Waking Up in Strange Places

Waking Up in Strange Places (photo)

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Global phenom though it’s been, the Korean New Wave has been as badly hit by the 2008 economic crisis as any national industry, a situation that opened the door in the last two years for a variety of dirt-cheap indies, most notoriously Yang Ik-joon’s “Breathless,” which took South Korea by storm. The far less flamboyant example is Noh Young-Seok’s “Daytime Drinking,” a peripatetic generation-Z comedy that’s as eventless, but as seductive and wistful, as a real afternoon boozing spree.

In fact, it’s a difficult movie to stay sober for. The cultural context, provided neatly on the Canadian DVD notes by Asian film obsessive Grady Hendrix, is simply that Koreans drink a lot, and they drink a lot of soju (a cheap, low-amp, sweetened vodka potion, consumed at the rate of almost seven gallons per adult per year), and so movies like Noh’s (and Hong Sang-soo’s, among others) express a reality all Koreans can relate to — the lost comedy of waking up in strange places, of losing time, or forgetting why you are where you are, and just letting life carry you forward.

02092010_DaytimeDrinking2.jpgYou could call it Korean mumblecore, if mumblecore films were ever funny, and if Noh seemed overly interested in relationships. Made for spare change, “Daytime Drinking” hardly deviates from its title — it begins with a soju-soaked outing of four buddies; the rather lachrymose Hyuk-jin (Song Sam-dong) is suffering after a break-up, and his trio of pals agree to help him forget by meeting in a snowy seashore vacation town the next day to party. Hyuk-jin buses in, but no one else does.

Wandering around, Hyuk-jin heads to the guest house (owned by a friend of a friend, he was assured), but the owner is nasty. He gets a room anyway, drinks, dawdles. He doesn’t have much of an agenda, but his hungover friend keeps telling him on the phone that he’ll come the next day, but he doesn’t, day after day, so Hyuk-jin loiters, drinks too much, falls in with other wanderers, crosses paths too many times with the wrong people, and ends up waking up in the snow by the highway, without his pants.

He wears several other characters’ clothes by the end, but “Daytime Drinking” is not a high-concept, raunchy comedy romp — rather, it’s as affectless and unassuming as its hero, and thus suggests early Jim Jarmusch even as it retains an unstructured looseness and a very Korean propensity for deadpan, peppered by drunken chaos. Beautifully composed and never stretching for an easy visual gag, Noh’s film tries not to be taken seriously, but you can hardly help but notice that almost no one in the film is trustworthy or kind. Because they’re all drunk to one degree or another, every moment of camaraderie stands a good chance of morphing into belligerence or at least negligence at the drop of a hat. Hyuk-jin is not only lost in the semi-wilderness, and in his own young life, but in Korea at large, plagued by passive-aggressive hostility, boozy bitterness and selfish agendas.

Still, it’d be a mistake to read “Daytime Drinking” as a critique — or as anything but a laid-back and seriously endearing experience. By his own admission, Noh is a modest first-timer finding his way, and the film ambles along organically, as if it kinda happens on its own, like a mushroom patch or blast of sunlight on a cloudy day. The complete absence of pretension or “connectedness” or character arcs feels like someone poured me a drink.

02092010_KillerThatStalkedNew-York.jpgAnother recreational high: the ongoing and perhaps deathless DVDization of authentic film noir, hitting the bricks now with the four-disc, eight-film Columbia set “Bad Girls of Film Noir.” It’s just a marketing label — the films are not entirely devoted to classic femme fatales, but rather cover the gamut of woman-centered crime-genre tragedy, all in vintage B-movie style and with dizzying degrees of invention, eloquence and invention.

You get a Gloria Grahame and a Charlton Heston in the mix, but mostly you get Cleo Moore and Lizabeth Scott and William Gargan and Ida Lupino — forgotten movies with semi-forgotten stars wandering the gray halls and low-rent shops and flophouse beats of the postwar fringe. You also get the auteurs that even noiristes and scrounging auteurists neglect: Hugo Haas and Lewis Seiler and Henry Levin and Irving Rapper, Industry dray horses that have contributed to America’s concept of itself in ways that are as overlooked today as yesteryear’s housing developments.



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.”


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.