Kathryn Bigelow Goes to War

Kathryn Bigelow Goes to War (photo)

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Kathryn Bigelow’s long been known as the most bad-ass chick in the action movie boys club, a superbly kinetic filmmaker whose work has ranged from the vampire horror-Western “Near Dark” to the brawny surfer heist cult favorite “Point Break” to the dystopic visions of “Strange Days.” Her new film, “The Hurt Locker,” treads into the most daring territory of all — the cinematic no man’s land of the current Iraq War, where a U.S. bomb squad struggles under the overwhelming pressure of putting their lives on the line day after day.

Written by journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal, an embedded reporter in Iraq whose 2004 Playboy story “Death and Dishonor” became the basis for the 2007 film “In the Valley of Elah,” “The Hurt Locker” is no didactic slog through the conflict’s well-discussed political mire. It’s instead pulse-poundingly experiential, dropping you into the unstable head-space of a trio of men — ably played by Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty — who in the face on constant peril have turned to breakdowns, violence and almost sociopathic bravado. It’s a tour de force, and one that has a rare opportunity to unite the cinephile and cineplex crowds in acclaim. I got a chance to talk with Bigelow and Boal at SXSW earlier this year, as the film finished up a festival tour that started in Toronto in 2008.

I was going to ask you what I’m sure is a variation on a question you’ve gotten in every interview, about the Iraq War and how loaded it’s become as a topic for a film. But I realized there really aren’t many films that are actually set in combat, that they all tend to be about–

Kathryn Bigelow: Reintegration into the home front — right. So I look at it as — there hasn’t really been one, and there’s sort of zero competition. We’re setting the bar.

Mark Boal: We made the movie because we thought it was going be a good story and, hopefully, an intense cinematic experience. We just hope people like it as much as we do, and then leave the market to those who specialize in counting beans.

In the best way possible, “The Hurt Locker” is very much an action movie. And sometimes there’s a sense that the Iraq War’s not supposed to be represented as exciting in that fashion, that doing so is somehow ethically problematic…

KB: Well, it’s really based on firsthand observation, the observation being Mark on an embed. So that’s the purchase. And under the aegis of true fiction, we tried to look at it as accurate, authentic and realistic. It’s not a documentary; it’s a character study of a volunteer soldier and of men who, arguably, have the most dangerous job in the world. What is the psychological chemistry of that individual that gets up in the morning and walks toward what a rational human being would be running from? You can politicize that or non-politicize it.

MB: There’s no politics in the trenches, is the old saw. And it’s kind of true. We just tried to make it realistic, naturalistic and exciting — exciting is probably the wrong word. But it’s naturally tense. It’s a bomb. It could go off. It could kill you. If we could show that, then we did our job. And leave the politics to the politicians.

KB: And not glamorize it. That was something very important to me, to not mediate it. This is an extraordinary facet of this particular conflict. There’s a natural dramatic narrative to bomb disarmament. It doesn’t need any other kind of framing. Personally, I think it’s extremely heroic. But it’s there for you to make your own opinion.

06192009_hurtlocker2.jpgI thought Jeremy Renner’s character James was pretty remarkable — Mark, while you were embedded, did you come across people who were similarly addicted to that rush of danger?

MB: It’s a movie — I probably shouldn’t generalize about the psychology of soldiers because it’s a broad, complicated question that would take years to answer. But it’s definitely true that we’re dealing with an all-volunteer army, not a draft army, and we wanted to show what that meant in a cinematic way, and not show yet another Vietnam-era view of war.

Not to say there’s anything wrong with those movies. But that was a different war in a different time. I think Kathryn did a great job of taking that type of movie, a war movie, and reinventing it in a contemporary way to be very intense and edge-of-your-seat and, second of all, to reflect the new psychological reality of an all-volunteer army, which is what we have. It’s a job. They choose to do it. Good or bad, it’s just a different situation than people that are drafted.

Was that part of the appeal in choosing this particular aspect of the war?

KB: The appeal for me — and it’s like this in all the projects that I’ve done — starts from character first, and then moves outward.


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.