DID YOU READ

“The White Ribbon” and “Divided Heaven” on DVD

“The White Ribbon” and “Divided Heaven” on DVD (photo)

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Approaching 70 years of age, Michael Haneke is one of the best we’ve got, a filmmaker you wait for to save any given year in the last decade from banality, sloppiness and forgettability. His run since the turn of the century (excluding, I think, the unnecessary 2007 American remake of the nastily high-handed “Funny Games”) has few rivals, and with luck, he’ll be blessed with a Ridley Scott-like septuagenarian workaholism and keep one-upping himself for years to come.

Each Haneke film is a shock to the system — “Cache” (2005) remains a thunderbolt for the ages, while it seems too few viewers have come to terms with “Time of the Wolf” (2003) — and “The White Ribbon” (2009) delivered another unforeseeable jolt, a brooding, Bergman-esque portrait of historical tragedy in which something terrible is happening and we’re never quite sure what.

06292010_WhiteRibbon2.jpgBut of course, we’re pretty sure it’s the children — Haneke’s original subtitle for the German version is “A German Children’s Story,” and while the homicidal disasters that befall the tiny, pre-WWI Mitteleuropean village could be anyone’s doing, the blond, oppressed herd of Protestant children are the most likely suspects (to us) and the most actively suspicious.

The mystery is no mystery — the movie has a “Village of the Damned” menace lurking in its fastidious black and white compositions, just as it lurks beneath the colorless rectitude of the feudal town’s Calvinist fathers.

But the “truth” of what’s going on stays permanently buried. Rather, as with all Haneke, the emphasis is on cause and effect, how catastrophe and evil only sprout in fields properly harrowed by human folly, and how the trauma, when it comes, rewards the powerful and complacent with their worst nightmares. It’s a gripping, secretive film, and the fact that the filmmaker keeps the “plot” unresolved is perfectly in keeping with his moral position.

06292010_thewhiteribbon89.jpgHaneke is a terrorism scholar, a comeuppance expert, and the flowchart for his stories could explain the birth of Al Qaeda as something inevitable and destined and even deserved. You heap on self-serving abuse and privation, and the chickens will come home to roost.

In “The White Ribbon,” few prime-mover venalities are left out for the men, particular the village pastor (who hogties his son rather than have him masturbate at night) and the widowed doctor, who uses his 14-year-old daughter for sex. Parenting was not early-century Protestant Germany’s strong suit, it seems, and so the children fight back, off-screen and with implacably innocent faces, like the unseen hand of an entirely different God.

Extreme Protestantism is the film’s main whipping boy, and it’s in these extra undergarment layers where I find myself uncertain of Haneke’s mission. You cannot torch monotheism too thoroughly for me, generally speaking, but “The White Ribbon” can’t merely be about the crazy religious repression of yesteryear. What is the point of it?

06292010_WhiteRibbon3.jpgThe movie’s elusive metaphoric idea is made plain by a single line of narration — years after the events depicted, the narrator suggests that they “may cast a new light on some of the goings-on in this country.” We reflexively take this as the rise of National Socialism, of course.

But how seriously are we supposed to take that equation, proto-Calvinist abuse + time = the Holocaust? Do these placid but vengeful children grow up to be Gestapo? Does Haneke think the Christian dread of sexuality was responsible for WWII? Or is it just a Germanic thing, and I wouldn’t understand?

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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.