SXSW 2008: “The Order of Myths.”

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03092008_theorderofmyths.jpgTradition is rooted in history, and history is littered with things we’d rather forget. Mobile, Alabama’s Mardi Gras celebration is the oldest in the U.S., and some aspects of it, like a customary float depicting Folly chasing Death around a broken column, can’t fully be explained even by those who grew up there. Others, like the fact that the celebration, the pride of the city and the generator of $227 million of income a year, is blatantly and surreally segregated into separate parades and pairings of Mardi Gras kings and queens for the black and white populations, can be broken down without much effort. But most of the people interviewed in Margaret Brown’s superb documentary “The Order of Myths” instead perform an exquisite verbal dance around the issue, citing tradition, roots, history and the debatable fact that everyone prefers it this way. “The Order of Myths” is a tender, unsparing portrait of Mobile’s Mardi Gras, but it’s also a tremendously rich examination of how people carry on from day to day while negotiating the minefields of the past.

Helen Meagher, a coltish blond with a sweet-natured smile, is designated queen of Mardi Gras by the MCA &151; the Mobile Carnival Association, an all-white, old school Alabama organization. Stefanie Lucas, a glowingly round-faced elementary school teacher, is proclaimed queen by the all-black, slightly newer but just as entrenched MAMGA — the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association, once the Colored Carnival Association. As the film follows the queens and their accompanying kings through the fittings, coronations, lunches and balls leading up to the parades, it dips into the past, recent and further back. Helen comes from a long line of property owners and, once, slaveholders, one of whom commissioned the last slave ship to come from Africa over 50 years after the slave trade has been outlawed. Stefanie’s ancestors arrived on that ship. Elsewhere, the costumes of some of the secret “mystic” societies who make up the parades recall, without question, those of the KKK; an outspoken debutante discusses her own liberal nature and free spirit while gradually being seduced by all of the pageantry; a few paeans are composed to moon pies; and the MAMGA king and queen pay an unprecedented visit to the MCA coronation.

It’s heady material, but Brown doesn’t let it bear the entire burden of the film. “The Order of Myths” is beautifully composed and shot, and, even better, delicately edited — while none of the subjects are let off easy, none are given unfair treatment. Parallels that could have been hammered in are allowed to breathe — someone discusses the city’s love of the old oak trees that line the streets and makes a note of how they represent, literally, the area’s roots; later, we see an image of a 19-year-old man who was found hanging from one of those trees in 1981, one of the country’s last reported lynchings. A reveal, late in the film, of the filmmaker’s own connections to Mobile and the carnival draws the film’s fond and rueful tone together. Only someone who came from this world would have this kind of knowledge and access, and only someone with a bit of remove would be able to present it in such sharp detail.

[Photo: “The Order of Myths,” Margaret Brown, 2008]

+ “The Order of Myths” (SXSW)


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.