From Monsters to Mothers

From Monsters to Mothers (photo)

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When Bong Joon-ho was in middle school, he accompanied his mother and a bus full of middle-aged women as they traveled the midlands of South Korea, passing the time by dancing in the aisles. Decades later, the memory would reverberate with the director of “The Host,” who found himself in the middle of a field asking lead actress Kim Hye-ja to dance for the hypnotic opening shot of his latest film “Mother.” (She refused until Bong and his assistant director would also start shaking their hips.)

It was the least Bong could do for his star, whose career of playing warm, attentive mothers has led to the iconic status of being considered a matriarch to all of Korea. But if Bong’s last film was a monster movie about a family who comes together in a time of crisis, his gutwrenching new one is about the monstrosities that people are capable of when a family is torn apart, as Kim joins a long line of movie moms who go to incredible lengths for their children. In this case that involves playing against her long-held screen persona as a woman hellbent on proving her son’s innocence in a murder case. Although Bong admitted he still doesn’t know what his own mother thinks of the film — she saw it around the time of its premiere at Cannes — he shared with me his thoughts on the eccentricities of Korean mothers, his high school love of Ed McBain novels and whether he considers himself to be a political filmmaker, with some, but not much help from a translator.

03092010_Mother3.jpgI’ve heard you say that Korean mothers are particularly peculiar — what sets them apart?

My own mother is the type to worry a lot. Sometimes she would worry about things that hadn’t even happened yet. Korean mothers have that quality of worrying a lot. A unique thing about Korean society is that children rely on their mothers much more than they do in Western society, where they leave home quite early. In Korea, children still live with their parents up to their 30s sometimes. There’s also kind of a subtle sexual tension between the mother and the son because even when the son gets married and brings in a new wife, there becomes a kind of weird love triangle between the mother and the son and the son’s wife that’s dramatic and intense.

Why did you want to tell this story now?

I’ve been thinking about it since 2004, but I wanted to make a film about a mother because “The Host” was about the relationship between a father and his children. As a director, I want to explore relationships between human beings — I thought, what’s the relationship that’s the stickiest, the most complex? At the same time, it’s very animalistic and instinctual and very strong — that’s the relationship between a mother and a son. We’re all sons of mothers.

So did the story idea for “Mother” evolve as you were making “The Host”?

Around 2004, I was writing the script of “The Host.” At the same time, I had the synopsis of “Mother” in my head, so maybe unconsciously, I compared those two stories. For example, in the story of “The Host,” there is a father and grandfather, but I purposefully didn’t want to create any mother-child relationship. There is no mother in those two generations. It makes the family more dysfunctional and more… stupid [laughs] — because I in my point of view, the mother is always the most realistic and strongest presence of the family.

03092010_Mother4.jpgWhen you make a large-scale film like “The Host,” does it change the way you approach a smaller-scale film?

Frankly, I love smaller movies. The reason I made “The Host” is I was fascinated with that story. I had no intention of making big movies, spectacular movies. I was fascinated by the characters and the story, but it cost quite a lot of money to realize the monsters and the digital effects scenes. But I don’t like big budget movies. So in this case with “Mother,” I wanted to dig a very deep hole.


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.