At the movies with David Foster Wallace.

At the movies with David Foster Wallace. (photo)

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Anyone interested in the late David Foster Wallace should think about reading excellent essay about David Lynch, there’s a lot of movie talk in the book, mostly centered around the Hollywood products he was most invested in. It’s 1996, so Lipsky and Wallace go to “Broken Arrow.” Wallace casually says things like “You ever see ‘Johnny Mnemonic’?” and suggests Pauline Kael would be a “a good model” for passionate criticism. He doesn’t like Woody Allen (“I don’t think his humor’s all that subtle, it seems like a schtick to me”) and thinks James L. Brooks “has the heart of a whore.” There are a lot more asides along those lines.

Beyond the fun of seeing Wallace kick around such specific ephemeral moments, there are a few bigger points worth noting. Regarding shows like “Love Boat” and “Baywatch,” he speculates that “the stuff that makes no attempt to surprise or do anything artistic, is so profoundly soothing… artwise maybe not the greatest art. But the function it provides is deep in a certain way.” Not, he adds, that “you should go around being some kind of scholar of pop culture,” but that some art “finds a way to take care of you […] kind of despite itself.” But four pages later, talking about predictability in mainstream movies, he notes to Lipsky that “we’re viewers where you know if you’ve got Tom Sizemore, that you’ve ruined the movie for us.” Because Sizemore always gets typecast as the psycho.

Wallace talks at multiple points about the need to find a way out of being buried by a cultural field of crap while also being completely conversant with it, completely aware (and predictably self-conscious) he feels at least a little guilty about that. But moreover he’s talking about watching stuff that’s supposed to be comfortingly predictable and playing games with it; he’s hypnotized once he destroys the very comforts that come with just sitting and letting the movie walk over you.

04272010_brazil.jpgIt’s clear that he found those experiences meaningful, discussing (and, more revealingly, quoting) them casually with great knowledge. Outside of “Blue Velvet” and “Brazil” (both of whose personal importance he discusses at length), it seems possible that his most enjoyable viewing experiences came engaging with the very stuff whose seductive powers he could both see right through and get totally sucked into.

This is a different beast from the argument that movies are “just movies” and should be enjoyed without guilt or thought, nor is it about fetishizing exceptionally bad ones. It’s about really enjoying mediocrity and diving into it, reveling in the tiniest cracks between the formulaic and the odd surprise, treating every movie as something to toy with — an experience that’s maybe more exhilarating than watching something that actively challenges you, because you’re the one doing all the work. The movie’s just something to impose yourself on and figure out how this Sizemore appearance differs from all others (or doesn’t).

[Photos: “Broken Arrow,” 20th Century Fox, 1996; “Brazil,” Criterion, 1985]


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.