Trendspotting: Brownface, bags, polibiopics.

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I remain on the lookout for an overview trend as convenient and analysis-friendly as last year’s Summer of Threequels, but so far, not so much. Will “the season of overlong run-times” count? How about “the summer of our discontent”?

06052008_tropicthunder.jpgTrend: Brownface

“Outside of color-blind Shakespeare adaptations, cross-race casting has been one of Hollywood’s obvious taboos for decades now — a no-no so basic it didn’t even merit discussion. No more: Enough Hollywood stars are enthusiastically applying bronzer in 2008, either for a quick gag or for a serious leading role, that we’re forced to hesitatingly declare this movie season the Summer of Brownface.” —New York‘s Vulture blog

As evidenced by: Adam Sandler going Israeli and Rob Schneider Arab in “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan”; Robert Downey Jr. donning blackface in “Tropic Thunder”; Fred Armisen as Barack Obama on “Saturday Night Live”

Possible significance: “In the age of Barack Obama, the idealistic interpretation is that it’s simply not a big deal, and what we’re witnessing is Hollywood’s unusually astute reaction to the onset of the post-racial society… A more cynical explanation is the delayed box-office aftershocks from Borat: If Americans were ready to laugh at a Hebrew-speaking British Jew pretending to be a Russian-speaking Kazakh oaf, then why not fake Arabs and Israelis?”

06052008_baghead.jpgTrend: Bags o’ fright

“The thought of ‘bags over heads’ creating chills has reached phenomenon status lately.” —Matt Dentler

As evidenced by: “The Orphanage,” “The Strangers,” “Baghead”

Possible significance: Lo-fi scares? “In a way, Baghead is a parody of those films but it’s still very creepy and scary at moments. It’s kinda like a DIY version of Scream, a knowing wink to the conventions of genre but also fully embracing those genres all the while.”

06052008_w.jpgTrend: Failed Republican president biopics

“Two portrayals of failed, bordering-on-tragic Republican presidents opening within seven weeks of each other means high expectations, lots of political baggage and possibly an Oscar competition of sorts.” — Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere

As evidenced by: Oliver Stone’s “W.”, Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon”

Possible significance: “The temptation to call them a pair of political IEDs being lobbed by Hollywood liberals at John McCain’s campaign will be considerable… the two films taken together will certainly remind audiences of the Republican potential for Oval Office screw-ups and arrogance.”

Meanwhile, the recently revealed “W.” poster (subtitle: “The Improbable President”), which lists out G.W. misspeakings and malapropisms, seems to indicate that Stone’s film will be a sharper-edged than his earlier sallies of “fair, true portrait” have augured.

[Photos: “Tropic Thunder,” DreamWorks Distribution, 2008; “Baghead,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2008; “W.,” Lionsgate, 2008]

+ The Summer of Brownface (New York)
+ AusChron: Austin’s Got a Brand-New Bag (Matt Dentler’s Blog)
+ Two of a Kind (Hollywood Elsewhere)
+ Dub-ya: A Tragedy of Words to be Played out on the Big Screen (IonCinema)


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.