DID YOU READ

Opening This Week: October 27th, 2006

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By Christopher Bonet

IFC News

[Photo: “Babel,” Paramount Vantage, 2006]

A round-up of the indie and indie-ish films opening in theaters this week.

“20 Centimeters”

Director Ramón Salazar taps into the “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” formula in this film about a narcoleptic transvestite hoping to rid herself of eight inches of junk to become the real woman she’s always dreamed of. Instead, she falls asleep and dreams up elaborate musical numbers in English, Spanish, and French. Stars the ballsy (er, no pun intended) Mónica Cervera of “Crimen Ferpecto.”

Opens in New York (official site).

“Absolute Wilson”

Katharina Otto-Bernstein documents the life, work, and creative genius of avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson, best known for his work with composer Philip Glass (particularly “Einstein on the Beach”). The film includes interviews with David Byrne, Susan Sontag and Tom Waits.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Babel”

Cate Blanchett takes a bullet to the stomach in the final installment of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “death” trilogy in which fate, destiny, and other stuff are linked by a horrific tragedy. The film premiered at Cannes to critical acclaim — if it gets the same reception when it arrives here, expect heaps of awards for the director and stars Brad Pitt, Blanchett, and (we hope) Gael García Bernal.

Opens in New York and L.A. (official site).

“The Bridge”

Eric Steel filmed the Golden Gate Bridge for a year, catching almost two dozen of the jumpers who make the bridge the world’s main suicide landmark. Steel’s is the second documentary this week to offer actual footage of death; it has generated it’s fair share of controversy, but other critics have spoken of its humanism.

Opens in limited release (trailer).

“Catch a Fire”

Our favorite Australian filmmaker (sorry, Baz) returns for his first feature in nearly four years, this time staging a political thriller set in 1980s and post-apartheid South Africa. Derek Luke (of “Antwone Fisher”) dons his finest African accent for a role that’s already getting Oscar buzz, as an oil foreman wrongly accused and tortured. Tim Robbins plays the cop attempting to protect himself and his family from a society unraveling at the seams.

Opens in wide release (official site).

“Climates”

Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan cast himself and his real-life wife in his latest film as a couple whose relationship begins to disintegrate while on vacation along the Aegean Sea. Ceylan’s film, which won the FIPRESCI Award at Cannes, has been both praised and mocked for its throwback arthouse themes; still, it’s one of the year’s most beautiful films.

Opens in New York (official site).

“Cocaine Cowboys”

Cocaine has been in our pop cultural lives for quite some time now, and Miami in the early 1980s was (as chronicled in a certain TV show) home to the American cocaine trade. In this documentary, director Billy Corben chronicles the development of the illegal drug trade with interviews of both law enforcement and organized crime leaders. “Miami Vice” composer Jan Hammer developed the film’s score, which is just awesome, mang.

Opens in New York and Florida (official site).

“Conversations with God”

Director Stephen Simon adapts Neale Donald Walsch’s popular books of the same title in which a man asks God some tough questions and becomes a spiritual messenger after hearing God’s answers. Not one of the Tarantino crowd.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Cruel World”

Edward Furlong of “Terminator 2” fame and Jaime Pressly from “My Name is Earl” star in this horror comedy about a deranged runner-up from a reality show who holds a group of sexy co-eds hostage on the set of his own fictitious show in which the losers suffer a deadly fate. Plot be damned, I believe official site).

“Death of a President”

Perhaps the most controversial film to premiere at Toronto this year (“Borat” makes it a tough call), this fictional documentary by British filmmaker Gabriel Range hypothesizes what would happen following an assassination of George W. Bush in 2007 — stronger racial profiling of Arab-Americans, stricter limits of the newly-passed Patriot Act 3, and the three most frightening consecutive words in the English language: President Dick Cheney.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Exit: The Right to Die”

Fernand Melgar’s documentary looks into one of the most taboo subjects in the United States today: legally assisted suicide. The film follows a group of volunteer “escorts” responsible for visiting clients and preparing the lethal solution in Switzerland, the only nation in the world to allow legally assisted suicide, and reportedly includes actual footage of a death.

Opens on Wednesday in New York (official site).

“The Genius Club”

Timothy Chey directs this film in which a group of the world’s seven smartest geniuses are forced to solve the world’s most important problems in a single night, including, and I quote from the film’s website, “hunger, war, cancer, terrorism, rush hour traffic, jerks, and finally the meaning of life.” The film stars the Baldwin from “Bio-Dome,” so there you go.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss”

It’s that oh-so familiar story of two lovers whose love (or lust?) cannot be…but this time, they’re seals. Yes, seals. In this animated tale for families or just family members who are dying for anything to plop their offspring in front of for an hour or two, William Shakespeare’s condemnation of social mores are thrown out the window for a cuddly romp with Romeo, Juliet, Friar Lawrence and Kissy the kissing fish.

Opens in limited release (official site).

“Shut Up and Sing”

The Dixie Chicks turn badass in this documentary by Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County, U.S.A.”). The film follows the band after lead singer Nathalie Maines’ infamous Bush-bashing comments in Europe in 2003, tracing the lives and careers of the members as they faced political attacks, death threats and the question of the meaning of freedom of speech in post-9/11 America.

Opens in limited release (official site).

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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.