DID YOU READ

Cannes 08: “Changeling.”

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05212008_changeling.jpgA cloche-wearing madonna, Angelina Jolie is the porcelain personification of trembling courage and devoted motherhood in “Changeling.” As Christine Collins, entire scenes exist solely for the world’s most famous collector of international orphans to allow her eyes to well up as, clutching her hands over her mouth, she gives in to despair of ever finding Walter, her kidnapped son. Other times, the facade shatters and she shrieks “He’s not my son! He’s not my son!” Or “Did you kill my son?! Did you kill my son?!” Or “No! No! No!” Someone actually refers to her as having “moxie,” which is something you were allowed to say without airquotes in the 1920s, when the film is set, but which isn’t so accurate — mostly she picturesquely suffers and droops and then lifts her chin and enlists the help offered her by those who’d like to use her case as a weapon against the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department.

“Changeling” is director Clint Eastwood at his most manipulative, leagues beyond “Million Dollar Baby.” The film’s based on the actual Wineville Chicken Murders, in which Gordon Stewart Northcott kidnapped and killed at least three boys on his ranch in what’s now Mira Loma. One of the boys was 10-year-old Walter Collins, who was at the heart of a scandal surrounding the case — after he was reported missing, the L.A.P.D. found another child who claimed to be Walter. When Christine Collins, Walter’s mother, denied that boy was her son, the police had her sent to the county psych ward. It’s an intriguing set-up, none the least because, as the film shows it, Christine at first dazedly lets herself be convinced that the boy could hers after all. But “Changeling” can’t allow its characters to appear to be made of flesh and blood — Jeffrey Donovan, as the police captain who finds “Walter” eventually has Christine committed, might as well be vamping in a black cape. John Malkovich is ever a-tremble with indignation as the crusading Reverend Briegleb, who comes to Christine’s rescue. Christine is a saintly single mother with a spotless house and a modish but demure wardrobe who wakes up already in full make-up, who tirelessly dotes on her darling child and who supports them both as a skillful supervisor at the phone company switchboard. “Changeling” doesn’t want to tell a story — it wants to be a portrait of a conquering heroine trampling on injustice, and not that of a realistic and wronged woman who was in danger of getting ground in the gears of a dishonest and powerful organization. Given that Christine’s great moments of triumph are those of enduring mistreatment, however, the intermittent faux feminist sentiments seem drearily misplaced. And like most true stories, “Changeling”‘ has no clean ending, struggles through what feels like an anticlimax in search of closure and settling on an ill-favored exchange of dialogue that I’d have called the worst in the festival until I saw “Surveillance” this morning (more on that in a bit).

With its star, its varnished vintage appearance and the ability to generate bewildering reviews like this one, “Changeling” is a picture all but created to win Academy Awards. Maybe it will, but hell if it deserves any. For the awards show clip, I’d suggest the scene where Christine visits the killer in prison, unnecessary to the plot and the film as a whole except as an opportunity to show off more of Jolie’s histrionic emoting. It might as well be useful for something.

“Changeling” will be released in the U.S. by November 7th.

[Photo: “Changeling,” Universal Pictures, 2008]

+ “Changeling” (Festival-Cannes.fr)

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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.