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DID YOU READ

“300.”

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No surrender.
When, in "300," Zack Snyder‘s disastrous tribute to ancient badassery, warriors bawl "This! Is! Spartaaaa!," it’s impossible not to wonder: is this actually meant to be…Americaaaa? "300" is, after all, the tale of how a limited but uberheroic force heads off to fight the unwashed hordes from the Middle East after speechifying about freedom and patriotism, the admonitions of the foolish politicians on the Spartan council be damned. As a political metaphor, it doesn’t line up into anything worth analysis. As the extreme conclusion of every fanboy obsession with hypermasculinity and glorified slow-motion violence, it’s a keeper.

"300" is a film adaptation of Frank Miller‘s graphic novel of the
same name, which is a loose account of the Battle of Thermopylae. At the film’s outset, the massive armies of the Persian Emperor Xerxes are poised to crush the city-state of Sparta; the stakes of this encroachment are never made entirely clear, as King Leonidas (Gerard Butler, who may have the worst agent in the world) not only refuses to negotiate with the Persian messenger who arrives to inform him of this fact, but kicks him into the deep pit the Spartans have apparently constructed in the midst of the city for this very purpose. There’s much about the film’s celebration of Spartan culture that might give one pause, particularly the description of it as the world’s one hope for reason and justice immediately after we’ve been treated to a prologue about how the Spartans throw their runty babies off a cliff and subject their adolescent boys to a routine of beatings and battles with wild animal to toughen them up. Reason and justice must be pastimes left to those other Greeks, like the rival Athenians, who Leonidas sneeringly refers to as "boy lovers." No such homoerotic context for the Spartans, the manliest men to ever wage war in leather speedos.

The corrupt oracular ministry is bribed into refusing to allow the city-state to officially go to war, so Leonidas, after a little nookie from his sharp-tongued wife Gorgo (Lena Headey), gathers 300 of his burliest soldiers and sets up at a pass where the size of the Persian Army will be negated by the narrowness of the space. From there, the film is one lingering skirmish after another with the themed forces of Asia, who arrive packing sky-blackening sheets of arrows, masks, elephants, grenades and an armored rhino. 

"300" does look remarkable, like a Frank Frazetta painting brought to life. The film was, like the last adaptation of a Miller graphic novel, Robert Rodriguez‘s "Sin City," shot against bluescreens, the rich backgrounds filled in during post-production. While "Sin City"’s ultrastylized recreations reinforced the sense that the actors were overlaid into their environment rather than interacting with it directly, most reminders of that separation are gone in "300"; the burnished actors look as real or unreal as their settings. Many of Snyder’s shots were apparently inspired by panels in Miller’s book — these best inform the film in moments like a silhouetted conflict at the top of a cliff, or a sequence in which Leonidas slices his way through a wave of Persian soldiers, the camera scrolling with him like eyes across a page. Snyder’s fatal addiction to slow-motion undermines many of the other action sequences; scarcely a shot can go by without time going elastic for a few luxurious seconds so that we can better appreciate someone’s head being cut off, or some new horde’s yawping approach over a bluff. It’s the visual equivalent of a letter composed entirely in italics, or, given the director’s faith that no smidgen of dialogue is too marginal not to be bellowed, in capital letters.

There are too many jaw-dropping throwaway images in "300" to recount — the man with blade-arms; the Boschian tree of dead bodies; the lesbian amputee harem display; Xerxes himself, who arrives on an immense portable dais looking like a pierced seven-foot Oscar statue. Its audaciousness pushes the film well into that valuable realm of the good-bad; it’s ridiculous, it utterly fails to be the rousing portrait of sacrifice and glory in death it would like to be, and we’d see it again in a second.

"300" opens in wide release March 9th.

+ "300" (Warner Bros.)

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.