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Tracking: “Jarhead.”

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Peter SarsgaardWe’re intrigued by "Jarhead" for several reasons — it’s adapted from a remarkable book, it’s tackling an immensely spiny subject, and it features our imaginary boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard. Plus, it’s directed by Sam Mendes, who made the middlebrow classic of our time (every time we use that word we slap ourselves in the face, it’s our new rule) and followed it up with a grave disappointment (not that "Road to Perdition" was so terrible, but expectations made its success nearly impossible). He’s got something to prove, and "Jarhead" is nothing if not ambitious — it’s also got the cast to back it up.

Really, though, we want to see what Mendes can do in the face of "Three Kings," a movie that seems to develop sharper edges every time we see it — or perhaps just as time passes.

Anyway, two early and lengthy reviews: Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer and David Poland at The Hot Button. Sarris gushes, at least as much as we’ve ever seen him, devoting much of him column to simply describing the film. And it looks like Sarris, in his meandering way, is a Sarsgaard fan too:

When Swoff [Jake Gyllenhaal] is teamed up with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) in a two-man sniper unit, in which one man scouts and the other shoots, he comes to realize that despite Troy’s criminal record as a drug dealer, he is the only politically sophisticated member of the platoon. Troy keeps asking his comrades why they’re fighting this war, and he’s the only one who refuses to take the experimental drugs issued by the U.S. military as anti-biological-warfare agents because they’ve never been adequately tested, and he doesn’t relish the thought of becoming a guinea pig, thank you. Mr. Sarsgaard brings his accustomed charismatic conviction to the role from the first moment we spot him in the group. I found myself wondering why he hasn’t been cast as the leading man long ago. Perhaps that extra “a” in his name makes it seem too eccentric for star billing, or perhaps it’s too close to that of the excellent Swedish actor, Stellan Skarsgård. Then, too, perhaps it’s the authority he brings to serious, even villainous parts that makes him seem too valuable an acting resource to be wasted on vapid lead characters.

This also sounds promising:

In one scene, the Marines are energized and inspired by watching a screening of the Wagnerian helicopter flights in Francis Ford Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now" (1979). Walter Murch, the editor of "Jarhead," was also the editor of the Coppola classic. Ironically,
then, "Apocalypse Now" — with its intended anti-Vietnam War
message — eventually served to make a later generation of Marines more warlike and bloodthirsty. So much for the benign, pacificism-enhancing effects on audiences of violent war movies.

But of course. No matter how much a film protests that war is hell, it also inevitably takes advantage of the fact that war is inherently cinematic, and that war (that violence) is one of the great universal visual intoxicants. Coppola’s helicopter scenes were disturbing, swollen with irony and dear, but they were also undeniably cool — that’s why David O. Russell‘s updating of the scene for "Three Kings" was so good. As George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze pull into an oppressively quiet, dusty village in Iraq, the soundtrack swells: the Beach Boys’ "I Get Around." The music video that never was?

In his review of "Jarhead," David Poland dislikes what Sarris finds so powerful:

Jarhead is the Seinfeld of the holiday movie season… a movie about nothing…As I start to write a little about story, I think I should offer that there will be no spoiler warning because, again, nothing happens. The only spoiler is, in fact, that nothing really happens because there is no tension either.

It goes on along the same lines. Poland’s smart and impossibly prolific, but we rarely agree with him when it comes to review. Nevertheless, an interesting pair. We’re cautiously optimistic.

+ Mendes’ Memoir-Pic Jarhead: What Happened ‘Over There’? (NY Observer)
+ October 27, 2005 (The Hot Button)



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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