Bearing the brunt of “Bear Nation.”

Bearing the brunt of “Bear Nation.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Amongst the tousled, too-hip-for-the-room Japanese punks and the deglammed hipster brunettes with Jackie O. shades, one of the more recognizable constituencies walking around this year’s SXSW would have to be the portly bearded male, so prominent in number that you’d think you were living in a wet dream of the men profiled in “Bear Nation,” Malcolm Ingram’s look at the fetish of a certain subset of gay men towards the hirsute and hefty. The film is a follow-up to Ingram’s first documentary “Small Town Gay Bar” and, like that film, you pretty much know what you’re getting into from the title, though “Bear Nation” doesn’t only refer to America, but apparently Canada and England, where Ingram films interviews, and the rest of the world, as the film shows through a series of posters and pictures in the end credits from bear conventions around the globe.

There are interviews with famous bears such as Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould and honorary bear Kevin Smith (the film’s executive producer), but mostly “Bear Nation” has average Joes telling their stories about having to first come out as homosexuals and then coming out once more as chubby chasers. All that’s well and good, but it’s not a 90-minute movie, and it might not even sustain the 44-minute version set to air on Logo later this year. (Ingram said during the Q & A that he’s taking the film on a 29-city tour of bear-related events this summer, where the film will find its most appreciative audience.) The trouble is “Bear Nation” is a film at war with itself, surely set into motion because the idea of being attracted to “bears” is intriguingly subversive, but presenting its subjects as normal, average guys with particular tastes like everyone else. And while the testimony of the men is heartfelt, their stories, as well as the many clubs and conventions Ingram takes us to, are too similar and mostly mundane to justify its feature length.

Dressed up in pop music and drizzled with campy clips from the ’50s, “Bear Nation” has energy to spare and Ingram continually spices up the film with his subjects’ tales of masturbating to “Smokey and the Bandit” and being sexually awakened by “Longtime Companion,” but there’s also pointless sequences of people on the street comparing gay bears to real bears and interviews where the t-shirts say more than the subject wearing them (one particularly amusing one reads “It’s okay that I eat meat because I eat all the gay animals”). Additionally, Ingram and cinematographer Andrew MacDonald make the distracting choice to shoot many of the interviews from an indirect angle that’s not quite a side profile, inadvertently undermining the integrity of what the men are saying since they’re always looking way off-screen.

Still, “Bear Nation” will likely resonate with bear lovers, and as many who are interviewed in the film suggest, take the stigma off of what one calls “a splinter group within a splinter group.” That much was evident from the film’s post-screening Q & A, where two separate audience members praised the film for documenting a part of the gay community that has existed for at least a decade-and-a-half, which is how long Bear magazine, which is featured prominently in the film, has been in business. (The hairy SXSW staffer who introduced the screening did his part to excite the crowd by asking where the “beardos” were and encouraged the audience to feel his beard, which he “sifted with coconut oil and sandalwood” earlier in the morning.) Ingram also took the opportunity to share how he personally finally felt comfortable when he was taken in by the bear community when he came out in his thirties, though he never includes his own story in the film. By leaving the story to be told by others, “Bear Nation” misses a key opportunity to rise above its attention-grabbing premise.

“Bear Nation” will be self-distributed and appear on Logo this year.

[Photo: “Bear Nation,” View Askew Productions, 2010]


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.