DID YOU READ

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled (photo)

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Almost universally deplored last year, Jared Hess’ “Gentlemen Broncos” is far from a self-immolating indie-comedy disaster, but neither is it, as New Yorker film editor Richard Brody maintains, one of 2009’s best films. Honestly, it’s just different, like an idiot child who dresses funny or a spinster who gives all of her cats the same name, and the film’s idiosyncratic personality simply seemed to rub most people the wrong way. (It doesn’t help that the title is off-puttingly dull and irrelevant.) Brody, who even pitched for it on NPR, apparently got rubbed nicely, thank you.

Like his debut “Napoleon Dynamite,” Hess’ movie doesn’t explore all-American geekdom so much as drop you into alien territory and let you fend for yourself. But this time, the terrain isn’t just a high school in the quirky midlands, and we don’t have Jon Heder’s toothsome monster nebbish to laugh at. It’s all quite a bit stranger.

03082010_GentlemenBroncos4.jpgParse this plot arc: our hero, Benjamin (Michael Angarano), is a nervous, penniless home-schooled Utah kid who writes sci-fi fantasy fiction with titles like “Yeast Lords” from the geodesic-dome house he shares with his cretinous nightgown-designing mother (Jennifer Coolidge) and her boyfriend, a dim-witted thug/”guardian angel” with a loose-boweled white python (Mike White), and goes off to a writers’ camp and gets his handwritten novel stolen by a ludicrously pompous sci-fi author (Jemaine Clement), even as a queeny hack filmmaker in Salt Lake City decides to make it into a no-budget video…

You’re never sure in “Gentlemen Broncos” what the hell is being made fun of, but the fact is, it’s funny in a bizarre non-sequitur-saturated kind of way. I don’t know why Coolidge’s ditzy mom tries to sell giant balls of stale popcorn (two in a bag, scrotally), for instance, but the running joke of having to break them apart with hammer-to-the-piggy-bank force worked on me.

Meanwhile, we’re offered vivid mini-movie depictions throughout of “Yeast Lords” (subtitled, for reasons known only to Hess, “The Bronco Years”) as it presumably appears in its author’s mind’s eye, complete with taxidermied-deer battle-bots, dune-buggy cyclops armies, fluorescent skies, a running interstellar contention about yeast (which is sometimes vomited up in defensive pink geysers), and Sam Rockwell as a Texas-accented mountain man/space warrior. Don’t ask me.

03082010_GentlemenBroncos2.jpgThere’s almost nothing in Hess’ script (co-written, as always, with wife Jerusha) that makes clear satirical sense — the slice of America it lunches on is so distinctive that it’s unfamiliar to most of us. Which can be a blast — I’ve never been to a fantasy writers’ camp, but Hess’ rip through this terrarium’s norms and gestures is a riot, and Clement, with his lizard eyes and plummy what-the-fuck-is-that-accent, shreds the pretentious William Gibson-Neil Gaiman-Alan Moore-Neal Stephenson pulp demigod into little pieces. (The “master’s class” we see him teach is hilariously focused only on “crafting” gladiator-ish character names — a student names a troll in her story “Teacup,” and Clement’s withering jerk practically has an aneurysm.)

Without the context of the hype and expectations around its theatrical release, it’s hard not to like “Gentlemen Broncos,” because you never know what it’ll throw at you, and because genuine eccentricity in Hollywood comedies is as uncommon as genuine wit. In fact, the meme-crazy cult following that attached itself to “Napoleon Dynamite” could well sprout around this one as well, in time.

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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.