DID YOU READ

Roadtrip/no roadtrip.

Roadtrip/no roadtrip. (photo)

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Nothing says 1969 like “Easy Rider,” the bad-trip Altamont to the ebullient celebration of the next year’s “Woodstock.” While the hippies were partying down, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson were discovering there was no place for them in America, either old or new. On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, Keith Phipps retraced the road trip taken by the gang.

The week-long series is halfway done on Slate, and it’s a good read, tracing what’s the same and what’s different. The biggest difference, though, is the gap between the “Easy Rider” trio and Phipps, whose mode of travel is a “rented PT Cruiser — a far cry from Wyatt and Billy’s choppers” and who knows he’s going home after he reaches New Orleans.

I dig the articles, but I kind of hate “Easy Rider.” As Mike D’Angelo once put it, that “ain’t my favorite film, man, and that’s like an understatement, man, okay, man?” But then, there’s always something inherently smug to me about Baby Boomers cultural artifacts, whether recent or of the moment. “Easy Rider” is despairing, yes, but in a way that congratulates the audience for sharing that despair.

A more enlightening eulogy for the death of ’60s idealism is Robert Kramer’s less celebrated 1975 brick of a movie, “Milestones.” At three hours and change, it’s not for the faint of heart; it can be grating, yes, but in a way that criticizes rather than embraces the reasons it’s grating.

11182009_milestones.jpgAs the title immodestly suggests, this seemingly mundane procession of ’60s acid casualties living their ’70s lives is meant to suggest the transition of an entire generation. As Melissa Anderson puts it, it tracks “the painful process through which collective action gave way to the Me Decade’s enraged narcissism,” spelling out the rancid final destination “Easy Rider” can only glimpse through the combined fug of pot smoke and motorcycle exhaust fumes. The territory overlaps a bit — commune time in “Easy Rider” is even longer in “Milestones,” self-righteous nudists and all — but their overall approaches to the same psychic terrain couldn’t be more different.

What “Easy Rider” does is take the camera along with the characters, getting all subjective: the mobility is both the film’s and its characters. “Milestones” reserves mobility only for the camera: its huge cast is spread out all over, mired in the traps they’ve set for themselves and unable to move.

Which is what makes it more authentic and rewarding than “Easy Rider,” whose locations are iconic enough for Phipps to revisit and compare/contrast the past and present of. “Milestones” is the “real America”: not the mythical nowhere and everywhere Dennis Hopper found, but anonymity, gloom and doom in run-down cities and the countryside you couldn’t figure out where in the world they were if your life depended on it.

If “Easy Rider” says going everywhere ultimately takes you nowhere — except in the iconic imagery it’s not too proud to hypocritically take — “Milestones” says nowhere is pretty much everywhere: a good lesson for the pervasive grunginess of the ’70s. It’s not on DVD, regrettably, but a new print was struck this year that’s making its way around the country sporadically. If it comes near you, it’s worth a look. Here’s a clip:

[Photo: “Easy Rider,” Sony, 1969; “Milestones,” Robert Kramer and John Douglas, 1975]

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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.