“Inception,” and how to market a film while maintaining a sense of mystery.

“Inception,” and how to market a film while maintaining a sense of mystery. (photo)

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Not since Peter Jackson was fresh off “Lord of the Rings” has a filmmaker had as much leverage to do whatever he likes as Christopher Nolan has gotten for “Inception.” The one oasis of hope in an otherwise predictable-looking summer, “Inception” naturally raises a niggling doubt. What if Nolan takes all that money and freedom and delivers his very own “Southland Tales”?

For now, in the absence of much concrete information, what we have is a meta-story about the challenges of marketing a blockbuster whose hooks are a) intelligence and b) strictly not to be revealed for the time being. Whatever’s going on in the film, there will be surprises, probably in the third act.

Brent Lang at The Wrap notes that there are some problems with this marketing tactic. For one, by concealing the premise from audiences that have proven time and again they want to know exactly what they’re getting going in, the potential for alienation is massive. (Per the girls at my subway stop who spent last summer starting down a poster for “Funny People” and saying “I don’t know what that movies’s about” in a contemptuous voice, not even Adam Sandler can save you if the premise and tone are unclear.)

06152010_matrix.jpgAnother issue, says Lang, is the potentially cerebral nature of the goings-on. As he puts it, “The ‘Matrix’ trilogy may have managed to ride allusions to French theorist Jean Baudrillard to a $1.5 billion worldwide box office gross, but other high-concept movies such as ‘Artificial Intelligence: AI’ and ‘Public Enemies’ have found the summer season less hospitable.” So you need to give audiences something so that they won’t think they’re going into an incoherent intellectual treatise. (Though really, when was the last time that happened?)

Personally, I’m not too worried. While Lang cites bloggers who insist that mainstream audiences need more information than trailers featuring “Leo and crumbling buildings” and that the marketing is “infuriatingly vague,” those trailers are perfectly adequate insofar as they tell you the following two things: “Inception” is a movie featuring some very expensive special effects, and also some potentially mind-blowing twists. A formula that, for what it’s worth, worked quite nicely for “The Matrix”:

That trailer? It tells you about as much (or as little) as we’re getting about “Inception” how. It implies there’s a nebulous “they” who are “watching” and that there’s a revolt on the way — but of goo-ridden bodies, robot masters, mind-control and all the rest there’s nary a hint, just a barrage of disorienting, intriguing images, successfully concealing the fact that the big twist is in the first act. The immediate impact of that twist energized audiences as much as any slow-mo gunfights.

“Public Enemies” and “Funny People” may be tougher cerebral sells (relatively speaking), but they’re also on the dowdier side. When you combine a blockbuster director and blockbuster effects, you get a pass. When you sell a pre-valued property it’s the opposite: people now want to know exactly effect they’ll be getting, hence e.g. the dominance of the Kraken in “Clash of the Titans” trailers. This is something different: you’re selling the promise of mystery from one of the most trusted directors working today:

[Photos: “Inception,” Warner Bros., 2010; “The Matrix,” Warner Bros., 1999]


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.