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Scoring the middle ages, Clannad.

Scoring the middle ages, Clannad. (photo)

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I’m all for creative license in scoring medieval period pieces, and in fact am a big proponent of re-scoring the Lord of the Rings trilogy using the existing members of Led Zeppelin, perhaps incorporating some of their Tolkien inspired classics, “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Ramble On.” But those are also fantasy pictures and much as Ridley Scott’s forthcoming “Robin Hood” borders that territory, the story is in fact based on real British folklore and has a different aim – that of telling a historical tale, not a fantasy.

[Robin of Loxley meeting some intense forest mage/druid, deep in the wood. From the series, “Robin of Sherwood”]

There’s also an enormous difference between having some brilliant rockers creatively score a film and having a too-clever composer drum up a moderny rock score – especially when it’s for a period piece set a thousand years ago. This travesty is all too common and barring lovable blow outs like “Ladyhawke,” should be avoided (it should have been avoided then too).

If one were to score a Robin Hood film, or any film of a similar Anglo/celtic/saxon setting one would do well to consider using some period instruments and trying to interpret the film through them, providing some great sense of immersion. One should look at the genius mid 80’s series, “Robin of Sherwood” for example, which aired in the US (on Showtime) as “Robin hood” in 1984. Man, we like to keep things simple don’t we?

Aside from being generally well written and steeped in the kind of lore and mystery we just can’t seem to muster here in vanilla land, this series (which was shot on film) struck an original chord with the musical score, using the Irish band Clannad.

Together We by Clannad, from “Robin of Sherwood.”

The effect was nothing short of incredible and although they dispensed with their usual Gaelic singing (as was the case with their “Theme from Harry’s Game“) they transcended the usual role of simply accompanying and accommodating the action. The show had an undeniably authentic feel, heightened by the Celtic harmonizing, chimes, woodwinds, harps, and lyres (and yes some synth keys) of Clannad. The atmosphere was thick, you couldn’t cut it with a longsword, and you just can’t say that about recent imaginings.

Battles by Clannad, from “Robin of Sherwood.”

The songs ranged from ethereal ballads that conjured the secrets of the forest, to pounding, almost Zeppelin like jams with jangly guitars (like the above track used for battle scenes). Some of them may play a bit cheesy to thine ear now, all these years on, but 25 years ago they were potent concoctions of the very old, with just dashes of cutting edge. And they still sound better then what people are making today for films that can only hope to have an ounce of the mood that Clannad gave to this earlier “Robin Hood.”

Darkmere by Clannad, from “Robin of Sherwood.” You’ll have to forgive the fades and constant superimpositions that wank up this fan vid, my Lord/Lady. Yes, those are glimpses of young Ray Winstone as the indispensable Will Scarlet.

You may even hear some similarity to musical bits from “Last of the Mohicans,” which has some of the best film scoring ever done, if you listen close. You’re not hallucinating, I suspect Clannad influenced some of the compositions, and the track “I Will Find You” is all them (written and performed). How do you capture both the authentic and mystic in one film, in one composition? The two seem at first incongruous. Pray you look no further than this inspiration Misters Scott and Streitenfeld… there is yet time to score your film with something less formulaic then what smacks in the trailer.



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.