SXSW 2008: “Stop-Loss.”

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03172008_stoploss.jpg“Stop-Loss,” Kimberly Peirce’s first film since 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” tears itself into tortured pieces trying to be an impossible combination of things — an Iraq War film for the MTV crowd; Serious Cinema that’s also a goggle-eyed aesthetic appreciation of Channing Tatum’s hot bod, Ryan Phillippe’s pretty face and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s expert broodiness; a celebration of the troops’ badassery that doesn’t condone their actions against collateral citizens; an issue flick that nevertheless sometimes earnestly recalls “Top Gun.” Peirce’s younger brother enlisted and went to Iraq, and she’s reverent of the choice, which puts her in a bind — “Stop-Loss,” unable to take a stance against the war its characters have signed up to fight, settles for being against its titular policy, which allows for enlisted soldiers to have their contracts extended without their consent by order of the President. In other words, the film’s main beef isn’t having to fight or get maimed or possibly die, it’s having to do more than your fair share of it.

Phillippe plays Sgt. Brandon King, who, after a tough tour in Iraq, is shipped back to his honey-colored Texan hometown with his unit, including his best friend and fellow sergeant Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum). King’s done his duty and is ready for civilian life; Shriver is about to marry his longtime girlfriend Michelle (Abbie Cornish); their fellow soldier Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is happy to get back to his own wife, who he soon starts drunkenly harassing — fallout from experiences in the war. In fact, none of them is doing that well — Shriver punches his girl and, convinced he’s on a mission, digs a hole in the front yard in his undies; King beats up some would-be muggers and calls them “hajjis,” Tommy drives drunk, shoots up his wedding presents and sings Toby Keith songs. Their only salvation from stereotypical movie PTSD is each other, which is why King takes flak from all sides when he’s stop-lossed and tries to fight it. It’s not so much that he’s betraying a direct order, it’s that he’s abandoning his men, who need his leadership. The only support he has comes from his family and from Michelle, who approaches a love interest and then retreats — the upstanding King would never do that to a pal.

“Stop-Loss”‘s sentimentalized dream of soldiering and military camaraderie is heartbreaking; having spent the last year together in the Middle East, these men, now home, only want to hang out more. They’re unwavering in their support of each other (well, until King wants out), they’re polite and clean-cut, they love their mothers and their country and, in a stoic, semi-homoerotic action-movie way, each other. Half of the film’s flashbacks to their time in Iraq are of combat, and the other half are of bucolic downtime, of posing and clowning and a makeshift baptism. Shriver is apparently a perfect shot; King can take down three armed men in a heartbeat — these aren’t soldiers, they’re traumatized superheroes. When King goes AWOL, his commanding officer (Timothy Olyphant) puts out a statewide APB as if he’d just come off a mass liquor store-robbing rampage, and the option to flee the country is akin to being cast out of heaven.

“Stop-Loss” is a white hot mess, but it lays its anguished soul bare with a fearlessness that has to be admired. Still, in its own way, it’s as unfair a representation of the troops as “Redacted”‘s crudely negative one — ironic, given that Brian De Palma and Peirce both cite soldier-shot videos as touchstones. I can’t believe that anyone really sees our soldiers as a unified force that’s either monstrous or near-mythological — the choice to skew them one way or another as some perceived corrective presumes that the average filmgoer can’t grasp that they, like any other group of people, are just fallible, flawed and human.

[Photo: “Stop Loss,” Paramount Pictures, 2008]

+ “Stop Loss” (SXSW)
+ “Stop Loss” (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.