DID YOU READ

Funny Ladies

Funny Ladies (photo)

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Christopher Hitchens once courted controversy by penning an article entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny” in Vanity Fair, to which this year’s Spirit Awards almost seem intended as a pointed rebuke. The funny business was good for both sexes in 2010, but extraordinary for those without the Y chromosome, resulting a group of pictures that heralds what’s new and next for comedy.

Of course, one of the most nominated films of the evening is “The Kids Are All Right,” Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy about the children of lesbian parents (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) who seek out their biological father (Mark Ruffalo). Cholodenko, who had been best known for drama, took a turn towards comedy with her latest, with the help of longtime comedy screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (“The Girl Next Door,” “Keeping the Faith”), and as it turns out, the sun-dappled San Fernando Valley that seemed so foreboding in her music biz family drama “Laurel Canyon” was ripe for something a little more lighthearted. It’s a sly maneuver on the writer/director’s part since she gets at something deeper under the guise of getting laughs, but that’s true in the case of nearly every one of this year’s nominated funnywomen.

In the case of Lena Dunham’s triple-nominated “Tiny Furniture,” the film’s writer/director/star takes the well-worn story of a college grad overcome by ambivalence about where her life will take her and transforms it into an often hilarious and introspective unromantic comedy built around her unique comic persona after she breaks up with one boyfriend and gauges the interest of potentially another while struggling to discover who she is. Though Dunham is nominated in the Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay categories, it is arguable it’s her second time around doing both, having honed a dry wit and a proclivity to wring humor from soul-baring on the hour-long feature “Creative Nonfiction” a year earlier. Then again, perhaps it’s why “Tiny Furniture” is accomplished as it is, paving the way for Dunham’s upcoming Judd Apatow-produced series on HBO and serving as just the first of what one can expect to be many signature films from the multihyphenate.

Equally fearless if only in an acting capacity — at least on “Greenberg,” since she’s been a credited writer elsewhere — Greta Gerwig’s Best Female Lead-nominated performance in Noah Baumbach’s dramedy about a misanthropic New Yorker (Ben Stiller) trying to regain control of his life while housesitting for his brother in Los Angeles gave the film a light as bright as Gerwig’s ear-to-ear grin, even if she was playing a more self-destructive character than the one in the film’s title. There’s a reason Gerwig has been the actress seemingly anointed by Hollywood to crossover from the low-budget mumblecore movement since her easygoing charms in films like Joe Swanberg’s “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and the Duplass brothers’ “Baghead” are infectious. Yet it’s Gerwig’s vulnerability – a reason she especially adept at both drama and comedy – that has already landed her roles in this year’s “No Strings Attached,” “Arthur” and the eagerly anticipated return of Whit Stillman, “Damsels in Distress” because her humor comes from such a warm, relatable and human place.

Those very same qualities could describe the films of Nicole Holofcener, who could be considered the dean of this year’s class of Spirit Award-nominated comediennes. Appropriately enough, she isn’t only nominated for her screenplay for “Please Give,” the sharply drawn dramedy about a New York family (Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt and Sarah Steele) waiting on their elderly neighbor (Ann Guilbert) to pass on so they can expand their apartment, but that the film will be honored with the Robert Altman Award, which one of the Spirit Awards’ most distinguished prizes to celebrate the year’s finest ensemble cast. There are no small parts in Holofcener’s work, a belief that all these women share in common – that, and a funny bone.

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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.