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The Real Bob Dylan

The Real Bob Dylan (photo)

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Watch the world premiere of the latest Bob Dylan music video, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” exclusively at IFC.com.

    “Qui êtes-vous, Monsieur Bob Dylan?”

       –Jean-Pierre Léaud, in “Masculin, féminine”

Who are you, Mr. Bob Dylan? Less than two years ago, Dylanologists had a field day with “I’m Not There,” Todd Haynes’ smarty-pants hallucination evoking the freewheelin’ singer-songwriter’s iconic persona, unknowable as he perpetually reinvents himself. But rock ‘n’ roll’s poet laureate already had a history with film, both appearing onscreen and being portrayed by other actors. In honor of Dylan’s tough-bird, rollicking new record “Together Through Life,” I’m bringing it all back home with a re-evaluation of who fares better on film: Dylan himself, or his imposters?

Dylan as himself, “Dont Look Back” (1967) vs. Cate Blanchett as Jude, “I’m Not There” (2007)

Nobody could resist this most obvious of aesthetic match-ups, a battle between the two most sophisticated, evocative, self-mythologizing portraits of Dylan that have so far been laid to celluloid. D.A. Pennebaker’s vérité landmark trails you-know-who on his ’65 British tour, an all-access pass uncovering the great bard as a prickly, petty, cynical egomaniac who bullshits journalists, toys with Donovan and generally proves to be a guarded genius at his peak. As a gender-bent dead ringer, Blanchett’s patronizing “Dont Look Back”-era hipster, one of six Dylan avatars in Haynes’ prismatic curio, won the actress a Spirit Award. But was her entertaining transformation truly audacious, or did she get away with accolades for what two-bit comedians regularly do on open-mic night? Even if the question were tossed, her role couldn’t exist if Dylan hadn’t first been immortalized with a few dropped cue cards.

Winner: Real Bob Dylan

05122009_PatVsFatGirl.jpgDylan as Alias, “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973) vs. Hayden Christensen as The Musician, “Factory Girl” (2006)

Sam Peckinpah’s meditative western saga and George Hickenlooper’s trashy biopic on Edie Sedgwick both star celebrities as unreliable distillations of iconic heroes. Dylan wrote his first score for the former, then saddled up in a battered top hat as the real-life sidekick to Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson), winning the outlaw’s respect by throwing a knife in a dude’s neck and carrying, while on horseback, a live turkey he’d snagged for dinner. Comparably limp and miscast, Christensen’s pseudo-Dylan is too boy-band pretty by half, affects an uninspired drawl, and had to be named Billy Quinn after Dylan’s lawyers sued (though the character is credited as “The Musician”). Even if he and co-star Sienna Miller’s sex scenes were rumored to be unsimulated, that’s far more exciting to hear than actually watching Christensen as he affects a featherweight strut or take motorcycle rides in the countryside.

Winner: Real Bob Dylan

05122009MaskedVsTunnel.jpgDylan as Jack Fate, “Masked and Anonymous” (2003) vs. Edward D. Markley as Bob Dylan, “Tunnel Vision” (1976)

The self-aware caricatures. Under the name Rene Fontaine, “Borat” director Larry Charles shares writing credit with Dylan (as Sergei Petrov) on their confounding, convoluted allegory about a pre-apocalyptic, contemporary America wracked by endless civil war. Has-been music legend Jack Fate, pulled out of prison to play a benefit concert, embodies Dylan’s mythos as a po-mo cipher (he could be the seventh character in “I’m Not There”) in a bizarre, bleak world of ideological greyness; it’s “Idiocracy” as retooled by angry conspiracy theorists. Dylan mostly sings, stares dead-eyed or half-listens to strangers preaching his own words back to him, but you have to admire his dedication to vanity. Sadly less funny, the déclassé sketch comedy flick “Tunnel Vision” (with Chevy Chase, John Candy and Al Franken) doesn’t hold up well. In a fake commercial for the “Western Unyon Marijuanagram,” spokesman and famed session musician Leon Russell (J. Michael Popovich) pitches “a unique gift idea for Valentine’s Day this year.” Russell pops a joint between his lips, and Markley’s scruffy, silent Bob leans into the frame for only a blip to provide a light and glower at the camera behind sunglasses.

Winner: Real Bob Dylan

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.