One from the heart for Lee Daniels.

One from the heart for Lee Daniels. (photo)

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“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” is, in theory, the miserable story of the titular 300-pound teenage girl (Gabby Sidibe), who’s raped into having two children by her dad and abused by her mother (Mo’Nique) until she meets an inspirational teacher (Paula Patton) who changes her life. In practice, the New York Film Festival’s centerpiece film is a slickly effective melodrama — the kind of movie where a dream sequence of someone having her ear kissed inevitably means a dog’s actually licking it, but also a world where a little soul music and a few platitudes actually convey tremendous meaning.

Without a doubt, the film comes from a well-meaning place. After hearing director Lee Daniels speak with palpable sincerity, it’s almost impossible to credit him with bad faith. At the festival’s press conference, Daniels explained what resonated with him when he first read performance poet Sapphire’s novel: “When I was 11, there was a girl in my neighborhood who came to my home. She was seven-ish. It was in the afternoon, in broad daylight; she was naked, and she was bleeding, and she was crying. And she said, ‘My mommy’s gonna kill me.’ And I remember a feeling of nausea, anger and fear; I can’t describe the feeling I had. And looking at my mother, who was for the first time afraid. And I read the book, and I had the same feeling. I wanted to heal.”

As a producer, Daniels is responsible for “Monster’s Ball” and “The Woodsman,” among others, but he’s excited to get new audiences — which, given heavy-duty support from Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, he almost certainly will. “You know, I did [those movies],” he explained, “and we won Cannes and the Academy Awards. My family and friends that I grew up with were not fans or even cared to see that work. So I wanted to do something that was very intimate to them and that they would connect to. I brought that world of what I know to be cinema into the world of the urban. I know that they’re hungry for this, and it’s a different type of thing that’s going on in cinema, and I’m proud that they we were able to marry the worlds and to show black art in a new way.”

Casting Precious was difficult, as finding 300-pound black actresses tends to be. The search was long, Daniels said that it was “400 girls later. We were having ‘Precious’ camps. I started calling ICM, saying ‘Do you have a 300 pound–‘ ‘No.’ We then moved on to the hood: Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Compton, Baltimore, Watts and stuff. I was going to cast a couple of girls, but they didn’t have the smarts Gabby has. When Gabby’s doing the red carpet stuff [dream sequences in which Precious imagines herself as an R&B celebrity], she’s not acting; that’s who she is. The other girls really were the character. Gabby was not the character. Gabby is a very intelligent girl, smarter than me.”

One of the odder moments in the film occurs when Precious and her mother — both basically illiterate at that point — are watching Vittorio De Sica’s “Two Women” on TV. “I love the film, and it was not in the book,” Daniels explained. “The argument on set was, ‘These women wouldn’t be watching ‘Two Women.’ ” I said, ‘Well, I am these two women, so shut up.’ ” It’s hard to argue with that kind of conviction.

[Photo: Lee Daniels]


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.