DID YOU READ

Christopher Walken, unhinged and looking for his hand.

Christopher Walken, unhinged and looking for his hand. (photo)

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Several characters in Martin McDonagh’s “A Behanding in Spokane” spend a good portion of the play handcuffed to the walls, cowering in fear at the feet of Carmichael, a terrifyingly deranged man desperately in search of the hand he lost 47 years earlier. This image also works as a handy metaphor of what it must be like to share a stage with the man who plays Carmichael, the delightfully deranged Christopher Walken. There’s not a whole lot you can do but speak when spoken to, stay out of his way, and watch him work.

Walken on stage speaks exactly like Walken on film — as a man with a punctuation allergy. Sentences string together, pauses arrive seemingly at random. He’s working from a script, but you’d never know it from the way he not only talks but also how he reacts to his own performance. Near the end of the play, Carmichael tells Mervyn (Sam Rockwell, or at the performance I saw, capable understudy Dashiell Eaves), the only employee of the fleabag hotel where he’s staying, “You, Mervyn, are a very brave receptionist.” In context, the line’s funny; in Walken’s one-of-a-kind delivery, it’s hilarious, and after the audience erupted with laugher, Walken seemingly broke character and cracked a huge smile. Or maybe it was a choice, and it was all in character. Who knows? One of the absolute pleasures of seeing Walken on stage is that moment to moment, scene to scene, you genuinely have no idea what he will do or say (or how he will do it or say it) next. In moments like that, he seemed as surprised by what comes out of his own mouth as the audience.

04122010_ChristopherWalkenBehanding2.jpgFans of McDonagh’s feature directorial debut “In Bruges” will recognize and appreciate, some thematic similarities between the film and his latest play. Both “Bruges” and “Behanding” tell stories of displaced underworld figures, waiting in a sort of purgatory, searching for redemption. Both are about violent people who don’t take violence lightly, and feature characters who are not only dangerous and scary, but also funny, sad, and even a little pathetic; when Carmichael believes a couple of con artists (Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan) know where his hand is, but the pair don’t come through on their end of their bargain, guns and homemade bombs quickly enter the story. Each piece features a character who not only isn’t afraid of death, but is actively curious about it, and each narrative is instigated by a brutal act of violence against a child.

On the whole, “Bruges” is more poignant than “Behanding,” which pitches its comedy so broadly that at times it starts to resemble a Neil Simon farce as reinterpreted by Quentin Tarantino. It’s also a bit more satisfying. But as strong as its performances by Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes were, “Bruges” didn’t have Christopher Walken live on stage, wandering, riffing, smiling, goofing off, pouring gasoline on people, and cracking dirty jokes. Walken’s great in every film, enlivening even projects like “The Country Bears” and “Gigli,” but watching him in person is something even better. Taking in a performance of “Behanding” is like watching the bomb Carmichael makes out of a gas can, an oily rag, and a candle: you sit there watching in twitchy anticipation for the explosion that could happen at any second.

[Photos: “A Behanding in Spokane,” Joan Marcus, 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.