Blockbuster goes down, again.

Blockbuster goes down, again. (photo)

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The most surprising thing about the news that Blockbuster may have bankruptcy forced upon it is that it took so long. The longtime rental monolith has been having its once-unparalleled preeminence handed back to it on a platter by Netflix for a long time now; the last time I personally saw the inside of one (the only time in about a decade) was to scour the remainders of a store that was going out of business.

Who will lament the death of Blockbuster (and the slow, seemingly inevitable erosion of brick-and-mortar rental stores in general)? Since being inside most Blockbusters was like being trapped in an airport waiting area, only with brighter lights and stacks of direct-to-video garbage everywhere, I believe few will mourn.

The overwhelming sensation associated with a Blockbuster is of a place where the store’s perimeter — the “New Releases” wall — demarcates the boundaries. Of course, you could stroll down the various lumped-together genre aisles (“Drama,” “Comedy,” “Action,” “Horror” and “Foreign”) where the single copy of “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” or the like may be rented out. But why would you when you can walk over to the wall, where a blockbuster from six or nine months ago sits side by side with the latest direct-to-video Steven Seagal extravaganza, stocked with way more copies than you would expect? The turnover is pretty amazing, and most of what’s on tap is pretty awful. The employees are underpaid and act it. All in all, it can be a depressing place to be.

Culturally pervasive though it may have been, Blockbuster also got little love from pop culture. People rarely seemed to go there in the movies, preferring small, quirky outlets: “Clerks,” of course, or the shoddy likes of the deservedly-little-seen Cillian Murphy-Lucy Liu romance “Watching The Detectives,” or “Be Kind Rewind,” the ultimate in analog fetishization.

03192010_clerks.jpgYou can see a Blockbuster card in Donnie Darko’s wallet; Richard Kelly claims to show that “You were restricted only to the blockbuster films in a small town. If you don’t have access to ‘The Bicycle Thief,’ you’re never going to know that it exists or be enlightened to a piece of art like that.” Ouch. There’s the memorable narrative-stopping scene in “Ghost World,” where a customer at a Blockbuster-like store looking for “8 1/2” is directed to “9 1/2 Weeks.”

Blockbuster’s kindest eulogy can be found in Michael Almereyda’s slacker update of “Hamlet,” with brooding prince Ethan Hawke walking through the “Action” aisle as he recites “To be or not to be.” It’s probably the funniest version ever attempted, defusing, for a moment, Hawke’s moping:

[Photos: Blockbuster store in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada via Wikipedia Commons, the work of “Stu pendousmat,” 2008; “Clerks,” Miramax, 1994]


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.