Reinvigorating the Dead

Reinvigorating the Dead (photo)

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It may not have been exactly the best film released here in 2009 (it was close), but Uli Edel’s “The Baader Meinhof Complex” stoked my hot box like nothing else I saw last year, and it’s a movie about terrorists. A movie that heroizes terrorists. A 2.5-hour missile barrage of protest action, rock ‘n roll cool and decisive, dream-come-true street combat, Edel’s film is a valentine to every imp of political ire we hold in our bellies, just as the Baader Meinhof Group itself became messiahs to young Europeans in the ’70s who were fed up with bureaucrats and CEOs staging bloodshed in Vietnam, Iran and elsewhere and getting away scot-free with pockets bulging. Who could blame them?

Today, of course, we’re on the other end, having tasted wholesale unconventional warfare ourselves in recent memory, and therefore quite naturally finding ourselves opposed, viscerally, to the very idea that terrorism, or civilian insurrectionism, is a common and inevitable political reality, and sometimes a righteous one. (Like it or not, the American Revolution — and the Boston Tea Party! — falls into this file, as do the Algerian freedom fighters, Che Guevara, the Sandinistas, the Tamil Tigers, the IRA, the current Iraqi insurrectionists and so on. Moral, immoral, necessary, manifestly evil; the ethical lines vary by situation — the CIA has committed scores of documented terrorist acts, ostensibly on our behalf.)

03302010_BaaderMeinhof2.jpgThe Baader Meinhof cabal arose organically out of the ’60s, in a Germany still hyper-wary of Nazi-ish power moves and fascist power. It’s a story we’ve forgotten, but Edel brings it home, opening in 1967 primarily with a raucous, thousands-strong street protest against the visiting Shah of Iran (who certainly warranted it), and the bats-to-heads oppression it received, all televised, as the police left behind the corpse of an unarmed activist and gave the motivation to radicals like journalist-mom Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) and hot-wired activist Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) to coalesce into an active revolutionary group and begin a campaign of assassinations and arson that very quickly steamrolled beyond their control.

Edel is all about the facts, but his movie is also intoxicatingly exciting — there’s the vivid cant of ’60s-Godard political imperativeness ramped up by authentic news footage (all of it infuriating), and peppered frequently by terrorist assault sequences that are as sudden and confrontational and electric as mid-career Scorsese. Which would all be only hunky-dory, if the film itself, by devoting the time and attention to understand the Group’s reasoning and passion, didn’t also make a zestily convincing case for their justification, and for the outrage we should all feel when rich white men serve their own interests at the cost of human casualties from the Bay of Pigs to Laos to San Salvador to Gitmo.

Sure, we root for the crooks in heist movies, just by nature of the genre’s structure, and “The Baader Meinhof Complex” naturally inherits some of that outlaw largesse. But with its gorgeous, liberated young gun-toters offering up undying resistance to a corrupt society, and making their commitment concrete in terms of bullets and bombs, Edel’s movie has the addictive glamour of an anthem. And it’s pure-hearted, down to the wire — Edel never stoops to a formula move, such as having Bleibtreu’s manic Baader “go too far,” to illustrate the inhumanity of the campaign. Faith is kept with history, and ethically, history sides with the revolutionaries, whether they win or lose.

03302010_BaaderMeinhof3.jpgNaturally, the Group didn’t win, whatever that might’ve meant, but they caused trouble for years, in unstoppable successive generations, and their story is the tale of all idealistic lost causes. We still live in the world they were fighting against, after all. I’ll be honest: movies that rhapsodize on uncompromised youthful rebellion, large or small, from “Wild Boys of the Road” and “Rebel Without a Cause” to “Days of Being Wild,” “A Brighter Summer Day” and “I’m Gonna Explode,” make my heart burn with love. “The Baader Meinhof Complex” sings that song with real political conviction, and at the very least, the questions it poses about resistance and power cannot be dismissed with sound bites about “evil doers.”


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.