Bigger, shinier and in more dimensions.

Bigger, shinier and in more dimensions. (photo)

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The movies are an appropriate obsession for a nation as in love with technology as we are here in the US. In their short lifetime, film has raced from silent, hand-cranked black and white shorts to sound, color, widescreen, CGI, home viewing, digital and so on: the relentless march of progress is something most people witness without even trying. Nothing is more generationally fragmented than the dominant characteristics of each decade’s movies (and the changing ways we watch them).

But there’s another side to this. The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth notes with some cynicism the announcement that all future WB tentpole movies will be in 3D, probably converted from 2D footage to boot, beginning with “Clash of the Titans.” For Jagernauth, the dividing lines are drawn between “savvy film fans” — who can pick up on a “cheap attempt at the format” like “Alice In Wonderland” — and the general audiences that “either can’t tell the difference, or simply don’t care.”

In general, mass audiences are generally hoodwinked at one point or another by the technology that can get people excited. In 1953, “Shane” had been shot in the standard Academy ratio of 1.37:1 but was ad hoc cropped for a wider screen, beginning a long tradition of movies being projected in the wrong ratio. The 1.37:1 ratio (basically a TV-like square) needs a lens most theaters don’t have anymore, which led to a lot of misprojected old movies.

The most egregious wrongs were done to “Gone With The Wind,” which was first cropped a bit in 1954 and then, in 1967, blown up to 70mm at a very wide ratio that essentially lost half of the vertical visuals. Not until 1998 could the film be seen properly again. And if you’re Gus van Sant and shoot a movie in 1.37 today (“Elephant,” “Last Days,” “Paranoid Park”), you’ll still have to provide an alternate version for theaters that just aren’t able to show your work as intended.

03192010_gone.jpgThe emergence of video meant cutting all those movies back down to size, eliminating 2/3 of the picture. Most people, again, simply didn’t care: they had a TV and by god, they wanted every inch of the screen to be used. Those who did care could howl about letterboxing all they wanted, but it never caught on with the public.

That is, until all of a sudden DVDs came out and HDTVs were wide and suddenly people were all about letterboxing and widescreen, since — again! — you can show off your TV better that way. The letterboxing party was unexpectedly victorious, but not because anyone still understood what an aspect ratio actually was (now you can occasionally hear of people grumbling about the way old movies are boxed in — “pillarboxing” — and they’re not sure what’s going on).

It’s safe to say most viewers don’t understand much about the technology they love, so there’s no point in getting either worked up or surprised by shoddy 3D being pawned off and gratefully consumed. It’s in the tradition of the technologies preceding it.

[Photos: “Clash of the Titans,” WB, 2010; “Gone With The Wind,” Warner Home Video, 1939]


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.