DID YOU READ

Misspent Youth

Misspent Youth (photo)

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The most remarkable thing about Sacha Gervasi’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” may be that it is unarguably one of the most heart-swelling and moving films ever made about rock ‘n’ roll, and at the same time, it is very unlikely to convert any viewers into passionate Anvil fans. In fact, the movie barely bothers to make a case for Anvil, the orphaned band maudit from the ’80s surge in heavy metal heavy hitters, as musicians, and doesn’t allow you to hear a single song all the way through. (Contrast that to, say, Jeff Stein’s “The Kids Are Alright,” which has certainly transformed innocent non-partisans into life-grabbing Who fans, and did it with whole songs played beginning to end.)

Frankly, Anvil’s thunking, adolescent caterwaul isn’t very promising, even if Anvil’s commercial fate seems less surprising in retrospect than the success of bands like Mötley Crüe, Anthrax and Megadeth. It’s no news: show business and its audiences are fickle bitches, utterly careless and sometimes cruel with the fates of the starry-eyed. As it is, Gervasi, a die-hard fan and ex-roadie, may love Anvil, but he knows his film couldn’t sell the Canadian band’s music to non-metalheads, and so he very smartly focuses instead on the group’s two standing members, Steve Kudlow and Robb Reiner, both of whom are terribly easy to love and root for. There, at the outset, we’re faced with the heartbreaking B-side of the American showbiz dream: once on the verge of global stardom, Kudlow and Reiner are now back in small-town Canada, cobbling together low-rent livings as a food-service deliveryman and a jackhammering construction workhorse, respectively. And they’ve been there for 20 years, still touring on occasion (playing to often threadbare audiences, sometimes to no one at all), and still hoping their luck will turn around.

Well, of course it has, thanks to Gervasi’s film, which, like Errol Morris’s “The Thin Blue Line” has literally rescued its own subjects from the fate the film documents. (Anvil is now backing up AC/DC, has had their self-promoted latest album rereleased by VH1, and is now a vet of late-night talk shows.) If anyone has earned it, Kudlow and Reiner have, and not just with longevity, but with purity of heart — they were going to their graves playing as Anvil, even if it meant playing only to their loyal wives and kids.

Steve “Lips” Kudlow is the protagonist here, the most guileless and endearingly unpretentious aging rocker of all time, his watery basset-hound eyes and huge crooked grin beseeching an unfair world for another chance to play classics like “Metal on Metal,” “Flight of the Bumble Beast” and “Infanticide.” Reiner, the drummer and the more widely acknowledged musical innovator, is far more introverted, but naturally Gervasi’s film becomes a portrait of the two men’s lifelong hard rock marriage-of-passion, a working friendship that has lasted so long it seems more durable than any other relationship in their lives. But the reason “Anvil!” has been a phenomenon is because the boys’ arc from menopausal zeroes to heroes had already begun, in the mysterious differential between a ripoff Berlin nightclub appearance featuring a few dozen spectators and a invitation to a festival in Japan, where for some reason the stadium fills with thousands of raving young Asian fans. Kudlow and Reiner stepped in shit somewhere, but so did Gervasi.

10062009_Princess.jpgFeel free to sour your feel-good Anvil buzz with Anders Morgenthaler’s “Princess,” a Danish anime (!) from Lars von Trier’s production company that tackles the hot zone between the porn industry and children, and then pulls you into the dogfight with a suicide’s desperation. Juxtaposing old-fashioned frame-by-frame sketch drawing and swoony digital flourishes, the movie begins with the shooting of a pregnant gangbang, witnessed by the actress’ priest brother, and then rolls out into a revenge flick sans frontières, as the disillusioned man rescues the abused five-year-old daughter of his now-dead sister from a brothel, and becomes an Andrew Vachss-ish avenging angel.

Blood, or in Godard’s phrase “red,” puddles and sprays in great quantities, when it’s not supplementing the action with live-action home-movie flashbacks. Morgenthaler’s world is hyperbolic in the graphic novel way — the dead actress’ exploiteer-boyfriend erects a lavish tomb for her surrounded by giant stone penises — but its sense of outrage is curdling, and its moral balance sheet is complex, since the brother was culpable at the beginning of his sister’s career, and the little girl is a semi-civilized ruined thing prone to grabbing at adult crotches. She is, in fact, drawn a little too much like Boo from “Monsters, Inc.” for comfort — but nothing about “Princess” is supposed to be comforting, except perhaps the tour de force sequence in which the porn company’s entire operation is burned to the ground to the tune of Edith Piaf’s “No Regrets.” When the five-year-old musters the rage to finish off a porn lackey with a tire iron, you know there’s no salvation ahead.

[Additional photo: “Princess,” Zentropa Entertainments, 2006]

“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (VH1 Films) and “Princess” (Palisades Tartan) are now available on DVD.

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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.