DID YOU READ

Seven deliberately anachronistic movies.

Seven deliberately anachronistic movies. (photo)

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In a long, fascinating interview with DP Harris Savides at Moving Image Source, Savides — one of the best cinematographers we have — talks about how much of his recent work (“Zodiac,” “Greenberg,” “Milk,” “American Gangster”) has, in one way or another, drawn from the ’70s. There’s a startling side-by-side comparison of a Stephen Shore photo from 1975 above a still from “Zodiac,” which momentarily looks exhumed from the era.

Savides, of course, isn’t the only person who occasionally makes work that seems to have come from another time. Here are seven movies that, one way or another, aspire to look deliberately out of time.

03292010_papermoon.jpg“Paper Moon” (1973)

Perhaps no director has ever been as obsessed with recreating the texture of Old Hollywood than Peter Bogdanovich. Blessed with some power in the ’70s, both “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon” came in period-appropriate black and white. (“Nickelodeon” was going to be B&W too, but the studio forced a color release — you can get it as originally intended on DVD now.) Both movies then distort their surface retroness with all the things the old movies couldn’t show — sex and nudity in “Show,” copious child profanity in “Moon” — but the latter works better. Not as solemnly elegiac (and less confused about whether it’s mourning the end of innocence or merely the end of old Hollywood), it’s a plausible update of the screwball comedy, with new elements — deep focus shots (it looks more like still photos come to life rather than the visual language of ’30s movies), racial tension — rather than a stillborn homage.

03292010_moviemovie.jpg“Movie Movie” (1978)

Before “Grindhouse,” there was “Movie Movie,” which winkingly recreated a ’30s double-bill with jokes (two years after Mel Brooks made “Silent Movie” no less; that’s quick evolution). It’s very specific in its target — not just the ’30s, but movies typical of Warner Bros. at the time, meaning a black and white boxing quickie and a Technicolor musical (not that there were any Technicolor musicals that early on, but let the conflation of the ’30s and ’50s go). The joke’s elaborate and meta in many ways, beginning with an introduction from Mr. ’30s Radio himself, George Burns. It’s directed by Stanley Donen, who — as co-director of “Singin’ In The Rain” — knew quite a bit about Old Hollywood himself. It is, of course, not on DVD. So below is all we have for now:

03292010_tears.jpg“Tears of the Black Tiger” (2000)

There’s way more going on in the head-spinning visuals of “Tears of the Black Tiger” than in the actual plot — with colors as heightened as “Far From Heaven” (suggesting a Sirk homage) butting up against Sergio Leone shoot-outs, being over-the-top isn’t optional, especially when everyone is actually Thai and you’re sort of re-creating “Romeo and Juliet.” (It’s complicated.) But Wisit Sasanatieng takes the genre mash-up a bit further; it doesn’t just look like ’50s Technicolor, but like a degraded videotape of same that then’s been filmed and put back on 35mm. Parsing this stuff could keep you busy for all of graduate school.

03292010_downwithlove.jpg“Down With Love” (2003)

In truth, this affectionate, detail-heavy parody of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson sex farces doesn’t quite get the color scheme right. There’s a definite gap between the modern look and the vintage production design, which suggests a degree of distance. But it’s still a lot of fun, from the elaborate split-screens to Ewan McGregor’s impersonation of the typical dumb American Hudson would pretend to be in disguise. Like many homages, it sneaks in slightly more explicit dialogue than could be done in the past — but, in the case of “Love,” only slightly more so. It really is as fluffy as it wants to be. Warning: clip below has MAJOR SPOILERS. For, you know, a movie that came out seven years ago.

03292010_regularlovers.jpg“Regular Lovers” (2005)

It’s not that shooting in black-and-white is unusual for Philippe Garrel, who — despite starting in the ’60s — didn’t make his first film in color until 1991. But “Regular Lovers” is more than business as usual for the lovably pretentious Garrel. “Regular Lovers” shows us May 1968 and its aftermath in the old box ratio and in black-and-white — not what most people associate with the ’60s, but, in fact, perfectly in keeping with some of Andy Warhol’s work from the era (as Michael Sicinski explains here). Forget all that though: the clip below is sheer joy, a three-minute shot of cinematic Prozac.

03292010_goodgerman.jpg“The Good German” (2006)

Probably the biggest failed experiment in Steven Soderbergh’s gallery of oddities, the plan was to make this post-World War II thriller as it would’ve been in 1945 — black and white, hand-operated boom mikes overhead, no zoom lenses. In return for this dubious fidelity, Soderbergh gets to insert a great deal of sex and violence (Tobey Maguire clearly enjoys destroying his image with some vigorous thrusting early on) that would never have made it in back in the day, then throws in the Holocaust for good measure, pointing out what all those old movies were missing. The problem is that it’s more theoretical than usual: the game actors don’t know how to project and be comfortable when their words are going god knows where. If nothing else, this is a rare chance to see George Clooney without any charisma whatsoever, or to imagine what the end of “Casablanca” would be like if it was just boring.

03292010_house.jpg“The House of the Devil” (2009)

16mm is the new Technicolor, it seems, when it comes to signifying The Past, especially if you’re doing horror. Rob Zombie used it for “The Devil’s Rejects” and “Halloween II”; Noah Baumbach digs it for a ’70s vibe, as Savides discusses, most memorably on “The
Squid and the Whale.” Once a cheaper stock for indie kids, it’s now a fetishized tool for grain and a retro look. Ti West pushes that about as far as he can in “The House of the Devil,” which is as meticulous as any film on this list but on a smaller scale (I particularly like the vintage campus pizza parlor). As far as faux-time capsules go, the only thing that gives it away is that it’s way, way better than most of the ’80s slashers it ostensibly resembles.

[Photos: “Zodiac,” Paramount/Warner Bros., 2007; “Paper Moon,” Paramount, 1973; “Movie Movie,” Warner Bros., 1978; “Tears of the Black Tiger,” Magnolia, 2000; “Down With Love,” 20th Century Fox, 2003; “Regular Lovers,” Zeitgeist Films, 2005; “The House of the Devil,” Magnet Releasing, 2009]

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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.