DID YOU READ

A decade with Michael Douglas.

A decade with Michael Douglas. (photo)

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Evgenia Peretz of Vanity Fair wins the prize for funniest parenthetical of the week. In her profile of Michael Douglas, dwelling on the actor’s 1987 annus mirabilis, she drops this: “he came at audiences with the one-two punch of ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘Wall Street’–which have come to define the decade (note the sushi cameos in both).”

Ah, to imagine a time when sushi wasn’t so ubiquitous as to be in every last college town and plenty of supermarkets. Not that Michael Douglas was the first person to use sushi as a class signifier — Molly Ringwald brought her sushi and chopsticks to detention and to the mainstream moviegoers in “The Breakfast Club” two years earlier. Things have changed: between 1988 and 1998, the number of US sushi bars increased by 400%. I like how Peretz reminds us how what was once a marker is now commonplace.

Contrast that with the hilarious but ham-handed gag in the “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” trailer, where Douglas’ no gigantic ’80s mobile phone tells us exactly how long he’s been in jail. I hope they revisit the sushi bar so that Douglas can splutter in outrage at the visiting plebeians.

As the VF article points out in passing, Douglas had a remarkable string of hot-topic roles for roughly a decade, bookended by two dickish millionaire types: Gordon Gekko in 1987, Nicholas van Orton in 1997’s “The Game,” which basically redeemed his entire persona. In between, Douglas went to Japan in 1989’s “Black Rain,” implicitly addressing fears of a Japanese takeover of American business à la Michael Crichton in “Rising Sun,” who Douglas would hook with for 1994’s “Disclosure,” where the sexual-harassment-lawsuit hysteria effectively peaked.

03032010_fallingdown.jpgAnd let’s not forget “Falling Down”‘s depiction of White Rage or “The American President”‘s embodiment of mid-90s Clintonian liberalism, with plotlines about gun-control bills and its production help from Bill Clinton. (“The American President”‘s website still lives, by the way. You’ll need Netscape 1.1 for optimum results! I recommend the crossword puzzle.)

In passing, let’s note that recreating the ’80s on screen is far more than just funky hair-dos or the donning of a pager. There’s a whole language of screen conventions. I’m not the world’s biggest “American Psycho” fan, but there’s one small moment in there that just kills me. In an establishing shot of downtown, we get one of those indelibly smarmy helicopter shots flying through the overwhelming skyscrapers of Big Business — soundtracked to “Walking on Sunshine.” That says ’80s to me more than any Huey Lewis monologue ever could.

[Photos: “Wall Street,” 20th Century Fox, 1987; “Falling Down,” Warner Bros., 1993]

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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.