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“Another Earth,” reviewed

“Another Earth,” reviewed (photo)

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Science-fiction should ask questions. The whole foundation of the genre is speculation: why we’re here and where we’re going, what makes us human and whether those qualities are shared by other life forms in this universe. The problem with modern sci-fi movies is that so few of them can be bothered ask questions. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” doesn’t ask questions, it just makes statements. “This is what a robot looks like.” “This is what it looks like when he transforms.” “This is a big action scene.”

I don’t love “Another Earth” but I appreciate the fact that it asks questions. It presents a premise — that there is another Earth, identical to our own in every way, floating out there in space — and interrogates it. How would someone react to that discovery? What would it mean to someone who felt that their life had gone down the wrong path? And how far would they go to try to fix the mistakes they’d made?

Our someone is Rhoda, played by the film’s co-writer, Brit Marling. On the day this other Earth is first discovered, Rhoda, a college student studying astrophysics, makes a terrible mistake: she drinks and drives. That decision had disastrous consequences on the life of a Yale music professor named John (William Mapother). A few years later, Rhoda has paid for the crime she committed but still feels crushed under the weight of her guilt. She takes a job as a school janitor and spends most of the rest of her time walking around with her sweatshirt’s hood pulled over her head, as if she’s trying to hide away from the world and from herself.

On a whim, Rhoda visits the site of her accident and happens to see John, who is there as well. She follows him home, and learns about what happened to him after their accident. She wants to apologize, but chickens out at the last minute. Instead, she pretends to be a maid and soon she’s regularly coming to clean John’s house. The two begin to talk and grow closer.

Meanwhile, that other Earth is drawing closer and closer to our own. The two planets make contact. They appear to exact duplicates of one another. A wealthy futurist decides to pilot a private space mission to the so-called “Earth 2,” and invites ordinary citizens to submit essays explaining why they deserve to make the journey. Rhoda is intrigued. If she went, could she meet herself? And would that version of herself had made the same bad choices she did? A second Earth might mean a second chance.

All of this could be the basis of a two hundred million dollar blockbuster directed by Roland Emmerich. But director and co-writer Mike Cahill uses this great concept to tell a very different kind of sci-fi story. “Another Earth” is not an outward journey through space but an inward journey through a woman’s tormented soul. Marling is wonderful at evoking Rhoda’s grief, and her relationship with the brooding Mapother is a moving one. Cahill doggedly maintains his microscopic focus; all the exposition we get about Earth 2 is cleverly conveyed through sideways glances at television screens or snippets of overheard radio reports. And the image of that other Earth hanging in our sky, dripping with foreboding or promise, is a beautiful and powerful one.

The problem with “Another Earth” is not the questions it asks, but rather the questions the audience asks of it. Cahill and Marling have, to some degree, put their themes before their characters. In order to pull off this meditation on regret and redemption, they write themselves into a few corners they never really escape. They rely on too many coincidences to connect the dots, and all of the absurdity begins to pull us out of the story.

Suspension of disbelief is a funny thing. It’s easy to buy that there’s another Earth exactly like our own, and that after thousands of years hiding behind the sun it’s suddenly headed our way. It’s easy to disregard the fact that such an event would probably cause environmental catastrophes on a global scale. That we accept. But for some reason, it’s really hard to ignore the fact that John should know exactly who Rhoda is. How can he not know the woman who completely ruined his life? Very late in the film, the screenplay offers an explanation how Rhoda could pull off this massive charade. It’s plausible, but it’s also contrived.

In small, individual moments, “Another Earth” is a beautiful film. The scenes in that Connecticut farmhouse are tender and touching, and Cahill and Marling raise some interesting questions about the human condition. Purely on the basis of its ambition and uniqueness, “Another Earth” is worth watching. It’s just a shame the filmmakers couldn’t figure out a way to bring their characters together that didn’t feel so forced. This movie gives you a lot to think about, and a few things you wish you could forget.

“Another Earth” opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and .

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.