DID YOU READ

Knowing It All

Knowing It All (photo)

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Woody Allen has returned to New York, but does New York want him back? For the excruciating “Whatever Works,” his first Gotham-set movie since 2004’s “Melinda and Melinda,” Allen dusted off a script written around the time of “Annie Hall,” intended as a vehicle for Zero Mostel, who died a few months after that film was released in 1977. The replacement mouthpiece for Allen’s borscht-y misanthropy is Larry David, who, playing Boris Yellnikoff, frequently breaks the fourth wall, to hector, lecture and obsess. “This is not a feel-good movie,” Boris, addressing the camera, pontificates at the outset. Rather, it is a numbing movie, filled with creaky, wheezy shtick about sex, politics, religion and the city that even the Catskill comics in “Broadway Danny Rose” would have a hard time cracking a smile at.

Boris, who once tried to kill himself during an argument with his psychotherapist wife by throwing himself out of their Beekman Place apartment, now limps along in Lower East Side digs, having given up his spouse and a career as a professor of quantum mechanics at Columbia to verbally abuse kids while teaching them chess. A leggy Mississippi runaway, Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), begs the curmudgeon to spend a night on his couch; cheerily enduring Boris’ insults and screeds on Fred Astaire films (catnip to all women in Allen’s version of Mars-Venus relations), she soon becomes his bride.

Boris, like David’s character on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is exaggerated for affect; both are unbearable narcissists always convinced of their own superiority. But whereas David’s HBO persona frequently gets his comeuppance, whether from one of Susie Essman’s epic cuss-filled blue streaks or Wanda Sykes’ withering glares, the voluble Boris remains unchecked, his cynical, tiresome rants to both the characters and the audience presented as the truth, or at least Allen’s lazy version of it. “I’m the only one who sees the whole picture. That’s what they mean by genius,” Boris says to the audience in the final scene, amidst happily paired-off couples who have no intention of correcting him.

06172009_$999.jpgA quieter expounding on the big picture is heard in Tatia Rosenthal’s feature debut, the stop-motion animation “$9.99”. Rosenthal, co-writing with Etgar Keret, on whose short stories the film is based (a novella of Keret’s was the basis for 2006’s inventive “Wristcutters: A Love Story”; he also co-directed 2007’s “Jellyfish”), concocts a Sydney-set, adult-themed “Davey and Goliath.” Dave Peck (voiced by Samuel Johnson), an unemployed 28-year-old gourmand living at home with his beleaguered dad (Anthony LaPaglia), spends the titular amount for a mail-order-only book on the meaning of life. The earnest premise extends to Dave’s neighbors in his apartment complex: a hospitable retiree visited by a potty-mouthed guardian angel, a squabbling young couple, a magician in the red, a little boy deeply attached to his piggy bank, and a supermodel, for whom Dave’s besotted brother, Lenny, makes bizarre sacrifices.

Like most films about the criss-crossing pursuit of happiness, “$9.99” plays as a pseudo-profound palliative, engaging in naïve bafflement about everyday struggles and heartaches. Though Rosenthal’s animated characters are pleasingly influenced by Lucian Freud’s portraiture — a grim, sometimes macabre look that can cut through the more cloying aspects of the film — the tepid humanism of the project offers only the revelation that, yes, everybody hurts.

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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.