2009 was an excellent year for film…just wait.

2009 was an excellent year for film…just wait. (photo)

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Let’s try to simultaneously move forward and backwards here for a moment. On Thursday, Cannes will begin announcing its lineup, which will terminate the rampant speculation about which world-class auteurs will and won’t be walking the Croisette and begin a new round of speculation about the films themselves — to be followed, subsequently, by an intense barrage of disparate, often disagreeing dispatches from the festival itself, and the slow, auto-drip downwards percolation of these films into smaller festivals and (for an increasingly lucky few) theatrical distribution, eventually trickling onto DVD and so forth.

Point being it’s awfully hard to wrap your head around the global implications and trends of a year’s worth of film within the time span of a year, even if you’re one of the fortunate few who can afford to jaunt from fest to fest. There should be some kind of moratorium on wrapping up the year in film for at least half a year afterwards. Because only in the last few weeks was it revealed that 2009 was secretly an excellent year for film, no matter how much people complained.

The problem with this proposition is that you’re going to have to agree with me about what constitutes excellence, and you’re largely going to have to take my word for it; many of 2009’s most exciting movies are decidedly not coming to a theater anytime soon, and maybe not even to a high-profile festival. And they are — and I say this as a fan — incredibly arty and not destined for any kind of high-profile success.

There were the consensus moments in blockbuster excellence enjoyed in 2009 (“Up” and, to a lesser extent, “Star Trek”), but there is more to enjoy — much more, in fact, than was initially evident. Exhibit A, if you please: Alain Guiraudie’s “The King of Escape,” which skulked out of a side-section of Cannes to less high-profile Stateside engagements (I saw it at Lincoln Center’s “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema,” the annual clearing house of French films that have evaded bigger U.S. premieres). In the genre of gay films, there’s frequently less to commend than good intentions. Not so with “The King of Escape,” Guiraudie’s lightest and most accessible film yet: imagine David Lynch’s personality-transference dream-dramas reconfigured as goofy, sexually explicit comedy and you’ll only start to get the mindbending idea at play here.

“The King of Escape” is an excellent movie that didn’t make the cut for David Hudson’s provocative and chewy attempt at starting to collate the emerging cinematic trends of this and last year. There’s a lot to wrap our head around in Hudson’s piece: the disparate parallel tracks of austerely drab realism (brought to you by the heirs of the Dardenne brothers) and extreme provocation (Lars von Trier, Gasper Noé and so on), but lost in all this are some excellent movies that aren’t getting discussed quite possibly because they don’t fit any of the dominant narratives about where arthouse film is (or isn’t) going at this moment.

04122010_coldweather.jpgWatching “The King of Escape” suggested one counter-narrative: ultra-formalistic gay arthouse filmmaking is coming into its own — a necessarily simplified reductive formula, but in the wake of Gus Van Sant’s elegant “Last Days,” filmmakers like Guiraudie and João Pedro Rodrigues (whose super-excellent transvestite drama “To Die Like A Man” rocked NYFF last year) have shifted the conversation from films that merely exist to push things forward to elegant, sexually aggressive films that can’t be ignored.

Another possible narrative that is evolving from films made during 2009 is represented well by Aaron Katz’s super-fun “Cold Weather” (still inexplicably without distribution, not that that should last long), which proves that you can make a seriously crowd-pleasing comedy without falling into the Sundance tropes of tweeness, color-coordinated quirk and indie-friendly soundtrack. Just as the Duplass brothers move ever closer to the mainstream with “Cyrus,” Katz’s latest demonstrates that crowd-pleasing need no longer be synonymous with cynical pandering. It shouldn’t hurt that ground zero for these types of films — Sundance (no matter what its self-aggrandizing airs) — is once again showcasing movies of interest as long as you’re ready to do some heavy sifting.

Because everyone seemed to have such a good time in 2007, and the following few years have been filled with economic despair for all and a great deal of navel-gazing about all matters cinematic — per Wallace Stevens, everyone’s imagination seemingly staring at the end of an era — it’s always tempting to draw conclusions about Where Film Is as quickly as possible, erring on the side of doom and gloom. And while it’s useful to slot films in taxonomical ways, always with the temptation of crowning something a trend as quickly as possible, it’s even more important to sit down, shut up and wait for a while. The movies’ll keep.

[Photos: “The King of Escape,” Les Films du Losange, 2009; “Cold Weather,” Parts and Weather, 2010.]


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.