DID YOU READ

“Arctic Tale”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Arctic Tale,” Paramount Vantage, 2007]

“Arctic Tale” sounds an alarm about our society’s environmental impact on the Arctic Ocean — an alarm that sounds distinctly like a walrus fart. This mystifying film, equal parts whimsical children’s book and apocalyptic nature documentary, oscillates wildly between tones and moods and digestive functions, particularly in one outlandish scene where a pack of walruses eat a hearty meal and let ’em rip. Not since Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” has the silver screen been torn asunder by such a display of cinematic flatulence.

And this is a movie about global warming, although “Arctic Tale” never actually uses that term (the narration, written by Linda Woolverton, Mose Richards and Kristin Gore — daughter of Al Gore — prefers less divisive terminology like “increasing warmth”). The world its intrepid directors, Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson, have spent fifteen years recording, a world of polar bears, walruses and ice floes, is being threatened by hotter and hotter weather, and they record it all in devastating detail. But they temper that material with one of the most juvenile narratives imaginable, and they mold their raw footage into a story that is pretty clearly invented by the filmmakers in the editing room rather than captured in the wild.

This story, about a polar bear cub named Nanu and a walrus pup named Seela, sees the natural world as a Disney animator does, precociously and with a rather strange sense of morality. Nanu and Seela are given names, are followed around by a camera crew and survive in the face of increasingly bad odds. In the childhood logic of “Arctic Tale,” that makes them heroes, even as they do some horrific, ferocious things. This leads to a truly creepy sequence wherein heartwarming music plays while two of the characters eat the third. Bambi’s mom’s got nothing on this stuff.

If there was a surer filmmaking hand at the editing bay command, one might suspect that these sequences are intended to give the environmental message a bigger emotional punch. More likely, this “Baby’s First Global Warming Lesson” was a bit too horrifying for its young audience to stomach (and maybe for their parents too), and so the powers that be injected levity wherever they could, the more immature and reassuringly cuddly the better.

To a degree, my opinion is irrelevant, since “Arctic Tale” is pitched toward very small kids and I’m not one and don’t have any. But I’ve got to believe this film, however well-intentioned, will leave children unnerved and confused, particularly during those weird closing credits where children tell us how to combat global warming. (I liked the one who told me buying a hybrid would directly help polar bears.) I can just imagine the questions that await parents on their way out of the theater: “Mommy, why are the walrus farts making it hotter?”

“Arctic Tale” opens in limited release on July 25th (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.