DID YOU READ

The Doc Days of Summer: “Restrepo”

The Doc Days of Summer: “Restrepo” (photo)

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In front of a crowd largely consisting of military vets and recently discharged soldiers this week, Tim Hetherington introduced a screening of “Restrepo” with a story of how obligations prevented him from doing similar honors in person at the True/False Festival back in February. Rudy and Mace, two soldiers from the film, high-tailed it from their respective bases to make an appearance in his place, and Hetherington soon got a call from Rudy, who couldn’t believe what he was seeing: the name of his fallen comrade-in-arms Juan “Doc” Restrepo in big letters on the marquee of the Missouri Theatre.

For a documentary that isn’t given to such sentimentality, it’s a revealing anecdote. The title was one of the many things Hetherington and co-director Sebastian Junger had to fight to protect on their self-financed odyssey into the lives of soldiers stationed at the dangerous military outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley (one that’s since closed).

Hetherington was only slightly teasing when he later told the audience that finding a distributor that wouldn’t compromise what he considers to be “a distillation of all the things we’ve come to understand about war and young men in war” was only slightly harder than dodging bullets in Operation Rock Avalanche, the 2007 military offensive that serves as the film’s centerpiece in which Hetherington broke his leg and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team loses one of their own on camera.

06262010_Restrepo5.jpg“We had the terrifying experience of self-financing our film because we didn’t want essentially corporate taste in the edit room with us,” said co-director Junger. “And then we’re in the terrifying place of being prepared to turn down a perfectly good offer because it might’ve come with strings attached. We didn’t blink and in the end, it was good for the people that bought the film, it was good for us, it was good for the film.”

It might not have been comfortable for the duo — when not holed up in an editing bay, Hetherington spent last year “in an empty apartment with a bed and two broken chairs” — but the film, recognized by Sundance as its Grand Jury Prize winner for Documentary and hailed here by Alison Willmore, is one of the rare, authentic nonfiction looks into the experience of war from those soldiers on the ground and how it shapes their psyches.

Little attention is paid to military bureaucracy or even who the soldiers are fighting, though we get unusual glimpses into the often frustrating negotiations between the locals, who fear retaliation from the Taliban, and the soldiers who need to stand their ground; as one soldier remarks, “The war ends at the Korengal outpost and where the war ends, the Taliban begins.”

Culled from 150 hours of footage taken during ten separate visits to the war zone over a year, “Restrepo” evolved out of Hetherington and Junger’s day jobs as journalists on assignment for Vanity Fair. Far away from the Public Information Department for the Army, the duo were able to bring along a battered video camera and just started shooting.

06262010_Restrepo3.jpgWhile at first they envisioned the resulting footage at first some kind of TV doc, they realized quickly the potential for something for the big screen. Hetherington was surprised by the amount of freedom he had, acknowledging that this is “the most honest piece of reporting” that he’s done, while Junger believes the film clears up many misconceptions about what soldiers do.

“We were continually creating our concept of the movie as a reflection of the experience we were having,” said Junger. “Everyone’s seen Hollywood war movies, so there are all these visual or storyline clichés that are floating around out there and in the edit room, I think once in a while, we’d construct one of those and it felt false. It was not the reality out there, it was another reality — it was a myth created by Hollywood.”

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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.