DID YOU READ

No more Method acting!

No more Method acting! (photo)

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With everyone so busy doing year-end and decade-end round-ups of The Way We Live Now, it’s inevitable that someone would come along and try to define what Acting Looks Like Now. And that someone is film critic David Thomson, a specialist in the parlor game of presenting his own readings and interpretations as general truth.

His article, in the Wall Street Journal, is on “the Death of Method Acting.” There are generalizations about how method acting was about trying to locate “emotional truth” (by which Thomson seems to mean overt self-seriousness and agony). And there are more generalizations about the emergence of a “new style,” which — helpfully for us — “has no studio, no text and little public understanding.” According to Thomson, its exponents include George Clooney, John Malkovich, Robert Downey Jr. and Kevin Spacey.

These “new style” actors are (mostly, and not always in the past) comfortable with providing micro-variations on the same part over and over, with carefully differentiated nuances keeping each performance fresh. Two things attractive about this (heh) “method”: It indicates comfort with your personality, which is always nice: self-confidence, as the relationship experts tell us, is sexy. And these actors are all essentially comic, which makes sense — if your persona depended upon constant brooding and self-seriousness, you wouldn’t get very far, because it’s just not much fun. Luckily for them, the comedy doesn’t have to be in the lines themselves, more in the delivery, an inherently non-self-serious approach to acting.

Anyone who watches a lot of movies (and Thomson certainly does) is lying when they claim an actor “disappears” into a performance. That implies there’s something to hide — i.e., a well-known persona — which, for any name actor, is obvious.

No one really disappears. Daniel Day-Lewis may have gotten more plaudits than anyone this decade, and Daniel Plainview is a ferocious creation, but who seriously forgets who they’re watching in “There Will Be Blood”? Not to mention that, whatever thespy strain he went through, part of that role’s popularity is that Plainview’s rapaciousness and violence are frightening, but also very, very funny, a walking caricature you wouldn’t mock to his face. It’s an Oscar performance the same way, say, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote was, but it’s got a range for fun that playing a historical figure usually precludes.

Elsewhere in the pages of the WSJ, James Franco has the good sense to recognize this while explaining at least part of what he’s been doing on “General Hospital”: “I disrupted the audience’s suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn’t belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas.” And that goes for pretty much everyone with a name.

There’s no real point in trying to figure out who’s a “method actor” and who’s, uh, “reveling in performance” or whatever Thomson wants to call it. We respect and appreciate it more these days when actors cruise through, relaxing in themselves without getting lazy. The awards may still go to the big impersonators and showboats, but people (especially critics) rarely fall into the “oh, he’s just playing himself” trap these days. Once you’re famous, you’ll never truly fool anyone; you might as well get comfortable and make the rest of us the same.

[Photos: “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 1951; “There Will Be Blood,” Paramount Vantage, 2007]

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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.