Better than a Poke in the Eye with a Stick

Better than a Poke in the Eye with a Stick (photo)

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The Oscars may be just a horse-race between larcenous, ego-queen jockeys riding $100 million braindead nags, but even so, sometimes the right movie wins. Often the wrong movie wins, and other times we can be thankful a middling movie or actor wins by the grace of fate so that another movie, a real populist crater, doesn’t. With these you can almost feel the hand of divine intervention come down and coax the Price Waterhouse envelopes open like an accountant’s zipper.

Yesterday, the perfectly serviceable if rather Top Gun-ish “Hurt Locker” won instead of “Avatar,” and so we were saved from seeing James Cameron speak in that stupid language of his in front of half a billion viewers. Even people who hate Kathryn Bigelow movies want to buy her a cocktail now, and her big win is part of an all too infrequent contemporary Academy reflex. Sometimes, Hollywood decides to save us from itself. Here, a brief history of the Thank-God-It’s-Not Oscar Block:

“The Apartment”: Best Picture, 1960
A small, Yiddische Billy Wilder comedy, elevated to AFI-classic status after the postwar Academy members decided they’d had enough for the moment of historical epics (“The Alamo”) and lit-class melodramas (“Sons and Lovers,” “Elmer Gantry”). You couldn’t blame them.

“Tom Jones”: Best Picture, 1964
Nobody’s idea of a masterpiece, this extremely goofy bit of retro-Brit-ness blocked the lumbering, monstrously wasteful, absurdly popular “Cleopatra,” and for that it can be fondly remembered, if not for much else.

03082010_catballou2.jpgLee Marvin, “Cat Ballou”: Best Actor in a Leading Role, 1966
Honestly, the Academy nomination-voted itself into a corner on this one, and so they had to essentially decide between awarding either Rod Steiger or Richard Burton for being stone-faced, or Laurence Oliver for parading in blackface (for “Othello”), or Marvin for having drunken fun in a stupid spoof. I’d give an Oscar to Marvin for getting out of bed in the morning, which for him wasn’t always easy.

“In the Heat of the Night”: Best Picture, 1968
In 1967, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was exactly the sort of cold oatmeal everyone expected the ever-aging Academy to fete, but sanity somehow took hold. Since both “Bonnie & Clyde” and “The Graduate” were a little too radical in their own ways, the nod went to this modest, civics-minded policier. Given the times, they had to pick a Sidney Poitier movie, and with a degree of surprising grace they picked the one that doesn’t make you taste your own stomach acid.

“Patton”: Best Picture, 1971
This is, frankly, a rotten movie, but it’s more bearable than either “Love Story” or “Airport,” which both made much more money and had bestselling novel points in their favor. “Five Easy Pieces” and “M*A*S*H” were too new-generation, too anti-establishment, to stand a chance. Imagine a world in which “Love Story” won a best picture Oscar — you wouldn’t have been able to forget about it until now.

Louise Fletcher, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: Best Actress in a Leading Role, 1976
Generally regarded as one of the most puzzling of all best actress awards, this one makes sense if you look at the competition — Isabelle Adjani, being French, couldn’t really qualify, and Carol Kane, in micro-indie “Hester Street,” couldn’t either. But no one wanted to give it to Glenda Jackson doing Ibsen (she’d already won twice, and they were not good memories), and certainly no one wanted to give top prize to Ann-Margaret in “Tommy,” the sheer nomination of whom may be the strangest fucking thing the Academy has ever done, and I’m remembering Rob Lowe and Snow White.


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.