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Edward Norton’s Hulking absence will be felt in “The Avengers.”

Edward Norton’s Hulking absence will be felt in “The Avengers.” (photo)

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It doesn’t exactly come as a shock that Edward Norton won’t be Hulking out in “The Avengers,” given his famous disagreements with Marvel over the final cut of 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” (in which he backed the film’s director), due to which he declined to do press for the film. If there was any surprise at all, it was that Norton apparently was open to returning to the role.

Unfortunately, Marvel’s move to replace Norton, which was exhaustively reported by HitFix‘s Drew McWeeny over the weekend, further cements his reputation as a difficult collaborator rather than the brilliant actor who lit up screens in “Fight Club” and “The 25th Hour.” And that is a shame.

Perhaps emboldened by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s recent incendiary send-off letter to Miami-bound LeBron James, Marvel’s Kevin Feige broke free of the usual platitudes when dismissing Norton in his bridge-burning statement: “Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”

The strange thing is I can’t think of too many actors more creative or collaborative than Norton, who displayed such skills when he was brought on board “The Incredible Hulk” not only to star, but rewrite the script and “function as an uncredited producer,” according to an Entertainment Weekly report at the time.

07122010_EdwardNortonKingdomofHeaven.jpgNo disrespect to Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and all of the talented ensemble who will be a part of Joss Whedon’s superhero extravaganza in 2012, but none of them have been asked to handle the same workload, though Downey and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau improv-ed their way to a hit. And if you’ll notice, Marvel’s films haven’t seemed as fresh since that success.

But what’s really troubling is Norton once again being tarred as some power-driven egotist when clearly that’s not who he is. Not the guy who rewrote “Frida” for then-girlfriend Salma Hayek for no money or credit when the film went over budget or sweating out two weeks in Morocco, unrecognizable under a mask just so he could work with Ridley Scott on “Kingdom of Heaven.”

I wouldn’t claim to know him well after spending a few minutes with him at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, but what I did gather from how willing he was to promote “Leaves of Grass” was his desire to be the consummate team player — someone who was involved in every aspect of the creative process because he genuinely cared about its outcome and supported his fellow cast and crew.

I regretted using some of my time with him to ask about his reputation since Norton’s unique kind of passion and intelligence is wasted on defending himself, but he nonetheless took the time to explain in the same sensible, reasoned, meticulous manner I imagine he discusses most matters, whether he’s being interviewed or not.

03122010_leavesofgrass.jpgNorton wasn’t being defensive, but direct when he said, “I don’t think people outside the process really genuinely have very much understanding of the process,” before going on to say:

The difference is I think the people who actually understand the process and are confident in their own contributions to it ultimately are the ones who walk out of that and say that’s what it takes to make it good. And these people went through it with me, so now we’re a team. The ones I find who are the most insecure and generally have the least, what I would call real rigor or thought are the ones who get the most defensive about that.

While Norton was only speaking generally, he was referring to a type of commitment that Marvel simply isn’t capable of, if you are to judge them by their actions here, which is ironic considering all that has gone into making a project as ambitious as “The Avengers” into a reality.

If Marvel wants to recast the Hulk, fine — it’s been done before and it’s their film, but at least do it for the right reasons. Fans of Norton can take solace in the fact that maybe we can finally get his adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” Marvel can get Joaquin Phoenix to play Bruce Banner, and everyone will get what they deserve. All I know for sure is Norton himself deserves better.

[Photos: “The Incredible Hulk,” Universal/Marvel, 2008; “Kingdom of Heaven,” 20th Century Fox, 2005]

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.