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The Ten Best Straight-to-DVD Releases of 2010

The Ten Best Straight-to-DVD Releases of 2010 (photo)

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For the fifth year running, we tally up the Other Year’s Best — the films that made it to DVD (or onto U.S. home video in any format) but not to theatrical, which generally meant they posed too much of a marketing challenge. As in, the films were either too odd, too original, too archival, too subtle, too something. DVDs still stand as our go-to B-movie-distribution stream of choice, although as I’ve barked every year, video debuts are still not eligible for any year-end toasts or trophies. Except ours.

10. “Parking” (Chung Mong-hong, Taiwan) At first blush a Taiwanese riff on “After Hours,” this measured little odyssey is more realistic, evoking those all-night odysseys we’ve all had, when time evaporates and tiny logistical dilemmas drive us insane and eventually it’s morning and something about our lives is different. Chung doesn’t spring for laughs when you think he will — he holds back, shoots his urban tapestry as if he were Wong Kar-wai and Ridley Scott’s bastard son, and luxuriates in the secretive weirdness. Asian demigod Chen Chang stars as a husband in a shaky marriage who stops to buy a cake for his wife, and returns to his car to find it blocked by double-parking, sending him across the paths of two crisscrossing gangster herds, a beleaguered Chinese hooker, a one-handed barber with a secret past, an executed murderer’s family, a mishandled fish head, and so on. (The original review.) (Evokative Films)

9. “How to Live in the German Federal Republic” (Haroun Farocki, Germany) A scrapbook toss-off by one of Europe’s most adventurous documentarians, this assemblage stares dead-eyed at more than 30 real-life scenarios, all shot before reunification, in which West Germans are being trained for living, engaging in classroom reenactments of everything from diapering babies to handling job interviews, launching shoulder rockets, having domestic fights, setting dinner tables, even stripping in nightclubs. Life, here, is not even a movie but an endless preparation for one; it’s a doc, but it’s 100% pretend. (The original review.) (Facets)

12082010_skeletons1.jpg8. “Skeletons” (Nick Whitfield, Great Britain) This deadpan metaphorical farce posits two shabby, suited contractors in black suits making house calls to literally extract poisonous secrets out of people’s closets. Of course they cross their profession’s line and must be exorcised themselves, but the textures are funny and mysterious, and the symbology gets richer the deeper you go. (Indiepix)

7. “Yesterday Girl” (Alexander Kluge, West Germany) Kluge, a New German Cinema pioneer all but unknown here, grabbed the New Wave mantle for his homeland with this intimate, Godardian 1966 critique, in which a disaffected, rebellious girl from East Germany confronts the Darwinian recalcitrance of modern Capitalism in Berlin, beginning with a prison stint for a petty crime. Cut like a pile of mirror shards, and beguilingly generational. (Facets)

6. “Daytime Drinking” (Noh Young-seok, South Korea) A peripatetic generation-Z comedy that’s as eventless, but as seductive and wistful, as a real afternoon boozing spree, following a lovelorn dope as he drunkenly buses to a snowy vacation town expecting to meet his buddies, but arrives alone, and can’t quite leave. Soju-soaked and shruggingly comic, Noh’s movie isn’t high concept, but rather Jarmuschian, ambling along organically, as if it happened on its own, like a mushroom patch or blast of sunlight on a cloudy day. (The original review.) (Evokative Films)

5. “Mary & Max” (Adam Elliot, Australia) A claymation true story as lachrymose and despairing as it is texturally outrageous, this uneasy saga is not for kids, pivoting on child neglect and alcoholism and New Globalism and Asperger’s and loneliness and death. Framed by understated, ironic narration (read by Barry Humphries) that complements Elliott’s handmade visuals like sugar in very black coffee, the movie chronicles the happenstance pen-pal relationship between an abused Australian girl and an obese, middle-aged New York man with debilitating Asperger’s, which does not end well. Elliot’s visual/sculptural invention is fascinating, and the story’s beautifully sad. This loitered around in festivals and in short runs so long it may seem like it was released, but it wasn’t. (The original review.) (MPI)

