DID YOU READ

Why “Paul Blart” may be the most important film of 2009.

Why “Paul Blart” may be the most important film of 2009. (photo)

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Our friends over at the newly launched Film Salon have been posting entries from different writers on what each considers the most important film of the decade. (I’m a contributor.) In the same spirit as, say, Michael Tully arguing for “The Real Cancun,” let me offer up a proposition: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” speaks for 2009 like no other movie.

That’s not to say it’s a good film, or even a competent one. Under the helmsmanship of the ever-regrettable Steve Carr (“Dr. Dolittle 2,” “Daddy Day Care” and — ultimate insult — “Next Friday”), it’s crass and poorly paced, a “Die Hard” homage for the PG “Ouch! My Balls!” set. Blart (rhymes with “fart,” something you can’t help but think was on the screenwriters’ minds), as embodied by Kevin James, is a big ol’ tub of New Jersey lard, complete with an ’80s relic mustache, and there’s nothing particularly lovable about him. Nor can much be said for the uncolorful villain (Keir O’Donnell) or the one-man-versus-all stuff. And the eyelines don’t match! In every respect, this is one terrible movie.

On the other hand: this is “Dawn of the Dead,” only the protagonists are the zombies, unaware they’re unaware. I love Romero’s movie, but that has a lot more to do with how well-made it is than any complex “critique” it’s offering about mall culture (which is pretty self-evident).

“Paul Blart,” on the other hand, thinks it’s good clean family fare, which makes it revealing. With the exception of the villain, crew and token hot chick to be won over by Blart (Jayma Mays), everyone here is fat, out-of-shape, working a minimum-wage job with no prospects for advancement and deeply pissed off about it; an alleged comic highlight is Blart having the crap beaten out of him by an over-enraged fat woman. A world outside shoddy suburban homes and stifling mall culture doesn’t exist; the jobs are sedentary, the intellectual stimulation nil.

12172009_paulblart_9.jpg“Paul Blart”‘s a movie for the recession economy, filmed in a world full of crap being protected by people who can’t afford to buy any of it. It’s unapologetically suburban (filmed in Massachusetts, set in New Jersey) and absolutely marginalized. Its main locales are functional: Blart’s mess of a home, the bank within the mall where checks are deposited, and the horrific T.G.I. Friday’s type restaurant the holiday party takes place at. It is, in short, incredibly depressing and zero fun whatsoever.

None of which the film seems to recognize. And, of course, its outsize success — combined with its dismal reviews — led to some conservative soapboxing about how this is a real American movie, not that effete nonsense critics like. Which is in itself part of the zeitgeist!

My point here is that “Paul Blart” is as ugly and misshapen as the year it’s part of. Future scholars could study it just as rigorously as, say, ugly ’50s anti-Communist paranoia or ’60s movies featuring dudes with sitars. No joke.

It’s still a terrible movie, though.

[Photos: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” Paramount, 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.