DID YOU READ

Embracing Convention

Embracing Convention (photo)

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It’s unfair, perhaps, but inevitable that every cop movie made post-“Wire” draws comparison to the now-legendary HBO series, just as it’s unfair and inevitable that every one of them falls short. Arguably the best show to ever grace television screens, “The Wire” set a new bar for subtle, taut explication that both challenged and rewarded its audience more than anything else has before or since. More than that, it proved that a serial TV show provided the best medium for the kind of long-tail slow burn that police stories, with their precarious dance between tedium and melodrama, require.

So some of why “Brooklyn’s Finest,” about three Brownsville cops at the end of their respective ropes, fails is to no fault of its own. The high stakes necessitated by a two-hour film — the quickly ratcheted-up tension; the large caliber confrontations; the big names brought in to achieve serious funding — can feel tinny and unearned in a genre that requires great understatement and even greater humbleness to avoid devolving into a bramble of histrionics and laughable postures. That said, the most egregious sins committed in “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua’s newest are specific to the film itself.

03032010_BrooklynsFinest9.jpgTake the plot, an unabashedly hackneyed pastiche of police drama conventions: A dirty narcotics cop with a heart of gold, Sal (an especially feral Ethan Hawke) may be dipping into forbidden tills, but it’s because he’s desperate to finance a new home for his ever-growing family; detective Clarence “Tango” (Don Cheadle) has been working undercover for so long that his loyalty is divided between the drug dealers he runs with and the force, whose racism is drawn in too-broad strokes; patrol officer Eddie (Richard Gere) has just one more week to survive on the job before retirement, but it may be one week too long.

It’s not a film’s job to reinvent its genre, of course, but Fuqua compensates for the unimaginative setups with a queasy, unrelenting progression of tension. Gone are the diegetic soundtracks of You Know What or even the more mainstream hip hop bombast that underscores most contemporary action films. Instead, violins wail, slightly off-key, in an increasingly loud, funereal procession. Interiors and exteriors alike are claustrophobically narrow and grimy, teeming with litter and Brownsville bacteria, and are filtered through a bilious green that pools in the wrinkles and shadows tattooing characters’ faces.

You know you’re in trouble when hyperbolic Wesley Snipes, as Tango’s drug dealer pal Caz, turns in a relatively understated performance. Though he doesn’t have much to work with, Cheadle does his always-solid best — widening his eyes with annoyance rather than fear or grief in a more fluid variation on his standard misunderstood characters (he’s never looked so handsome before, either).

03032010_BrooklynsFinest2.jpgBut Gere and Hawke are so actorly. A cop who drinks first thing in the morning and has never risen above patrolman would scarcely radiate the intensity Gere seems incapable of tamping down; the man blinks as if acid were searing his eyes. And Hawke explodes in every scene, shaking with the pressures that seems to have burnt all the flesh off his skull. Throughout his career, his broody emotionality has never read as phony so much as sincerely self-aggrandizing. Here, it connects with nothing, reminding us in turn that the film does not connect with its audience. “I don’t want God’s forgiveness,” he roars. “I want his fucking help!” So do we.

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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.