In a Reflective Mood

In a Reflective Mood (photo)

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When world-class writers get to the last fifth or so of their career trajectory, after having put in four or more decades building their monuments, they often give themselves permission to write a memoir, a summing up, an attempt to gaze back and figure out how life and art have fought and entangled and rhymed over the lifetime. As they should.

Filmmakers rarely do this, and it’s a pity — what we wouldn’t have done for an autumnal self-examination from Luis Buñuel (we got a book, but not a film) or Orson Welles, and consider how lucky we’d be today if Jacques Rivette or Werner Herzog decided to venture backwards this way, inspecting the weave of creativity, history, personal tumult and movie love.

Chris Marker, of course, has been doing this all along, albeit rather impersonally, and his distinct approach may’ve ultimately been what compelled his pal and compatriot Agnès Varda, past her 50th year of moviemaking, to create “The Beaches of Agnès,” which is nothing if not a swan song. (The DVD box says “from the director of ‘The Gleaners & I’ and ‘Cléo from 9 to 5,'” briskly evoking a span of 40 solid years.) The one major woman filmmaker at work in the French New Wave, Varda has been for ages a sturdy, generous and astute female sensibility in a messy film culture usually overtaken with masculine whim, simultaneously embracing and feministically angry, and watching this new film, as with “The Gleaners & I,” is quite like contemplating the world over wine with an anarchist aunt.

03152010_BeachesofAgnes3.jpgWe’re all better for having had Varda present and busy on the cultural stage, even if we don’t know it — her brand of savvy, maternal humanity helped season and sweeten the discourse, which she has engaged in as a documentarian, short-film dynamo, photographer and installation artist as well. The new movie is an unabashedly octogenarian reverie, in which Varda daytrips through her life, accompanied by hordes of friends and family, trapeze artists, actors playing out scenes from her life (there are a half-dozen or more little Agnèses), beachcombers, cats, potatoes, Chris Marker’s cartoon cat avatar (as per usual, Marker does not put himself on camera, but we do get a vintage photo, stepping off a motorcycle in a leather jacket), and so on.

I’m not so doped on nostalgia that Varda’s cuddly-elderly dancing across beach sand or walking backwards away from the camera through crowds seems like art to me, but it is, as she says, “a game,” an exploratory jaunt, a thoroughly unpretentious sport that tests cinema’s capacities as a memory machine. If, at times, Varda seems to be indulging herself, practically winking at the camera, you can hardly blame her, and, anyway, the entire thrust of New Wave thinking demanded that movies be as free and impulsive and elusive as life. In this case, it’s an 80-year-old’s life. If you’re smart, you’d step up with a measure of respect and patience, and come away with armloads of stuff as a result.

03152010_BeachesofAgnes1.jpgThat stuff is dominated by a rueful contemplation of time and aging, and of the necessity for the artist to relentlessly build his or her own life, and by the memory of Varda’s husband Jacques Demy, who died in 1990 and with whom she shared her best years making movies and growing a family (two activities that Varda heroically conjoined).

Along the way, we get Alexander Calder, Jean-Luc Godard (sans glasses!), Alain Resnais, Jim Morrison, Viva (nude, in Varda’s “Lions Love”), Jane Birkin and Laura Betti doing Laurel & Hardy, tons of film clips (from both Demy’s and Varda’s filmographies), the story of the making of “Jacquot” (still Varda’s best movie) with Demy as he was slowly dying of AIDS, children and grandchildren, graveside eulogies, etc. It’s less a movie than a warm little nugget of life-stuff in your hand, and by the end, you feel as though you’ve made a friend.


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.