“Sherlock Holmes” by Dan Brown.

“Sherlock Holmes” by Dan Brown. (photo)

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Long story, but over the weekend I found myself simultaneously within arm’s length of Dan Brown’s latest novel — “The Lost Symbol,” the fastest selling adult-market novel in history (whatever that means) — and in a movie theater watching “Sherlock Holmes,” the Guy Ritchie abortion I had no plans of seeing.

It was awfully clever of Ritchie to excuse his normally ADD-via-cubism editing scheme by having Holmes explain in slo-mo how he fights people, then speeding it up. I take it this proves that Ritchie isn’t editing too fast, just that you’re too slow to catch up to the future. Nonetheless, there was an awful lot of dim CGI, sound and fury and the perpetually annoying Rachel McAdams (though that might just be me), and it all ground on for a long time before it was over.

One of the things that didn’t particularly bother me, at least going on, was Holmes’ reinvention as ass-kicking action hero. As Nathan Heller pointed out at Slate, it’s hardly the most outrageous or grievous reinvention of a man whose knowledge of some martial arts is already on the record.

I was, however, reasonably depressed that Holmes had been sent off to fight a super-secret ancient society hellbent on global domination. The villains here are practitioners of Black Magik or some such hoodoo: they wear pins to identify themselves, have meetings, spew vaguely fascist nonsense and love their cryptic symbology. They are the Temple of the Four Orders, who never actually existed, which is worse than what Brown does — at least you can learn some paranoid historical trivia from his work.

Yet both the new “Sherlock” and “The Lost Symbol” tap into the same sense of autodidacticism that has made contemporary heroes as skeptical as the villains they chase. The most captivating passage in the latter — at least in the 40 pages I slogged through — is the implication that anyone casually erudite is probably a psychopath (“The man’s religious and literary references solidified Langdon’s suspicion that he was dealing with a madman”). In Brown’s universe, you need to know about the super-secret conspiracies that rule our society; there’s no other choice.

Which, I suppose, is what’s supposed to make Ritchie’s Holmes redux one for Our Times, more so than its sped-up action and frills. Like Brown’s work (A.O. Scott picked up on the vibe too, the new “Sherlock Holmes” posits a paranoid status quo of self-reliant pedants investigating trivia and arcana, thereby saving the world. Similarly, in Chuck Klosterman’s uneven novel “Downtown Owl,” there’s an elderly character named Horace Jones, who firmly believes he understands how the world and history work because of his copious non-fiction reading, which tends towards biographies and war histories of the most revisionist kind. That, he thinks, is what gives him a clear-eyed perspective on the world.

A kind of Tea Party paranoia writ large, it’s this urge to view the world as dark forces that can be learned about in massive doses of factoids, then defeated with the same, that makes Brown and this “Holmes” more firmly of its time than the much-noted and specious so-called “darkness” of “The Dark Knight,” “There Will Be Blood” and other late-millennium flashpoints. For all the paranoia, it’s peculiarly reassuring.

But still stupid.

[Photo: “Sherlock Holmes,” Warner Bros, 2009.]


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.