DID YOU READ

A post-Bigelow check-up on gender relations.

A post-Bigelow check-up on gender relations. (photo)

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This week, Ludacris has the number one album in the country: “Battle of the Sexes”, a title which seems eminently appropriate. Not that gender representation on-screen has ever gone uncontested, but everyone seems particularly punchy after Kathryn Bigelow’s victory — an unfortunate side-effect of which will be designations like “Britain’s Bigelow,” applied by the Telegraph to director Susanna White. I’m not sure Bigelow ever signed on to be synonymous with a female breakthrough in film, but by God she will be from now on.

The New York Post brings us a disturbing but hilarious casting call notice for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which specifies “Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants.” There’ll be a jog-around-the-track test, a sleazy process I’ve heard of happening in LA in, like, the 1970s (at a time when such things were somehow culturally acceptable). This a rare public profession of unregenerate sexism. The reason? “Times are changing,” a casting agent says, “and the audience can spot false breasts.” Has Disney been reading about the problems with HD porn? Do audiences really care that much?

The confused responses to Bigelow’s movie (and often didactic debates about what being a “female director” could mean in pure screen language, and whether or not she was a “masculine” director and so on) co-existed with people frequently blurting out repeatedly, as if helpless, how good Bigelow looks at 58, as if she could be our new Sophia Loren. (Fact: she’s a former Gap model.) The “Caribbean” crew was more overt about how important it is.

At least we can all agree that when it comes to women on film, both genders are — even against their well — drawn to comment on their looks, forming a clear hierarchy for how to evaluate female celebrities; most spite is directed there. By contrast, all that anyone can seem to agree about regarding men on-screen is that they’re in a hell of a mess; character attacks are rampant.

03222010_draper.jpgSuch, for example, is the substance of Jessica Grose’s vitriolic analysis of “Greenberg” in Slate as everything wrong with the contemporary “masculinity crisis.” “The omega male doesn’t have the power to reject anything — he’s the one who has been brushed off,” she hisses. “The image of the American woman has gone through several upheavals since the 1950s, but the masculine ideal seems fixed in cultural aspic: Think slick ad executive Don Draper in ‘Mad Men’.”

Really? Isn’t Don cool precisely because he’s a cultural anachronism (in the process, presumably, of becoming a modern guy)? Because the one thing a right-wing site like Big Hollywood and leftwing bloggy types like Defamer can agree on is that the contemporary “metrosexual”/”gangly manboy” is a blight upon film, denying us the comforts of good old-fashioned masculinity — so much so that we must import our he-men (like Gerard Butler or Russell Crowe) from abroad. It’s all a mess: either they can’t handle themselves or they’re regressive.

Still, I prefer Richard Brody’s calm overlook in the New Yorker of all the fighting, reminding us that “adulthood” as a definable has undergone steep revisions for both genders over the last forty years. For all the fighting, it breaks down less along the obvious lines of sexual politics (though it frequently does, albeit sometimes inextricably linked with personal griping) than along generational faultlines that are still being redefined. Phew.

[Photos: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” Disney, 2003; “Mad Men,” AMC, 2007-present]

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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.