DID YOU READ

The ten worst movie moments in 2009.

The ten worst movie moments in 2009. (photo)

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When I’m not blogging, I’m often out seeing the very worst contemporary film has to offer in the name of film criticism. As the year comes to a close, here’s my gift to you, dear reader: ten of the worst moments in ten of the worst films I saw this year. Because life can’t always be positive.

1. Smiley face, “Obsessed”
Steve Shill’s deliriously trashy stalker-white-bitch-fights-Beyoncé-over-Stringer Bell opus earned every penny of its domestic $68 billion haul, if only for confirming that Beyoncé isn’t just capable of dancing in five-inch heels but can win a catfight in them too. For sheer howling stupidity, though, nothing in this formidable avalanche tops the moment where Ali Larter’s obsessed stalker sends Idris Elba an e-mail of a gigantic smiley face. The camera zooms in ominously as evil music plays, and then, in a moment that I presume is supposed to be the equivalent of Michael Myers jumping out with a knife, it winks. Chilling!

2. “Typical Jewish trick,” “12”
I walked into Nikita Mikhalkov’s Russian remake of “12 Angry Men” hoping to see something crassly insensitive, authoritarian and racist — something true to my ethnic heritage, in other words — and it didn’t disappoint. About 40 minutes in, as the jurors are hashing out the case and one man starts advancing a claim of innocence, another snaps “Typical Jewish trick!” Mikhalkov, of course, would claim he’s trying to diagnose and cure Russia’s ills — anti-Semitism being one of the most common and infamous — rather than endorse them. Then again, his film is an unsubtle commercial for authoritarian Putin rule from a man who proudly notes in his biography that his father wrote the Soviet national anthem. We all have issues, I guess.

12282009_beerinhell2.jpg3. Halo, “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”
This long-gestating self-penned ode to the life, times, wit and wisdom of Tucker Max was less offensive than boring, because it doesn’t have the courage to follow through on all of Max’s written beliefs. However, Max’s fictional friend Drew (Jesse Bradford), a bitter wounded nerd who channels all of his aggression into “Halo,” did manage to rise above the dullness. When he bonds with a stripper and learns to respect her because she kicks his ass at “Halo,” it occurred to me that maybe a thousand whiny Judd Apatow critics complaining about how there’s no men out there anymore, just overgrown boys, just might have a point.

4. Underwear, “I Love You, Beth Cooper”
Chris Columbus’ underanticipated return to the realm of straight comedy was so interminable it’s tempting to throw the whole thing on here as one eternal moment that just goes on and on. For brevity’s sake, though, let’s settle on the scene when nerdy Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) — for complicated reasons — is in a car with titular crush Beth (Hayden Panettiere) and she slams the breaks, causing his head to fall onto her thighs with a crotch-eye view of her underwear, which say something like “Hello.” At this moment — and no earlier — does he realize she’s not a sweet, innocent 18-year-old, but actually kind of slutty and therefore not worthy of his pure love. He gets over it, but seriously? He should be grateful.

5. The fire, “Jennifer’s Body”
All of Diablo Cody’s whiffed “Juno” follow-up is atrocious; my friend Matt Noller described it as “Like looking into the face of evil.” He wasn’t being that hyperbolic — and nothing was worse than the moment where an “indie band” (“crappier Killers rip-off with make-up” isn’t actually “indie,” but let’s let that go) has a club inexplicably catch fire as they start playing. Just before the fire, Jennifer (Megan Fox) downs a red-white-and-blue drink that’s supposed to be a Twin Towers joke, and the fire is a direct reference to the Great White tragedy, where 100 people died in a pyrotechnics-induced concert inferno. “Jennifer’s Body” has no idea what to do with these awful events; it just uses them for a couple of allegedly “irreverent” jokes without a point or real punchline, collapsing under the weight of its own fecklessness.

12282009_never2.jpg6. Roses, “Not Easily Broken”
This Bill Duke dramedy is a tepid and much more ponderously pious version of the kind of religious black-oriented melodrama in which Tyler Perry specializes. The big dilemma here is if frustrated husband Dave Johnson (Morris Chestnut) will cheat on wife Clarice (Taraji P. Henson) with (white girl!) Julie Sawyer (Maeve Quinlan). [SPOILER ALERT] In what has to be the mildest case of having “committed adultery in my heart” since Jimmy Carter gave us that invaluable phrase, Dave almost — almost — kisses Julie before realizing it’s wrong, God is angry and heading home. It’s an awfully wussy cop-out for a movie that shamelessly rips “American Beauty”‘s lustful dream sequences, falling rose petals and all. Where’s Mena Suvari when you need her?

7. The stoning of Soraya M., “The Stoning of Soraya M.”
This movie was made with faultless intentions: writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh wanted to draw to the attention of the ignorant that sharia law means women are still getting stoned to death in Iran. Unfortunately, he made a terrible, torpid movie, and the audience for this kind of thing is pretty self-selecting and already informed. In return for reviewing it and pointing out that the climactic stoning was quite a bit like the arrow-cam in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” — plus, said sequence goes on forever, like a cut-rate “The Passion of the Christ” — I was accused by a Canadian conservative alt-weekly of caring about “more vital stuff, like agitating for Leonard Peltier.” Again, please?

8. Modern ladder romance, “What Goes Up”
This ill-promoted Steve Coogan/Hilary Duff romance (you read that right) made my head hurt more than anything else this year, thanks to an editing scheme so incoherent and jumbled it was nearly as cubist Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Even if the damn thing made spatial-temporal sense, though, nothing could’ve warrant the sight of Coogan, as a horny journalist, remembering “Romeo and Juliet” references from earlier in the movie and grabbing a ladder, from which to woo Duff. They don’t consummate this relationship, thank god, but that image alone could send anyone off to a night of drinking.

9. Infusing the souls, “9”
A fraternity friend once told me one of the hazing rituals was locking the inductee in a closet and playing “Purple Haze” at full blast for seven hours; I imagine it felt something like painful, incoherent mish-mash of half-digested “1984” and OMG ROBOTS ATTACKING. But even worse than the sound and the fury was the part where we learn [SPOILERS] that our doll heroes were created by the scientist who invented the killer machines, and who gave them life by breathing his soul into them. Color me metaphysically skeptical.

10. Shit-smear, “Miss March”
A tedious compendium of breasts, dick jokes, men jabbing their girlfriends with forks after they bite down on their dicks during a strobe-light induced epileptic seizure, and so forth, this comedy is, as audiences seemed to sense, a chore. But the standout bit is the recurring gag of what happens when Eugene Bell (Zach Cregger), fresh out of a coma, gets too excited: a big ol’ stream of shit exits his body. This happens fairly regularly, and it looks disgustingly accurate. And isn’t funny.

[Photos: “Obsessed,” Screen Gems, 2009; “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” Freestyle Releasing, 2009; “Not Easily Broken,” Screen Gems, 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.