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Oliver Stone Heads “South of the Border”

Oliver Stone Heads “South of the Border” (photo)

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Before American audiences can get their greedy eyes on Oliver Stone’s long-anticipated sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” this fall, the three-time Oscar winner will release an even more politically minded film, if you don’t mind Hugo Chávez standing in for Shia LaBeouf. As genial as it is revealing, “South of the Border” sees Stone on a road trip in the titular direction, conducting humanizing interviews with presidents who — as is the refuting point of Stone’s doc — have been unfairly maligned by the American government and media.

Stone gets up close and personal with the aforementioned Venezuelan leader, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Brazil’s Lula da Silva, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner (and her husband, ex-President Nėstor Kirchner) and, most predictably from the director of “Comandante” and “Looking for Fidel,” Cuban top dog Raúl Castro.

Stone mentioned to me that the film was partly shot by legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (“Chávez loved him, they got along beautifully”), just one more colorful anecdote in a wide range of topics: his history with Central and South America, the illegal substance he smuggled back home, Michael Moore, and his reaction to my criticism about his new “Wall Street.”

Between “Salvador,” “Comandante” and “Looking for Fidel,” what keeps drawing you back to Central and South America?

It’s not that I have a particular attachment. I’ve done three or four films about Asia, my mother’s European, and [there are] my Native American films. But I do find myself bouncing back to it, it’s true. The “Salvador” experience opened my eyes to the abuse of the truth down there because I’d been in Vietnam and thought that was behind us. I went down in the mid-’80s and saw American soldiers back at it again, ready to invade Nicaragua.

06222010_OliverStoneSouthoftheBorder.jpgThe “Salvador” story was horrible [with the] death squads, some of them trained by American soldiers, who were killing people in the most brutal ways. There was a Guatemala genocide going on in 1982, unbelievable stories all over that region, and they got away with it. Reagan would’ve gone with war with Nicaragua, but the Oliver North episode derailed that.

That woke me up, and then I kept going. Years later, I interviewed Castro twice, and felt he’s getting a bum rap. It continues with Chávez, and frankly, they’ve done the same thing with Morales, Correa and Kirchner. It seems like the United States is always interested in delaying progress, reform and democracy in these countries, and for almost 200 years, supported dictators, oligarchs and corporations that own the countries. [laughs] This is the first time in history that I know of where six countries in South America have united with democratically elected leaders and are saying, “Look, we want to control our resources. We want the United States out. Stop trying to own us. We want to provide the profits to the people, not to the corporations.”

They’re having a hell of a fight because the United States keeps attacking them individually. They tried to pick off Chávez and Kirchner, and they go after them again and again. Never in the media have I seen one mention that they all like each other and they’re united. That’s what this film, in its modest little way, tries to do. Chávez said to me, “Don’t believe me. Go on, talk to my neighbors.” And I did.

06222010_OliverStoneEvoSouthoftheBorder.jpgIn your early interactions with Hugo Chávez, what was it about him that made you see a different man than the one portrayed in the U.S. media?

You know, he is what he is. He’s gruff, he’s bluff, he puts his foot in his mouth sometimes, and he doesn’t have the style that we’re used to in the West for our leaders, the slick Tony Blair types who know how to talk. [laughs] He’s a bear, no question. But I like the guy because he means and does what he says. He operates for the people. The guy is not getting rich, he’s living very austerely, and he busted his old friends who became corrupt. He’s delivered the goods, said he would give the oil profits back to the people, and no one I know has kept his word like he has. The country boomed for six or seven years. It’s going through some problems now with the recession, but nothing major compared to what the United States and Europe are going through.

I like how the film disarms our trained perceptions of these leaders through casual activities. Chávez rides a bicycle in his grandmother’s backyard, and Morales kicks around a soccer ball with you.

Exactly, it breaks the ice. I’m not going there as a prosecuting attorney like a lot of journalists who go after them. I’m there as a filmmaker, trying to say, “Hey, give me some face time. Let people see what you’re like.” Of course, with Evo Morales, who is an Indian, it’s hard to get a reaction. He’s got a stoic face. [laughs] He helped me through my altitude sickness there. I was really sick.

06222010_OliverStoneSouthoftheBorder2.jpgFor that ailment, you appear onscreen chewing coca leaves. Is that high much different than having caffeine?

No, it’s a mild, mild stimulus. You’re at 12,000 feet, so you’re nauseous and it’s really hard to breathe. This opens the cells, you get better oxygen and you feel more relaxed. I was nauseous, and then I ended up playing soccer, that was sort of the point. They’ve been doing it for centuries down there. It’s a normal thing to do. By the way, I brought coca leaves back. It’s illegal in this country to have a coca leaf, but put it in a cup of tea and it’s better for your health than coffee. But of course, there’s more money for us in coffee as well as tobacco, so we’d rather do that for stimulation.

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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.