“South Dakota,” an abortion “dramumentary.”

“South Dakota,” an abortion “dramumentary.” (photo)

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The history of abortion on-screen is short and inglorious: for the most part, it doesn’t exist, rejected out-of-hand as a viable option, since its presence would automatically turn any film polemical.

But it’s not like there’s a shortage of information, impassioned views and propaganda on the subject widely available from both sides of the aisle. So why did almost 1,000 L.A.-area high school girls have to be bussed into Westwood one October morning to watch “South Dakota: A Woman’s Right To Choose”?

As the Los Angeles Times reports, administrators of four Catholic schools and 11 public ones signed off to have their charges watch a supposedly impartial documentary on the subject.

Of course, not explicitly stating “ABORTION = DEATH” doesn’t mean there’s not a viewpoint being promulgated. “South Dakota: A Woman’s Right To Choose” is an uneasy mix of documentary interview and (judging by the trailer anyway) bathetic narrative — “dramumentary,” per first-time director Bruce Isacson. And the film sort of outs itself in terms of where it stands with its chosen company. It’s being pushed by Motive Marketing, who’ve done grass-roots campaigns to rally evangelicals (quite successfully) to “The Passion of the Christ,” Ben Stein’s quietly profitable (and vile) anti-evolution screed “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” and others.

“South Dakota”‘s executive producer Howard Kazanjian is on the record as not caring about “making money”; Focus on the Family’s James Dobson has seen it, while screenings for the pro-choice camps remain tenuous. And the finale’s depiction of a girl fleeing an abortion clinic in terror because of the horrendous conditions and staff apparently outdoes “Juno” for sheer caricature.

Why have all these administrators essentially signed off to help jump-start a marketing campaign? In the video of the screening — the same one the Times is reporting on — you can quite clearly hear someone informing the teen girls that the film’s due for release next year, which simply isn’t true; as the article states, the film is looking for but well may not receive distribution outside of the church-group kind.

12072009_lakeoffire.jpgI don’t really care what the Catholic schools are doing, since it’s their money and judgment. But is the L.A. public school system’s sex ed system so benighted and underfunded that something/anything that can tackle an issue is to be embraced with open arms? I suppose classroom viewings of Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire” — a film that more than balances its copious footage of vitriolic, homicidal anti-abortion protesters with graphic aborted fetus footage– are out of the question. But still: it would appear that, in the name of “discussion,” a bunch of teenage girls were just shipped off by their schools to be raw grassroots marketing meat for an evangelical-targeted film.

So, indie documentarians, get to it. Do you have an opinion on something controversial, no matter how inane or ill-conceived? (Aside: Reenactments? This is how we tackle one of the nation’s most instantly divisive social/ethical/legal problems? With some Cranberries songs and a “Veronica Mars” cast member?) Film it, then head over to L.A., where apparently no one’s actually paying attention to what they’re signing off on. If only the makers of “Life Is Hot In Cracktown” had known this…

[Photo: “South Dakota: A Woman’s Right To Choose,” Lionheart Movies, 2009; “Lake of Fire,” THINKFilm, 2007]


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.