DID YOU READ

Did Jennifer Aniston and Liam Neeson sink a distributor?

Did Jennifer Aniston and Liam Neeson sink a distributor? (photo)

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2009 has been a year in which home video companies attempted to make a splash in the theatrical market and wound up doing a belly flop instead. While there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage to Anchor Bay’s business from theatrical non-starters like Ashton Kutcher’s “Spread” after years of making a mint on DVD re-releases of “The Evil Dead,” the venerable Image Entertainment was reported yesterday to be considering filing for bankruptcy.

The recent downturn in the DVD business surely has contributed to the situation, but this could also be because Image, long the distributor of the Criterion Collection and countless indie films on home video, decided to start distributing some of their films theatrically, beginning with the Jennifer Aniston-Steve Zahn odd duck “Management” (released via Samuel Goldwyn) and more recently, the Liam Neeson-Laura Linney thriller “The Other Man,” a movie with such a low-profile release this fall that it eluded our “Season of ‘Man’-ly Movies” chart.

If there’s an obvious trend here, it’s that recognizable stars (not of the Steven Seagal variety) are appearing more and more in movies that you first hear of while scrolling through Netflix or strolling through Blockbuster, even if the films received a theatrical release, a point that Alison Willmore and Matt Singer discuss in this week’s IFC News podcast.

That plays into the interest of these home video companies who are likely able to sweeten deals with a film’s producers by saving face for their stars by throwing in a limited theatrical release to avoid the stigma of having their latest film considered to be “direct-to-DVD.” Once the film gets to its final destination, it’s bound to stand out on store shelves because of some familiar floating heads. Justin Timberlake and Jeff Bridges in “The Open Road”? Yep, came out for one week back in August.

12162009_Spread.jpgBut even the smallest theatrical releases come at a cost, as Image has discovered the hard way, and the true losers seem to be the artists who are getting short thrift for taking some chances.

Image mismanaged “Management,” which is one of the year’s overlooked films, an unusually charming love story in the vein of “Something Wild” that eludes rather than reinforces its easy “quirky comedy” tag. Coincidentally, I rented “Spread” the other night on DVD and, like others, was pleasantly surprised by my appreciation of Kutcher’s thoroughly dislikable gigolo at the center of the Los Angeles wonderland created by “Young Adam” director David Mackenzie.

I fear for what will become of the recent Image acquisition “Don McKay,” a dark, twisty Thomas Haden Church thriller I saw when it premiered at Tribeca, scheduled to get a theatrical release in April. These films aren’t easy sells, and with fewer distributors out there, it’s possible more films may not get a release of any kind, let alone theatrical. Especially if Image Entertainment isn’t around in the home video business anymore.

[Photos: Steve Zahn and Jennifer Aniston in “Management,” Image Entertainment, 2009; Anne Heche and Ashton Kutcher in “Spread,” Anchor Bay Films, 2009]

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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.