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DID YOU READ

“Grindhouse.”

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Planet Terror.It has to be said that no film could be as fun as the promise of "Grindhouse," with its double-feature assurances of being packed to the rotting rafters with every every sticky shameless cinematic pleasure — 191 minutes of thoughtless, tasteless filmic bliss. "Grindhouse" is mightily enjoyable, but it’s never quite delivers the gluttonous gratification we’d guess directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, who slap each other heartily on the back throughout, felt while making the film. Also, aside from the priceless faux trailers tucked in between the two halves — Rob Zombie‘s "Werewolf Women of the S.S." has a brilliant non sequitur of an appearance by Nicolas Cage as "Fu Manchu," and a deadpan ad for the Acuña Boys Restaurant "right next door to the theater" parades a gloriously unappetizing array of khaki-colored food — the film never wholeheartedly commits to aping the exploitations films the boy-king pair have been claiming as context, which we’re not sure is a complaint.

Rodriguez’s smearily over-the-top "Planet Terror" looks like a grindhouse film — the stock is scratched, discolored and warped, it curls at the edges, and at one point burns out, leaving behind a solemn apology from the management about the missing reel (a tic echoed in Taratino’s installment). It was all lovingly added in post-production — "Planet Terror" was shot on digital and is, beneath the appended grit, a slick bit of exorbitance. The film is less a narrative than a frantic mash-up of exploitation tropes: zombies; lesbian affairs; an ominous, amputation-happy hospital; things exploding into balls of flame for absolutely no reason; renegade scientists; tattooed men with mysterious pasts; monstrous soldiers; ludicrous dialogue (and endless amputee jokes); melting genitals; Texas barbecue — you’ll find them all in "Planet Terror." Rose McGowan leads as Cherry Darling, a discontented go-go dancer who weeps as she shimmies to Rodriguez’s woozy theme music, until she’s reunited with her former flame (a surprisingly charismatic Freddy Rodríguez), separated from her leg by zombies, and given a machine gun with which to replace it.

The film wobbles between a genuine embrace of its own trashiness and a smug acknowledgment of its own camp qualities, which is an irritant — overt, calculated kitsch seems like cheating, or at least undermining what we’d imagine to be "Grindhouse"’s mission statement. "Planet Terror"’s aggressive pursuit of new kickassery is a good time that’s quick to fade from mind, though the soon-to-be-iconic image of a bandeau-topped McGowan gimping along on her high caliber artificial limb doesn’t. Neither does the winkingly clumsy (which, in this context, works) attempt to tie the film’s action to the war in Iraq, which ultimately finds Freddy Rodríguez, biting back tears, barking "God bless you for your service to this country" before blowing Bruce Willis‘ head off. Hilarious!

Taratino’s "Death Proof" is a trickier beast, a clever and sleekly shot semi-thriller that’s a grindhouse film in form. The tone is uneven, the pacing languid, the structure completely ridiculous — the film meanders with one set of characters for at least half the runtime, setting up plot threads that go nowhere and hinting at backstories, only to then kill most of those people off in a burst of impressive violence and start over with a new set. All of which is, actually, dead on, though "Death Proof" turns out to be foremost a love letter from Tarantino to himself. The film’s wandering focus never passes up characters talking about nothing in particular, whether that nothing be old TV shows, 60s UK pop groups or Tarantino in-jokes. This far into his career, it’s impossible not to hear him, the auteur-cum-ventriloquist, behind every character, especially with concoctions like Sydney Tamiia Poitier‘s alpha Amazon Julia, who smokes weed like a fiend and tosses out idle references to "Cannonball Run" and Zatoichi without any doubt that those around her will know exactly what she’s talking about. Still, there’s an unhurried quality to the conversations that oh-so-good — Kurt Russell, better than he’s been in a long time as baddie Stuntman Mike, notably seems to savor his every line before spitting it out. In the latter chunk of the film, the action’s allowed to grind to a total halt as the camera circles the film’s second group of girls, gathered around a diner table chatting about "Vanishing Point" for. Fucking. Ever. It’s so indulgent that you suspect Tarantino of trying to insert himself into the B-movie history he dwells over — here’s a bit of slasher/stalker flick, here’s some tough girl revenge story, and here’s a slab of vintage Tarantino, inheritor of the entire kingdom.

We could care less about where Tarantino would put himself in the canon, but we can’t deny his virtuosity, and for every annoying departure and moment of celluloid navel-gazing, there’s are a dozen shots of such unfettered élan — the head-bobbing sequence leading up to a crash, say, or a drowsy jukebox dance, or the lengthy car chase that we know was done without the help of CGI because a character all but turned to the camera and told us so.

Wait — maybe he actually did.

"Grindhouse" opens wide on April 6th.

+ "Grindhouse" (Weinstein Company)

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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.