DID YOU READ

More Than This

More Than This (photo)

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End times are with us again, it seems, peaking in the American brainpan beyond even the levels enjoyed during the Cold War, and doubtlessly fed by the river of fear-mongering napalm that pours forth from 24-hour news channels, instant cyber-crises and always-alarmed personal media. How could we stand a chance, when plugged into so many cheap sources of input always hungry for eyes and ears and eager for a bank run or apocalyptic prophecy? Maybe in no other year besides 1973 could Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” be made into a major Hollywood production, lean and deadly avalanche-read sonofabitch that it is, speaking into the reader’s ears with the matter-of-fact voice of his or her worst post-nuclear nightmares.

That’s just one hurdle for director John Hillcoat, making the camera speak with McCarthy’s tongue, and Joel and Ethan Coen’s assiduous pauses and chilly distance fared far better than Hillcoat’s plaintive earnestness. But the first thing one must acknowledge about “The Road” is how beautiful and dead serious and respectful it is, and the second thing is how much you find yourself wishing that all of that mattered more in the end.

A long, relentless, serotonin-depleted trek to nowhere, tinted entirely in the color of polluted water, Hillcoat’s movie is a faithful transcription of the book’s physical narrative (minus the infants-on-a-spit), in which a father (Viggo Mortensen, looking more and more as he starves like Roberts Blossom) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trudge across a scorched North America, heading south, looking for food and finding none, and evading the ever-increasing mini-tribes of cannibals that roam in trucks and inhabit farmhouses. There’s no future for the father to tell his son to look forward to. The weather is sunless and cold, always. You can put down McCarthy for a break when you’ve had enough, but after an hour of the film, you cannot be blamed for fondly remembering the jaunty good spirits of “Antichrist.”

Hillcoat did nothing outrageously wrong — except make the film at all, and try to digitize the spectacular doominess we felt between McCarthy’s clipped sentences. There’s a crystal-clear struggle here between the linguistically suggestive and the visual literal, and suggestive wins in a rout.

Still, “The Road” is, in fact, made as carefully as one would hope. The gray vistas of spectacular ruin, the heavy-breathing pessimism, the poetic details (or even unpoetic, like that briefly glimpsed dish of blood with a severed nose poking out of it) — this is not a whitewashed or compromised vision of a painfully possible future, and its resolve is formidable. At various intervals in the discomfiting slog, you will, especially if you’re a parent, get sick in your soul trying not to contemplate how you’d carry yourself through even a single day of McCarthy’s scenario.

11252009_theroad99.jpgBut what we have here otherwise is the unfortunate triumph of message over experience — eventually, the colorless, unending grimness grows dull. Visual ideas, like the lakes filled with dead trees and the evocation of contemporary homeless-person outfitting, are fascinating in their moment, and the bits of McCarthian narration contribute sprouts of lyrical eloquence to the ash. But the dreary uniformity wins out. If only the film were a little pulpier, a little more inventive, had more stuff in it — it’s winnowed down, like McCarthy’s protagonists, to a single dilemma, and the narrative, again like its characters, grows more skeletal and unvarying as it staggers to its end-game.

Charlize Theron’s wife, glimpsed in semi-sunlit flashbacks succumbing to hopelessness and abandoning herself to the wilderness, seems the more reasonable character, which in itself suggests a way this film might survive in our collective memory — the one post-apocalyptic tale in which suicide seems the smart way out. But perhaps not. Admirable as it is, “The Road” pounds its gloom home like a Gregorian chanter pounds the psalm tone, and you quickly grow numb.

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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.