DID YOU READ

I Love “I Love Phillip Morris”

I Love “I Love Phillip Morris” (photo)

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When a movie takes a long time to come to theaters after its festival premiere, there’s a tendency to assume the worst. We forget sometimes that festivals are more about heat than quality, and that it’s the hottest movies, not always the best ones, that are most quickly acquired and released. A lengthy interim between festival and release doesn’t necessarily mean a movie is shelved because it’s bad. It might just be a tough sell. I got a big-time reminder of that this week when I watched “I Love You Phillip Morris” by writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

Released late in 2010 almost two full years after its premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, “I Love You Phillip Morris” hybridizes and satirizes several different genres, most prominently the con man movie and the romantic comedy. Jim Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a police officer and family man who has an epiphany one day and decides he can’t live a lie anymore. So he comes out of the closet and moves to Miami. He even gets a couple of adorable little dogs. Things are going well for Steven until his expensive tastes begin to outpace his income. His get rich quick schemes eventually land him in jail, where he meets his soulmate, another gay prisoner named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). “I Love You Phillip Morris” makes fun of a lot of stuff about life and movies, but it doesn’t make fun of Steven and Phillip, or of the idea of two men falling in love. And Carrey and McGregor have absolutely terrific chemistry together. Here is their first meeting.

I’m really kicking myself over waiting so long to see this film because I know and love the directors’ best known work as screenwriters. “Bad Santa” was a movie so brilliantly deranged that at the time it was released some speculated that Ficarra and Requa were actually Roderick Jaynes-esque pseudonyms for the Coen Brothers, who executived produced the movie. What Ficarra and Requa do better than just about anyone except the Coens is blend really dark humor with unforced sentimentality. This next scene is a perfect example. It’s romantic and hysterically funny all at once. It’s also NSFW with lots of profanity, so put your headphones on for this one.

I grew up a Jim Carrey fan, first from watching on “In Living Color” and then all through his early livewire physical comedies like “The Mask” and “Dumb and Dumber.” There was a time when I knew every single line from “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and could act it out as a one man show (and did, on a few pathetic occasions). “I Love You Phillip Morris” is the first time I’ve seen the Carrey I loved as a kid in a film in at least a decade, and he’s fused that manic persona with the brilliant dramatic side he showed in films like “The Truman Show” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

The quintessential Carrey hero is the modern man at total extremes: the man who can’t tell a lie, the man who can’t say no, the man granted godly powers. Steven Russell is the man who can’t tell the truth; sort of “Liar Liar”‘s Fletcher Reede in reverse. But “I Love You Phillip Morris” adds a dimension of genuine emotional drama: Russell’s condition isn’t the result of a kid’s magic wish, or a bored God putzing around our mortal coil, it’s borne of genuine human pathology. Russell knows he has a problem and is powerless to stop it. He’s a little bit of an inversion of Truman from “The Truman Show” as well; instead of the naive innocent at the mercy of a world that is always performing in front of him, Carrey is now the one manipulating everyone around him with deception and lies.

Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for comedy here as well. This scene showcases some great Carrey physicality, and shows off some directorial chops from Ficarra and Requa as well:

The stuff I’d read and heard about “I Love You Phillip Morris” made the film sound a bit one note — following a guy repeatedly trying to break out of jail to reunite with a lost lover — but it’s much more nuanced than that. True, there are some brilliant escape plans, but long stretches feature both Steven and Phillip out of prison, and subversively poke fun at suburban complacency and idiotic corporate culture. They key to any good con man movie is that the film itself has to be as smart as its protagonist. This one is. All of Steven’s lies and deceptions reflect back on his love for Phillip. In some ways, the couple is freer in prison than they are in “polite society,” where they have to keep their relationship secret from the squares Steven works for.

Those scenes also work metatextually as commentary on the film’s struggles at the box office. “I Love You Phillip Morris” earned back all of its budget and more overseas, but made just $2 million dollars domestically. Jim Carrey has almost three million followers on Twitter, which means less than ten percent of them turned out in the U.S. for his best performance in years. I can only assume the film’s stateside flop was because close-minded American audiences still aren’t willing to watch a romantic comedy about two gay men. Those people should reconsider. In a world where romantic comedies have become tiresome and formulaic, “I Love You Phillip Morris” is exactly the kind of rom-com we need. It’s funny, sweet, and, thanks to Russell’s constant con games, wonderfully unpredictable.

“I Love You Phillip Morris” is now available on DVD. You can buy it on Amazon or rent it on Netflix.

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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.