DID YOU READ

Of Teens and Men

Of Teens and Men (photo)

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Late adolescence has always been the stuff of which movies are made. It’s not just the poreless skin and nubile limbs but the high voltage of early adulthood that naturally lend themselves to cinema — which is why is the films that fetishize the flat affect of their young subjects (think “Juno,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) miss the boat. Say what you will about “Remember Me” and “The Exploding Girl,” both about NYC-based college students, but they burrow past that sardonicism to nudge at the unruly emotions that it veils — albeit with mixed results.

It’s hard to discuss “Remember Me” without divulging the elephant in the room, and that’s a shame. Although this ditty about two pretty, broken lovebirds would never have been a groundbreaker, it might have worked better had it not labored under the shadow of a recent event that should never be pillaged as a deus ex machina and in general has yet to work onscreen. Suffice it to say it takes place in the very late summer of 2001.

Tyler (“Twilight”er Robert Pattinson) has been angry at the world, especially his rich daddy (Pierce Brosnan, as bemused as ever), since his older brother’s suicide. When he seduces NYU student Ally (“Lost”‘s Emilie de Ravin) on a dare after a tussle with her agro cop dad (Chris Cooper), he — you guessed it — falls in love. The ensuing courtship outstrips a lot of celluloid young love because the two recognize their shared, pained bravado (she witnessed her mom’s murder as a child) as something to be shed rather than sported as an accessory. It helps that their banter is relatively agile, with none of the punctuation storm of overly hyphenated phrases and dragging ellipses that dooms so much dialogue. And New York actually seems like New York, with a broad visual range frankly dictated by class, and a genuine score rather than a paint-by-numbers soundtrack. It’s just too bad that the film’s not-unpleasantly soapy plot structure can’t sustain the enormous toll its ending takes.

03102010_rememberme2.jpgAs for swoony Rob, who also takes executive producer credit, he’s far more palatable here than as the sullen Cullen. Perhaps he’s that rare male actor, like the once-dreamy Robert Redford, who takes his cues from his female costar. When acting against dead-eyed Kristin Stewart, he reads as catatonic, but with sassier de Ravin he ramps it up, even allowing the occasional facial expression to tug at his finely chiseled features. That said, he’s so pretty that his beauty distracts even him — like Brad Pitt or Brosnan himself, the verdict’s won’t be in about whether he can actually act until the bloom comes off that rose.

“The Exploding Girl” may also focus on a college-aged boy and girl in late-summer NYC, but it operates on a much smaller, more tolerable scale. Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray, it shares a wistfulness with the strong coming-of-age saga “In Between Days,” which Gray cowrote with his wife, director So Yong Kim. In this film, Ivy (Zoe Kazan) and her best friend Al (Mark Rendall) perch at her mom’s apartment in the last days of their summer break. Though she’s trying to keep it together, Ivy’s boyfriend back at school has grown increasingly distant and the stress is triggering her epilepsy. Al’s concerned, but he’s also concerned with summoning the courage to ask out a girl he fancies, as well as with maintaining his partying pace while remaining a decent houseguest at Ivy’s mom’s. That’s about the sum of it, but when you’re 20 years old, that’s more than enough.

Even as they creep nervously around the big emotions that threaten to swallow them whole, Al and Ivy court a deeper connection with each other and with the world at large. Scenes are a pastiche of small activities, of milkshakes outside of delis and cellphone exchanges drowned out by the exhilarating, lonely cacophony of city streets.

03102010_theexplodinggirl.jpgIn her first starring role, Kazan as Ivy vacillates wonderfully between insecurity and insouciance. She may be girlish, but a formidable womanhood looms as a goal if not an eventuality. She’s careful with her mother and with her beau on the phone — only with Al does she occasionally vibrate with a sweet, easy bossiness.With everyone, however, she is so frustratingly self-contained that her growing sorrow reads as mere social diffidence.

For, unlike the characters in films like Andrew Bujalski‘s “Beeswax” and “Funny Ha Ha,” Al and Ivy are uncomfortable with their discomfort. You get the sense that they are burning for love but are blocked by their fears rather than ambivalence or psychological laziness, that their shambling passive aggression will be replaced by a bold sincerity as they grow up. Shot at oddbot angles and adrift in dreamy reveries and awkward, noisy silences, this film may strike a Mumblechord, but it is distinguished by a sharp, palpable longing that is nothing if not French.

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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.