DID YOU READ

“Win Win,” Reviewed

“Win Win,” Reviewed (photo)

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We’ve seen “The Bad News Bears” formula trotted out so many times but never quite like “Win Win.” Director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor”) gives us all the cliches from the down-on-his-luck coach to the troubled-but-talented star — but buries them deep in the background of a touching and relevant story of a family man struggling to balance his books and his ethics amidst our current recession. It’s sort of “The Bad Financial News Bears” and it is outstanding.

Paul Giamatti stars, in one of his best performances in years, as Mike, a small town New Jersey lawyer whose meager earnings from his almost exclusively elderly clientele aren’t enough to keep his practice afloat. The bills are piling up; Mike can’t afford to fix the office boiler that clangs all day long and keep food on the table for his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) and 2 kids. With insolvency a real possibility, Mike compromises his morals. When he learns that the estate of one of his senile clients, Leo Poplar (Burt Young), pays its guardian $1500 bucks a month, he has the court assign him Leo’s guardian, stashes him in a nursing home against his wishes, and pockets the $1500 all for himself.

There’s just one problem: Leo’s grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer), who’s been sent by his deadbeat mom to live with his grandfather and whose surprise appearance threatens to expose Mike’s entire scheme. While he tries to ship Kyle back to his mother, though, Mike discovers something: his new charge is a former champion high school wrestler, so good he might be able to prop up the local high school wrestling team, which Mike just happens to coach.

As you can see, the plot is complicated and littered with coincidence. But McCarthy is less concerned with the story than its moral implications for his characters, who are uniformly fascinating. McCarthy’s story is small — we’re talking about a whole lot to do about a couple thousands dollars — but its stakes are huge. And so are the questions it raises: what should a man be willing to do to support his family? How should we care for our society’s elderly? How do we determine who is the most qualified parent for a troubled child? But rather than than drown us in speeches about what’s right and wrong, McCarthy’s witty, nuanced screenplay, written with his friend and New Jersey lawyer Joe Tiboni, reveals all of the answers through the frequently difficult choices his characters make.

“Win Win” is one of those movies about good people with bad luck who make worse decisions. When their luck begins to improve, we cheer; when their worse decisions come back to bite them on their ass, we care. Giamatti and Ryan are one of the most believable married couples I’ve seen onscreen in a while, and I was particularly impressed by the subdued but utterly believable performance of Shaffer, a non-professional actor and former New Jersey state wrestling champion, as lost soul and wrestling phenom Kyle. His growth under Mike’s coaching, and the team’s growth under Kyle’s influence, has some fun with inspirational sports team cliches without completely abandoning the things we love about the genre either.

“Win Win” isn’t the most visually stimulating 90 minutes you could spend at arthouses this spring, but it might just be the most emotionally stimulating. The characters are so rich and their bland New Jersey world is so real, that I found myself completely caught up in their struggles and successes. As Mike’s busted boiler kept clanging away — as the pressure literally rises before our eyes — I found myself leaning foward in my chair, gripping my armrests in a way I don’t do often in movies. It was like I was watching a spy thriller, not a movie about a crummy, ethically-challenged lawyer from New Jersey. Pretty good for a “Bad News Bears”-style inspirational sports film.

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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.