DID YOU READ

SXSW: The end.

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Daniel Spencer.The rest of what we caught at the festival:

+ "The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael": Like a kid who knows his tongue will stick to the frozen pipe if he licks it, knows
it, and yet takes a swipe at the fucking thing anyway, we can’t stay
away from films with a reputation of making people walk out. "The Great
Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael" scored some ink when it premiered at
Cannes solely for that reason, and there’s nothing else to recommend
this smugly nihilistic tale of bored British youth in a small coastal
town who wander around, drink, do whatever drugs they can find, and
ultimately commit a horrendous act of violence. We’ll sate your
curiosity now: if you’ve ever needed to see someone raped first by
three men, then with a champagne bottle, then, fatally, with an
ornamental sword, then this is the motion picture for you. But feckless
misogyny in film is nothing new — far worse is the fact that first-time
director Thomas Clay inserts TVs in the background of several scenes, all playing news coverage of the Iraq invasion. See? The whole thing is a metaphor! How superprofound, Mr. Clay.

 

+ "Inner Circle Line": For about half of Eunhee Cho’s directorial debut (one of the few foreign films at the festival), we were under the impression that main character Youngju’s androgynous roommate Jin, who she disastrously sleeps with out of drunken loneliness one night, was her gay best friend. It turned out that Jin is actually her lesbian best friend — but ultimately the point is the same. Cho’s promising film touches on those favorite topics of indie Asian cinema, urban anomie and isolation, and its four character fall in and out of love, but, in true Chekhovian style, never at the same time. Sometimes soapy and sometimes heavy-handed, the film nonetheless makes great use of its partial setting on the Seoul subway line, which often appears to be the saddest location in the world.

 

+ "KZ": We stumbled into Rex Bloomstein‘s documentary knowing nothing about it, and left more than a little emotionally destroyed — the film sidles up to its subject, Austria’s Mauthausen concentration camp (one of the last to be liberated, and now a memorial to the thousands who died there), as if the filmmaker wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for when he started, which makes the film’s eventual focus all the more effective. Following the tours — groups of students, groups of travelers — the camera lingers on faces as guides somberly list the atrocities that occurred within the camp walls. Eventually, we wander outside the camp and into the homes and lives of locals living in the picturesque village nearby. Some people see the area as merely a pleasant place to live; others, some the widows or children of SS members, struggle with or are fiercely unapologetic about Mauthausen’s legacy. Bloomstein captures some devastating interviews as he returns insistently to the question (and it’s never a condemnation) of how one lives with such a history, none more so than one of the senior tour guides, who is so consumed with the camp he freely admits it’s destroying his life.

 

+ "The Last Romantic": One of the better-received films in the fest, this first effort from brothers Aaron and Adam Nee (they co-wrote, -directed, -edited and -shot the film, and Adam also stars as Calvin Wizzig) is charmingly quirky. The barely stable Wizzig is an aspiring poet who hasn’t actually gotten around to writing much poetry — he comes to New York to get published, and has a series of strange encounters around the city as he wanders without a place to stay or any money. There’s a woman who pays him $20 to pretend to marry her for the benefit of her Alzheimer’s-stricken father; a dancer who acts like a cat (Shalom Harlow); a famous writer (James Urbaniak) and his femme fatale girlfriend (Jane Bradbury, who, in a cute touch, is only ever shot in black and white); and the idealized girl Wizzig spots on the F train. The neurotic, strange Wizzig is sometimes funny but just as often barely tolerable — still, the brothers Nee come up with clever visual indicators that the story is being told as recalled by Wizzig some time later, including playing with the color saturation to create a dreamlike springtime New York that’s as bright and lush as only a memory can be.

 

+ "LOL": Behold the children of Bujalski! Joe Swanberg‘s second feature owes a lot to "Funny Ha Ha"‘s meandering rhythms and seeming non sequiturs that somehow add up to profound character development, and while Swanberg may not quite have Bujalski’s exquisite understanding of everyday awkwardness, "LOL"’s scenes have an aching naturalism to them, particularly as the film builds (or rather, doesn’t build) towards its conclusion. The three young men the film follows are in the process of establishing post-college lives, dabbling in adulthood, and their lives are hopelessly caught up in tools of communication — phones, digital cameras, laptops — that do nothing to aid their understanding of other people, particularly the women in their lives. There’s a keen appreciation for the discomfort of being alone with someone having a prolonged cell phone conversation — often "LOL"’s characters use technology as a weapon of passive aggression, an excuse not to connect with the people actually in the room with them. We weren’t thrilled with the film’s interstitial clips of one of the character’s video art projects, but we can live with it for a scene in which two people sitting on a couch IM about the person sitting between them. Not that we’ve ever done that. Nope.

 

+ "Rank": "Rank" is an IFC doc, so we really shouldn’t be writing about it at all, but we’re worried it’ll get shrugged off because on paper a documentary about professional bull riding sounds forgettable, and it’s not. "Rank" is unexpectedly gorgeous and melancholy, and finds some remarkable subjects, particularly Mike Lee, a 21-year-old born-again Christian from Texas with huge eyes and a massive scar on his head from brain surgery following a bull riding injury, who’s both aestheticized and innately tragic in a way that recalls "Elephant," though we seem to be the only ones who think so.

 

+ "Shadow Company": Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque tackle the history of private military companies, from the formation of Executive Outcomes (lord, what a name) in 1989 to the firms’ current prevalence in Iraq (there’s one "consultant" for every ten soldiers), and back through to the origins of mercenary profession and the complicated ethics behind the use of these private armies. "Shadow Company" is an even-handed throwback to the talking head-based documentary, and exists more to be informative than argumentative, despite a last-act call for more regulation.

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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.