DID YOU READ

Girls on film, again.

Girls on film, again. (photo)

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The year can’t end until someone writes an essay decrying the lack of female directors, both in Hollywood and worldwide. This year, the honors go to the New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis, with the bluntly titled “Women in the Seats but Not Behind the Camera.”

The statistics, as usual, are damning: Dargis points out precisely how many H’wood films this year directed by women — out of 600 or so movies released in New York this year, about 10% were female directed.

But the article’s also full of unpacked assumptions and declarations. For starters: is “Precious” really “the most passionately debated women’s picture in memory”? What makes it a “women’s picture” (and if the subject is female directors, what are we make of gay male director Lee Daniels)? Is it really true that the financial success of “New Moon” and “The Blind Side” is “good for women in film”? If so, why? Has conventional wisdom really dictated for years “that women don’t go to the movies and can’t open movies,” and if so, why do chick flicks exist?

In comparing the respective careers of Michael Mann and Kathryn Bigelow, isn’t it relevant that Bigelow’s financial track record in the ’90s and ’00s (specifically, the triple-fails of “Strange Days,” “The Weight of Water” and “K-19: The Widowmaker”) and lack of a huge, defining success at least in part explain her struggles (compared to Mann’s relatively profitable ’90s streak) and his success as much as institutional sexism? And how is it exactly that “The vogue for comics and superheroes has generally forced women to sigh and squeal on the sidelines”? Aren’t there female geeks too?

This is the part where I tell you that I’m not actually sexist (something you’d hope would go without saying, but you never know) and that I understand and care about what Dargis is getting at. I’m just saying it’s time for this annual essayistic ritual to take a new leap into the land of pure journalism.

12112009_clairedenis.jpgFor example: Dargis dismisses the kind of arthouse movie she likes (and I do too!) as something “I bet you never heard about, much less saw, most of them,” but it dawned on me that six out of my nine favorite working female directors were French. And yes, those numbers are alarmingly small, but: what’s up with that statistical disproportionately? France isn’t generally noted for its exceptional progressivism in gender matters, so how’d that come about? Might Dargis’ sly suggestion that women might be doing badly in Hollywood because “any business that refers to its creations as product cannot, by definition, have much imagination” — insinuating women just can’t play the hack game — actually bear fruit in the surplus of unconventional French female auteurs?

Another thought: I went to film school for a while at NYU, and I’d say the number of women in each class wasn’t more than 1/3. Given that NYU is notoriously willing to take anyone’s money if they can hurdle a certain academic bar, and generally regarded as one of the country’s premiere film schools, it’s hard to know what was up with that disproportionality (unless NYU itself is sexist in the very admissions process, which is hard to credit).

So, like, let’s send an actual reporter to go to the source (because, for better or worse, film schools are where a lot of directors pass through these days) and see what that’s about. Interview the women in the program, talk to them about their goals and ambitions, track them — do something to figure out what the gap in film school (and its greater margin behind the camera professionally) is about.

I know I’m just giving anecdotal evidence here, but that’s my point — I’m tired of reading this article every year, and I’d like to see some harder reporting. I’m just as interested in broadening up the number of voices in film; we have enough hack directors with no discernible directorial personality (male or female) around already.

[Photo: “Twilight: New Moon,” Summit Entertainment, 2009; Claire Denis]

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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.