DID YOU READ

The Sandbox: Shake Your Money Maker

The Sandbox: Shake Your Money Maker (photo)

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Console gaming changed forever in 1996, when Nintendo’s N64 was released with a controller featuring an analog thumbstick. It was a design not seen since the days of the Atari 5200, and one that would not only be copied by each successive console, but that would also help usher in an age of 3D gaming that took full advantage of the new apparatus. And the N64’s interactive legacy wouldn’t end there — an empty slot on the back of the controller would soon present Nintendo with the means to further revolutionize the medium. At first used only for memory cards, that vacant port realized its full potential on July 1, 1997, when the highly anticipated scrolling shooter “Star Fox 64” hit store shelves with an included Rumble Pack that, when plugged into the controller during gameplay, would shake in harmony with the on-screen action. The era of physical feedback from your entertainment had begun, and continues to this day, with rumble — as evidenced by Sony’s 2007 decision to replace the PS3’s original Sixaxis controller (rumble-free, reportedly because of a lawsuit) with a new, rumbly version known as the Dual Shock 3 — now an integral component of video gaming.

Rather than be used in ways that would seriously expand your gaming experience, rumble effects are generally just employed to enhance a sense of immersion. And they’ve proven unquestionably successful at that, to the point where you felt an appreciable loss when, after years of handling the PS2’s rumble-equipped Dual Shock, Sony forced gamers to make do with a next-gen console sans vibration. That deprivation is most acutely felt in first-person shooters, where the controller acts as a surrogate for the on-screen character’s firearms. Not feeling your hands rumble when pulling the trigger of a machine gun or rocket launcher is significant, diminishing the impression that you’re directly involved in the proceedings. In a small but important way, rumbling controllers break down the wall between the virtual and real worlds, creating the sense that we have some tangible connection to the digitized action.

If this simple bit of technology has proven itself to be such an essential part of gaming, then why haven’t the movies taken a similar tack? The answer, of course, is that they have — 50 years ago, when William Castle debuted his 1959 horror film “The Tingler.” Having once served as second-unit director on Orson Welles’ “The Lady From Shanghai,” Castle had by this point in his career established a reputation in Hollywood as a B-movie maven fond of gimmicks, and it was with “The Tingler” that he made his most indelible mark. Starring Vincent Price, the film concerned a centipede-ish creature that attached to the base of people’s spines and could only be destroyed by screaming. Publicity hound that he was, Castle sought to literally make his audience both tingle and scream by retrofitting certain theaters showing the film with joy buzzers under the seats, a trick that — along with his decision to hire actors to pose as moviegoers and faint during key moments — aimed to heighten the terror.

04242009_thetingler.jpgLike most of Castle’s stunts, it didn’t. And though plenty of other gimmicks meant to enhance the theatrical experience have come and gone in since — from 3-D (back again, like a virus, in 2009) to 1960’s Smell-O-Vision, revived as Odorama by John Waters for 1981’s “Polyester” — none have proven to be more than a passing fancy. This failure surely has something to do with the fact that, while video games create clear cause-and-effect relationships with their consumers, the same isn’t true of films, and so creating sensory links between entertainment that’s passively watched and those doing the watching inevitably comes off as a corny prank. But don’t go making such bold proclamations within earshot of D-Box Technologies, a Quebec firm that designs and produces home theater chairs and couches customized with a patented rumble feature (known as “D-Box Motion Code”) that offers a sophisticated version of the feedback traditionally conveyed through game controllers.

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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.