Pedro Almodóvar holds court.

Pedro Almodóvar holds court. (photo)

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The latest film from Pedro Almodóvar, “Broken Embraces,” closes the New York Film Festival after coasting in on a wave of mediocre advance word. The most common complaint has been that Almodóvar is blatantly recycling himself, throwing around the same motifs as always (mothers and sons, melodrama, abuse) to lesser effect. But whatever, with Almodóvar and star Penélope Cruz in attendance, this was the conference with the most star power of the fest; multiple TV crews were on stand-by.

Speaking depending on his excitement level, alternately in Spanish and English, Almodóvar discussed the origins of his tale of a now-blind writer/director (Lluís Homar) and his torrid affair with Lena (Cruz), a muse struggling to get out of a relationship with an abusive business tycoon. It began with Almodóvar telling himself stories to amuse himself during frequent migraines; sitting in the dark, he came up with the blind director first. “At the beginning, this blind director was very sexually active,” Almodóvar explained. “The first sequence I thought about was that this man, physically, is very good, and he does the same things that he did when he could see. He’d get up, he’d go to the kiosk, buy the newspaper; he doesn’t read it, but it’s a habit that he doesn’t want to lose. And he goes to the same place to have some coffee, and perhaps he talks with people. And usually, on the way to his place, he tries to flirt with girls whose perfume he enjoys. It was actually kind of a pornographic film about a blind man and lots of girls.”

Another possibility that got discarded: “In front of his place, there is an academy of models, and then they are like the urban legend, that in the neighborhood there is a blind man who is the greatest fucker in the world. And some of them sometimes, when they go to the street, they fantasize about meeting this blind man. And, of course, many of them found him.”

The film-within-a-film the director on his muse are working on is “Girls and Suitcases,” a blatant rip-off of 1988’s “Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” The reason isn’t a complicated meta-riff, but cheap pragmatism: “I wanted for them to make a comedy, just because the drama and the suffering that is in their lives will be more clear if in the background I put a comedy. I decided for ‘Women on the Verge’ because it was cheaper for me, and also easier because I could just adapt it without asking permission for anything.”

Another criticism coming up of this film is that Almodóvar’s been living the high life for so long there’s none of the messy, Bohemian vitality of his early work. Cruz inadvertently gave the haters some evidence when discussing her character’s loveless partnership with a wealthy man and how she came to be an actor both in her life and in art: “She would have been watching two or three movies every night, exploring that art. And then she’s forced to use that in her life, because she has no choice. She does it better than most people would, because that passion for acting and wanting to understand human behavior is there. Maybe if she could have chosen, she would have chosen to express all of that in her work and not having to lie or manipulate in her life.” Some of us might argue that having gold necklaces isn’t exactly a choice one is forced into: the little people sometimes have to live on their secretarial salaries. But hey, I’m not one to quibble: whatever Almodóvar’s indulgences, this is the first film of his I’ve enjoyed since 2002’s “Talk To Her.”

[Photo: Almodóvar and Cruz at the press conference. Photo courtesy of Jason Shawhan.]


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.