DID YOU READ

Toronto 2010: “Windfall,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Windfall,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

There’s little doubt Ondi Timoner’s “Cool It” will grab most of the headlines at Toronto as the documentary to question the validity of global warming, but that might work in the favor of “Windfall,” a film that’s equally skeptical, yet wouldn’t benefit from high expectations.

Part of the charm of the debut doc from Laura Israel, an editor for the likes of Ed Lachman and Robert Frank in recent years, is the fact that it sneaks up on you, nearly as unassuming in its start as the farming town of Meredith, NY where the closest thing to conflict is the theft of a sign shaped like a cow by some local teens.

Save for Israel and cinematography Brian Jackson’s vivid depiction of Meredith’s landscape and the twang of electric guitars that serve as its score, the film’s opening promises sped-up shots of nature and talking heads optimistically musing about the potential of wind energy in their community. Yet it isn’t before long that Israel reveals that those wind turbines that sprouted up so inauspiciously throughout Meredith are churning far more debate in the town than actual wind.

Pitchforks aren’t drawn, but they might as well be as this presumably liberal enclave descends into heated disagreement over the towering 400-ft. windmills that are invading Meredith’s acreage, a byproduct of the farms’ desperation for cash and the opportunism of alternative energy companies to sign them up to agreements they couldn’t possibly understand the implications of since it’s still a developing technology. As a result, the residents of Meredith who didn’t sign up to have the windmills on their land are treated to the same constant grinding noise and vertigo-inducing shadows as those that did.

Some may argue the film is a bit one-sided since Israel never moves outside of Delaware County to find the opinion of experts who could play devil’s advocate, at least on camera, and putting in their place industrial videos that suggest the windmills are harmless. In fact, the only time Israel leaves Meredith is to interview folks in nearby Bovina and Andes who successfully fended off the advances of energy companies. (Not surprisingly, those communities also happen to be financially more secure.)

However, Israel’s limited scope is perhaps her ultimate show of confidence in her skills as a filmmaker. Considering that there are only so many ways one can shoot the swaying grass of Meredith or contentious town meetings, Israel’s Final Cut Pro abilities shine best as she zips and zags through maps, pictures, quilts and other ephemera that gives a real flavor for the town culturally and passes along information about the windmills in a way that seems as informal as the casual chitchat between neighbors.

Surely, this approach was inspired by the residents of Meredith, a well-educated bunch that has activism forced upon them rather than seek it out, who offer Israel a wide array of intriguing storylines. There’s Ron Bailey, a former (and final) director of photography at Life magazine, who is inspired to run for a town council seat after his frustration over the windmills lead he and his wife to think about abandoning their home of nearly 40 years. Likewise, one of “Windfall”‘s most pleasurable moments arrives when town supervisor Keitha Capouya mentions as an aside that she used to work for an encyclopedia company, which allows her to separate fact from fiction fairly quickly where the energy companies are concerned.

Of course, blind faith is what got Meredith in their predicament, so it’s equally foolish not to question what Israel is presenting, but her case is so well-built from the socioeconomic underpinnings that led farms to pursue alternative profit streams to the devastating impact on families and neighbors something as simple as a ill-placed windmill can have on a community that it’s hard to drive past those hills lined with turbines again without wondering about who is being affected by it.

“Windfall” does not currently have U.S. distribution.

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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.