Jonas Åkerlund: Requiem for a music video bad boy.

Jonas Åkerlund: Requiem for a music video bad boy. (photo)

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[Update: The post below refers to Jonas Åkerlund as the director of “Scarface School Play.” The real director has since stepped forth: veteran music video director Marc Klasfeld (Jay-Z’s “Girls Girls Girls,” among others), whose production company — oddly enough — has also done a Lady Gaga video. I regret jumping the gun; the sentiments applying to Åkerlund still stand.]

2010 is turning out to be a very good year for Jonas Åkerlund, probably his best since 1997, when his video for The Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” generated controversy right on schedule. (Shocker: MTV doesn’t show videos featuring women getting smacked/naked chicks. Who would’ve known? This video is still NSFW.) Åkerlund, the past master of getting people’s ire up and then pretending he had a real point, has in the last few years found the collaborator he deserves in Lady Gaga.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Back in the ’90s, it seemed like every single music video/commercial director who could adequately hype themselves would get at least one feature vehicle. This proved to be a pretty good filtering system — David Fincher, Michel Gondry, Mark Romanek and so on — but don’t forget the ones who got left behind, like poor Peter Care, who may have made key R.E.M. videos (“Man on the Moon” is still pretty great), but after the wan “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.” went back to what he’s good at. Some people just can’t make the leap.

There should have been no real reason to expect Åkerlund to do so either — there’s not an awful lot going on beneath the surface outrage. “Smack My Bitch Up” was best known for showing someone going around drinking, wreaking havoc and abusing women — the big reveal was that the perpetrator was a woman, which effectively makes “Smack My Bitch Up” a grungier version of “Disclosure.” In general, all of Åkerlund’s videos feature some combination of soft-core sexuality, violence, ugly faces and distorted colors; there’s not a whole lot to the trick.

03302010_spun.jpgThat makes Åkerlund a peculiarly ’90s phenomenon — someone whose attempts at shock were perfect for the most overparented decade on record and that fall flat in an era when the internet is there for any halfway intelligent 13-year-old to use. There were also two movies that didn’t go anywhere — 2002’s “Spun,” which came off like “Requiem For A Dream” for people who giggle about heroin, and last year’s little-seen “Horsemen” (“Seven” without a point) — and now he’s back generating video controversy, with his much-hyped collaborations with Lady Gaga, the epic-length videos for “Paparazzi” and “Telephone.”

Åkerlund’s latest stunt doesn’t actually have his name on it. “Scarface School Play,” a calculated bid for YouTube immortality, is a video that features little kids enacting, Max Fischer Players-style, the ridiculously cable-dubbed version of “Scarface.” Uploaded by “cindymomof6,” the video’s at 435,592 views and counting, with plenty of enraged comments from viewer who took it to be real. A day after release, we were invited to guess who was behind itCinematical soon pegged it as Åkerlund’s latest attempt at provocation. To what end?

You can always fool some of the people all of the time. Gaga really is the collaborator Åkerlund has been waiting for, someone who’s discovered there’s no such thing as a button that can’t be pushed too many times. Both “Paparazzi” and “Telephone” mix-and-match sure-fire elements for internet success — girls making out! Tarantino references! elaborate fashion changes! — in shameless fashion.

03302010_telephone.jpgGaga’s game, of course, is that she’s post-post-modern, transforming Madonna’s naked quest for power and celebrity into a process you don’t have to be very bright to follow. Gaga announced herself as a controversial celebrity before she was one and keeps upping the ante (both of her videos with Åkerlund take a cheerfully nihilistic attitude towards killing men) — but she’s winking the whole time, and you know there’s nothing at stake. It’s an attitude that endears her to music critics who need fodder for over-analysis while still delivering acceptably bland dance synth-pop.

Åkerlund’s videos with her are a tacit admission of defeat. Once, you could argue there was an actual intellectual point to “Smack My Bitch Up.” Now, any form of “provocation” is a game designed to generate controversy, and if you, the viewer, are cool with that, then we can all feel better about our trashier pleasures.

[Photos: “Scarface School Play,” from YouTube; “Spun,” Newmarket Films, 2003; “Paparazzi” music video, Interscope, 2009]


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.