DID YOU READ

No Laughing Matter

No Laughing Matter (photo)

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On the first night of SXSW at the “Predators” sneak preview, someone leaned over to me and asked “Have you been to Comic-Con?”

I knew where the question was headed, and although he was speaking specifically about the presentation we were about to see, where no full film was shown and the studio carefully curated a few clips and a Q&A with Robert Rodriguez and director Nimród Antal, it wouldn’t be terribly off the mark to compare the two events, where art is still celebrated and the audiences are passionate, but the lines have grown longer and you may be handed a “Kick-Ass” bumper sticker while you wait.

As festival producer Janet Pierson acknowledged early in the festival, these are good problems to have as a programmer — a film like Aaron Katz’s brilliant new “Cold Weather” fiercely competed for crowds with the likes of “MacGruber” (which, to be fair, cost a relatively cheap $10 million according to its filmmakers). But it’s a more complicated proposition for audiences, who are being asked far more to stand in two-hour-plus lines to see a film that they may or may not get into. It’s a festival of extremes, and not just for the fact that they showed the incendiary “Serbian Film,” but of the evolving complexion of the attendees (Jason Reitman came in just to see movies) and the types of films they’re showing.

03242010_GondryPierson.jpgThe filmmaker who symbolized this dichotomy most was Michel Gondry, who was peppered with questions about his upcoming “Green Hornet” film while promoting the deeply personal “The Thorn in the Heart,” arriving in Austin after its premiere at Cannes. One of the highlights of the festival was the first screening of his documentary (and an accompanying Q&A with John Pierson) about his aunt Suzette, a retired French schoolteacher whose life was well-documented in home movies made by her son Jean-Yves, who has come to resent her in recent years.

This being a Gondry production, there are scenes of children fooling around with greenscreen during a game of dodgeball and a toy train that guides you along Suzette’s tour across France to reunite with former colleagues and pupils, yet its most enduring image is of a young Michel sprawled across the ground on his stomach, face-forward as he listens to his aunt telling a story in the forest, displaying the reverence that is the heart of the film.

The throngs of people standing inside the Austin Convention Center the next morning waiting for his conversation with IndieWire‘s Eugene Hernandez were nearly as reverential, taking the 30-minute delay of the panel’s start and the absence of scheduled moderator Elvis Mitchell in stride. Noting the crowd, Hernandez disagreed with Gondry at one point when the director played down his fame, to which Gondry demurred, “[I’m] famous to people who like me,” before telling a story of being puzzled when he was recognized only on a particular New York street corner before realizing it was in front of a film school dormitory.

Gondry rewarded the audience’s patience with plenty of details regarding his upcoming films, including an animated collaboration with his son Paul and “Ghost World” scribe Daniel Clowes called “Megalomania” (The Playlist has all the details on that and an IMAX 3D collaboration with Björk), a look at his book of portraits culled from fans who sent in their picture to his website (of the thousand that Gondry drew, three were in the crowd, leading to an on-stage compare-and-contrast between one of the real guys and Gondry’s watercolor-enhanced sketch of him), and a screening of his stitch-heavy music video for Steriogram’s “Walkie Talkie Man.” That led into a discussion of Gondry’s obsession with abnormally sized hands, which originated with his memories of a nightmare he had as a child and a visit to a museum where he became fascinated with nerve endings (“I think it was the sort of misfit between how I would feel it and how my body would not be able to enclose my sensation,” Gondry said.) He explained earlier, “I’m a terrible sleeper, but… if you miss a night of sleep, then you’ve got to dream double.”

There was one point during the “MacGruber” panel where Ryan Phillippe only thought he was in a dream, recoiling from the table and muttering a “this is so weird” under his breath as a fan from the SXSW interactive side of things begged the assembled cast and crew to help her make a viral video. (The result, in which “MacGruber” director Jorma Taccone gets the crap pummeled out of him by his cast, is here.) It wouldn’t be the only weirdly wonderful moment from the panel, which extended the vibe of the “SNL” spinoff’s premiere the night before (and their subsequent interview with our own Matt Singer). Phillippe and a clearly amused Val Kilmer, who said the script was the best thing he’s read since “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” joined “Saturday Night” players Kristen Wiig and Will Forte and writers Taccone and John Solomon in a discussion about “Rambo III,” “courtesy pillows” (the patch used between Wiig and Forte’s naughty bits during a sex scene) and the Boner Ghost, a prank Forte pulled on a visiting Seth Meyers, who sat in Solomon’s lap as he recounted the tale:

03242010_DirectingtheDead.jpgThere was, however, genuine horror discussed at the “Directing the Dead” panel, which disappointed initially since Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth had dropped out of their scheduled appearances on the dais, but was still left with Ti West (“The House of the Devil”), Neil Marshall (“Centurion”), Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”), Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) and last-minute substitute Robert Rodriguez, who naturally stole the show in front of the hometown crowd with stories of not splattering Mickey Rourke with blood (on “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” he threatened to ruin Rourke’s custom suit with a squib; Rodriguez offered up his best Rourke impression, delivering a gruff “thanks, brother” as the actor’s response when he opted for digital blood) and being afraid of asking Jaime King to go topless for “Sin City” (for an early shot in the film that would give the impression there was a lot more nudity than there really was in adapting Frank Miller).

Other Rodriguez tidbits included how he originally planned to shoot “From Dusk Till Dawn” in 3D before bulky equipment discouraged him (and left the door open to resurrect that idea for a future re-release) and how the film as a whole turned out far gorier than expected since he expected a prolonged battle with the MPAA and wound up not having to edit much out. (He also desaturated the blood for the ratings board cut before cranking it back up to the appropriate red levels for the theatrical release.)

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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.