DID YOU READ

Requiem for Another Dreamer

Requiem for Another Dreamer (photo)

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What can be said, post-Oscar-fuggup, about this sick-hearted anti-American Dream that hasn’t already been said, and kudoed: Darren Aronofsky’s channeling of the Dardennes’ immediacy, Mickey Rourke’s Herculean self-deprecation, both of which currents combining to prove the script’s essential conventionality to be irrelevant, just at a moment in American film in which we had all good reason to think the Industry was completely bankrupt of balls, curiosity, respect and a sense of America itself. (Let’s consider in this broad formulation that 2007 was a modern aberration, unleashing a wave of nation-autopsying megaworks — “There Will Be Blood,” “The Assassination of Jesse James,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Zodiac,” etc. — the likes of which have not been seen since at least 1991; as in, “My Own Private Idaho,” “The Rapture,” “Slacker,” “Tribulation 99,” “Naked Lunch,” et al.)

However you cube it, “The Wrestler” is a gift, for the most part because Rourke was not transforming himself into a preconceived character so much as simply living it, putting his own catastrophes on the table, sacrificing his own body for the sake of the character’s sadness, taking on the story’s essentially Sisyphean nature as if it were his own Calvary. It’s an achievement — far more substantial than Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk impersonation — that resembles the tribulational experience at the heart of a Wiseman or Maysles documentary, more “Grey Gardens” than Method, more self-conscious reality then calculated artifice. Once Rourke was a peerless realist craftsman, but here he’s a found object, incontestable and painful. The mortal fear in his eyes, not in mid-staple-gun-&-barbed-wire assault but even earlier, in the first bouts we see, speaks unprecedented volumes about the cold and merciless heart of American popular culture.

Which is what “The Wrestler” comes down to in terms of text — a lacerating bad-breath vision of exactly how our culture creates and then devours idols, leaving the humiliated, fame-haunted detritus of our media distractions shambling across the landscape in broken old age like stray dogs hunting for roadside scraps. American entertainment culture eats its young, and anyone entering into it for the sake of stage love or glory will most likely end up an embarrassing wreck, trying to get gin mill band gigs or doing dinner theater in Dayton or hawking adult diapers on late-night TV or, as with Rourke’s Randy the Ram, playacting a comic-book brawl in a South Jersey VFW hall, at an age when he absolutely shouldn’t.

04212009_thewrestler3.jpgIt’s scary to consider how much of the audience for “The Wrestler” — nearly $30 million in box office receipts in this country, for a film that cost $7 million — have seen it because of their affection for the milieu, and it’s even scarier to contemplate how many viewers misunderstood the film’s implicit critique of the brutal idiocy of professional wrestling and its lower echelons, and, by extension, the bloodsport instinct oozing from so much of American life. Randy is a pathetic victim, and the film is a majestic tragedy.

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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.