DID YOU READ

“Married Life”

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03072008_marriedlife.jpgBy Matt Singer

By the end of “Married Life,” the characters have caused each other a great deal of harm in order to better their own lives, and they know it. Is it wrong, they wonder, to build one’s happiness on the unhappiness of others? If it is, that makes going to the movies one of the most immoral acts you can do. What are movies, after all, if not the vicarious enjoyment of the suffering of others?

There’s plenty of suffering here, and thus plenty to enjoy. The film focuses on four people living at the turn of the 1950s and the damage they do to one another. Harry (Chris Cooper) is married to Pat (Patricia Clarkson), but their relationship chilled some time ago. Harry confides to his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) that he wants something more out of a woman than just “the sex” by way of introducing him to his mistress, Kay (Rachel McAdams). While Richard — who initially considers marriage as “a mild illness” — falls for Kay, an oblivious Harry plots ways to remove an equally oblivious Pat from the picture.

The film is set specifically at the end of 1949. In American cinema terms, that sort of places it at the tail end of film noir, but just prior to the major melodramas of Douglas Sirk. It’s funny how we tend to think of these particular styles as so wholly different even though these films were often standing shoulder to shoulder at the box office (“The Big Heat” predated “Magnificent Obsession” by about ten months and it, in turn, predated “Kiss Me Deadly” by about ten months). In a sense, “Married Life” marries the two forms together in a way that honors, and also upends, the traditions of both. If you’re looking for one filmmaking mode or the other, you might be disappointed that the film isn’t as dark as the former or as serious as the latter. But if you’re willing to go along with a movie that plays with convention and ducks expectations, it all works.

Well, maybe not all. Some of the angles of this love rectangle are just a wee bit off. McAdams, in particular, doesn’t seem the right match — age-wise, temperament-wise, “the sex”-wise or otherwise — for Cooper. Her character would seem to fit the bill of a femme fatale but, as we’ve established, “Married Life” isn’t necessarily a film noir and so Kay isn’t necessarily required to play into any stereotypes. But she doesn’t play into much of anything else either; her performance is as flat as that unflattering platinum blonde hairdo she sports. She fares better in her scenes with Brosnan, but that may be thanks to the fact that he seems to be as authentic to the era as she is clearly not. Brosnan got a lot of credit for “updating” Bond back in the ’90s, but it’s obvious in the way he wears his suits, smokes his cigarettes, and carries his hat that he’s very comfortable in a period piece. He just looks like someone from a movie from 1949 and he’s got just the right sort of ladies’ man persona for a character as lovesick as Richard.

I like the way the film builds to one climax but delivers another even more satisfying one, and I like the way the director, Ira Sachs (previously of the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “Forty Shades of Blue”), piles on layer after layer of guilt, deceit, and paranoia and still has the guts to go for a happy ending. The characters suffer for our pleasure, and, ultimately, their own.

[Patricia Clarkson in “Married Life,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2007]

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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.