Almodóvar, Bardem and other famous Spaniards take on Franco.

Almodóvar, Bardem and other famous Spaniards take on Franco. (photo)

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General Francisco Franco inspired one of “Saturday Night Live”‘s first running gags, in which original Weekend Update anchor Chevy Chase would come up with new and original ways to remind viewers that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead,” a joke which went on for months and months.

Franco’s name was a byword in a certain kind of charged ’60s movie. In “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” ’30s teacher Maggie Smith exhorts his glories to her students, and — of course — one of them goes off to fight for him and dies. In ’60s artifact “I Am Curious (Yellow),” his name gets thrown around by Lena, the spunky protagonist who has nothing better to do than badger strangers about their political views. That spirit of political self-congratulation was roundly mocked by Lukas Moodysson in “Together,” his movie about a dysfunctional commune (the only kind, really), whose members get celebratory on the day of Franco’s death.

Mostly, though, the Spanish Civil War haunts movies obliquely rather than with direct invocations of Franco’s name — see Guillermo del Toro’s “serious” movies “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the latter of which helpfully points out that fascism is bad by having as its villain an evil general who’s constantly checking his watch.

06242010_pan.jpgA more direct attack on this sensitive subject is arriving, thanks to the likes of Pedro Almodóvar and Javier Bardem. The occasion is the strange case of Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish judge who once issued a warrant for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, contemplated prosecuting former Bush administration officials for torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay and has expressed interest in investigating Henry Kissinger.

Garzón’s latest move — attempting to investigate Franco-era “crimes against humanity” dating from a time before the term had any meaning — may get him suspended from practicing law in Spain for up to 20 years.

In solidarity, then, Almodóvar, Bardem, Maribel Verdú and others have appeared in a video that’s mostly remarkable for the fact that it exists. As directed by Azucena Rodríguez, the (unsubtitled, be warned) short film consists entirely of famous Spaniards reciting the testimony of 15 people killed under Franco. The crux — that under Spanish law there’s amnesty for all pre-1977 atrocities — leads to the outro, with a slogan “against the impunity of Franchism.”

For Almodóvar to speak on the judge’s behalf isn’t necessarily terribly “brave” — he’s got little to lose — but it’s worth noting that while he’s the most famous Spanish director in the world today, he’s also far from an establishment kind of guy within his own country.

By lending his name to the cause and leading off the video, what he’s done is simultaneously confirm his own prominence and his anti-establishment cred, at least outside the arthouse. And it seems like a worthy enough cause; anything the Wall Street Journal opposes is probably a good idea. And it’s not like he’ll ever make a movie about it anyway.

[Photos: “Saturday Night Live,” NBC, 1976-present; “Pan’s Labyrinth,” New Line Home Video, 2006]


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.