DID YOU READ

Four Women

Four Women (photo)

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With apologies to Nina Simone, I’d like to dedicate this week in film to four women: Yolande, Mariah, Maya and Joan. In her last two lead performances, Brussels-born Yolande Moreau has shown exceptional nuance and grace in roles that could have easily toppled lesser actresses. “When the Sea Rises” (2004), which Moreau also co-wrote and co-directed, begins with a potentially disastrous premise — a performance artist traveling with her bizarre one-woman show “A Dirty Business of Sex and Crime” begins a tentative relationship with a man who makes giant papier-mâché puppets — and becomes one of the sweetest, most original road-romance movies in recent years. In Martin Provost’s “Séraphine,” the fleshy 56-year-old actress plays the title character, a real-life naïve artist who died in an insane asylum in 1942, courageously forgoing the histrionics usually associated with biopics about the “touched.”

Séraphine, the housekeeper of a German collector, Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), who championed her work in the ’20s and ’30s, may answer to the voice of her guardian angel when it commands her to paint and commune with trees, but she also responds quite avidly to the siren call of cash, reveling in the opportunity to splurge once Uhde has sold a few of her works. Moreau plays the painter as no one’s fool, and, in several scenes marked by silence, conveys Séraphine’s mental state as utterly inscrutable. Moreau, who’s had smaller roles in Agnès Varda’s “Vagabond,” Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie” and Catherine Breillat’s “The Last Mistress,” was justly awarded the Best Actress César for “Séraphine” and “When the Sea Rises”; let’s hope that will translate to more recognition — and appreciation — stateside.

06022009_Tennessee.jpgIt’s unlikely that Mariah Carey will be weighed down with trophies for her role in the soggy redemption movie “Tennessee,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, but her solid acting, as a diner waitress in Texas who flees an abusive cop-husband and hits the road with two brothers, is definitely part of the Rehabilitation of Mimi. “The whole ‘Glitter’ experience was very, very hard to go through,” Carey says in “Tennessee”‘s press notes, referring to her critically drubbed, semi-autobiographical 2001 movie; nothing spurs a diva on more than proving people wrong. MC’s Lone Star twang is consistent, and when she disappears from the action, staying behind in Nashville while the brothers board a Knoxville-bound Greyhound, you wish she’d come back, with her cornrows, kerchiefs and acoustic guitar, to save us from the siblings working out their still-simmering family trauma. Perhaps all Carey needed to regain onscreen confidence was the unwavering support of “Tennessee” producer Lee Daniels; judging from the amazing performance the singer gives in the upcoming “Precious,” which Daniels directed, it’s clear he’s her charm bracelet.

06022009_AwayWeGo.jpgMariah Carey may be the only contemporary R&B songstress Maya Rudolph didn’t send up during her brilliant reign, from 2000 to 2007, on “Saturday Night Live.” I wish the actress displayed a bit more of the chameleon-like genius that defined her tenure on the show in “Away We Go,” her first lead role in a film. Rudolph and co-star John Krasinski play Verona and Burt, a couple expecting their first child in search of the perfect town to start their family.

Scripted by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida and directed by Sam Mendes, “Away We Go” incessantly trumpets its lead duo’s superiority, surrounding them with monstrous narcissists and tragically broken survivors. It’d be difficult for any performer to relax in such an overdetermined setup, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so disappointed that Rudolph seems uncharacteristically stiff and, at times, not fully committed to her character. I’m content to patiently wait for the vehicle that fully showcases Rudolph’s formidable talent (already apparent in a very small part in 2000’s “Chuck & Buck”); her appearances on “SNL”‘s “Deep House Dish” can tide me over until then.

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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.