DID YOU READ

The Summer’s New Hero: Thor-ge W. Bush

The Summer’s New Hero: Thor-ge W. Bush (photo)

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This post contains SPOILERS for the movie “Thor.” If thy desire is to avoid details about the plot of this buster of blocks then, verily, thy dost need to read something else this fine May morn.

I don’t know Kenneth Branagh’s politics. I don’t know the politics of screenwriters Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, and Mark Protosevich. All I know is when I saw “Thor” last week, I became convinced that it was all about George W. Bush. Chris Hemsworth looks like Thor, the superheroic God of Thunder from Marvel Comics. But his story is a straight-up allegorical fantasy of the last decade of American foreign policy; the misadventures and redemption of Thor-ge W. Bush.

Our hero, Thor(ge), is the arrogant son of a powerful ruler of interdimensional beings called the Asgardians. Their sworn enemies are the Frost Giants, icy villains from the world of Jotunheim. Centuries earlier, Thor’s father Odin defeated the Frost Giants and left their civilization lying in ruin, but decided not to depose their ruler Laufey. On the day that Thor is to be sworn in to replace Odin as the new King, the Frost Giants mount an assault on Asgard’s home soil. They infiltrate Odin’s armory and attempt to steal a mystical casket; Thor, believing that the best defense is a good offense disobeys his father’s orders and leads a small party of warriors into Jotunheim for a retaliatory attack. The battle is not successful, however, and as punishment for his impudence, Odin strips Thor of his mystical powers and exiles him to Earth, where he must redeem himself before he can reclaim his place as heir to the throne of Asgard.

Granted, lots of this stuff is taken from the original Marvel Comics first created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby in 1962. Their very first Thor comics involved the God of Thunder displaced on Earth learning a similar lesson in humility by sharing a body with a doctor named Donald Blake (listen closely and you’ll hear references to this guy in the movie; he’s Jane Foster’s ex-boyfriend). But Branagh and company’s take on the Marvel mythos is a bit different, and rather blatantly reflective of the reign presidencies of the Bushes George.

According to some narratives about the War in Iraq (like Oliver Stone’s biopic “W.”) President George W. Bush invaded Iraq primarily to correct the oversight he felt his father made back in 1992 when he left Saddam Hussein in power at the end of the first Gulf War. Stone’s version is surely a simplification, but he thinks it all boils down to daddy issues: W. could never live up to George Sr.’s expectations, so he set out to do the one thing his dad never could.

That’s basically what happens in “Thor:” cocky son of the King wants to finish the job started by his father with a preemptive strike on their enemies, but he goes off half-cocked without much of an exit strategy. You could argue that Thor’s brother Loki represents Vice President Dick Cheney, the seemingly subservient right-hand man who exerts an undue amount of influence on the Commander-in-Chief and maybe even craves the throne for himself. The two themes that thread their way through “Thor” are issues about fathers and sons and the question of what is the proper use of military force. As Odin tells Thor before he journeys to Jotunheim, “A wise king never seeks out war, but must always be ready for it.”

All of these parallels hit in “Thor”‘s first act while he’s still in the mystical realm of Asgard. After he’s dumped in New Mexico — which does bear a certain arid physical resemblance to Iraq — he comes into conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D., another concept with its roots in Lee/Kirby Marvel Comics that’s also been reformulated for post-9/11 resonance. Instead of the comic books’ clandestine organization of James Bond-ish super spies, the S.H.I.E.L.D. of “Thor” acts like a Patriot Act nightmare, surveilling people and confiscating private property with impunity. Even when they find the weapon of mass destruction in the desert — Thor’s mystical hammer, Mjolnir, sent to Earth along with him — they don’t even know what to do with it.

Eventually the film’s real world connections begins to fall away; if they didn’t, “Thor” would have to end with the God of Thunder deposed to Texas after credit default swaps cripple the Asgardian economy (then again Thor’s outfits on earth, khaki jackets over blue shirts and slacks, do look a lot like W.’s ranchwear when he’s chainsawing brush down in Crawford). In some ways, though, the events that follow Thor’s dismissal by Odin represent a kind of dream of how we wish things had turned out in the last decade, as the world is saved and united by a leader who understands that might doen’t always equal right, but isn’t afraid to kick a little ass when it does. We’ll have to see whether writer/director Joss Whedon carries over these parallels when he brings Thor into his movie of “The Avengers” next summer. In that movie, he’ll be hanging out with Captain America, a symbol of American patriotism from a simpler era, The Hulk, our fears of nuclear war made flesh, and Iron Man, a weapons manufacturer who also learns that the wise never seek out war but must always be ready for it. The potential is there to assemble a lot more than a bunch of famous comic book characters.

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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.