Schizo Miracles

Schizo Miracles (photo)

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Samuel Fuller had one of the most fascinating of Hollywood careers — a 50-plus-year self-mythologizing rampage that began with scriptsmith work in the mid 1930s at the age of 24, evolving into one of the most distinctive auteurs America has ever produced, writing/directing some 25 movies and having a hand in writing 25 more, helplessly manufacturing himself into a crusty man’s-man Hollywood gadfly in the process, readily available for manic interviews and iconic appearances in young auteurs’ self-conscious films.

There are always corners in his career that you, whomever you are, haven’t yet explored (honestly, any single Fuller film remains half-experienced if you’ve only seen it once), and so the new Sony set of Fulleriania is a prize, beginning as it does with “It Happened in Hollywood” (1937), Fuller’s first screenplay credit, and an utterly freakish, Charlie Kaufman-esque launch of meta-ness that centers on Hollywood’s discomfiting transition from silents to talkies, barely a decade after it happened and 15 years before “Singin’ in the Rain.” Richard Dix, essentially playing himself, is an aw-shucks cowboy star for whom both the demands of dialogue and the moral compromises of early gangster roles proves too much, but it’s clear that Dix is indeed a terrible actor past his dubious prime, playing an inept matinee icon and moseying through a scenario about his own career’s demise.

Though the dynamic suggests “The Wrestler,” Dix keeps to his old westerns’ dull and pious persona, initiating a kind of hall-of-mirrors journey that climaxes, phenomenally, with a huge house party populated with a forgotten class of Hollywood creatures: actual stand-ins, look-alikes playing themselves playing their studio stars in a creepy alternative Golden Age where slightly off Mae Wests, Marlene Dietrichs, Eddie Cantors and Clark Gables wander the rolling lawns of Beverly Hills, like a live version of those Warner Brothers cartoons bustling with caricatured celebrity cameos.

It’s an early clue to the degree of irony and distance inherent in all of Fuller’s work, and it’s a unique thing in a filmography of one-of-a-kinds. The DVD box includes six other films (along with four new interview supplements with Tim Robbins, Wim Wenders, Martin Scorsese and Curtis Hanson), including “Underworld U.S.A.” (1961), an arch, lurid crime nightmare in which every frame is a cluttered knot of perspectives, contrasts and spite, and which, it seems to me, is precisely where film noir, properly defined, died, burned at the stake of Fuller’s psychodramatic hyperbole. But because Fuller’s voice was unmistakably his, the sensibility collisions in the films directed by others are the revelations. “Scandal Sheet” (1952) was directed by Phil Karlson, who was as much of a confrontational, subtlety-immune noiriste as Fuller, but whose style was much more pseudo-documentary.

11032009_ScandalSheet.jpgFuller had no hand in the movie — it’s based on his novel “The Dark Page,” published in 1944 while Fuller was fighting in Europe with the Big Red One. Still, it boils over with his storytelling energy and his signature reflex, the urge to discover, expressionistically, the painful, hard-boiled reality as he knew it within the movie-movie universe of Golden Age Hollywood. The set-up itself is nearly autobiographical: Fuller used to work on the New York Graphic, a screaming-mimi, truth-manipulating exploitative tabloid on Park Row that makes the contemporary New York Post look like The London Review of Books.

Broderick Crawford’s bulldog editor pulls the daily out of its economic doldrums with lurid front pages and invented news; John Derek is his amoral star reporter, the two of them heading a newsroom that has only Donna Reed to recommend it in the way of moral compunction and compassion. The thorny patter and amoral brio proceeds apace until Crawford is confronted at a publicity event by a middle-aged woman, who summons an entire unwanted past that eventually leads to her manslaughter and a hot news story that must be pursued even if Crawford is its last station. It’s a fast-gabbing, meat-eating show, with only one typical handicap: pretty boy star Derek (future husband of Bo) is a baby-faced cipher beside the roaring rockface of Crawford, and even the quick-eyed beauty of Reed. But the story is expertly fashioned, scanning today as a prescient indictment of Rupert Murdoch-style media exploitation.

“Shockproof” (1949) is even odder — a hard-boiled egg of a Fuller script (co-written with women’s-picture foghorn Helen Deutsch), but directed by existentialist-romantic Douglas Sirk, tracking parole officer Cornel Wilde as he attempts to keep smokin’ released murderess Patricia Knight away from her flimflam boyfriend and out of the hoosegow. Of course, the story twists up with romantic passion and another murder, and Knight’s bitter modern woman so bristles with betrayal that we never know who she wants, but it eventually ends up on the road in a kind of domestic hellfire of poverty and paranoia, a year after “They Live by Night” and before “Gun Crazy.” Fullerish in its hidden impulses but Sirkian in its expressionism and moaning self-pity, the movie is a minor and forgotten schizo miracle.


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.