NYFF: “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

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"It is in pain that we learn the meaning of God."
We can’t think of any easy context for Guillermo del Toro‘s so very excellent "Pan’s Labyrinth" beyond his own 2001 film "The Devil’s Backbone," which, while good, now seems like it was just practice for what was to come. In "Pan’s Labyrinth," unapologetic dark fantasy butts up against an even darker historical setting — the story is told from the point of view of Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl for whom fairytales are still very real and at least as vivid as day-to-day life. They provide an escape she may not fully appreciate from her alarming environs. It’s 1944 in Spain, and the Fascist forces are crushing the last vestiges of resistance left after the civil war. Ofelia’s mother has remarried out of a sense of self-preservation and is pregnant by her new husband, Captain Vidal (Sergi López), whom the two are traveling to live with. She desperately hopes he’ll take to and take care of Ofelia, in part because her pregnancy seems to be killing her, but she doesn’t grasp the charming depths of personality. We do, because we soon see him "interrogate" a local by bashing his face in with a wine bottle.

Ofelia, regardless, has other things to focus on — she wanders off into an ancient maze behind the estate and discovers at its center an underground chamber with a faun (played, with the aid of puppeteers to provide facial expressions, by Doug Jones) waiting within. He tells her he’s been waiting for her, that she is the reincarnation of a long-lost princess and that he can return her to her palace and waiting royal parents once she completes three tasks to prove her identity.

Del Toro grasps that escape through fantasy doesn’t necessitate fluffy clouds and ponies. Ofelia’s other world is vivid and magical, but also filled with uncertainty and dread (and terror, in fact — the second task had us literally shaking in our seat). Still, there she is the main character, the important one, the one with responsibilities. In the real world, she and her mother are without power, living under the thumb of a monster of a man given leadership at a time when the world seemed to have gone insane.

"Pan’s Labyrinth" offers all kinds of visual splendor, from the overall richness of color to the lavish fantastical set-pieces to smaller touches of enchantment, like a mandrake root unfurling and coming to life like a baby (and don’t even get us started on the sound design). As the worlds begin to intersect, subtle parallels occur, from the soldiers’ opening of umbrellas echoing the breathing of a giant toad to, later, the stumbling of a sightless ogre being paired with a no less frightening real life correspondent.

The film ends on a note that’s both infinitely troubling and almost perfect, carrying with it the implication that adulthood is a terrible spectrum of moral compromise. We can’t recommend the film enough, though we have to wonder about its fate at the box office. "Pan’s Labyrinth" is a splendid intersection of genre and arthouse, which may, like "The Host," make it appealing to no one in our compartmentalized moviegoing public. Not that we imagine Del Toro cares — much of what is exhilarating about "Pan’s Labyrinth" is that it seems to be exactly the film he wanted to make.

Screens October 15 at Avery Fisher Hall; opens in theaters December 29th.

+ "Pan’s Labyrinth" (NYFF)
+ "Pan’s Labyrinth" (Picturehouse)


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.