DID YOU READ

Alan Sillitoe, 1928-2010.

Alan Sillitoe, 1928-2010. (photo)

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This is what it looks like when your face gets trapped in an expression you didn’t choose for 50 years. Alan Sillitoe, who died yesterday at the age of 82, was many things — as Richard Bradford’s excellent obituary points out, some of his more remarkable extra-curricular achievements included denouncing the USSR’s human rights abuses in Brezhnev’s presence at a 1968 Congress of the Soviet Writers’ Union. He also wrote some 53 volumes of work, including poetry and children’s fiction. And yet every obit — including this one — fixates on two of his works that were made into movies: short story “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” and novel “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.”

The so-called angry young men were a non-movement operating under a label imposed for others’ convenience — there’s not a whole lot in common between, for instance, Sillitoe and Harold Pinter, but they were lumped together. (The only one who really fit was John Osborne, a man so angry he was buried with a copy of “Hamlet” with all the lines but Hamlet’s crossed out.) But there’s no denying that the protagonists of “Runner” and “Saturday” are, well, angry young men. The runner expresses himself mainly through physical acts of defiance, the machinist in “Saturday” through verbal ones.

04262010_loneliness.jpgSillitoe had the fortune (or perhaps curse) of adapting those two works for the screen. They have aged far, far better than most of the like-minded so-called “kitchen sink” dramas — at the very least, they’ve dated better than the film version of “Look Back In Anger,” the original prototype. This would seem to be because Sillitoe was simply a much better writer than those around him. They’re worth watching as films, not just as social documents.

There’s a moment in “Runner” that’s haunted me for years. It’s the moment before the big race, with the borstal boys (criminal-minded youth in reformatories) set to compete against the public school boys. They’re all getting dressed in the same room. You’d expect this to be the moment when class tensions bubble up, in a dreary indictment of the class system. But no: the boys begin talking to each other and find out they’re incarcerated in parallel ways. The borstal lads have no freedom, the public school boys get whipped if they’re caught smoking. In that moment, they discover the ways they’re being oppressed in the same kind of ways; it suggests a way out from the dreary mess of post-WWII England, and it’s hopeful and delightful in all kinds of unexpected ways. For that moment alone, I’m grateful to Sillitoe (whose written prose, by the way, is also excellent). Rest in peace.

[Photos: “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” Video Beat, 1960; “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” Warner Home Video, 1962]

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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.