DID YOU READ

Mike Judge’s ‘Oh’ Face

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By Michelle Orange

IFC News

At last, Mike Judge and Justin Timberlake will have something to talk about over gluey hors d’oeuvres at the MTV Christmas party. Last month, Sony Pictures sent Timberlake’s first film “Edison Force” straight to DVD, and Judge’s second live-action feature, “Idiocracy,” looked like it was going to face a similar fate after Fox postponed its release indefinitely. Last week, it was reported that “Idiocracy” would indeed be released on September 1, but, in a triumph of studio passive-aggression, with zero marketing and only in seven cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Toronto, Atlanta, and Chicago. Sweet of them to look so fondly upon Judge’s home state of Texas (the film was also shot in Austin, where Judge is based), but somehow I’m guessing the gesture was lost on the writer/director, as the glaring omission of New York means the review coverage is considerably cut down.

“Idiocracy” stars Luke Wilson as a dim-witted soldier who agrees to be frozen in a Pentagon experiment, expecting to be revived a year later. Instead he’s forgotten, and five hundred years pass before he wakes to find himself, in a society dumbed-down to the point of plant food, to be the smartest man alive. The film was shot in 2004 and has become the ultimate tease for Mike Judge fans desperate for a fix: budget problems, production problems, and test-screening problems have ratcheted the bad buzz up so high only your Irish setter can hear it; now this.

Of course, Judge’s relationship with Fox has been an awkward one almost from the start; you and your Irish setter may have a more effective system of communication. Around the time that shooting for “Idiocracy” wrapped, Fox was hedging heavily about the fate of “King of the Hill,” Judge’s animated series for the network, to the point that the entire operation was shut down following its eighth season. Judge told the writers and animators to move on, only to have Fox call them scrambling back for one more season. In June of this year an Esquire profile of Judge stressed the strange and strained relationship he has with Fox, and the confusion he expressed about the fate of “Idiocracy” proved prescient. “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Judge said, describing the process of finishing the photography two years ago only to get the bait and switch from various executives over special effects and then, a year ago, when the film was finally finished, marketing. “They’re just overthinking it, which is what they always do, It’s just about an average dumb-ass person who winds up in the future. It’s not about ‘What if you could travel through time…‘ It’s just dragged on way too long — a good seven months longer than “Office Space.” I could have made another movie after I locked the picture before this one comes out.”

What makes the decision to turf “Idiocracy” to 125 screens nationwide that much more unbelievable is Judge’s track record with 20th Century Fox; namely, “Office Space.” Released in February 1999 on a decent 1740 screens (to compare, “Little Miss Sunshine” is currently on 1400 screens), theories differ about why the corporate satire tanked so hard, but most come down to Fox’s bungled, barely-there marketing campaign. The film limped to 10 million dollars and faded away, but found an audience on DVD so voracious that in 2005 a trumped-up special edition was released (no Judge commentary) to keep the party going. By 2004 the “Office Space” DVD had made over 40 million dollars, is now acknowledged as a bona fide cult hit and has broken every record in Fox video history. That’s the kind of thing gets a studio’s attention, and, you would think, respect. In an interview this May, Judge had this to say about a sequel:

Fox has been asking about it. I don’t know. I finished this last movie I did, and I’ve got something else that I wrote that’s more like “Office Space,” in that it’s smaller and kind of character driven stuff, but I don’t know. I haven’t been working on a sequel. If I don’t just completely retire, I’d like to do another live action movie, something along the lines of “Office Space” I think. I’m kind of thinking about Christopher Guest’s career. How he, in the 90s, started making these little movies that have an audience, and I’d like to do something like that. Kind of lower budget comedies… “Idiocracy,” I think, is coming out Labor Day weekend. They told me that is the official release date. That was kind of a bigger effects movie and I think I’d like to get back to doing at least one or two more like “Office Space.”

What Judge is saying, and has stated more blatantly elsewhere, is that he is done with studio movies, and in future would rather raise money on his own for low budget features. And who can blame him; to quote Dirk Calloway: With friends like this, who needs friends?

Could “Idiocracy” be as bad as Fox clearly thinks it is? Test screening reviews have been mixed, but the general wisdom is that Mike Judge fans will go see Mike Judge movies. Following the quiet opening last Friday, a few reviews have trickled in, including a rave from the LA Times and a pan from Entertainment Weekly. In between are some dogged conspiracy theorists and the expected love letters from Judge die-hards. For most of us it will be a while — Fox has not yet issued a DVD release date — before we can decide whether Fox executives made the right decision or are indeed what the “Idiocracy” director might call “ahead of their time.”

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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.