DID YOU READ

Fantastic Fest 2008: Opening Night, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”

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09192008_fantasticfest1.jpgThere’s incredible (and welcome) cultural whiplash in sneaking away from the middle of the determinedly highbrow New York Film Festival to head to Austin for Fantastic Fest, an event that’s most certainly not. Dedicated to horror, sci-fi, fantasy, cult and general genre fare, Fantastic Fest is the brainchild of Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League with support from Ain’t It Cool News‘ Harry Knowles, with a line-up of international fanboy sprawl that this year includes everything from Icelandic LARPing comedy “Astropia” to Korean Leone homage “The Good, The Bad and The Weird” to a documentary about William Castle and sidebars focused on Ozsploitation and Japan’s softcore pinku films.

Fantastic Fest has become famous for TBD secret screenings that have turned out to be some kickass gets for such a young event — an unfinished version of “Apocalypto” with Mel Gibson in tow as well as the world premieres of “There Will Be Blood” and the final version of “Southland Tales.” But its standout quality remains that it’s such a rowdy, jovial and mind-blowingly unceremonious good time, with filmmakers, talent and fans milling around the strip mall-centered headquarters, sipping pints of Shiner Bock during the screenings and taking off for excursions to eat BBQ and shoot skeet.

08252008_zackandmiri.jpgThe opening night film, the U.S. premiere of Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” kicked off with an Alamo Drafthouse standard vintage trailer for the ridiculous 1987 Hong Kong film “Thunder Cops,” followed by festival director League, in a monk robe, gonging in the “spokesperson for the disenfranchised, genre-loving generation” to introduce his flick. It’s not as true as it used to be — Smith, with his lingering “Star Wars” devotion and his (yeah, really funny) stories about cracking a video store toilet with his ever-expanding girth, isn’t so exemplary of a crowd that’s getting to be geeky-hip, pierced and tattooed and possessed of a smattering of self-taught Japanese. Still, the film went over like gangbusters, as it’s probably going to go over with any crowd, an on-the-surface raunchy romantic comedy with a marshmallow-soft heart that brings Smith’s career into the Judd Apatow era. Apatow muse Seth Rogen plays a Pittsburgh coffee shop slacker who’s lived for the past post-high school decade with his childhood gal pal (Elizabeth Banks), who’s equally charming, underachieving and underemployed. Of course, there’s never been a hint of sexual tension until the two, in tough financial straits, decide to recruit friends to make an amateur porno and discover that neither actually wants to see the other have sex with anyone else. nderneath the cartoonish sex, scatological humor and no-inner-censor dialogue, “Zack and Miri”‘s a traditionally arced love story in which a man and a woman who are obviously meant to be together are kept apart for a while by plot devices and lousy communication. But Rogen and Banks are luminously likable and alchemical together, convincingly comfortable and closer than family even before they start to see each other in a different light.

The DIY porn shoot scenes themselves have a kind of delighted dirty innocence that makes “Zack and Miri” a not-quite-NC-17 cousin to “Son of Rambow,” with Traci Lords, Craig Robinson and Smith’s beloved Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson among the ragtag group that gathers to fuck and film it all while wrestling with booms made from microphones taped to hockey sticks and an in-scene soundtrack playing on a tape deck next to the camera. Smith’s earliest films may have been made in similar conditions, but he’s come a long way since then, both in production value and in sentiment. “Zack and Miri” may be, like many recent rom-coms, a film with characters who’ve seemed to have avoided self-examination all of their lives, but it’s also guiltily, endearingly sweet despite all of the attempts to cut the syrup with anal sex jokes. Smith, you big softy.

Immediately post “Zack and Miri” were the Air Sex World Championships. Air sex is air guitar except, you know, with sex. No description could do it justice, but below are three blurry photos to give you a hint

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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.