DID YOU READ

Nancy Meyers, architecture pornographer.

Nancy Meyers, architecture pornographer. (photo)

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Not to rag on the New York Times‘ inadvertent Week Of Women In Film, but after Manohla Dargis’ underdetailed manifesto on female directors, here comes Daphne Merkin going long in a profile on director Nancy Meyers.

The occasion is the upcoming release of “It’s Complicated,” and Meyers is by no means an unworthy subject for a lengthy interview: she is, as Merkin notes, arguably the most powerful female director in Hollywood, with control of final cut.

But… this article is such an epic fail in so many ways. Alarm bells went off early, when Merkin describes Meyers’ jewelry as “unblingy as can be” and quotes an anonymous studio marketing exec as saying (with admirably naked cynicism) the film is “a terrific populist comedy” because it “reduces well to a 30-second TV spot.”

To argue for Meyers’ significance, Merkin quotes “Elizabeth Hayt, a friend of mine in her late 40s who considers ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ to be a cultural lodestar” and grabs the (admittedly awesome) descriptive term “architecture porn” from “one disparaging poster on an Internet message board.” She claims Meyers’ body of work manages to “tease out the conflicted, humorous heart of adult life” (huh?).

12172009_architechtureporn.jpgMerkin dances around the most interesting things about Meyers (most of which are not about the actual experience of watching her movies), most obviously, the sexism issue — why does Meyers all but stand alone in the industry? — which the article touches on by raising the fact that Meyers is apparently as multi-take obsessive as David Fincher. Her friend John Burnham is quoted as saying “If Mike Nichols said to do another take there would never be any issue.” Pace Fincher’s notoriety for wearing actors down this way, that’s not necessarily true, but whatever.

The real area of Merkin’s fascination is the aforementioned “architecture porn,” to which she devotes at least a third of the article. If Meyers has any real visual trademark as a filmmaker, it’s the well-lit, expensively gracious homes her characters occupy, and the piece makes clear how much Meyers labors over them — Steve Martin compares her meticulousness to Scorsese, only focused on matters of interior design taste — and how closely they resemble her own life (for her house she ended up getting just the right beige color from Australia).

They are, in some ways, the message, more so than her achievement of making the fiftysomething professional woman as (or, in the case of “It’s Complicated,” more) desirable than the leggy twentysomething blond.

Which is why there’s something ringing hollow in the insistence that Meyers, whatever her formal gaffes, is doing something new and bold in recalibrating the center of romantic focus. She keeps the normative assumptions of the young-pretty-people romcom firmly in place, the world of fabulously expensive dates and high-pressure-but-barely-seen jobs. Every time I see Kate Hudson or whoever strapping on her shoes, I get weird visions of those It’s Just Lunch ads you see in airplane magazines, the ones about finding a mate who’s just as corporately fast-tracked, financially successful and all-round awesome as you are.

There are assumptions here about the correlation between money and romance — and no, it’s not just a flashback to the ’30s world of the flirtations of the rich and elegant, which always foregrounded class explicitly and served as a pleasing counterpoint to the Depression outside. It’s a little poisonous and always makes me feel poor. That’s something even more important than the people populating these nicely decorated frames.

[Photos: “It’s Complicated,” Universal, 2009; “architecture porn” from “The Holiday,” Columbia Pictures, 2006]

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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.