“Poetry,” Reviewed

“Poetry,” Reviewed (photo)

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I’ve never been a big fan of poetry. I don’t get much out of reading it and Lord knows I ain’t no good at writing nothing poetical (NOTE: I may be exaggerating slightly for comedic effect). So I can relate to Mija, the subject of Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s beautiful new film “Poetry.” A grandmother in her mid-60s, Mija goes to the doctor for an arm ache and leaves with the knowledge that her recent forgetfulness is the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Slowly losing her vocabulary, she tries to rebuild it by joining a poetry class at the local community center. Try though she might, she can’t find “poetic inspiration.”

Mija’s teacher gives her class two suggestions to guide their work. “To write poetry,” he says, “you must see well. The most important thing in life is seeing,” Later he adds that writing poetry is “about discovering beauty in everything we see in front of us in everyday life.” By either measure, Lee’s film lives up to its title. The movie sees Mija, played in an award-worthy performance by Yun Jung-hee, with absolute clarity. Her struggle against her disease and her writer’s block could not be more mundane or, in its own way, more beautiful.

There are further complications. Mija’s lives with her grandson, a disrespectful teenager named Wook (Lee David). He spends an awful lot of time locked in his room in hushed conversation with a bunch of friends. Eventually, Mija learns that the boys played a role in the death of a fellow student, whose body is found floating in a river surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, in the film’s opening scene.

Threats, blackmail, and enormous moral decisions all follow. This is all the stuff of a great mystery film — indeed, the raw materials of this story are not very dissimilar to Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s exceptional mystery film “Mother” — but Lee is working in poetry, not narrative. Instead of focusing on the drama swirling around Mija, he narrows in on the woman herself, painting a fascinating character study with words and, when Mija’s memory fails her or inspiration eludes her, a poignant lack of words.

Mija’s journey to become a poet brings her to those community center classes. As an exercise to stimulate their writing, her fellow students describe “beautiful memories” in front of the class, and it is interesting to note how many of those memories are heartbreakingly sad. As Mija’s troubles deepen, she becomes more in tune with the everyday beauty around her – note how often bad news in this film is delivered in the presence of gorgeous bouquets of flowers.

For Lee, it seems, the best art must come from the most painful places. Maybe that’s the reason a fortunate man like myself has never been great at poetry and why, by the end of this haunting film, Mija has suddenly discovered a gift for it. You know the expression when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? “Poetry” is one hell of a lemonade stand.

“Poetry” opens today in New York City. For a full list of playdates, go to Kino.com.


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.