DID YOU READ

JFK, cinematic bit player.

JFK, cinematic bit player. (photo)

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If most cinematic biopics are missed opportunities to do something bold, the biographical TV mini-series tends to be inherently unsalvageable, with too much time to do anything but plod through and hit the high notes at cut-rate cost. So it’s hard to get too worked up about news thatJohn F. Kennedy’s life will be the subject of a new mini-series, no matter what the political talking points. Nevertheless, people are.

In one corner, you have “24” creator and conservative activist Joel Surnow, who also had a hand in the little loved 17 episodes of “The 1/2 Hour News Hour,” Fox News’ short-lived rejoinder to “The Daily Show.” In the other is Robert Greenwald, famed director of “Xanadu,” whose attention of late has been turned to preaching-to-the-choir type liberal activist documentaries (“Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price”). Greenwald charges that the JFK script is defamatory conservative propaganda, “political character assassination,” including a scene where JFK asks Bobby “What do you do when you’re horny?” Which is stupid, mostly because it’s hard to imagine JFK using the precise word “horny.”

There’s been action of late to reclaim JFK as, if not a conservative, at least not an antecedent of modern liberalism. (See, if you must, “An American Carol,” in which JFK emerges from the TV to smack the Michael Moore stand-in around.) It’s more interesting, though, that the charges center around the usual timeline compressions/inaccuracies and “sexual titillation.” Disputes over what happened when and sex: what could be more JFK-esque?

With rare exceptions, JFK’s presence on film and TV has been surprisingly small. Out of sixty-something on-screen turns credited by IMDb, he’s almost never at the center of things, either part of the big swath of history cut by the Kennedys as a whole (like 1990’s mini-series “The Kennedys of Massachusetts,” with Steven Weber [!] as JFK) or the people whose paths he crossed (with appearances in mini-series and TV movies about RFK, J. Edgar Hoover, Marilyn Monroe and so on). Alternately, Oliver Stone’s “JFK” makes explicit that JFK’s assassination defines his legacy, not so much a president as a locus for various dark points of view about America.

02172010_thirteendays.jpgThe few exceptions aren’t much to write about: as Slant‘s Len Sousa notes, 1983’s “Kennedy” mini-series (starring Martin Sheen) is at least a little undermined by opening “each episode with an American flag fluttering in the breeze and suddenly freeze-framing it with some cartoon blood splattered over the image.” “JFK”‘s a terrific movie that has little to do with the man.

Probably best is 2000’s underrated “Thirteen Days,” a relatively dry and understated look at the White House’s internal workings during the Cuban Missile Crisis that smartly took much of its dialogue from JFK’s tapes of policy meetings. It’s probably the only film more interested in JFK as policy-maker and president than as a symbol of one kind or another.

Sex has always surrounded JFK on-screen (the sex and paranoia go hand in hand in last year’s ghastly “An American Affair,” where we’re supposed to believe that his affair with Gretchen Mol somehow contributed to his death). At times, that seems to be JFK’s greatest cinematic legacy, besides providing a well-known New England accent for overzealous actors to take as a model. I suppose this mini-series could push things further, but it’s no matter: it’ll be just another one for the slag-heap of movies more interested in JFK as a generically flawed human rather than a politician.

[Photos: “Kennedy,” NBC, 1983; “Thirteen Days,” New Line Cinema, 2000]

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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.