“Rescue Dawn”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Rescue Dawn,” MGM, 2007]

If Dieter Dengler didn’t exist, Werner Herzog would have had to invent him. As it is, he has reinvented him, in a way, in his new film “Rescue Dawn.” Dengler was a German-American who dreamed of becoming a pilot ever since the day Allied aircraft buzzed his home and destroyed the little village in which he grew up. He emigrated to the US and joined the Navy just in time to serve in the Vietnam War. On his very first mission into Asia, he was shot down, captured and imprisoned in a Laotian P.O.W. camp. As a man who found his purpose in life in the face of death and who tested his mettle against the raw destructive fury of nature, Dengler fits in seamlessly with the subjects of classic Herzog creations like “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” and the director’s most recent hit, the documentary “Grizzly Man.”

Dengler’s story began as a documentary too; the 1997’s film “Little Dieter Needs to Fly.” But according to the story Herzog recounts in “Rescue Dawn”‘s press notes, Dengler had not been completely candid with Herzog when telling him the stories that formed the basis for “Little Dieter,” particularly about the conflicts that existed in the prison camp between the P.O.W.s. Though Dengler passed away in 2001, Herzog resolved to retell his great adventure. In a strange way, the added information Dengler provided Herzog before his death might make the fictional “Rescue Dawn” more truthful than the non-fiction “Little Dieter Needs to Fly,” a very Herzogian notion indeed.

This time, Dengler is played by Christian Bale, perhaps the greatest acting chameleon of his generation. Though most of Bale’s best turns in the past came as very dark characters — Borden in “The Prestige” or Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho” — his greatest asset as Little Dieter is the mischievous smile and the relentless optimism he flashes whenever hatching another escape plan. In other words, he’s a totally unique creation, separate from everything Bale’s done before. These are the skills that make him a great Batman: you believe this guy could slip into a role so completely that even his closest friends wouldn’t recognize him — he does it in movie after movie.

Bale’s matched step for step by his ensemble, particularly Jeremy Davies as Gene from Eugene, Oregon and Steve Zahn as Duane, who becomes Dieter’s best friend and closest ally. We’ve come to expect performances of this caliber from Davies, who is something of a chameleon himself, but Zahn’s performance, wounded and sad with barely a hint of the scruffy humor he typically brings to his roles, is the true revelation. Dieter intends to escape from the first day he lands at the camp in Laos, but his fellow inmates, whose souls have been crushed by years of harsh treatment, persuade him to stay, at least until the monsoon season. Without water, they warn, he’d die in two days wandering through the brush. “The jungle,” Duane warns, “is the prison.” So, we slowly realize, are the minds of men who have become resigned to their fate.

I’d never seen “Little Dieter Needs to Fly,” which worried me before I saw the film but now strikes me as a blessing in disguise. Not knowing the details of Dengler’s capture and escape meant I didn’t feel the urge to constantly compare documentary to fiction; it also meant that his struggle for freedom felt a good deal more suspenseful (despite knowing the ultimate outcome). Dieter’s story reminds me a bit of one of those horror movies where a bunch of people are supposed to die and don’t, and then God spends the rest of the movie trying to even the scales. By the end of “Rescue Dawn,” Dengler should be dead, many times over. And yet the determined bastard simply refuses to accept defeat. For everything else he sees in Dengler, maybe Herzog ultimately admires this quality the most.

“Rescue Dawn” opens in New York and L.A. on July 4th (official site).


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.