DID YOU READ

There’s No Shame In Being One of the Lowest Grossing Wide Releases of 2010

There’s No Shame In Being One of the Lowest Grossing Wide Releases of 2010 (photo)

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Over at Cinematical, Eric D. Snider has compiled a list of the lowest grossing wide releases of 2010. To be eligible, a film had to play on at least one thousand screens nationwide and, y’know, not make much money. The list includes its share of indisputable stinkers, including the heinous “Jonah Hex.” But a bunch of the movies are flops in financial terms only, deserved better than they got at the box office, and are worth your time on DVD now that all but one of them are available. They are:

12292010_splice1.jpg“Splice”
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
$17.0 million gross on 2,450 screens

Seventeen million dollars in nearly 2500 theaters is pretty bad for a summer blockbuster but it’s nothing to sneeze at for a quirky sci-fi indie. And that’s really what “Splice” was; though Warner Brothers released it in June in the middle of Dumb Movie Season, the film, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival (where it was acquired by Joel Silver and Warner Brothers), was loaded with smarts and packed with metaphors about parenting and filmmaking. To Warner’s credit, they didn’t try to cut the film or any of its weirdness to service a wider audience. To Warner’s discredit, they still sold the film to that wider audience as a straightforward monster movie, a large factor in “Splice”‘s D grade from audience pollsters CinemaScore. From a pure dollars and cents standpoint, I’m sure Warner Brothers considers “Splice” a modest failure. But since “Splice” was, amongst other things, one large metaphor about indie filmmakers struggling against the constraints of a system that values commerce over art, that feels like an appropriate outcome.

12302010_youth2.jpg“Youth In Revolt”
Directed by Miguel Arteta
$15.3 million gross on 1,873 screens

“Youth in Revolt” had at least three misfortunes: a January release date synonymous with garbage, a Michael Cera lead performance at a time when Cera backlash reached an all-time high, and competition from the trendier and more heavily promoted Cera feature “Scott Pilgrim Versus the World” (which, let’s face it, didn’t miss Snider’s list by all that much). All I heard from people familiar with the source material by C. D. Payne said that the movie wasn’t as good as the novel. I haven’t read the novel and I found the movie to be utterly charming, cleverly constructed, and beautifully photographed. And, ironically, while everyone on the Internet and his mother was getting on Michael Cera’s case about giving the same performance over and over, he provides “Youth in Revolt” with not one but two terrific characters: mousy Nick Twisp and his evil double Francois Dillinger. If anyone had seen this movie, it would have restored their faith in this unfairly maligned actor.

12302010_lmi1.jpg“Let Me In”
Directed by Matt Reeves
$12.1 million gross on 2,042 screens

The party line amongst “Let Me In” partisans was that the film it was based on, 2008’s “Let the Right One In,” was too culty and Swedish for a mainstream audience, and had already reached as many people as it ever would. The English language remake by “Cloverfield” director Matt Reeves could bring more people to this story. But as it turns out, if you’re too lazy to read English subtitles, you’re probably not the sort of person who’s interested in a morally murky horror film about the unsettling and unsettlingly heartwarming relationship between a very twisted little boy and a morose little vampire. That doesn’t mean “Let Me In” wasn’t worth watching, though. Everything good about the original was good about the remake, with the added bonus of Michael Giacchino’s incredibly moody score.

12302010_grubes1.jpg“MacGruber”
Directed by Jorma Taccone
$8.5 million gross on 2,551 screens

Snider points out in his piece that “MacGruber” is basically the worst grossing “Saturday Night Live” spinoff film of all time. But after “Blues Brothers” and “Wayne’s World,” “MacGruber” is basically the best “Saturday Night Live” spinoff ever made (damning with faint praise, I know). I would guess it flopped because people had a hard time imagining a good version of the sketch blown up to 90 minutes in length. But director Jorma Taccone and co-writer/star Will Forte thought the same thing and, instead made a dead-on and endearingly goofy sendup of ’80s action movies. Their aim was true but their timing was off; as “The Expendables” massive grosses proved, audiences were in the mood to re-embrace ’80s action movies cliches rather than see them torn to shreds. “MacGruber” was admittedly uneven (in that way, at least, it was very faithful to the original “Saturday Night Live” sketches) but its total inability to connect with moviegoers in a year with so few truly funny comedies is still a bit mystifying. If any flop on this list is guaranteed for cult status in ten years, it’s “MacGruber.”

What do a monster movie, a teen romantic comedy, a vampire remake, and a wacky spoof have in common? All of these movies were amongst the biggest risk takers of 2010. Vincenzo Natali could have made “Splice” less icky and more commercial. Matt Reeves could have softened the core relationship in “Let Me In.” Those sorts of changes would have almost certainly resulted in higher box office numbers but they definitely would have also resulted in less interesting movies. Instead, these directors stuck to their artistic guns and wound up on that list amongst souless calculated products like “Jonah Hex.” What a shame.

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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.