DID YOU READ

The right-wing year in film.

The right-wing year in film. (photo)

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Over at The Awl, there’s a grimly funny round-up of altered posters from right-wing message board designed to promote the viewpoint that Barack Hussein Obama is the real “Liar Liar,” Pelosi and Obama are engaged in “Duplicity,” etc. etc. This reminds me that Big Hollywood launched on January 6 of this year, and my life’s never been the same since.

Founded by Andrew Breitbart — who’s trying to do for the blogosphere what Rush Limbaugh does for talk radio in terms of sheer presence, unifying everyone under one wing — Big Hollywood‘s ostensible focus is the intersection of film and politics of the tea-party sort.

This has led to all kinds of insanity, though it didn’t have to be this way. One of the central tenets of BH is that there’s a a “New Blacklist” against conservatives in effect. No matter that Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer and James Woods’ careers continue apace; it takes “courage” to “come out.” Hence, all kinds of voices are welcomed, no matter how C-list or incoherent.

Ex-“Law and Order” star Michael Moriarty is a recent addition to the roster, though my favorite mainstay is certifiable ex-“SNL” ’80s cast member Victoria Jackson, who writes things like “Obama’s speeches are all fake and they say nothing. Cotton candy for stupid people. But, you Glenn Beck, you are a thinker. Like me. You are unbiased. Like me. You are simply seeking Truth, just like me.”

When the site started, editor-in-chief John Nolte used to review each week’s major releases, but he’s apparently gotten too busy to keep up. So reviews come from every which way, and only a few films have emerged as certifiably free of liberal propaganda and good for American families. Championed, repeatedly and at length, were the early year’s surprise hits “Taken” and “Gran Torino,” something worth thinking about without smirking, at least momentarily.

12072009_taken.jpgOf the many essays BH published on these movies — paragons of political incorrectness, natch, with Eastwood telling it like it is and Liam Neeson kicking some towelhead ass — the definitive ones are probably Leo Grin’s “‘Taken’: The World’s Oldest Profession is Father,” which seriously proposes that a) ” the male of the species is a killer, the keeper of a bloody heroic ideal” b) Liam Neeson is a hero for staring down “the nemesis of everything he holds dear as a Judeo-Christian, as an American, and as a father. Against that evil, blood is the only disinfectant.”

Meanwhile, Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (R-MI) wrote a whole essay about “‘Gran Torino’ Conservatives,” where he manages to dismiss Clint Eastwood’s character’s racism in precisely one sentence before proposing Walt Kowalski is a “cultural conservative” who “rises to instill order upon disorder to secure justice and liberty within his community. “

Both these readings strike me as ludicrous, but I can see how they’d make ideological sense to die hard self-proclaimed “independents.” These are both undeniably conservative movies. And yet: I suspect the reason they were surprise hits wasn’t because the American public was hungering for a dose of conservative realpolitik in ass-kicking form. In fact, it seems like most audiences viewed most movies as comedies of excess (certainly that was the case at my screening of “Gran Torino”), the same way most of us watch old Charles Bronson movies.

If anything, that reveals the BH mentality in a nutshell: outdated ideas of vengeance and brute masculinity are meant to be taken seriously and unambiguously. That’s what they want every year in film; that’s why “300” and “The Dark Knight” are part of the modern canon.

Oddly, they’re mixed on “The Blind Side” — this year’s big, Christians-are-people-too movie — because of one measly Bush-bashing joke, which gives the game away. Big Hollywood positions itself on the Glenn Beck side of things (obviously), which doesn’t have anything to do with the heartland values it claims for itself; it’s all about kicking ass and taking names for moral righteousness. Happy nearly-one-year anniversary, guys; that best-of list is going to be a doozy.

[Photos: “Gran Torino,” Warner Bros., 2008; “Taken,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 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.