4. “Sing a Song of Sex” (Nagisa Oshima, Japan) So much happen in the ’60s we never saw – thanks to Criterion, three rare ’60s bonfires by the Japanese New Wave’s most recalcitrant pain in the ass, Nagisa Oshima, qualify as 2010 debuts. Released in 1967, this discontented narrative essay (the actual title is “A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs”) is framed around four students who chase women after their exams, imagine compounded rape scenarios, wonder why they’re not bummed about the death of a professor, and generally stand in for the soulless, aimless generation Oshima witnessed caring little for adult society but barely even caring about the carnage of Vietnam. Absolutely of a piece with “If…,” “La Chinoise” and Bertolucci’s “Before the Revolution,” and entirely improvised, the film is one of the late ’60s key documents, a generational holler with double-bladed edges. Same goes for Oshima’s “Japanese Summer: Double Suicide,” another 1967 assault that is almost pure chaos, pointless violence and anarchic behavior, taking the fragmented wager of late-decade Godard and tripling the bet. Closer to Japanese Makavejev, absolutely logic-free, and completely adorable. (The original review.) (Criterion)

12082010_threedrunkards.jpg3. “Three Resurrected Drunkards” (Nagisa Oshima, Japan) The last “new” Oshima, this absurdist goof lacerates Japanese bigotry, beginning with the three titular idiots, gamboling Monkees-style, going swimming only to have a mysterious hand pop out of the sand and replace their clothes with immigrant-Korean duds. From there, they are persecuted and pursued, captured, shipped out to Vietnam and back, constantly changing clothes in order to better conform but never quite succeeding. Then, after a documentary fissure where the characters interview people on the street (who all say they’re Korean), the entire film begins again but gradually deviates from the first half, as the three schmucks cease resisting being defined one way or another ethnically but instead embrace however they’re perceived. Only Oshima. (The original review.) (Criterion)

2. “The Last Stage” (Wanda Jakubowska, Poland) Where had this history-changer been hiding? Released in 1948, it’s a Polish film about life in Auschwitz, made less than three years after liberation of the camp, shot on location in Auschwitz itself, using real liberated prisoners as extras, filmed by a woman (female Polish directors in the ’40s?) who had been imprisoned in Auschwitz just three years earlier. However professionally glossy (?!), Jakubowska has her shaky hands on what she seemed to already know was the most loaded real location of the 20th century: the train tracks, the front gate, the Nazis guards lined up against the sky as the transports roll in, the inmate crowds so huge (thousands, at least) that Jakubowska could have only recruited extras from displaced person camps in Poland. If any forgotten movie deserves to enter the broader discourse about contemporary history, this is it. (The original review.) (Facets)

1. “Shirin” (Abba Kiarostami, Iran) The Iranian master’s most innovative, and taxing, anti-movie, in which he adapts a classic Persian legend full of romance and swordfights but only as an off-screen rapture enjoyed by dozens and dozens of women in the audience, watching the film that isn’t there. (They’re not even listening — typically for him, AK concocted the hot-blooded soundtrack later.) Sounds simple, but self-reflexivity gets refluxed and refracted right back at ya. (Cinema Guild)

Runners-up: “Searchers 2.0” (Alex Cox, U.S., 2007); “Salto” (Tadeusz Konwicki, Poland, 1965); “Divided Heaven” (Konrad Wolf, East Germany, 1964); “Destricted” (Marina Abramovic, Larry Clark, Matthew Barney, Gaspar Noé, et al., U.S./Great Britain, 2006); “The Disappeared” (Johnny Kevorkian, Great Britain, 2008); “Don’t Look Back” (Marina de Van, France, 2009); “Getting Home” (Zhang Yang, China, 2007); “Towards Zero” (Pascal Thomas, France, 2007); “Storm” (Hans-Christian Schmid, Germany, 2009); “Possible Lives” (Sandra Gugliotta, Argentina, 2007); “Ex-Drummer” (Koen Mortier, Belgium, 2007).

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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