DID YOU READ

“Tiny Furniture”: In dependence.

“Tiny Furniture”: In dependence. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Honestly, “Tiny Furniture” should be intolerable. It’s about post-college malaise, which is the type of topic that becomes exponentially harder to relate to as you get distance on it. It’s about the added doldrums of figuring out a career when you come from the kind of privileged background where you’re not actually required to get one, which is the type of topics that’s hard to relate to at all. And it’s semi-autobiographical, with writer/director Lena Dunham starring as Aura and her mother and sister playing Aura’s artist mother and younger sibling, respectively, a set-up that implies all sorts of navel-gazing self-indulgence.

That’s it’s not at all intolerable — it’s actually quite funny and charming — is thanks to Dunham’s nigh-majestic lack of vanity. Aura, who’s moved back into her mother’s ridiculously hip all-white Tribeca loft after four years of college in Ohio, is a doughy mass of uncertainty, defensiveness and neediness. Her undergrad boyfriend broke up with her to head home to a nouveau hippy life in Colorado, her only friend in New York is Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), a chain-smoking, impulsive flake in search of a sidekick, and her overachieving sister and impatient mother are too consumed with their own lives to give her the attention she feels she deserves. Aura loafs around the apartment, not bothering to wear pants. Her mother gently suggests she take a shower. She finds a job as the “day hostess” at a restaurant that isn’t actually open during the day — she’s basically a receptionist, answering the phone for $11 an hour.

03162010_tinyfurniture2.jpgAura’s problem is that she doesn’t have what most people would consider a problem — her life is so comfortable, her dilemmas so luxurious (she explains that she doesn’t want to go into the art world, because that’s her mother’s territory, but effortlessly ends up with a YouTube video in a show in DUMBO anyway) that no one will sympathize with the fact that she feels genuinely lost and depressed. She latches on to two men so openly disastrous that her interactions with them have a sort of comedic suspense — which will mistreat her first? There’s Jed (Alex Karpovsky), the passive aggressive, freeloading would-be comedian (“He kind of a big deal on YouTube,” she tells someone) who ends up crashing with her while rebuffing her awkward romantic overtures. And there’s Keith (David Call), the sous chef at the restaurant with the high cheekbones and the girlfriend troubles, who’ll flirt and offer comradely complaints about the sleaziness of the other employees, but who ends up being just as much of an asshole.

Aura’s vulnerability and the often bitingly funny series of humiliations that stem from it make her sympathetic, but she also does some awful things — screwing over a good friend, stealing her mother’s diary, brandishing an off-putting sense of entitlement. It’s a disarmingly open performance, and it’s not one capped with an obvious comeuppance. I don’t know that I buy the film’s underlying intimation that all women navigate internal storms of self-doubt and identity crises through their 20s (itself a kind of privilege) but I like that Aura isn’t necessarily on a firmer path at the film’s close, and that the lessons she’s learned aren’t necessarily good ones. As Charlotte tosses off, “no one’s financially independent until they’re at least 25. Or 30!” It could be that Aura has a long way to go before becoming a fully functioning human being — if she does.

“Tiny Furniture” doesn’t yet have U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Tiny Furniture,” Tiny Ponies, 2010]

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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.