DID YOU READ

The in-other-countries round-up.

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"Takeshis'"It’s tempting to poke fun of Joseph Braude‘s piece in the LA Times about Middle Eastern moviewatching, except we’re not quite sure where to go with it. There’s certainly a lot of worthy stuff in the article, but there’s also a gawkish underlying assumption that it’s surprising that the inhabitants of the Arab world watch and care about films that seems about a decade outdated and that reminds us of the Lexus convertible conversation in "Three Kings" (we just got it on DVD, so it’s been on our mind recently, apologies).

Many governments don’t bother to forbid most American motion pictures. Protesters in Libya, Syria and the Palestinian territories may burn the U.S. flag during street demonstrations, but they catch the latest U.S. films in theaters. All of the Persian Gulf states except Saudi Arabia abound in state-of-the-art movie houses, often in luxurious shopping malls. In fact, Kuwait was the second nation in the world after Austria to introduce technology enabling automatic movie ticket purchases by mobile phone.

A friend of ours who grew up in Iran swore that nothing was more popular there than a satellite channel that played only "Baywatch," but sadly, Braude doesn’t confirm this, though he does get into some interesting points about the relationship between Arab viewers and left-leaning Hollywood.

Fiona Ng at the New York Times reports on "Action English," a Chinese television show that uses film clips to attempt to teach American slang.

At the Japan Times, Mark Schilling takes on Takeshi Kitano‘s latest, "Takeshis’," which premiered at Venice to mixed and bemused reviews, and which is a departure from the actor/director’s previous work, a surreal exploration of Kitano’s persona and previous films that sounds a bit like Akira Kurosawa‘s "Dreams." Schilling compares the film to Seijun Suzuki’s 1967 "Branded to Kill," and wonders if, like that film, it will later be regarded as a masterpiece, though at the present, he doesn’t seem to know what to make of it himself. Either way, a possible turning point for Kitano’s career:

Kitano has described it as a kind of "death"
(pronounced in Japanese, the title is "Takeshisu" or "Take[shi] dies"),
in which he shakes off the mortal coil of his first 11 films and
prepares himself for the next stage of his career. (He says he wants to
make a film that challenges Kurosawa and other Golden Age masters —
whatever that means.)

Also at the Japan Times, Giovanni Fazio becomes the first we’ve seen to defend Lou Ye‘s "Purple Butterfly," which stars Zhang Ziyi and which opened here in a minimal release to fairly bad reviews (we loved his debut, "Suzhou River").

Chris Johnston at The Age has an excellent essay on based-on-actual-events Aussie horror film "Wolf Creek" (which gets a Dimension/Weinstein Co. release on Dec. 25), and its relationship to a particularly beloved national icon:

And then comes the moment. "Bit of a
bugger, eh?" says Mick. Just five little words. But with them, and
other similar moments, Wolf Creek subverts a mainstay of Australian
outback mythology – the noble white bushman, the loveable rogue.

It’s no coincidence that Mick is called Mick. He’s Mick Dundee,
Crocodile Dundee, gone evil. He has the same hat, the same flannel
shirt and the same jeans. He has the same knockabout ways, the same
laconic humour. During Melbourne filmmaker Greg McLean‘s low-budget
horror film, which has become a surprise box office winner, he even
reprises the famous Croc Dundee line "Call that a knife? This is a
knife!" as a victim, Kristy, hopelessly brandishes a tiny, red Swiss
Army penknife. It is puny and useless next to Mick’s long, curved
monster, which he keeps in a leather sheath on his belt.

Alongside picks for who’s going to win, the Sydney Morning Herald talks to the organizers of the Australian Film Institute Awards about revitalizing the presentation and getting Russell Crowe to host them for free. Tom Ryan at The Age is a little more cynical about the choice:

Yet surely he can
be relied upon to bring a bit of spice to the night. Imagine his
response if someone tries to tell him to wind it up. Or if they attempt
to stop him reading the poem or singing the song he’s penned just for
us. Or if he doesn’t get the standing ovation he deserves. Or if a
teleprompter doesn’t work.

Well, we think that all awards show would be a little better with the promise of violence, so good on ya, Australia — scatter some cell phones around the green room and let’s see what happens.

+ Reelpolitik (LA Times)
+ Movie English as a Third Language (NY Times)
+ Kitano beats his own drum (Japan Times)
+ Love and death in Manchuria (Japan Times)
+ Beware a wolf (The Age)
+ AFI Awards: We tip the winners (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ A good deal to Crowe about (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ Rusty oils the wheels of our industry (The Age)

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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.