“The Wackness”

“The Wackness” (photo)

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Many movies wax nostalgic for the good old days; “The Wackness” is the only movie I can think of that’s nostalgic for a time occupied by people who are themselves nostalgic about their own good old days. Though writer/director Jonathan Levine’s wistful coming-of-age film wants us to miss New York City as we knew it in 1994, the characters are all pissed off: their marriages are falling apart or their high school careers (and, thus, their lives) are coming to an end, and the new mayor is cracking down on drug use.

I guess the grass — the grass, man — is always greener. Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is an enterprising high school senior who makes up for his parents’ employment fuckups by dealing pot around his Upper East Side neighborhood. His aesthetic, much like the movie itself, is pointedly old school: cassettes instead of CDs, Nintendo instead of Sega Genesis. One of his clients is a hot girl named Stephanie (“Snow Angels'” Olivia Thirlby, occupying a similar role); her stepfather, a psychiatrist named Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), begins giving Luke free therapy sessions in exchange for dime bags. Soon, Luke and Dr. Squires are friends and Luke and Stephanie are more than friends and the film follows the progress of both relationships.

Regardless of whatever else it might also be about — vintage hip hop, the pleasures of getting high, jokes about Zima — “The Wackness” primarily presents a world paralyzed by immaturity. Luke scolds his parents for acting like children but dreads his own imminent entrée into adulthood (his self-professed life plan: graduate high school, go to a safety school, get old and die). Dr. Squires warns Luke against the dangers of anti-depressants, while taking them himself (when he’s not smoking pot with his stepdaughter’s boyfriend, of course). No one in the cast wants to act their age: the doctor’s wife, played by Famke Janssen, claims she’s almost 40; he has to remind her that she’s actually 42. Everyone in the cast is superb and, in particular, Kingsley, who seems to spend most of his time lately playing outsized villains in terrible junk (“BloodRayne,” “Thunderbirds”), but is at his best in small roles like this one.

Levine relies to heavily on ’90s pop culture callbacks and slang for easy jokes, and that’s probably what’s going to be used to sell the film to a wider audience. But a lot of that feels to me like a filmmaker trying to use irony and sarcasm to disguise what is, at its core, a very sincere and sentimental story. Levine’s emphasis on specificity — he goes to the trouble to rig up a bus that passes Luke with a “Forrest Gump” ad — nearly undoes his story’s inherent universality. Luke’s problems could manifest in any time period, and the best parts about “The Wackness” are the ones that could have been set a hundred years ago, or a hundred years from now. Those ideas — ones about growing up, growing old, getting fucked up — are a lot more vital and a lot more interesting than another reference to “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and they make you nostalgic for an era, when movies like these were the norm instead of the exception.


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.