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DID YOU READ

Seven bronze-worthy Olympics movies.

Seven bronze-worthy Olympics movies. (photo)

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Today is your last chance to watch the Olympics on TV; Monday brings the closing ceremonies and the end of the 21st Winter Olympics. Would you like to keep the athletic spirit going all year round? Like, in the movies?

The sad fact of the matter is that most films about the Olympics aren’t very good. Aside from a handful of valorized documentaries — “Tokyo Olympiad,” the controversial “Olympia” — they’re more like a genre you turn to for automatic cheese. Here, then, are seven of those:

02262010_walkdontrun.jpg“Walk Don’t Run” (1966)

I’ve always had a soft spot for this comedy, perfunctorily set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics but better known for showcasing Cary Grant’s last performance. The plot’s a bit of nothing, and it’s all rather sexist and racist. You can get the feel from the trailer, below, which invites us to “Take a trip to the land of the rising fun” before going on to some language jokes that would make Sofia Coppola blush — but it’s pretty fun, despite (or because of) that.

02262010_goldengirl.jpg“Goldengirl” (1979)

This movie was intended as a TV mini-series pilot before it was recut for theaters — it’s directed by the undervalued Joseph Sargent (of the 1974 “Taking of Pelham One Two Three”). The premise is that Curt Jurgens — sinister Teuton — has developed vitamins and hormones to develop a superior breed of person and uses adopted daughter Goldine (Susan Anton, best known for Muriel Cigars commercials) as a guinea pig, priming her to win three gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics — the same Olympics, of course, that the US would end up boycotting. The clip below — a test press conference, with Goldengirl batting questions from pre-recorded reporters and a real-time laugh-track — is smart and surreal. Someone put this on DVD, please.

02262010_running.jpg“Running” (1979)

More American running from the Moscow Olympics that didn’t take from another rarity — Michael Douglas as a corporate lawyer drop-out obsessed with running. IMDb users seem uniformly enamored with this movie, and the ten-minute montage below makes a pretty good case. There’s vintage New York footage from all over the city, Eugene Levy as his friend and a populist rage fit at the welfare office.


02262010_anthem.jpg“American Anthem” (1986)

OK, so the Olympics aren’t just about running. There’s also gymnastics. Like Muhammad Ali — who played himself in “The Greatest” — 1984 Gold medalist Mitch Gaylord (the first American to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics) was given a movie despite a total lack of acting experience. Unlike Ali, he played “Steve” in Albert Magnoli’s follow-up to “Purple Rain,” which apparently traces a standard family-difficulty/love redemption arc. Forget that: dude trains on a bar set up in the forest? That’s hardcore. As Roger Ebert pointed out in a tetchy review, the finale has “dozens of strobe lights flashing incessantly and distractingly behind the contestants. I guess these are supposed to represent camera flashbulbs.” But, as he points out,” have you ever thought what it says about our national IQ that a lot of people believe you can take a flash picture from the 20th row?” Point.

02262010_coolrunnings.jpg“Cool Runnings” (1993)

I couldn’t leave this childhood favorite off. Surely the most sanitized portrait of Jamaica ever put on screen, “Cool Runnings” was loosely based on the first national Jamaican bobsled team, even if everything was predictably made up from scratch. It’s not a great film, but it does have some low-key pleasures — John Candy at his relaxed best, a character named “Yul Brenner” — and hits pretty much inspirational-underdog beat on time. Of course, if you would like to watch it without blowing a Netflix slot, it’s all on YouTube.

02262010_pentathlon.jpg“Pentathlon” (1994)

The movie that answers the age-old question, “What if Dolph Lundgren was in the Olympics?” Eric Brogar (Lundgren) defected from East Germany years ago and is restarting his Olympic career as an American. Unfortunately, his old coach Mueller (David Soul) is out to get him. Mueller was a Stasi official who, post-reunification, has become a neo-Nazi mastermind, which — needless to say — doesn’t actually make sense. The trailer promises that on the Lundgren scale of absurdity, this is pretty much a perfect ten. Just like Mitch Gaylord!

02262010_munich.jpg“Munich” (2005)

I suppose I should include a real movie of sorts here for balance. There’s a lot to love about the first 2/3 of Spielberg’s reconstruction of the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics; for a while, this is as good a ’70s thriller throwback as there ever was, recreating the awful Palestinian hostage-taking and murders of Israeli athletes. (It stacks up favorably against Kevin Macdonald’s documentary “One Day In September.”) Unfortunately, the last third is a mess, culminating in the lowlight of Eric Bana having sex with his wife while having flashbacks to Palestinians killing Israelis. The Olympics aren’t supposed to work like that; spy thrillers neither.

[Photos: “Miracle,” Disney, 2004; “Walk Don’t Run,” Columbia, 1966; “Goldengirl,” NBC, 1979; “Running,” Universal, 1979; “American Anthem,” Columbia, 1986; “Cool Runnings,” Disney, 1993; “Pentathlon,” Live Entertainment, 1994; “Munich,” Universal, 2005]

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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.