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Everybody’s (Sorta) Fine

Everybody’s (Sorta) Fine (photo)

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“Everyone’s been asking how we’re doing this week,” film critic-turned-AFI programmer Robert Koehler said, shortly before a screening of Juan José Campanella’s Argentinean murder mystery “The Secret of Their Eyes.” “And the answer is our sponsors.” Indeed, thanks to chief sponsor Audi, AFI has responded to an economy that’s been particularly unkind to film festivals with free tickets that have ensured capacity attendance to most, if not all, of their screenings at the Mann’s Chinese Theaters in Hollywood.

Even the more obscure titles that Koehler and his team have programmed, like Philippe Grandrieux’s “The Lake” or the Spanish Berlinale winner “The Milk of Sorrow,” have seen solid attendance. But the fact that so many have been asking the question is more telling than the answer — with a changing audience profile (a Bugs Bunny impersonator wandered into Tuesday’s screening of “Youth in Revolt” in full costume from entertaining on the Hollywood Walk of Fame right outside) and speculation about what the great turnout might even mean for the future of the festival.

The strange mood was passed on to the festival’s one true world premiere, “Everybody’s Fine,” which could hardly describe the bittersweet nature of the evening. The week before, the film’s distributor Miramax let go of their president, Daniel Battsek, and was reduced to a smaller operation. Shortly after he was appointed, Battsek surprised everyone by coming out swinging when he took over from Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein with a streak of hits like “The Queen” and “No Country for Old Men.” He seems, strangely, to have come full circle in making a film that Harvey would’ve gladly greenlit in his day as his swan song for the company. In fact, Harvey did distribute the 1990 Giuseppe Tornatore film that “Everybody’s Fine” is based on.

There are worse ways to go out. Without Miramax, there aren’t many places left to put out this kind of cinematic comfort food that the major studios have abandoned in favor of financing would-be blockbusters and that edgier independents have rarely shown an interest in. (For those who still wax nostalgic about Miramax’s days as part of that second category, this has been a tragedy long settled.) And if there was ever a director to handle such material, it’s Kirk Jones, who proved a particularly human touch with 1998’s “Waking Ned Devine” before stumbling with the excesses of food fights and facial boils in the kiddie comedy “Nanny McPhee.”

“Everybody’s Fine” indulges both those impulses, with the former unfortunately giving into the latter in the story of a retired widower (Robert De Niro) who tires of his daily routine of puttering around the house and sets off to surprise each of his four kids who have settled around the country. Contrary to the actual De Niro, who introduced the film in typical brevity by saying, “Well, okay, I have to say something,” Frank is a talkative type, prone to having wistful conversations without everyone around, musing to his fellow train passengers about the PVC coating he applied to the miles of phone line that they pass, wondering about the good news and the bad news that have come across “my wires.”

11112009_EverybodysFine2.jpgLittle does Frank know that there’s plenty of bad news being splashed across those wires by his children, who have a far easier time talking to each other than to their demanding dad. As Frank visits Chicago to see his ad exec daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale), Denver for his classical musician son Robert (Sam Rockwell) and Las Vegas for his dancer daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore), he’s unaware that his unsuccessful first visit to see his troubled son David in New York is a major cause for concern to the rest of the family that serves as the film’s throughline.

While Beckinsale, Barrymore and Rockwell all give their characters more definition and vibrancy than they probably deserve, “Everyody’s Fine” is really just a showcase for De Niro to do his best “About Schmidt” impression. Though he tries admirably, he’s stuck with Jones’ obvious allegiance to Tornatore’s original film, which dabbled in dream sequences and flashbacks that weren’t entirely successful in emphasizing the patriarch’s disconnect with his children even in 1990 or from the guy who worked his magic on “Cinema Paradiso.” Interestingly enough, Jones, a Brit, said before the premiere that that it took him a long time to have “the courage to make a film here [in the U.S.],” which makes his strange choice to remake an Italian melodrama something altogether foreign.

As for Bob and Harvey themselves, the brothers Weinstein had three films to present at AFI — “The Road,” “Youth in Revolt” and the Toronto pick-up “A Single Man,” and while I can only speak for the latter two, the films connected in a way that has been rare for the pair’s much-maligned post-Miramax era. However, the success of “Youth in Revolt” didn’t come easy.

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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.