Cardboard lightning bolts of the gods.

Cardboard lightning bolts of the gods.  (photo)

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As we’ve been told again and again in the run up to “Avatar,” it took James Cameron 15 years to make his movie because he had to wait for the technology to catch up to what he saw inside his head. So it stands to reason that he’s not the only filmmaker who’s been thinking about what was impossible to film even ten years ago and is now rifling through the archives for ways to take advantage of the technology that’s finally here. And maybe that’s why everyone’s decided it’s finally time to get Greek mythology right.

That’s the gist of Geoff Boucher’s LA Times trend piece. The movies in question themselves aren’t much to think about: there’s the stupid upcoming “Clash of the Titans” remake and the even more tepid “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” in which a young boy meets the gods in Manhattan, becomes a hero, etc. (a summary that reminds me of “Hercules in New York”).

After that, Boucher has to stretch for examples — “Battlestar Galactica” “had plenty of references […] and planets named after the Greek zodiac” — but that’s okay, because his key point is solid: mythological fantasies with gods and lightning bolts are coming back because of “their potential in this digital-effects era.” In other words, the opportunity to employ hundreds of diligent f/x laborers to conjure up centaurs and various fantastical happenings.

I can see the pragmatic appeal here for Hollywood execs, but I wonder what’s to be gained even in terms of pure impressive technology. We’re approaching a zero hour for CGI, which can do a lot of amazing things now in creating the illusion of real tactility and sense of weight in its fabricated fantastical creatures. That has the potential downside of making the fantastical mundane.

12142009_clashofthetitanas.jpgWe’re a long ways from the swords-and-sandals cheesefests of the ’50s and ’60s, but I think there are still things to be gained from lo-fi f/x. I don’t just say that out of the usual kneejerk fanboy preference for old-fashioned dated stop-motion so beloved of “Clash of the Titans” fetishists. As (sometime IFC guest critic) Mike D’Angelo pointed out recently writing about the “Large Marge” sequence in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “We’re accustomed by now to seeing apparently real objects undergo a convincing metamorphosis–it’s easily shrugged off, no matter how impressive. Stop-motion’s jerky frame-by-frame process remains oddly unsettling.” True, so when you’re portraying the uncanny, wouldn’t you want to do it in an uncanny way?

I’m not rooting for all stop-motion all the time — the original “Clash of the Titans” isn’t that great either — but something along those lines would be exciting. Debased Kabuki theater? Doing it “Dogville” style, with the set suddenly morphing into CGI terrain at odd moments? Having all the gods played by people and the people played by CGI?

That gap between the familiarity of the source and the oddness of how it ends up being represented on screen would be interesting. Instead, we just get a villainous Steve Coogan running around New York and random lightning bolts. Not nearly as cool.

[Photos: “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” Fox 2000, 2010; “Clash of the Titans,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 2010]


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.