DID YOU READ

“Factory Girl,” “20 Million Miles to Earth”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce in “Factory Girl,” Weinstein Company, 2006]

There’s a certain kind of human being who, however ordinary or perhaps merely beautiful in real life, acquires the halo of mesmerizing superhumanity when seen on celluloid — we cannot takes our eyes off them, even if we know in our forebrains that there’s really not much there to see. It’s one of cinema’s unquantifiable mysteries, and Edie Sedgwick, short-lived queen of Andy Warhol’s mid-60s Factory, personified it — she never did anything, couldn’t act or even tell a story well. But everyone, Warhol in particular, had to watch. This is just one of the bizarre, extra-textual things about George Hickenlooper’s biopic “Factory Girl” — Sienna Miller, playing Edie, is a solid, sympathetic actress, but does she have that same unworldly magnetism on film? How could she? If she doesn’t, how does that make sense of why Edie, within the movie’s world, got famous in the first place?

The fact that Sedgwick only occupied the underground art-scene spotlight for a little over a year before getting lost on dope and falling out of Warhol’s favor makes her an even more unlikely biopic topic — but there’s no denying that she has, somehow, proven to be a deathless, Marilyn-style icon of counterculture cool, a reputation built by word of mouth, not by exposure to her nearly impossible to see films. So, Hickenlooper’s film was inevitable, and inevitably devoted to the biopic template. The film does, in any event, a smash-up job freezing a retro-goofy sense of the New York ’60s in amber, and it gives us the most interesting on-screen Andy Warhol yet — personified by Guy Pearce, Warhol is a grandly passive-aggressive faerie queen with a penchant for deflective press-interview ironies and inappropriate confessional booth announcements (“Why do you come here?” the priest asks; “Because it’s a sin not to,” Andy innocently answers).

He’s not just a wig-&-whimper joke here; we get a vivid sense of how his Factory worked, how he retained power over it, how he used people like Edie by simply, martial artist-like, bending with the breeze and letting things spiral out of control away from him. Expect not a grimly realistic portrait of the Warhol scene (much less an analysis of the man’s aesthetics and motivations), and get past the foolishly tall and hunky Bob Dylan simulacrum (Hayden Christensen), and the film does a smooth and sympathetic job at memorializing one of the 20th century’s oddest cultural totems, the only nobody that Warhol did in fact manage to turn into an authentic “superstar,” her cult of vacuity growing larger and more worshipful as the decades pass, while the other Factory workers vanish from memory.

Another nostalgic couch-idyll: Nathan Juran and Ray Harryhausen’s “20 Million Miles to Earth” (1957), not an auteurist relic full of rich subtextual ore, God knows, but best remembered by an entire generation of postwar psychotronic-movie geeks (like me, and like Tim Burton, here gushingly interviewing stop-motion pope Harryhausen in a DVD supp) as one of the preeminent moments in American pop culture when frame-by-frame F/X — so simple and manual in process, so damnably magical in the viewing — rejiggered one’s burgeoning view of the world. Harryhausen’s reptilian-humanoid creature rampaging around Rome still glues your eyeballs; the fantastic tangibility of his creations (from, also notably, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” “Mysterious Island” and “It Came from Beneath the Sea”) is their lynchpin — unlike CG images, Harryhausen’s homely behemoths obey the same laws of movement that constrain the actors, and inhabit the same space, turf, gravity and sunlight. Their three-dimensionality is not illusory, and their hesitant, unblurred motions remain strangely poignant. But for a certain age of cinephile, this lavish DVD package — 50th anniversaried up, with a second disc of interviews and memories and storyboards — is also a ticket to the B-movie gray heaven of the ’50s, down to the way suited men sit on desks, and the stolid hero (William Hopper) lights up after electrocuting the alien from Venus. (Warhol could’ve air-written the moments when an American says “Venus!” and an Italian peasant replies, “Venice?”) You also have the opportunity to toggle between the original b/w and a moldy-beige Colorized version, but who among us would do such a thing?

“Factory Girl” (Weinstein Company) is now available on DVD; “20 Million Miles to Earth” (Sony Pictures) will be available on DVD on July 31st.

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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.