DID YOU READ

“Red State,” Reviewed

“Red State,” Reviewed (photo)

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Kevin Smith’s personality now looms so large that it can seem inextricable from the films he produces, that buying into his on-screen work means also buying into Team View Askew. Smith has proven himself a mighty wielder of his own personal brand, using podcasts, his Twitter feed, his website, his speaking tours to cement a dedicated fanbase that “gets it,” that gets him. Which is why, I’ve always imagined, he takes criticism of his movies so poorly and can’t help but see it as personal — disliking his work has somehow become tantamount to disliking him, even if that work is a for-hire buddy cop comedy whose stars appear to find it painful to be in the same shot.

With the circus that was the Sundance “Red State” premiere, culminating in Smith telling the distributors in the audience that he can and plans to do a better job releasing his movie than they would have (something I don’t necessarily disagree with), and the director’s earlier campaign, post-“Cop Out,” against critics, Smith has ensured a lot of people don’t like him right now, which will make it all the easier to write them off as biased. So let me just get this out there: There are a lot of lovely, very nice people who’ve made lousy movies, and vice versa. If “Red State” were good, it’d hardly be the first time an asshole had turned out a worthy work of art or entertainment. It’s not good. It’s not a complete write-off, but it is bruisingly heavy-handed, poorly paced and messy, dealing in such nasty, over-the-top caricatures of religious extremists and whatever-means-necessary law enforcement that whatever point it tries for about the increasingly fiery, violence-ready state of our nation ends up seeming glib and juvenile.

The good, or at least the interesting, is the way that “Red State” shifts its emphasis over its different acts, forcing several times a reevaluation of who, if anyone, the hero might be. The film finds Smith getting away from the static shots that have defined his visual style, trying out different angles and more frenetic, occasionally “Bourne”esque camerawork and editing, which are better suited to the subject matter if sometimes distracting. And Michael Parks, as the head of the Westboro Baptist Church-inspired Five Points group that forms “Red State”‘s deadly center, gives a memorably clammy performance.

But for a film that tackles such ripe, relevant subject matter, “Red State” sets up and then knocks down incredibly easy targets. The members of the Five Points Church are, with few exceptions, hammy one-note monsters, the film stopping dead early on for Parks’ character to spew a long, circuitous hate speech-filled sermon while the congregation, which includes children and knitting woman, chime in their agreement. Later, the group matriarch (played by Melissa Leo) extols a girl to get herself together, pray for forgiveness, then retrieve her gun and join her family in shooting at the ATF “like a good Christian.” (An ATF higher-up gets a similarly flip line later in the film, justifying an action with a “Patriot act, bitch.”)

The film shifts from teen comedy (the beginning, in which three high school boys try to get laid, has the most typically Smith-like dialogue) to gothic horror to overwrought action to topical satire without any sense of control or intent. Is the Five Points Church scary? Ostensibly, since they kill people and stuff. But I find Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who were, as promised, protesting outside, far scarier. They, presumably, arrived at their extreme stance through some kind of process of belief and crazed logic, instead of just being drawn that way. And they, like Mr. Smith, know how to goad the press to their own ends.

“Red State” will be self-distributed by Smith through SModcast Pictures on October 19th.

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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.