DID YOU READ

How do you solve a problem like Tribeca?

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"Dirty money belongs to anyone who has it."
That title is to be sung with a backup band of nuns, naturally.

With over 250 films, many mid-level ones arriving without any kind of buzz, airing twelve at a time at press and public screenings scattered throughout the city from 68th Street to Battery Park, the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival is enough to make a grown journalist cry. We’ve seen it.

Or perhaps we’ve done it ourselves. We haven’t had much luck so far with our picks, possibly because we’ve stuck mainly with the narratives when by most accounts the docs have been far stronger (which is becoming a truism of American festivals in general). A quick rundown of some of what we’ve seen so far, with forewarning that these are almost certainly going to be unnecessarily bitchy, we’re short on sleep.

"Shadow of Afghanistan"
Directors: Jim Burroughs, Suzanne Bauman
This documentary about Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion through to present day is as much about the act of covering the unrest and war in the country as it is about the events themselves, and the solid history and rare non-newsreel footage it presents are curiously marred by a tone of self-congratulation. The film is partially centered on Lee Shapiro and James Lindelof, a pair of documentarians who were killed filming in Afghanistan in 1987, and whose footage makes up the earlier part of the film — surviving member of their crew returns to Afghanistan with the "Shadow of Afghanistan" filmmakers to complete Shapiro and Lindelof’s work. Information about the difficulties of shooting in such tense conditions is interesting; a frequent voice-over reminding us of how dangerous what the filmmakers are doing is unnecessary, and some of the tossed-off lines ("Look at those smiles! These are such a resilient people.") are truly wince-worthy.

"The Yacoubian Building"
Director: Marwan Hamed
Based on a popular, controversial novel, "The Yacoubian Building" is being widely touted as "the most expensive Egyptian movie ever made," leaving unstated the fact that. given the frequency with which Egyptian productions grace US cinemas, it may as well be proclaimed "the only Egyptian movie ever made." Deliciously soapy, the film resembles (and is as enjoyable as) a Cairo version of "Tales of the City," a sprawling look at the intrigues of the varied inhabitants of a once-grand apartment building now populated by fading gentry, the newly (and perhaps suspiciously) rich, and the poor (confined to former servants quarters on the roof). "The Yacoubian Building" shocked Egypt with its grim assessment of nationwide corruption and its open depiction of a homosexual character; US audiences may be more startled to see a character’s descent into religious fundamentalism and terrorism being merely the fodder for further melodramatics.

"The Promise"
Director: Chen Kaige
Proving that talent from Korea, Hong Kong, mainland China and Japan can
unite to make a truly terrible flick, the most expensive film in ever made in China is surprisingly lousy looking. A florid fantasy that harkens back to the earlier, cheesier days of wuxia,
"The Promise" follows a princess (Cecilia Cheung), who, as a girl, made a deal with the goddess Manshen (who sports a fairly fabulous CG-assisted hairdo): she’ll grow up to be a celebrated beauty, but in return will lose every man she ever loves. There a puppy-eyed slave (Jang Dong-Kun) who can run very fast; an arrogant general (Hiroyuki Sanada) so manly his weapon is literally a pair of brass balls; and an evil duke (an awesomely campy Nicholas Tse) who is, as far as the film is willing to admit it, way gay. Unintentional silliness abounds — everyone sports some kind of garish costume (many involving feathers); sets float in darkness in a fashion that approaches Expressionist; characters talk about the sentiments of "the people" when, as far as we see, every single person in "The Promise"’s universe is either nobility or a soldier serving nobility.

"Land of the Blind"
Director: Robert Edwards
A political satire with the subtle delicacy of two stoned porn shop
workers trying to beat each other to death with giant dildos, Robert
Edwards’ feature debut delights in broad, equal-opportunity abrasion
without purpose. Ralph Fiennes stars as a prison guard in a grim near future who is drawn to a political prisoner (Donald Sutherland)
and ultimately enlisted in his plan to overthrow the reigning corrupt
dictatorship. Of course, the new regime turns out to be just as
oppressive as the old. Edwards throws in references to the current
North Korean autocracy, "The Manchurian Candidate," the Cultural Revolution, "Brazil," Islamic and Christian fundamentalism, "1984,"
and the Bush administration, but is content to let them hang there
without commentary or any accumulated meaning, making the film nothing more than the "Scary Movie" of dystopian imaginings.

"Journey to the End of the Night"
Director: Eric Eason
Eason gathered one hell of a cast (Brendan Fraser, Scott Glenn, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Mos Def) and landed one hell of a location (São Paulo). The result is, unfortunately, one hell of a howler about a drug deal gone wrong in the gritty streets of a city we barely glimpse. Moreno has little to do but look pensive or cry as the young wife of Glenn’s brothel-owner who’s been making plans to run off with her stepson (Fraser). Fraser snorts coke and hurls phones around gamely, but has been saddled with the bulk of the film’s worst lines; Mos Def, playing a saintly African immigrant, is immensely likable as always.

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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.