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DID YOU READ

Swimming With Wholphins

Swimming With Wholphins (photo)

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It’s time again to note the landing of a new Wholphin, number ten this time in the biannual subscription series from Dave Eggers’ McSweeney‘s mill, and now more than ever it seems a vital project, even as our free time becomes increasingly consumed by watching and sharing viral “shorts” on YouTube.

Actually, what often spurs YouTube popularity isn’t so far from the aesthetic-ironic rationales employed by Wholphin — aside from newsworthiness and blooper moments and stupid people tricks, the genuine viral videos that catch on can have an odd, otherworldly sense of amazement to them, showing you something real that you never thought you’d see. Wholphin does better than that, of course, curating with not only the OMG factor in mind, but also duration, real wit and the amazement that can come with new visual perspectives. But there’s also a rabid hunger at work for what’s brand new not only in filmmaking but in science, in design and in conceptual performance art. Nothing is off the table — in past editions, multiple dubbing options are common, and in every issue, pieces of odd footage or sometimes entire films are used as rotating menu screens.

Building since 2005, the back library (which can be bought online) includes, amidst eye-popping nature footage (trap-jaw ants, drunk bees, etc.), redubbed Russian sitcoms and excerpts from idiosyncratic features, some of the most spectacular and vital shorts of the last few years (Anthony Lucas’ “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello,” Bill Morrison’s re-edited lost film “The Mesmerist,” Ray Tintori’s junkyard-Oz neo-myth “Death to the Tinman,” and so on).

02012010_ILoveSarahJane.jpgNo. 10 is paradigmatic — the rotating menu-movies run the gamut from microscopic images of bizarre aquatic lifeforms to the chronicle of a handmade contraption that allows a windblown kite to manufacture its own very distinctive artwork. A segment from Michael Jacobs’ doc “Audience of One,” in which a Pentecostal preacher who devotes the resources of his megachurch to shooting the science fiction movie God told him to make, seems superfluous (it’s out on DVD in its entirety), but Spencer Susser’s “I Love Sarah Jane” is the McSweeney‘s-impish Aussie zombie film we’ve been waiting for, if we’re not just done with zombies altogether.

It’s easier to love Malcolm Sutherland’s “The Astronomer’s Dream,” a hand-drawn/computer-animated freakout that irrationally recalls early Métal Hurlant comics (Wholphin can always be depended upon to rope in whatever new flabbergasting animation style appear in the short-film festival void), and Eric Flanagan’s “Teleglobal Dreamin’,” which conjoins a young Singaporean telemarketer and the ugly American consultant/ex-actor she has to escort, eventually getting him mistaken for Brendan Fraser by the entirety of Singapore, including some whimsical death squads.

02012010_HeWasOnce.jpgAn episode from Jonathan Demme’s doc series about post-Katrina New Orleans, “Right to Return,” is eloquent if unsurprising, but the pearl might be the only vintage film on the docket: Mary Hestand’s “He Was Once,” from 1989, a fascinating post-punk reimagining of the old Lutheran animated TV show “Davey & Goliath,” only semi-animating real but post-dubbed actors (including producer Todd Haynes, right after “Superstar”) wearing giant clay hairdos and addressing real dramatic issues, like child abuse. Performed with that voguing, absurd semi-conviction that typified New Wave bands, in a kitschy style that both alienates and destroys distance, the film is hilarious and distressing at exactly the same time. You’d never see it anywhere else.

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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.