“The Lives of Others.”

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"It is for me."
Curious that writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has claimed that his debut "The Lives of Others" was urged on by disgust with the phenomenon of ostalgie, nostalgia for (and the kitschification of) life in the German Democratic Republic. The only complicated sentiment in von Donnersmarck’s exasperating Stasi-era drama could be a precursor to that melancholic longing. Years after the film’s main intrigues have passed, the Berlin Wall has fallen, and the remaining characters have dazedly folded themselves into Western life, playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) encounters a former GDR official outside a performance of one of his own plays. The man once came close to destroying Dreyman’s life, but now they are just two more German citizens killing time in a theater lobby, and he turns to Dreyman and pitilessly points out that Dreyman hasn’t written anything since the crumbling of the Republic.

We do see Dreyman finishing something new before the film’s end, but the point is fair — nothing will ever again have the urgency or thrill of the subversive essay he has smuggled out of the country for publication during the film’s first setting in 1984. And certainly one can’t imagine that anyone will invest as much attention in his career of a playwright as the East German government, who send Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) to wire the apartment Dreyman shares with his actress girlfriend Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck). Ostensibly this is because some see subversive potential in the previously loyal Dreyman; in reality, a higher-up has designs on Christa-Maria and would like an excuse to get Dreyman out of the way. As Dreyman begins to harbor doubts about the regime, Wiesler is seduced, with outrageously watery-eyed romanticism, by the music and literature he’s unwillingly exposed to while quivering in his headphones at his surveillance post in the attic of the apartment building.

He’s also, less adorably, drawn in by the glamour of the couple’s lives — Dreyman and Christa-Maria flutter around their high-ceilinged apartment like stylish birds of paradise, reassuring us that arty people are more attractive, more interesting and have better sex. In contrast, Wiesler goes home to a life that is colorless — literally, in the case of his grim Soviet-chic apartment and bachelor’s instameal — and has a sad encounter with a busy prostitute that ends with him begging her in vain to stay a few minutes longer. It’s a fatal flaw of "The Lives of Others" that the world it depicts never seems reasonably inhabited — von Donnersmarck recreates a sense of overwhelming oppression but never gives us an inkling of life grinding on and mostly functioning despite it. Everyone government-aligned is vindictive, corrupt and, as an added bonus, physically repellant or, in the case of Wiesler, scarcely alive, devoted to the job for lack of anything else. Dreyman, on the other hand, has actually been living quite comfortably in willful blindness until he chooses otherwise, at which point the sympathetic Wiesler starts covering for him — but even he’s spared any uncomfortable toeing of the party line. Would it be so terrible to acknowledge some people, somewhere, must have believed in the GDR? Von Donnersmarck’s unsparing absolutes make it tough to believe the characters wouldn’t have immediately shaken off the system, a folie à plusieurs that would clear right up with a full night’s sleep and some hot tea.

"The Lives of Others" opens in limited release on February 9th.

+ "The Lives of Others" (Sony Pictures Classics)


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.