Moody Toons

Moody Toons (photo)

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The French omnibus horror film “Fear(s) in the Dark” comes off a bit as a cataract of gimmicks — fully animated, using comic artists with distinctive styles, no color allowed (well, a little red to pepper up the black and white palette) and focused on phobias and anxieties. Omnibus films, with which we are suddenly surrounded (Paris this, New York that), are gimmicks themselves, not much like anthologies, because you can’t roam at will. Their viewing experiences are predicated on variety instead of consistency, and the often fizzling impact of clumped shorts, each more or less the total sum, which is too often shruggable itself.

But “Fear(s)” is a hypnotic cocktail, and its key liquor may be Frenchness — some of the materials folded in have no sensible conclusion (the fear of “Tales from the Crypt” moralism is unavoidable), and some aren’t stories at all. Some stand entire and alone, while others are spliced into suggestive chapters; there’s no mandate to be extreme, or to be obvious. Mostly, the individual artists aren’t even intent on inflicting a reaction upon the viewer, but instead on taking obsessive care about the light and shape of their particular world. The upshot is disarmingly grown-up, but also, at times, a creepy freakout.

I knew Charles Burns’ work, of course, and I remember Richard McGuire from “Raw,” but only Euro-graphic-novel readers would otherwise be familiar with Blutch, Lorenzo Mattotti, Pierre di Sciullo and Marie Caillou, whose pieces range from pseudo-digi-anime to charcoal Gothic hysteria to abstracted shape-making. It hardly matters — the restless textures and visual eloquence are seductive in a way that, I think, has something to do with basic movieness. Our capacity to be fascinated by animated movement, which is like an enveloping morph between puppet theater and painting, is bottomless, from Ladislaw Starewicz to Disney to Borowczyk to Larry Jordan to the Quays to Oshii to Pixar. It’s not just a matter of distinctive style, but also how much animated images can evoke the physics of reality (when done properly) while still maintaining an uncanny otherworldliness — there’s just nothing like it anywhere else in human culture.

10272009_FearsoftheDark2.jpgMcGuire’s climactic hunk of “Fear(s)” is a prime example — narratively, it’s just a man-in-a-haunted-house scenario, but texturally, it’s a relentlessly inventive and evocative tango between huge blocks of blackness and what little sprays of light the unnamed hero’s candle affords him. It builds anxiety, “Blair Witch”-like, by way of what we cannot see, and pivots on a spellbinding tour through a found photo album hilariously suggesting the house’s poisoned history, but the real show is in the recreation of vision and shadow, utterly convincing and yet a cartoon.

There are individual moments of glory, as you’d expect: Caillou’s Miyazaki-on-arsenic nightmare has inspired flights worthy of “Porky in Wackyland,” Blutch’s ashen dog-hunt tableaux feeds our unease while never coalescing into the convenience of a narrative, and Burns’ “Twilight Zone”-ish entomological romance definitely benefits from his sharp, grayless retro-modernist drawing style. But altogether, “Fear(s)” is a witty experiment, and it plays not like an omnibus at all, or a DVD collection of shorts, or anything really but itself — a lovely suite of dark thoughts.


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.