DID YOU READ

A lament for Adam Sandler.

A lament for Adam Sandler. (photo)

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Out of all the people rolling in and out of “Saturday Night Live” in the ’90s, it wasn’t immediately obvious that Adam Sandler would be the break-out of the bunch. In an infamous 1995 profile of the show in New York, Sandler didn’t come off noticeably worse than the other cast members, but he was portrayed as lazy, just waiting for the writing meetings to be over so that he could get his drink on. Since then, though, he’s displayed nothing if not a Murdoch-ian business acumen for gambiting low stakes against high returns.

Critics of his SNL time — where, if nothing else, he gave the world Opera Man — would complain that he didn’t have much range, but that was nothing compared to the idiot’s delight streak (“Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore” and the rest), in which Sandler rode his success to unexpected heights.

Sandler’s comic persona is weirder and more spikily unlikeable than his frequently flat delivery would suggest. Punctuated by sudden bursts of uncontrollable anger, his regressive approach to adult life suggests not just childishness but something more sinister, a rage which conceals itself under puckishness. He beats the crap out of those who mess with the weak and rages against the machine, traits P.T. Anderson would pick up on and amplify in “Punch Drunk Love.”

Sandler seemed suddenly addicted to the idea that he, too, could go one for him and one for them: two years later he gave an excellent straight performance in “Spanglish” (though no one seemed to notice, being too busy hating the movie), went “full retard” for “Reign O’er Me” (ditto, though substitute “indifference” for “hate”) and then deconstructed his entire persona with “Funny People.”

06252010_spanglish.jpgNo one can blame the man, then, for having taken four leaps for the brass ring and failed financially every time. His brand has, otherwise, proven surprisingly durable: Fandango sent out a release today saying that advance sales for “Grown Ups” (aka, “Anything But What This Title Normally Means”) are twice those of “Knight & Day.” Evidently, a consistently childish persona — the career equivalent of playing Robin Williams’ “Jack” every time for 15 years straight — wears a little bit better than the cool patina.

But it’s regrettable — out of the five grown-ups here, Sandler has the most range and potential. No one expects greatness from Kevin James or thespianism from Chris Rock; as for Rob Schneider, he’s to be congratulated on still having a career. (The unmatchably snide David Spade will always have a place in my heart, though why anyone ever thought he could be a one-man comic star is beyond me.)

Sandler’s career is littered with what-ifs, like: what if it was him and not Jamie Foxx in “Collateral”? (Answer: Sandler might’ve actually had a hit dramatic role.) Instead, it’s 15 years later and it’s 1995 all over again. Forget “MacGruber”: “Grown Ups” is the real SNL movie of the year. So it goes.

[Photos: “Saturday Night Live,” NBC, 1975-present; “Spanglish,” Columbia, 2004]

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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.