DID YOU READ

Reliving the Obama drama of “11/4/08.”

Reliving the Obama drama of “11/4/08.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

The loud yellow letters that open Jeff Deutchman’s “11/4/08” announce that “You are watching a consensual piece of cinema,” which carefully sidesteps the fact that it is not a film in any traditional sense of the word. Shot on dozens of digital cameras, it could also be described as a work in progress, compiled by moviemakers across the country and around the world on the night Barack Obama was elected president. It deals in emotions as opposed to narrative, and in the idea that moviemaking can be a social collective rather than an exercise in the auteur theory.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be mentioned here that Deutchman is also an acquisitions exec for our sister company IFC Films, though the companies are separate and I’ve never met him personally. As it turns out, neither have some of the people who helped make “11/4/08” — he made a point of shaking hands with Austin filmmaker Thomas Humphries after the film’s premiere since the two had never been in the same room together. Rather than crediting himself as a director on the project, he takes the less proprietary “curated and edited by” tag, culling together 70 minutes of material from 7 a.m. eastern time to 4 a.m. the following morning of the historic election day.

Within a matter of seconds, you’re being swept into the home of a family awaiting voter tallies in Homer, AK before following Joe and Kris Swanberg as they hang Obama leaflets on doors in Portage, IN and then away it is to Manhattan where some twentysomethings have discovered that their “I voted” sticker could be used to get all the free Starbucks coffee they want. Some of the people behind the cameras are relatively well-known like the Swanbergs, “The Order of Myths” director Margaret Brown and “Catfish” co-director Henry Joost, but according to the press notes, there were nearly as many amateurs contributing footage of varying levels of video quality that Deutchman weaves together into a document that reveals the parallel experiences of that day in something approximating real time. While a political scientist is waiting outside of Obama’s district polling place to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-be president-elect in Chicago, Obama volunteers in St. Louis are revving up for their final get out the vote push, and as the day wears on, so do the locations as we’re treated to glimpses of Dubai, New Delhi and Berlin.

According to the press notes, Deutchman hatched the plan for this via a mass e-mail only two weeks before the election and while the fact that there was something completed for SXSW is remarkable, it is also, for better or worse, a “take what you can get” situation. Although Robert Drew would be proud of the direct cinema distillation of pure human experience on display, there’s also no natural story arc on which “11/4/08” can hang its hat — the closest it comes is showing the red, white and blue balloons that a man is carrying in downtown Manhattan being used for a post-election party at a New York club near the end of the film.

There are many man-on-the-street interviews on subways and streets, and at viewing parties and campaign headquarters, but while there is some diversity among those being interviewed, at least racially, there isn’t nearly enough generationally or politically to generate much tension. (It doesn’t help matters that the lone two Americans who say they won’t support Obama don’t present well — one is dressed shabbily and comes across as a closet racist, the other looks like he just got done short-trading your future; an interview with a woman in Dubai who resignedly says it won’t matter who is elected is a more poignant voice of dissent, but although one can’t fault the moviemakers for not being able to predict the future, the person posing the question makes the folly of insisting that Obama would withdraw troops from Afghanistan while rival John McCain would not.)

Still, there are moments where “11/4/08” shines. In St. Louis, the back-to-back testimonials of two Obama volunteers — a 21-year-old woman whose father was fired when he refused to sell subprime mortgages to support her college education and a middle-aged African-American who reminisces about Emmett Till — has the power of a double-barreled shotgun blast. Similarly affecting is an ex-con sitting on the bleachers in Brooklyn who is distrustful of all the reports that the momentum is building towards the election of the first African-American president, yet sits stoically with his eyes fixed on the big screen in a public park. Knowing that there are many other moments like this out there, Deutchman ends “11/4/08” by asking for more footage at the web site, 11-4-08.com, where what was presented at SXSW will become in his words, “a living document.” It should be worth it to stay tuned.

“11/4/08” currently has no U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “11/4/08,” Consensual Cinema, 2010; Deutchman, holding mic, and many of the other filmmakers onhand for the SXSW Q & A, photo by Stephen Saito]

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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.