Tribeca ’08: Rednexploitation! “Tennessee,” “From Within,” “The Wild Man of Natividad.”

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05022008_tennessee.jpgAfter a few rounds on the festival circuit, you start to wonder if the road to indie inauthenticity is paved with Southern accents. “Tennessee” is a banner example of the type of film that aims for grit and heartstrings by way of regional blue-collar misery and ends up seeming as genuine as a McDonald’s sweet tea. The second film from Aaron Woodley, who’s actually Canadian — so Canadian he’s David Cronenberg’s nephew — is indeed about Tennessee, along with New Mexico, and the states through which you’d have to drive in order to get from the latter to the former. In “Tennessee,” all marriages are abusive, everyone drinks their liquor straight and someone can be treated for leukemia without losing a hair on his pretty head. The film’s about two brothers who set off on a road trip to Knoxville to find their estranged father, from whom they fled years ago when he started getting rough with their mother. But you don’t watch the film for them. You watch it, with glee in your heart, for Mariah Carey, who plays Krystal, the singin’, cryin’ Texan waitress who’s on the run from her overbearing State Trooper husband, and whose flirtatious mothering of the siblings makes you wonder if the film is going to head into “Y “Tu Mamá También” realms. (It doesn’t.)

05022008_fromwithin.jpgCarey is still uniquely and engagingly terrible on screen — she gives every line a downward intonation, and appears to wage a continuous, Stalingrad-scale struggle not to make eye contact with the camera. But while “Tennessee” is a true wedge of country-fried cheese, it’s also too downbeat and long to be pleasantly good-bad, much less “Glitter”-worthy. At least it’s harmless, which is more than can be said about “From Within,” a horror movie from longtime cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (“Walk the Line,” “Sideways”) that also made its world premiere at Tribeca this year. Set in the oppressively evangelical Grovestown, where they — for real — still burn witches, the film begins with a guylinered teen shooting himself and kicking off a rash of supernaturally induced suicides. (The first being his girlfriend, worth a mention only because she’s played by Rumer Willis, who’s been touted as one of the film’s big names despite essentially having the Drew Barrymore role in “Scream.”) The lynch-happy townsfolk blame the family of the woman they groundlessly killed before for being different — who, it turns out, actually was a witch, and whose craft is fueling the J-horroresque curse killing off the town’s residents. Derivative scares aside, “From Within” has one of the most egregiously awful portrayals of Christianity I’ve ever seen, one so over the top it’d be silly if it also weren’t earnestly ugly — faith is used to justify monstrous hypocrisy, cruelty and an avalanche of white-trash stereotypes. I’m cheerfully atheist and still found myself getting angry on behalf of fundamentalists, and maybe also the Jews in the audience, who had to negotiate the sight of a rednecked-out Adam Goldberg twanging about being an instrument of the will of God (who came to him, naturally, in prison) before setting a girl on fire for refusing to pray.

05022008_wildmanofthenavidad.jpg“The Wild Man of the Navidad,” directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks (who’s also the star), is a welcome palate cleanser, not the least for being in on its own joke. Produced by Kim Henkel, the writer/producer of 1974’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” the film’s a low-budget, lo-fi look at a mysterious creature wreaking havoc on a small Texas town. The pacing’s erratic, most of the cast is blatantly nonprofessional and the monster looks like (and may in fact be) a dude wearing a pile of animal skins and antlers. It’s all part of the deal — “The Wild Man of the Navidad”‘s a deliberate stylistic echo of a ’70s horror b-movie, and while it’s more funny than frightening, it maintains its own oddball Texas-gothic rhythm. Meeks, awash in flop sweat, plays Dale S. Rogers, forced by circumstance to allow people to hunt in family land occupied by the creature. Eyes darting, he nervously takes their money and sends them off to be slaughtered, while in the background his cockeyed Mexican manservant molests Rogers’ wheelchair-bound wife. At the town’s cafe/bar, the grizzled locals swig moonshine and start to wonder where their friends are disappearing to. There’s not an epiphany in sight.

[Photos: “Tennessee,” Lee Daniels Entertainment, 2008; “From Within,” Burgundy Films, 2008; “The Wild Man of the Navidad,” Greeks Productions, 2008]

+ “Tennessee” (TribecaFilmFestival.org)
+ “From Within” (TribecaFilmFestival.org)
+ “The Wild Man of the Navidad” (TribecaFilmFestival.org)


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.