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Cannes’ Lonely Boys

Cannes’ Lonely Boys (photo)

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Even a place as exciting and glamorous as the Cannes Film Festival can feel pretty lonely. You’re 4,000 miles from home, you don’t speak the language, and there’s nothing to eat but dried sausage and gherkins. Which makes it the perfect place to see movies like Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park” and Harmony Korine’s “Mister Lonely,” the first in competion and the second in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and both absolutely steeped in the nature of isolation.

Nearly all of Van Sant’s movies examine withdrawn heroes who’ve dropped out from society. His is a cinema of reclusion right on down the filmmography, which includes the emblematic figure of Norman Bates in his controversial shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” In recent years, Van Sant’s focused more on aloof youth, the killers and victims of the Columbine-like “Elephant,” the burned-out rock star of “Last Days.” “Paranoid Park” continues Van Sant’s streak of movies about adolescent estrangement. It follows Alex (Gabe Nevins), a skater with a blank stare and a guilty conscience. As the time-bending narrative unfolds — mimicking a stream-of-consciousness entry in a frightened teen’s journal — Alex is implicated in a train yard murder, one Van Sant recreates onscreen in shockingly graphic detail.

All of Van Sant’s recent movies have hinged more on atmosphere than stories. “Elephant” was filled with dread, “Last Days” with grief. “Paranoid Park” puts its theme right there in the title. To capture that feeling, Van Sant goes more subjective this time around: along with Alex’s narration, the film is peppered with dreamy skateboarding sequences that exist outside the narrative proper. The grainy Super-8 photography contrasts with the rest of the film’s stark imagery (the cinematographer is former Wong Kar-wai collaborator Christopher Doyle, with Rain Kathy Li).

Nevins — who was, maybe, sorta (depends on who you ask) cast through MySpace — is an emotionally distant actor, but emotional distance is practically a prereq for stardom, Van Sant-style. “Paranoid Park” is less immediately shocking than “Elephant” or sorrowful as “Last Days” but in its own quiet way, it surpasses both. Van Sant’s technique is incredibly confident and he’s increasingly comfortable in this slightly avant-garde mode that’s defined his decade of filmmaking. All of his choices, right down to the way he never shows Alex’s parents on camera save for one crucial moment, feel right.

During our interview about his “Mister Lonely” at Cannes, Harmony Korine made oblique references to his dark times and the gratitude he feels simply for being able to make another movie, his first in eight years, and being alive to share it with people (he also compared the experience of being at Cannes to smoking crack, but that’s probably a story for another time). He sounded like Blake, Michael Pitt’s Kurt Cobainish character from “Last Days,” if only Blake hadn’t succumbed to his demons.

“Mister Lonely” doesn’t really address drug abuse, but it does face head-on the solitary lifestyle that might come hand-in-hand with true addiction. It also recreates the feeling of being alone at Cannes in an even more direct way: its subject, a Michael Jackson impersonator (beautifully played by Diego Luna), begins the movie as a friendless street performer, moonwalking for pocket change on the streets of Paris. In his travels, he stumbles upon a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton) who invites him to a retreat her husband (a French Charlie Chaplin, played by Denis Lavant) has created as a safe haven for fellow impersonators.

Like “Paranoid Park,” “Mister Lonely” is less about the twists and turns of that story than the feelings they evoke. And where Van Sant’s movie has its ethereal skating scenes to balance and comment on its main plot, “Mister Lonely” has an entire counter-narrative, one that often dwarfs its main story for humor and memorable imagery. In it, a group of missionary nuns airdrop food and supplies on remote South American villages. On one run, one of the nuns falls out the open door of the plane and falls to the earth below but survives because of her faith. This section has its own misters lonely: the alcoholic priest who flies the nuns’ plane (played to the hilarious hilt by Werner Herzog), and a local adulterer who Herzog councils to stunning effect. The nun sequences might sound like an elaborate gag but they take on unexpected spiritual dimensions and the footage of those nuns falling through the air might be the most uplifting of this year’s festival.

Without spoiling too much, both “Mister Lonely” and “Paranoid Park” end on similar notes, not of happiness or sadness, per se, but of perseverance. The proper response to Van Sant and Korine’s cinematic loneliness isn’t to overcome it but to shoulder it and carry on. Watch them yourself — by yourself.

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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.