DID YOU READ

“Amigo,” reviewed

“Amigo,” reviewed (photo)

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Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and from the looks of the Philippine-American War film “Amigo,” the United States forgot a lot of that conflict. I only wish the director of “Amigo,” the fine filmmaker John Sayles, hadn’t forgotten recent cinematic history and made the choice to favor didactic political statements over human drama like so many of the movies that came out in the first few years of the War in Iraq.

The evidence of our folly in the Philippines, and its obvious similarities to our repeated follies around the globe in the decades since, would have been clear in “Amigo” without cardboard cutout characters like Chris Cooper‘s Colonel Hardacre, a military man who drops none too subtle bits of dialogue about needing to win the “hearts and minds” of the locals or letting the “bleeding hearts figure out” the mess they’ve made of the place at some point down the line. It’s pretty clear from the cartoonishly hawkish characterization of Hardacre that Sayles is one of those bleeding hearts looking to do exactly that. But even audiences who agree with the film’s politics (like, y’know, me) will feel more lectured to than entertained.

That’s a shame, because when the politics get out of the way of the story, there’s a moving one here. Its primary subject is Raphael (Joel Torre) the mayor of the small village occupied by Hardacre’s men, who are lead by the stern but compassionate Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt). His soldiers, an occupying force in a land whose language they can’t speak and whose culture they don’t understand, can’t tell the “amigos” from the “insurrectos” and even take to a crude form of waterboarding to extract information from a prisoner. Raphael is caught between the Americans and those insurrectos, a position complicated by the fact that his brother is the leader of the rebels, and his son has recently left home to join him in the fight. The film has empathy for all parties (except Hardacre): the U.S. soldiers who just want to do their job and get back home, and the rebels who just want their home back so they can get back to their jobs (Raphael’s brother trained to be a priest).

When Sayles focuses on Raphael and the other residents of the town “Amigo” begins to come to life. Torre is a very good actor and he delivers a moving performance as a man desperately fighting for his modest dreams in a no-win situation. Though the film shouts its points so loudly at times, it’s the quietest and simplest moments that resonate most clearly: a shy girl putting on a necklace given to her by a suitor or a man playing Spanish guitar accompanied by the song of a thousand crickets. But one too many Chris Cooper monologues and a weirdly tacky ending that feels like something out a airport novel overpower “Amigo”‘s admirable qualities.

The tragedies that ultimately echo through the lives of these characters as a result of the United States’ actions in the Philippines say all that needs to be said. If only they were all that was said. I have a great deal of respect for Sayles; seeing his movie “Lone Star” in 1996 literally changed the way I looked at film as a teenager. But in this case, in terms that Raphael’s town would surely have understood, he put the cart before the horse. The result, sadly, is a noble but forgettable film.

“Amigo” opens in limited release on Friday, and expands to additional theaters next week. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.