DID YOU READ

Cannes 08: “Che.”

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05232008_che.jpgThe noxious thing to say would be that when Steven Soderbergh’s “Che” is whittled down and divided up into two solid-sized features for realistic theatrical consumption, it’s not going to be nearly as good as it is in the Brobdingnagian, barely finished form that screened here at Cannes — 268 minutes, with no credits but with an intermission, during which the festival staff proffered brown bags stamped with “CHE” containing a bottle of water and half a sandwich, and smokers and non-smokers alike crowded onto the balcony to feverishly light up. And to be sure, there are resonances between part one and part two, with the first charting how Ernesto Guevara, played by Benicio Del Toro, became a comandante, braiding together pre- and post-Cuban revolution moments with the fighting, and the second closing in on his doomed campaign to foment an overthrow of the Bolivian government, ending in his capture and execution. But the latter half is really where it’s at. The former, which will become “The Argentine,” is functional, Soderberghian documentation: Guevara at dinner, debating over everything that needs to change; victorious, shot in black and white, being interviewed in New York, arguing on the floor of the U.N. and thanking Senator Eugene McCarthy at a cocktail party for the Bay of Pigs invasion and its united effects on the Cuban people; and arriving in Cuba with Castro, taking to the jungle and the art of guerrilla warfare, struggling through asthma attacks and outsider status, setting aside training as a doctor and becoming a commander who insists on the kind of unrelenting discipline one would expect from an enlisted army. It’s a sober go at finding the man behind the t-shirt, unglamorous, unromanticized, and also, alas, a stately slog.

Or maybe it’s just an exceptionally long, background-laden prologue to “Guerrilla,” which is linear, less efficient, more poetic and unhappy — “The Assassination of Che Guevara by the Bolivian Special Forces.” Left unseen, though not unmentioned, in the caesura: Guevara’s divorce and remarriage (to Aleida March, played in the film by Catalina Sandino Moreno), the execution of hundreds of members of the Batista regime at La Cabaña fortress, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro’s rise in power and Guevara’s unsuccessful trip to the Congo. It begins with Guevara, having vanished from the public eye, slipping into Bolivia, where he and friends from Cuba begin to recruit and train local forces for another enterprise in franchising revolution. Guevara’s half legend by now, and though he’s going by “Ramon,” potential guerrillas tremble when shaking his hand. A little older, a little weary, Guevara’s still a believer, though that belief is now cut with the knowledge that idealism goes better with overthrowing governments than with establishing and maintaining new ones.

Camped out in the Bolivian jungle, Guevara starts once more from the beginning, but nothing takes — the national communist party, led by Mario Monje (Lou Diamond Phillips), won’t give them support, and the peasants have been seeded with mistrust. This time around they don’t seem to ever get to the fighting, just preparation, waiting, running and hiding, negotiating for goods to survive, and falling, one by one. Famous faces show up throughout all of “Che” in unexpected places: “Raising Victor Vargas”‘s Victor Rasuk is a 16-year-old recruit, Julia Ormond is actress/reporter Lisa Howard, Franka Potente is Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider. Strangest of all, though, is Matt Damon, who appears in “Guerrilla” as a Spanish-speaking German priest who claims to have been appointed by the peasants to request the guerrillas leave them alone, that Guevara and his forces aren’t Bolivian, that they’ll never be trusted — outsiders once again. The days tick by on screen, approaching a year, as food grows scarce, run-ins with U.S. Special Forces-taught troops turn out to be devastating, supporters are slaughtered and, even if you didn’t know it was coming, it becomes obvious that Guevara is going to die there, far from his family and adopted home.

It’s something he seems aware of too, and it’s in the lingering ends of the film that Del Toro glows, his Che asthmatic, meditative in defeat and unfaltering, even when finally caught. “I believe in mankind,” he tells his guard, a statement of fact that precedes a preposterously guileless bid for escape, an all-in bet that doesn’t pay off. But it’s a belief that’s truly heroic, particularly in the face of the ugliness that quickly follows, and it’s one that Soderbergh has managed, in “Che,” to eulogize without also having to canonize the man to whom it belonged.

[Photo: “Che,” Laura Bickford Productions/Wild Bunch, 2008]

+ “Che” (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.