A New Experience Home and Abroad

A New Experience Home and Abroad (photo)

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With all the emerging talent on display at this year’s Spirit Awards, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s new and next in terms of the films we’ll be seeing in the future, but what’s often overlooked is the surfeit of new places and experiences that has been on display in independent cinema over the course of the past year. Actors routinely take audiences into emotional terrain where they haven’t been before, but in 2010, it was often the surroundings that shared the spotlight.

In “Winter’s Bone,” director Debra Granik showed off a side of America that’s rarely seen onscreen with the poverty-stricken rural community that exists as its own insular world in the mountains of Missouri and Best First Feature nominee “Get Low” showed the majesty of Tennessee during the ’30s. “The Kids Are All Right” and “Greenberg” reveled in both sides of Los Angeles, demonstrating the way the sun can shine or burn, depending on which way its denizens fall on the thin line between success and failure while New York got an unusual closeup in films like Best First Screenplay nominee “The Exploding Girl,” where the cacophony of the city wreaked havoc on its main character, or Best First Feature nominee “Tiny Furniture,” in which Manhattan is a playground for a college grad who knows not what to do with her life.

This year’s Someone to Watch category may as well be called the “Somewhere to Watch” category since each of the three nominees take a camera to places where it’s rarely been before – into the underground of Iran for Hossein Keshavarz’s “Dog Sweat,” on the bumpy road from Florida to Nashville in Laurel Nakadate’s “The Wolf Knife” and the California desert through the eyes of two Japanese tourists in Mike Ott’s “Littlerock.”

However, nowhere is this the sensation of new and next felt more than in this year’s race for Best Documentary where two of the nominees are from distinctly different mediums than film and naturally bring perspectives that can safely be considered outside the box. For “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” renowned troublemaker and street artist Banksy put down the spray paint can and picked up a DV camera to turn the tables on a paparazzo-turned-graffiti artist named Mr. Brainwash who had been making his own documentary about the street art scene in Los Angeles. The result was one of the most audacious, not to mention harrowing, films of the year as it exposed audiences to the always elusive Banksy and a group of artists that uses urban landscapes as their canvas while the rest of us sleep at night.

Of more serious consequence, but equally innovative when taking a camera into a place it’s never been before, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s “Restrepo” follows a group of U.S. soldiers during a year in Afghanistan, taking audiences closer to the day-to-day experience of war than perhaps had ever been experienced in film. Part of this had to do with the equipment, which naturally is smaller and more technically advanced than ever before, but much more had to do with the collected experience and skills of Hetherington’s as a war photographer and Junger as a veteran reporter to first get access to a military outpost that had been unprecedented and then know exactly how to document the action and emotion that was unfolding in front of them while being seemingly invisible.

Being invisible was also a key part of Ilisa Barbaash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s “Sweetgrass,” which uses no soundtrack or narration to tell the story of a group of Montana sheepherders on their last drive through the Beartooth Mountains in 2003. The film captures both a way of life that is dying and yet the vibrant environment still largely untouched by modern-day life, preserved for those of us in the cities and suburbs in a way so that we can visit without harming nature’s beauty.

The two other nominees in the Best Documentary category also capture beauty in unique ways, even if their actual settings may seem quite familiar. Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol” tells the story of a man who creates his own World War II-themed town populated by era-attired G.I. Joe figurines and Barbies after a brutal attack leaves him psychologically wounded in Kingston, New York, while Mark Landsman’s “Thunder Soul” chronicles the rise and reunion of Houston’s Kashmere Stage Band, a high school funk band that were better than most professionals during the ’70s and gather together once more in the present day to see if they can still jam. Both films, like many of this year’s Spirit Award nominees, show there are no limits to what’s new and next since they demonstrate how art can take us to a different world altogether.


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.