordinary life on two continents: he wrote great books, he threw legendary parties, he spoke great truths honeyed with a sparkling wit. Nicholas Wrathall had the luck to be at the right place at the right time, but also the great skill and the help of solid collaborators to present the Gore Vidal story.

Are you a fan of Gore Vidal? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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