Suffer the Children

Suffer the Children (photo)

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Seasoned moviegoers have come to recognize certain visual cues that let them know they’re about to witness scenes of unspeakable brutality: A close-up of a pot of boiling liquid in a movie that’s not about cooking. The emergence of a straight razor in a scene not set in a barbershop. And the five words: “Ein film von Michael Haneke.”

Actually, by Haneke standards, “The White Ribbon” isn’t the kind of cinematic waterboarding we’ve come to expect from the stern Austrian auteur, but while it may not be as viscerally horrifying as, say, “Funny Games,” it’s still a grim and potent moviegoing experience.

Set entirely in a small farming community on the eve of World War I, “The White Ribbon” feels like a cross between “Le Corbeau” and “Village of the Damned” as directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The town suddenly finds itself beset with crimes and misdemeanors: The local doctor’s horse trips over a wire, the baron’s son is kidnapped and beaten. Children go missing, crops are vandalized, a young disabled boy is tortured.

12302009_WhiteRibbon2.jpgNo one seems to know who or what is behind all this, but as we get to know the citizens of this town, we see a rot among its power figures, from the baron to the pastor to the doctor. “The White Ribbon” is narrated by the local schoolteacher, and as a man of little power, prestige or wealth among the locals, he naturally emerges as the one beacon of humanity.

Whereas Jean Renoir’s “La Grande Illusion” looked at World War I as the destroyer of a kinder, gentler way of life in Europe, Haneke dispels that myth, portraying his characters as utterly corrupt and cruel, not to mention trapped in what basically amounts to a feudal system.

Beautifully shot in black and white by Haneke’s frequent collaborator Christian Berger, “The White Ribbon” rarely strays from a stark and chilly vision of the world. Apart from a few scenes of tenderness between the schoolteacher and his young girlfriend, almost every moment in the film portrays dominance, neglect, abuse or cruelty — or some combination thereof.

Still, over its 145-minute running time, the film is never less than riveting. Even without the whodunit element woven throughout, the story has a perversely compelling magnetism; you find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what awful act will be committed by which character next. Vengeance, bitterness and religious extremism all play a part, but ultimately, this is another horror show in which Haneke peers into the darkest recesses of our shared humanity.

12302009_TeardropDiamond3.jpgThe promotional materials for “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond” can’t remind you often enough that the film is based on a never-produced screenplay by Tennessee Williams, his only work written directly for the screen.

But given the caliber of Williams’ work that did see the light of day onscreen in his lifetime — the loony “Boom!” (1968), based on his Broadway flop “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” leaps to mind — it’s worth noting that some unproduced scripts should probably have stayed that way.

Bryce Dallas Howard stars as beautiful, hard-drinking Fisher Willow, heir to two fortunes but a social pariah after the suspicious dynamiting of levees on her father’s property caused several people living just south of him to drown. Her strict grandmother (Ann-Margret) nonetheless insists that Fisher participate in that season’s debutante balls, so Fisher presses Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans) into service as her escort.


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.