DID YOU READ

“Millions”: Danny Boyle Takes On Children, Globalism

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For the record, Danny Boyle’s theatrical gambits include a claustrophobic Hitchcockian thriller, a kinetic drug diary, an overblown fantastical romantic comedy, an uneven mainstream drama, and a postmodern zombie flick. This is not touching on the two broad comedies he made in his post-“Beach” lull, neither of which made it to US theaters, nor his semi-short film “Alien Love Triangle,” which was supposed to be released as part of a horror anthology film, but which has now been attached to a presumably solo release date in September. So Boyle’s latest genre-hop into the head of a dreamy, saint-obsessed seven-year-old boy isn’t completely off the map.

These days, in fact, making a children’s movie seems to be the hippest thing an edgy director can do. Alfonso Cuarón’s output alternates between sex comedies and visionary adventures for the juvenile and juvenile at heart (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” being inarguably the best of the three Potter films so far). Wes Anderson is finally skipping the nostalgia for childhood and taking it head-on with a stop-motion animation version of Roald Dahl’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Jon Favreau, whose “Swingers” and later “Made” defined a type of late-twenties L.A. life, is wrapping up “Zathura,” a retro space escapade based on a Chris Van Allsburg picture book. And Spike Jonze, prince of the bright young things, is adapting Maurice Sendak’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are.”

This being said, “Millions” is an odd bird, somewhere in between a film meant for children and a film about being one. In a recent New York Times article about the New York International Children’s Film Festival (where “Millions” made its US premiere), Boyle was quoted as saying that though “Millions” wasn’t conceived as a children’s film “it’s very much told from the kids’ perspective, and that’s why it deserves to be in [the] festival.” The film’s protagonist, Damian (newcomer Alex Etel, selected from a nationwide search), is a wide-eyed boy who just moved to a new house in the Midland suburbs with his father and slightly older brother. The boys’ mother died not too long ago, and there’s an underlying current of trauma that cuts through some of the coyness of Damian’s magical realism-style visions of the Catholic saints. The new house, which, it’s implied, is a bit out of their harried father’s (played by James Nesbitt) price range, represents a fresh start for the family. The new development they live in is a smugly cookie-cutter suburban settlement that could be anywhere in the world, with identical houses lining lamp-lit streets, neat lawns, and a trio of blond Mormon boys just down the road.

Damian’s brother Anthony is a typically, even exaggeratedly materialistic tween, taking easily to the family’s plusher accommodations and new school. Damian, on the other hand, immediately isolates himself from his peers (and his bewildered teacher) by cataloging some of the more grisly deaths of the saints whose lives he’s memorized, and ends up playing by himself by the railroad tracks in a fort he constructs out of moving boxes. It’s in this self-made refuge that he imagines conversations with amusingly earthy versions of the saints who provide him with advice, and it’s into the refuge that a massive duffle bag of money literally crashes.

The arrival of the money creakily puts the plot in motion, and suddenly the dreamlike world we’ve been seeing through Damian’s eyes, of brilliant green fields of grass and eerie still suburban streets is lost to bustling trips to the shopping center and Anthony’s taking charge of what Damian does. Whether this is intentional or not, the shift of gears is jarring. The money, which Damian assumes is from God, as it appeared to drop from the sky, is actually loot from a daring train robbery, the details of which are recounted in a Guy Ritchie-esque montage in the middle of the film. The robber, looking for his cash, starts lurking around the boys, and, as it turns out, England is finally giving up the pound for the euro, which gives the pair only a few days to spend the cash before it’s rendered useless in the transition.

In the face of all of these contrivances, Damian only wants to do good, but he finds it notably difficult in the sheltered suburb in which he lives. In search of poor people to buy food for, he finds a group of grubby activists who are only too happy to invite more and more friends to dine out on his tab. He stuffs the Mormons’ mailbox with cash, and they go out and splurge on electronics. Everyone who touches the money becomes cartoonishly infected with greed and pettiness, including the boys’ father and a charity worker who visits the school and is drawn to the family.

By simplifying the message of the film to a rather didactic anti-materialism in the end, “Millions” is certain to frustrate most adults while probably not being enough to hold the attention of the average child. For a while, the film effectively puts us in the almost otherworldly grip of childhood. To then plunge us into a downtown filled with shoppers frenzied with Christmas approaching and the currency changeover has all the subtlety of an anvil dropping, and makes the actions and motivations of the angelic, snub-nosed, befreckled Damian unbelievable as those of a real boy. Which we hope wasn’t the point.

“Millions” is currently in limited release. For more information about the film, visit the official site.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.