The morality of Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam.

The morality of Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam. (photo)

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No one could say that Paul Greengrass lacks good intentions. As a reporter for the British current affairs show “World In Action,” Greengrass worked on two contentious stories. The first was an interview with IRA hunger striker Raymond McCartney (preparation for which was done via smuggled messages written on cigarette papers), the second a collaboration with former MI5 scientific officer Peter Wright, who claimed his former boss was a Soviet mole. This is probably not true (at least according to Christopher Andrew’s 1032-page authorize MI5 history), but Greengrass has the taste of activist blood on his lips. (The fact that Margaret Thatcher allegedly called the show “just a lot of Trotskyists” was probably music to his ears.)

These aren’t the expected background credits of a man responsible for rebooting a huge action franchise — it’s sort of like imagining Carl Bernstein shooting “Indiana Jones.” But Greengrass became an activist director of sorts, working steadily in film and TV (ghoulish trivia: his 1998 drama “The Theory of Flight” was the last movie reviewed on “Siskel & Ebert” before Siskel died). 2002’s “Bloody Sunday” made a bigger international splash than anything he’d done before, Tony Gilroy told Matt Damon to watch it, and the rest is history.

Greengrass is now rewriting history on-screen. Embodying the “one for them, one for me” ideal like none other, Greengrass followed up “The Bourne Supremacy” with “United 93,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” with this Friday’s “Green Zone.” Two action blockbusters, two Politically Serious films: what could be wrong with that? Plenty.

03102010_united93.jpgIn an interview with Andrew L. Urban, Greengrass described the main message of “United 93” — a total gut-punch, but a seemingly pointless one — as “what the fuck are we going to do about it?” By most reliable accounts, “Green Zone” knows exactly what to do about it, which is to claim a top-down conspiracy of Good vs. Evil. I doubt anyone will top the New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane‘s line that it is “a left-wing movie that looks and sounds like a right-wing one.”

That’s a first for Greengrass, whose ambivalence was previously overpowering, often productively. On “Bloody Sunday,” the stated goal was “to make a film where at the end of it we could all say, yes, it must have been a bit like that.” But tying together all of Greengrass’ work of a decade is that shaky-cam, which yields mixed aesthetic results but always implies the same thing: what you’re watching is real.

That’s a standard mockumentary trope, but it has the weird side-effect of equalizing Matt Damon on the run and 9/11. That makes me queasy, and it’s not just motion sickness. Whether Damon is realistically fleeing fictional CIA overlords or in search of The Truth About Iraq makes no difference (and when “Green Zone” gets into dubious conspiratorial territory, that goes double). Building up off “United 93″‘s almost impeachable veracity, now we have… this. Let the games begin.

[Photos: “Green Zone,” Universal, 2010; “United 93,” Universal, 2006]


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.