DID YOU READ

Meryl Streep is not a Na’vi.

Meryl Streep is not a Na’vi.  (photo)

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Profiling the directorial debut of “Ghost Whisperer” creator John Gray — who’s financing his directorial debut “White Irish Drinkers” with $600,000 out of his own pocket — The New York Times‘ John Anderson feels it necessary to tell us that “it’s never been a tougher climate for independent film, since they don’t usually feature seven-foot blue-skinned Na’vis or Meryl Streep.” Har. More importantly: when did super-advanced 3D f/x and a sexegenarian acting legend become the same thing?

About two years ago. In accordance with the old studio executive dictum that two of anything is a trend that can be ridden out indefinitely, Streep’s blockbuster summers with “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Mamma Mia!” led Entertainment Weekly to dub her a “box office queen.” Vanity Fair picked up the meme as their January 2010 cover story. The evidence: those two movies, plus “Julie & Julia” and “It’s Complicated.”

Though journalists who need to fill up space are often guilty of cooking up fake trends from anything that happens three or more times, in this case, it’s the studio heads that deserve the blame. The EW article has Sony chief Amy Pascal raving about how Streep let her “sexiness” out in “Adaptation.” More interestingly, Donna Langley — then president of production at Universal, now co-chair — was skeptical that would lead to more female-driven films. “I don’t think one has anything to do with the other,” she said. “It’s a specific Meryl moment. But it’s wonderful to watch.”

01252010_Julie&Julia1.jpgWell, no, it’s not even that. It’s certainly true that Streep is toplining successful films, and that she has something to do with it. But correlation and causation are not the same thing; if they were, we’d be talking not just about those four films, but all the other amazingly successful films she’s made since “Prada.” Ready? “Dark Matter,” “Evening,” “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Doubt.” Do you see where I’m going with this?

Now, granted, all of those were tough sells (“Lions for Lambs” is straight-up garbage, in particular), but her hits have all needed a little more help than having her name above the title. “Prada” was an adaptation of a wildfire best-seller done right, timed to ride on the hysteria surrounding “America’s Next Top Model,” “Mamma Mia!” filled the musical void during the summer of 2008 and used ABBA like a club, “Julie & Julia” was a cross-generational biopic, one of whom was really famous, released during the height of the Food Network’s popularity. The only one I’m prepared to concede is “It’s Complicated,” and even there, it was an ensemble rather than a solo vehicle released when there were no other major comedies at Christmas.

This is no knock on Streep, who I’ve particularly enjoyed in her late-period comedienne phase; she’s finally stopped scaring the hell out of me, leaving me more time to have nightmares about Isabelle Huppert. But her success doesn’t really have much to do with audiences having an OMGMERYLSTREEP moment. And certainly no one’s going to confuse her with a Na’vi.

[Photos: “The Devil Wears Prada,” 20th Century Fox, 2006; “Julie & Julia,” Columbia Pictures, 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.