DID YOU READ

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010 (photo)

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We got a lot of listener feedback about our two podcasts on the best of 2010 in film. Many listeners offered their own suggestions in our eclectic categories like Best Performance in the Worst Movie. Listener Patrick Fisackerly submitted a nominee in a category of his own devising: Best Scene in the Worst Movie. His pick was the following scene from “Step Up 3D,” a duet to Fred Astaire’s “I Won’t Dance.”

I didn’t get a chance to see “Step Up 3D” in its entirety yet, but this is a very charming scene. And the use of long take certainly amplifies its charms. It shows off the real New York locations and the skill of the dancers, not only physically (they have to perform an entire dance’s choreography perfectly, with no mistakes) but mentally as well (they have to remember all of the steps, as well as all of the ways in which they must interact with their environment).

Watching that scene from “Step Up 3D” reminded me that several dance films in 2010 used similarly impressive long takes, all deployed to similar effect. For example, there was the hauntingly beautiful “Passage For Two” dance atop the High Line in “NY Export: Opus Jazz.” (NOTE: Though this clip intercuts the scene with title cards, the scene in the finished film is one long take for almost all of a five minute dance routine).

Long takes accentuate the passage of time. No cuts means creates a documentary-like connection between a shot and time: for this period of the film, this happened and this much time elapsed. Here the lack of cuts makes us hyperaware of that gorgeous sunset sweeping through the background of the scene. That sky, slowly shifting from orange to purple, lends the dance a magical quality; for this shot to exist, everything had to go right. The dancers had to perform correctly while the notoriously difficult-to-direct Sun had to hit its mark exactly. The lack of cuts also brings us deeper into the atmosphere of the scene and the dancer’s slow, sensual movements. I don’t know what each individual movement of Jerome Robbins’ choreography is meant to suggest, but to me their cumulative impact evokes the fleeting and impossible love: the dancers sway together in perfect sync but their faces remain blank and emotionless, surrounded by the decay of the High Line. To cut during “Passage For Two” (a title that also refers to the passage of time) would be to break the scene’s spell. The long take makes the dance almost hypnotic.

My personal favorite musical long take of 2010, though, was the one in “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.” It spans the entirety of the number “Love in the Fall.”

Here we see how long takes can also accentuate a film’s sense of realism. The scene is a crowded house party jam session and the camera appropriates the perspective of a guy in the room just trying to get the best view of the action, angling around the other spectators and whipping back and forth between the tap dancers and star Jason Palmer’s trumpet solos. Instead of presenting a pristine, omniscient representation of this event, the camera gives us the opportunity to feel like someone actually in the room with the performers, witnessing it as anyone else there would. The whole film values emotion over perfection (which would make it the ideal second half of a double bill with Darren Aronofsky “Black Swan”), and so does the long take: the camera sometimes misses the hoofers’ steps because it’s late panning into position, but it never misses their infectious enthusiasm for their art.

And maybe that is what all of these shots have in common: passion. There are much easier ways to film all of these dance numbers, and if done skillfully, the results wouldn’t be that much less satisfying. But the long takes are difficult. They require so much planning and demand pinpoint execution. In a world of half-assed movies, they say “I care.”

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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.