DID YOU READ

“Splice” and “Double Take”: A contemporary Frankenstein and an editorial one

“Splice” and “Double Take”: A contemporary Frankenstein and an editorial one (photo)

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You can tell right off the bat that “Splice”‘s genetic engineer couple Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) are a poor fit for button-down corporate science, Canadian horror movie style. No cool Cronenbergian remove for these two! They live together in a warehouse loft, drive a vintage Gremlin, wear t-shirts with iconoclastic slogans printed on them, and urge each other on to greatness with reminders like “Wired doesn’t interview losers.”

After their ongoing experiments to create new hybrid animal life (the first of which appears to be the successful union of a guinea pig and a gigantic human penis) reach fruition, Elsa and Clive (surely named after Elsa Lanchester and Colin Clive, the actors who played the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein” and the doctor in the original 1931 film) prepare to do some DNA knitting further up the food chain.

Their corporate sponsors, however, are having none of it. The research and development stage of their work is on pause, the pair are informed, until the company makes back some of what they’ve spent at the product stage. Making the most of an opportunity to stick it to the Man and to the Man Upstairs, the two scientists splice human DNA to a cocktail of different animals’ DNA on the sly, impregnate a human egg with the result and wait to see what happens. They don’t wait long.

06022010_splice5.jpgAfter a bloody and very messy birth, Elsa and Clive find themselves the incredulous de facto parents of a two-legged, mostly digital creature that in infancy bears more than a passing resemblance to the cartoon drawing of Foot Foot from the cover of the Shaggs’ “Philosophy of the World.” Before long, the creature gains the name Dren, along with arms, fingers and a lithe body and birdlike face primarily contributed by actress Delphine Chanéac.

While nobody can quite figure out what Dren is, exactly, it turns out that Elsa, Clive and their romantic and professional partnership aren’t what they initially seemed, either. Both use Dren’s cloistered early development in and around Elsa’s derelict childhood home as a run-through for the more traditional parenthood we’re told Clive wants and Elsa fears. But the lost sleep, inattention to their jobs and absence of intimacy between the two that most new parents endure soon pale in comparison to the trials, temptations and confessions they face as Dren begins to spread her wings literally and metaphorically.

Director Vincenzo Natali (best know for 1997’s cult favorite “Cube”) and his co-writers struggle to keep to the storytelling high road as much as latter day horror conventions permit by doling out what feels like two movies’ worth of backstory whys and wherefores driving the couple to the egregious lapses in scientific ethics, marital trust and common sense that trip up their discovery and relationship.

06022010_splice4.jpgPortraying the member of the couple with the extra helping of issues, Sarah Polley struggles mightily to keep a realistic foothold on her character even while interpreting “Grey’s Anatomy”-grade dialogue like “I don’t even know who you are anymore!”, “Was this ever even about science?” and “I just wish things could go back the way they were.”

But the mish-mash of reasons and conflicts that drive Doctor Mom, Doctor Dad and baby Dren to a particularly gruesome sequence of late inning story events involving bondage, surgical maiming, semi-incest, rape and worse seem like mis-matched layers of complications peeled from different narrative onions.

While Dren’s CGI augmented manifestations are sometimes impressive to watch — particularly in a bizarre dance sequence the creature shares with Clive — and Chanéac attacks her on-set responsibility for creating artificial life with personality and energy to spare, Dren’s high cheek bones, big-eyed gaze, and smiling rictus evoke a kind of anti-Amelie more than something wholly original or entirely fascinating.

06022010_splice7.jpgThe only passport that would guarantee an audience safe passage through the film’s brightly lit and maddeningly talky middle third would be for us on our side of the screen to have the same fascination with Dren that her onscreen parents do, and yet that allure, repulsive or otherwise, just isn’t there.

Ultimately, what sinks “Splice” is a complete absence of the playfully mordant myth-making that distinguishes executive producer Guillermo del Toro’s own films. Yes the idea of both scientific advancement and couplehood falling prey to the same human foibles is an interesting one. But does it have to be so single-mindedly joyless ?

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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.