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Seven hit foreign films that aren’t getting nominated for an Oscar.

Seven hit foreign films that aren’t getting nominated for an Oscar. (photo)

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In a few hours, the final five nominations for Best Foreign Film are going to be announced. But none of those five — or the nine shortlisted — were submitted on the basis of great success in their home country.

That’s no secret: if box office determined distribution of foreign films in America, we’d all be watching, say, “Vicky the Viking,” a German family comedy about the adorable lil’est Viking and his pals instead of “The White Ribbon.” (Don’t tempt me, really.)

Nonethless, it bears examining seven movies that conquered their domestic box-offices without making a dent here, with the Academy or otherwise.

02022010_fossevoce.jpg“Se Eu Fosse Você 2,” Brazil

This translates as “If I Were You 2,” a sequel to a hit comedy about a squabbling husband and wife who switch bodies. It was subsequently outgrossed by “Avatar” and the inevitable “Ice Age 3,” which meant Fox — also a distributor on this — had a very good year. In this movie, the husband and wife switch bodies again, which apparently leads to hilarious jokes about the guy having to sit down when he goes to the bathroom. Say what you want about mainstream American film comedy: at least our big hits no longer milk the old straight-man-acting-flamboyantly-gay gag.

02022010_rooperi.jpg“Rööperi,” Finland

Coming in behind “Avatar,” “Ice Age 3” and “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” “Rööperi” is described by one IMDB user as the Finnish equivalent of “Goodfellas” (back of the line, behind all the other contenders), which kind of makes me want to see it. You have to wonder what nearly two-and-half-hours of garish evocations of the ’60s Finnish hard liquor market is like, domestic soundtrack and all. As IMDB user “aku_rouhiainen” notes, “the Movie started to feel boring after 30-60 minutes, but it was still ‘watchable’ and the actors didn’t grown up while the movie ANY!!! They looked just same all the time.” Sold.

02022010_madeinhungary.jpg“Made in Hungária,” Hungary

Here, we know Hungary best as the home of Béla Tarr and similarly severe auteurs. This, of course, is not what the Hungarian audience watches. The highest-grossing Hungarian film of 2009 was this peppy musical about a Hungarian youth returning from abroad with his Jerry Lee Lewis records, who promptly introduces the kids to duck’s-ass haircuts vaguely anti-Communist sentiments. I have no idea why this hasn’t been released here: the older component Landmark Theatres crowd would probably love to see early ’60s rock, youth and innocence in a foreign tongue.

02022010_youchanged.jpg“You Changed My Life,” Philippines

“You Changed My Life” is the sequel to “A Very Special Love” by the prolific Cathy Garcia-Molina, who’s apparently conquered the Filipino rom-com market with a slew of indelibly titled movies: “Bcuz of U,” “Close To You,” “You Are The One,” “You Got Me!,” “One More Chance,” “My Only U.” The trailer before is for “A Very Special Love,” which looks incredibly generic but is kind of funny. I’m mostly including this because in reading up on the film, I discovered the useful Filipino term “kilig,” a neat, two-syllable encapsulation of all that giddy, butterflies-in-stomach mythology romcoms sweat so much to produce naturally. I’m glad I learned it and would like to invite you to introduce it into our vernacular.

02022010_inhabited.jpg“The Inhabited Island,” Russia

The Strugatsky brothers are arguably Russia’s best-known science-fiction writers: Tarkosvky filmed one of their novels as “Stalker,” Alexander Sokurov made a typically impenetrable movie “inspired” by them, and James Cameron was accused of plagiarizing them for Avatar. An adaptation of their “The Inhabited Island” was the most expensive Russian production yet at $36.6 but failed to make back the budget; still, it made more money than any Russian film last year (though Part II only grossed less than a third of the first installment, so audiences apparently caught on). The plot is some kind of gibberish about a heroic 20something on an alien planet leading a revolt against tyrants; summary is here.

02022010_bangkoktraffic.jpg“Bangkok Traffic Love Story,” Thailand

According to its valiant struggle of a Wikipedia summary, “Bangkok Traffic Love Story” is apparently less schizoid than the trailer below, which veers from frantic farce about a woman drinking too much to recapping pretty much all the film save the final reconciliation. Thailand’s film industry is in good shape at the domestic box office; “Bangkok” came in 4th for the year and decimated “This Is It” during an opening-weekend stand-off. I’m intrigued by Wikipedia’s suggestion it’s the first Thai movie to really cater to the young single female urbanite crowd so frequently targeted here; apparently it struck quite a nerve.

02022010_recep.jpg“Recep Ivedik 2,” Turkey

According to IMDB user “skipper65,” the character Recep Ivedik “represents a typical opportunist, selfish, arrogant, insensitive, annoying urban character. In an ordinary day in Istanbul you see such characters in the form of a lady driving a jeep while using her cell phone and violating traffic rules and putting others in danger.” The movie made a great deal of money, but 2/3 of the IMDb comments are virulently negative: “sinekritik” says “early all jokes are based on swearing and the movie has no storyline.” Based on the trailer, this really is some “Borat” type territory, only a lot, lot ruder: in the first 30 seconds, Recep pants a guy on the street, beats a grocery store manager with leeks and throws a pizza in someone’s face. It looks at least as good as “Step Brothers.”

[Photos: “Wickie und die starken Männer,” Constantin Film Verleih, 2009; “Se Eu Fosse Você 2,” Fox Filmes do Brasil, 2009; “Rööperi,” Nordisk Film Theatrical Distribution, 2009; “Made in Hungária,” Budapest Film, 2009; “You Changed My Life,” Star Cinema Productions, 2009; “The Inhabited Island,” Art Pictures Studio/Non-Stop Productions/STS, 2009; “Bangkok Traffic Love Story,” GTH, 2009; “Recep Ivedik 2,” Özen Film, 2009.]



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


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.