DID YOU READ

The Naughts: The Buddy Pair of the ’00s

The Naughts: The Buddy Pair of the ’00s (photo)

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Nobody in the film business has had as good a decade as the folks at Pixar Animation Studios. They released seven films in ten years, all of them box office hits, all of them critical successes. Four of them won Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature (and the past summer’s “Up” stands a good chance to make it five).

Because of the studio’s incredible run of creativity, Pixar filmmakers are often asked to explain the secret of the company’s success. In an interview with Movie City News‘ David Poland, “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E” director Andrew Stanton cited a meeting the company’s brain trust held shortly after the release of “Toy Story” to assess exactly what went right that time so that they could be sure to repeat that formula in the future. As Stanton explained it, “We felt that it was a weird, perfect symbiotic combination of there [being] one visionary and it was John [Lasseter]… but conversely, John was incredibly open to [asking] ‘What does everybody think?’ and created about the most egalitarian atmosphere that you could with a system that needs a dictator.”

In other words, Pixar movies are the product of a singular artistic vision supported and refined through teamwork. And without coincidence, most Pixar films are testaments to the power of the team. They’re stories of singular characters learning to work in a group and to improve themselves through collaboration with others. Typically, a self-obsessed main character encounters a situation they can’t conquer alone; only by learning the value of friendship and cooperation can ultimate success and happiness be achieved. “Up”‘s grumpy Carl Fredricksen fulfills his dream only when he learns to appreciate the companionship of Russell. In “The Incredibles,” Mr. Incredible resurrects his moribund superhero career and family life when he stops going on secret adventures and starts including his loved ones on his masked escapades. In essence, Pixar makes movies that validate the way that Pixar makes movies.

Pixar’s greatest financial success to date (and, arguably, their most complete artistic achievement as well) is Stanton’s “Finding Nemo,” the studio’s most affectionate portrait of friendship and its most effective paean to the power of teamwork. After losing his wife and the rest of his children to a barracuda attack, clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) lives in a constant state of fear about what could happen to his son Nemo (Alexander Gould). After Nemo is captured by a scuba diver, Marlin leaves his coral reef home and ventures out into the open ocean to rescue him. Early in his journey, he bumps into a forgetful regal tang named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). Together. they brave shark attacks, jellyfish swarms and fishermen to reach Sydney, Australia and, as the title promises, find Nemo.

11302009_FindingNemo2.jpgBefore Marlin meets and learns from Dory, he’s ill-equipped for such a search and rescue operation. As Stanton eloquently explains on the “Nemo” DVD commentary, the Marlin at the start of the film is so obsessed with his sad past and so terrified about his uncertain future that he’s entirely incapable of living in the present. This makes Dory, the fish whose bad memory means she can only live in the present, the perfect companion and tutor on this voyage. Marlin is afraid of every obstacle; Dory doesn’t know enough to be scared. Marlin sees a whale’s mouth half-empty with water; Dory sees it as half-full. Her fearless, endlessly positive attitude gets the pair into trouble, but it’s also a big reason why Marlin can teach Nemo.

In the world of classic Disney animation, opposites commonly attract each other in a romantic way. That’s the core of the chemistry in Disney films from “Cinderella” to “The Little Mermaid” or “Aladdin.” In the world of Pixar, opposites like Marlin and Dory attract in a platonic way, as seemingly mismatched friends who have very different but very complimentary skills, and though “Finding Nemo” is ultimately a story about fathers and sons, the film’s most emotionally devastating moments are the ones that test the bonds between great friends. In the one that always makes me cry — yeah, you heard me, I cry at the cartoon fish; at least I’m not dead inside — Marlin mistakenly believes Nemo is lost for good and tells Dory to stop following him around. In a heart-wrenching monologue, Dory pleads with Marlin in a beautiful ode to the power of friendship. “I remember things better with you!” she says. “I remember it, I do. It’s there, I know it is, because when I look at you, I can feel it. And I look at you, and I… and I’m home.”

So much of “Finding Nemo” is about the process of helping others, and it’s not limited to Marlin and Dory’s storyline. In an Australian dentist’s aquarium, Nemo learns about life from the other tank’s denizens, particularly a fearless fish named Gill (Willem Dafoe) with a physical impediment that mirrors Nemo’s own. To reach Nemo, Marlin and Dory need the advice, directions and support of some sea turtles, a whale and a pelican. And in the film’s big climax, when Marlin allows Nemo to place himself back into danger in order to save Dory from a fishing net, success can only be achieved as a group working in unison toward a common goal (i.e. everyone swimming down against the net to snap the cord connecting it to the fishing boat). Dory’s previously naïve-sounding slogan — “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!” — becomes the rallying cry that saves everyone.

11302009_FindingNemo3.jpgA Pixar movie takes several years and several hundred people years to make. In the case of “Nemo,” Stanton began writing material six years prior to the film’s release, and later spent a full two years tinkering with the screenplay. But he wasn’t working by himself; he was collaborating with his co-director [Lee Unkrich], co-screenwriters [Bob Peterson and David Reynolds] and the Pixar story department. Later, the animators were brought in to bring the first team’s vision to life, by bringing their own ideas and creativity to the project. Working toward a common goal, swimming together, they made something very special.

This feature is part of the Naughts Project.

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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.