DID YOU READ

“Interview”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Interview,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2007]

A good interview should be insightful and revealing. To be sure, the interview in “Interview” isn’t a good one, but it would be nice if the film had a little of those qualities. It does not. The film places us in a room with two characters and their accumulated mishegas but it doesn’t have enough intellectual curiosity about them to keep our attention.

The two characters are Pierre, played by Steve Buscemi, and Katya, played by Sienna Miller. He is a political journalist who has roiled his editor and gotten, in his estimation, a punishment assignment: a profile on an actress of schlocky horror and TV shows. He shows up to the Meatpacking District restaurant where they’re meeting in a surly mood, not caring even to feign interest in her or her work. She reacts, appropriately, with disgust, and so the interview ends before it has begun. The screenplay by Buscemi (who is also the film’s director) and David Schecter, from an original film directed by the late Theo van Gogh and writer Theodor Holman, is particularly effective in this scene, pointing out the sheer size of the divide between our protagonists: Pierre is scolded for daring to use his cell phone while waiting for Katya; Katya uses hers and the maître d’ gives her a better table.

So far, so good — but only so far. A more interesting and honest movie may have followed Buscemi’s character as he tries to write something based on the non-interview. I was reminded of a recent episode of “This American Life” that told the story of a young journalist thrust into an assignment for which she was unprepared, and the international uproar her article — which she invented after her interview went awry — sparked. But here a contrivance pushes Pierre and Katya back together, and then one after another keeps them that way. The two adjourn to her beautiful loft where they continue their arguments, get drunk, get high, reveal dark secrets about themselves and, most unbelievably, nearly have sex. Good or bad, it is in an interview, and it should feel at least a little spontaneous. Unfortunately, once the action shifts to Katya’s turf, “Interview” feels predetermined by its writers rather than by the actions or feelings of the characters.

The film has several points to make, about the media’s self-fulfilling poor opinion of young starlets and the inherent untrustworthiness of anything you might read in a newspaper or magazine. To the degree that they come across loud and clear, it is successful. But the two people used by Buscemi and Schecter to make those points aren’t particularly watchable, and neither is the no-frills way in which Buscemi stages the action. We’re left, then, to focus on what Pierre and Katya say and do, and that too feels forced by an unseen hand. Through the final act the two compete in a weird form of tragedy oneupsmanship (“My father’s dead!” “Oh yeah? Well, I am diseased!”), while the writing gets even more ungainly. “I want to know what’s haunting you!” Buscemi pleads, “Because I’m haunted too.” With that sort of material, no wonder Pierre got stuck with this gig.

With just two actors onscreen for most of the runtime, there is plenty of time to ponder their impact, particularly Miller, who continues to get cast in big parts and continues to fail to deliver in them. She’s a master of accents, but not of acting. As her slinky turns in “Layer Cake” and “Alfie” attest; the camera loves her. But her performances are all waterworks and screaming without the underlying emotional core, flashy but empty. We see her going through these personal upheavals but we don’t believe they’re actually happening to her.

Ultimately, “Interview” comes down to this: it is a movie about two people in a room. The people aren’t terribly interesting, but, boy, what a room. Under other circumstances, I could see a great movie taking place there.

“Interview” opens in limited release on July 13th (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.