DID YOU READ

Tribeca! Part deux.

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Stan the man.
A more promising round this time:

"The Road to Guantanamo"
Directors: Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross
Winterbottom’s Silver Bear winner brushes by Tribeca on its way to a US theatrical release slated for June 23rd, one of the higher-profile Middle East-focused films in a festival heavy with them. Fleet and imbued with an extraordinary sense of urgency, "The Road to Guantanamo" isn’t a film you can really like or dislike — it’s intended to provoke a sense of outrage and, in that regard, it’s extremely effective. Winterbottom turns the story over to Ruhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, the "Tipton Three," British-born Pakistanis who on a trip back to Pakistan for a wedding made a detour into Afghanistan just before the US bombings started. Rounded up with surrendering Taliban forces, they ended up being held at Guantanamo for two years without ever being charged. Interviews with Ruhel, Asif and Shafiq are intercut with actors depicting the events as described, rather like "The Thin Blue Line" without Errol Morris‘s remove or (mostly) the stylistic coyness of his reenactments. It’s sometimes uncomfortable that the film so unquestioningly follows the Tipton Three’s account, particularly in the vaguenesses surrounding how they unthinkingly ended up in Kabul, but the details of their time in Guantanamo ring unavoidably true.

"Lonely Hearts"
Director: Todd Robinson
Robinson’s not the first to wrangle the murderous couple of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez onto the big screen, but he’s the first to have such a personal angle — his grandfather, Elmer C. Robinson (played in the film by John Travolta) was one of the detectives who caught the infamous "Lonely Hearts Killers." The film is a distinctly glossy affair, with Fernandez being played by Jared Leto (with faux receding hairline) and Beck being played (with panache, if nothing else) by Salma Hayek. That Beck was in reality quite obese isn’t as much an issue as the fact that the film just ignores Hayek’s fully vamped-up period piece beauty — when a voiceover informs us that while the pair were out conning wealthy single women, "Martha played the role of Raymond’s spinster sister perfectly," while the camera pans over a décolleté Hayek sprawled in a vintage gown, it’s bewildering. Still, Hayek’s psychotic turn is fun for a while; the police side of the story, tying in the unexplained suicide of Robinson’s wife to the investigation, is rote and creaky, with James Gandolfini and Laura Dern wasted in sketched-in supporting roles.

"East Broadway"
Director: Fay Ann Lee
Proof that an Asian American filmmaker can make as awkward and formulaic a romantic comedy as anyone in mainstream Hollywood, "East Broadway" is notable for being the film that was meant to be B.D. Wong‘s directorial debut, until reported "creative differences" between Wong and writer/star Fay Ann Lee led to Lee stepping up to also helm the film and Wong requesting his name be removed from the credits (despite playing a supporting role). "East Broadway" is a retooling of the Cinderella story, with Lee playing Grace Tang, a second-generation gal with aspirations toward high society who, thanks to a case of mistaken identity, soon has all of the Upper East Side believing she’s a Hong Kong heiress, including dreamy Andrew Barrington, Jr. (Gale Harold). The film neatly sidesteps all potentially interesting issues — Class barriers innately impermeable? Dodged! Romantic lead may have an Asian fetish? Ducked! — in favor of a standard mix of screwball comedy and stagy dialogue. When Grace admitted to being obsessed with "Grease" as a child, and Andrew asked her to sing a song from the movie, we bailed.

"First Snow"
Director: Mark Fergus
Mark Fergus’ directorial debut is not terrible, but it’s wholly unremarkable, a competent first film that happens to be mildly expensive-looking and star Guy Pearce. Pearce plays Jimmy, a slick Albuquerque salesman who happens upon an honest-to-God fortuneteller (J.K. Simmons) at a pit stop out in the desert who reluctantly foresees his death around the time of the titular turn in the weather. Simplistic meditations on fate and death are balanced by Pearce’s grounded performance and a somewhat interesting development about Jimmy’s past.

"Color Me Kubrick"
Dir: Brian W. Cook
More a collection of sketches than a film, but gleefully enjoyable sketches. You couldn’t call Brian Cook’s film a biopic; when we meet Alan Conway (John Malkovich) he’s already quite adept at passing himself off as Stanley Kubrick in order to drink for free and bed attractive young men, and he never really goes anywhere from there. It doesn’t matter — the pleasures of watching Malkovich enjoy himself as Conway enjoying himself as varying over-the-top interpretations of a Hollywood director are innumerable. Conway wasn’t even that familiar with Kubrick’s oeuvre, but he did know the important thing — that everyone has a script, or a band, or a fashion line, or a secret belief that they should star in films, and that their vanity could equal plenty of gratis meals. Cook mixes in references to various Kubrick films, most notably in the use of music, with Kubrick’s most famous choices underlying deliriously incongruous scenes of Conway conning his way around London.

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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.