DID YOU READ

Love Must Have a Eulogy: “Blue Valentine,” Reviewed

Love Must Have a Eulogy: “Blue Valentine,” Reviewed (photo)

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This review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance is best known as the home of the American indie narrative, the primordial festival ooze from which first emerged the likes of “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” and “Clerks” and “The Blair Witch Project.” And while the film landscape has changed, that’s still the reason most attendees make the slog to an expensive snow-covered Utah ski town every year to sit in synagogues and racquet clubs and high school auditoriums that have been temporarily transformed into movie theaters and wait for that flash of talent, of quality, of something new. Not to oversell it, but Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” is as good as the festival got on that front this year, a chronicle of the beginning and the end of a relationship that’s so sharp, smart and explosively emotionally honest it flattens everything else in its path.

Cianfrance has the good fortune and good taste to have as his stars pretty much the two best young actors working today (honestly, who tops them?), Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. They’re Dean and Cindy — he paints houses, she’s a nurse, they’re married, with a daughter and a house in Pennsylvania and a car and a tangible history together that’s begun to bow them down. In the present, we spend two days in their company, as they lose their dog, drop their daughter off at her grandfather’s for the night and head up to a cheesy themed hotel for some too-late alone time. And in the past, which we flicker back to in vivid bursts of 16mm (the present is shot in digital), they’re younger and happier and meet and fall in messy, giddy love.

“Blue Valentine” fits nicely into A.O Scott’s American neo-neo realism — Dean and Cindy loom large because their normalcy is so assiduously realized, all of their smallest details and how those details curl and become brittle over time. Dean is a romantic, better with the big gestures, which is what wins him Cindy’s heart when he’s a mover who’s fallen in love at first sight and she’s a college student dreaming of med school but faced with a mountain-sized life decision. Cindy’s the smart one, poised, for a while, to get past the working class grind that shaped the lives of the people with which she grew up.

01312010_bluevalentine2.jpgTo watch how the years work on these two, how worn down they start to look, how closed off, is something close to physically taxing. “Blue Valentine” may be simultaneously one of the most and least romantic movies I’ve ever seen. It’s an ode to the transcendence that romance lends the prosaic world — Cindy tap dances at the doorway of a closed storefront while Dean plays her a song on the ukulele (confessing to only being able to sing if he can do it in a goofy voice), both utterly enchanted with each other. And it’s about how those prosaic things can accrue, the small complaints (you have to drink a beer at 8am just to be able to go to your job, she says, and he replies that it’s a luxury that he has a job where he can drink a beer at 8am), until one day you turn around and you’re just not in love anymore.

Out of sequence anti-romances have become their own sort of Sundance subgenre — last year saw crowd favorite “(500) Days of Summer” and the less successful “Peter and Vandy.” But there’s an incontestable epic quality to “Blue Valentine” that sets it apart, something helped by the talents of its leads, certainly, but also by its desire to capture the grandness in these ordinary lives. That we should all see such highs and lows.

“Blue Valentine” opens in limited release on December 29th.

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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.