DID YOU READ

“Encounters at the End of the World,” “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”

“Encounters at the End of the World,” “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (photo)

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It was only a matter of time, after Werner Herzog used the under-the-ice Antarctic footage shot by scientists for his hodgepodge sci-fi meditation “The Wild Blue Yonder,” until this most peripatetic of world-class filmmakers realized that the Poles may be the only patches of Earth he hasn’t yet roamed through with his camera. Herzog’s documentaries, from “Land of Silence and Darkness” (1971) to “Grizzly Man” (2005), are all subjective and full-disclosure, all the time; there is a reality in these films, but it is Herzog’s, and that’s why we’re here. “Encounters at the End of the World” (2007) is perhaps more personal than most — he does not propose any motive for his trip to Antarctica other than his own curiosity, and eventually becomes, by nature, impatient with the large science base he finds there, saying outright that he wants only to get out into the field and find something wondrous that isn’t man-made.

The film won’t turn casual filmgoers into die-hard Herzogians; what they will find is the most poetic and idiosyncratic of Discovery Channel documentaries. Herzog, like many unique filmmakers, is an acquired addiction, and you need a large shot in your bloodstream before succumbing and enjoying the more modest doses. But the fanboys/girls among us encounter here a Werner becoming increasingly cynical and bitter about human banality in his old age. (Thank heavens — what a depressing time it would be if Herzog softened and became gentler in his autumn years.) The South Pole base’s aerobic gym is, for him, an “abomination.” The signs of civilized human activity on Earth have always irritated him; now they nauseate the man, in no uncertain terms. But he still loves people, especially outcasts, and the South Pole acts, as someone says, as a kind of catch basin for oddball wanderers of all types, where “all the lines on the map converge,” and Herzog finds “the Ph.D.’s washing dishes and linguists on a continent without languages,” the Bosnian who keeps his life packed in a bag for an instant escape, the seal researcher who’s forgotten how to converse, an alarmingly nomadic woman who can pack herself into a suitcase, and so on. The absurd image of a training session in which a line of adults attempt to find their way across the daylit camp with “snow blind” buckets over their heads is of endless fascination. Warnings about global warming are built in, of course, making Herzog’s age-old disgust at modern society seem like prophecy. But Herzog is more interested in the remoteness as it stands in contrast to the human inhabitants; he keeps cutting to the mournful silent footage of the Shackleton expedition, ruing the occupation of the Pole and the loss of the global maps’ mysterious “white spots.”

11242008_encounters2.jpgHerzog derides the cute documentaries “about penguins,” but cannot ignore the birds; typically, he finds one that determinedly marches out into the wasteland to its doom. The surreal underwater footage of fields of poised star fish and perambulating clams also find pride of place, along with the audio discovery of Ross seal calls, which sound like nothing so much as psychedelic synthesizer experiments. It’s easy to take Herzog for granted, because his films are so organically expressive of his impulsive interests. But is there another filmmaker alive you’d rather follow to the world’s four corners? Is there another that dares to go, and frame the world for us in a way that gives it meaning?

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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.