This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


“Terribly Happy” and “Chicago” on DVD

“Terribly Happy” and “Chicago” on DVD (photo)

Posted by on

A laconic, creepy, Danish-Coen-brothers cascade of pure trouble, Henrik Ruben Genz’s “Terribly Happy” is a terrific example of a film traveling well-worn style and content paths and yet somehow never striking us as clichéd or even tired. Helplessly, critics bellyache about movies that repeat experiences they’ve had many times before, whereas the average moviegoer has substantially fewer accumulated movie hours and are less prone to noticing or caring if a film treads on well-scorched ground.

Such is the downside of decent criticism; we need knowledgeable reviewing (not, we should note, consumer bulletins from pop music writers or gore-loving fanboy diaries or Anthony Lane jokes), but pro reviewers’ movie lives are simply not the same as their readers’ — they are relentless and habitual rather than whimsical and recreational, and the difference matters.

Even so, as with Genz’s moody piece of mayhem, critics who retch at formula exhaustion and too-easy manipulations in some genres can enjoy the same general familiarities in others — it’s one of the simple ways subjectivity can dig a canyon between the writer and his/her inattentive audience. There’s no question that “Terribly Happy” sets us up in ways we know as well as we know Frances McDormand’s smile lines, but the subgenre the Coens have made their own — Anxious Rube Goldberg Meta-Comedy – is so rich with dread and discomfiture and narrative secrets that we may never tire of it.

07132010_TerriblyHappy2.jpgSome genres are simply better than others, and certainly some last longer in the sun. Conventional romance schmaltz and profane bromances (have you seen an Apatow movie twice?) curdle with time, but the ironic Dominoes of Disaster movie, like noir itself, may never grow old no matter how many times you sign up.

Genz’s hero is paradigmatic: Hansen (Jakob Cedergren) is a Copenhagen cop reassigned (for reasons he tries to keep secret) to what might be the most inbred, insular, soul-rotten boondock town in Scandinavia. It’s little more than a weathered, gray-sky intersection with straight-arrow roads to nowhere heading in four directions. Just doing the simplest cop jobs is a matter complicated by fear, unwritten laws and suspicion.

Following up a juvenile shoplifting incident (where the offending kid is locked in a dark closet by the shopkeeper), Hansen discovers a beating — and no official police record-keeping — is what the locals prefer. No one can say exactly what happened to the previous town marshal. Of course, a young blond wife comes on to the handsome outsider everyone else treats with open derision, her husband is a locally notorious near-homicidal bully (Kim Bodnia, the Danish Tom Sizemore, familiar from Nicholas Winding Refn’s first “Pusher” film), the town doctor (relied upon for autopsy reports and such) is a corrupt junkie, the bog on the outskirts of town is a repository of who knows how many guilty secrets, and so on.

07132010_TerriblyHappy3.jpgEvery day is a trial of outsider queasiness and hovering danger for Hansen, particularly as he insists on actually doing his job. Which entangles him with the unstable blonde (the stories of domestic violence are conflicted), and, in classic noir form, nets him an ocean of trouble that he attempts to cover up, essentially becoming exactly like the townspeople, a blood-handed hollow man hiding his dirty secrets from the world. By the time the shots ring out in earnest, Hansen has no moral ground left to stand on, and the town closes in for real.

Shot with a damp palette that might’ve given the Danish Tourist Bureau a rash, “Terribly Happy” creates a convincing but farcical little universe — the town plays like a muddy, moonshine-sickened version of the burg in “Local Hero,” complete with whimsical traffic hazards and never-explicated mystery relationships.

The noir stakes are far higher, of course — we never truly find out the true extent of iniquity buried in that bog. But true to its Coen DNA, the clockwork turning of the plot nudges us to laugh at things that aren’t funny, except they are, because we’re not that hapless schmuck doing precisely the thing he shouldn’t do in the exactly the wrong town.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

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

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

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…


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.


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 ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

Posted by on
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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.