DID YOU READ

Against all odds, the novelization trudges on.

Against all odds, the novelization trudges on. (photo)

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Five years ago, Grady Hendrix posed a valid question at Slate: could the novelization — that shoddy paperback staple in which underpaid writers struggle to turn the early draft of a screenplay into a tie-in paperback — survive into the DVD era?

After all, novelizations were all about sparking memories of a film fondly remembered, not one you have sitting on your shelf. Would there still be a demand for these most ephemeral pieces of cultural detritus?

Well, it’s 2010 and good news (I guess): the novelization is still with us, though where the demand for them is coming from is baffling. So many films now come from graphic novels that are readily available or can be re-issued as tie-ins. Hence, there were no novelizations for “The Losers” or “Kick-Ass,” which — considering their commercial failure — is probably just as well.

There was, sadly, no novelization for the new “Nightmare on Elm Street,” thereby breaking a proud, previously unbroken lineage (even “Freddy vs. Jason” had one).

06222010_ironman2.jpgThat brings us to summer’s first big behemoth, “Iron Man 2.” Here no chances were taken: there are umpteen books of all varieties. There are comics, sticker books and yes, a proper mass-market paperback, yours for a mere $5.99 (a bargain in this day and age). There are no excerpts available for perusal, but Amazon reviewer “Wayfarer4” notes that it “dwells far more heavily on making comic book technology sound feasible, without simplifying it with the standard science fiction technobabble,” which seems to confirm that most of the good stuff in the movie — the smartass repartee and back-and-forth — was made up on the spot.

Such is not the case with the would-be blockbuster that came the next week, “Robin Hood,” adapted by David B. Coe, winner of “the William L. Crawford Award for his first series, The LonTobyn Chronicle.” The opening pages of this novelization are available for perusal, and the opening raises questions about what could be understated about the scent of 100 fires going simultaneously:

From within the brooding shadows of Broceliande Forest, Robin Longstride could see the pale colors of dawn touching the morning sky; glimpses of pearl and pink and pale yellow sifted through branches and leaves… If not for the subtle scent of a hundred cooking fires lingering in the wood, and the faint murmur of a thousand voices not too far off, it would have been easy for Robin to forget he was at war.

There are umpteen books for “Shrek Forever,” many of the primary reading variety. There’s a “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” tome written in the form of an archeologist’s journal, which I suppose shores up the franchise’s basis in historical fact.

06222010_marmaduke.jpgThere are no “The A-Team” or “Killers” novelizations, sadly, though one for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is forthcoming. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “junior novel” version of “Marmaduke” (unnecessarily named, since there’s no adult novel to go with it), whose infinitely sketchy writing brought me much joy. From the opening:

Marmaduke the Great Dane yawned as he wandered into the kitchen, where his family was already eating breakfast. In the corner, Carlos, a fluffy Russian blue cat, was eating kibble out of his food bowl.

Marmaduke’s bowl was next to Carlos’s, and it was full of leftovers.

Waffles, he thought in satisfaction. Gotta love Debbie!

“‘Sup,” Carlos greeted Marmaduke.

“Hey, man,” Marmaduke replied. He thought his stepbrother, Carlos, was pretty cool for a cat. Which was good, since Carlos was basically his only friend.

That’s actually more character development than the comic strip’s shown in its entire lifespan. The author, J.E. Drake, is a go-to kiddie novelizations guy whose resume includes “Kung Fu Panda: The Secret of the Scroll” and the “Care Bears” book “What Makes You Happy?”

If that’s not enough reading material to fuel your summer, let me direct you to this “Transformers” short story by Alex Irvine, writer of a prequel novelization called “Exodus.” Sample: “The six Autobots gathered around a map display of the area stretching from the Well of AllSparks north almost as far as the pole, where the ruins of Six Lasers Over Cybertron lay, and east to encompass Iacon and the contested territories toward Nova Cronum.” Happy reading y’all!

[Photos: “E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet,” Berkley Publishing Group, 1985; “Iron Man 2,” Paramount, 2010; “Marmaduke,” 20th Century Fox, 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.