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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Hanna”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Hanna” (photo)

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We’re just two months away from the end of the year and the start of top ten list season. If you’re a hardcore movie nerd like me, you look forward to December with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Making a top ten list is super fun but it’s also super daunting. There are so many movies to see, and only so many hours in a day.

Seeing every single movie released this calendar year is impossible, so you’ve got to pick your battles. That’s where Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 comes in. The goal of this column is simple: as I catch up with the 2011 movies I missed in order to fill out my own top ten list, I’ll tell you whether or not you need to catch up with them as well before making your top ten list. Each installment will feature my thoughts on the movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

Let’s kick things off by travelling to the Arctic, the site of one of the most critically acclaimed action movies of the year.

Movie: “Hanna”
Director: Joe Wright
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Plot Synopsis: A teenage girl named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) trained in the wilderness by her father (Eric Bana) to be the perfect killing machine is sent to civilization to assassinate an evil CIA agent (Cate Blanchett).
What the Critics Said: “An entertainingly nutty action thriller,” David Denby, The New Yorker
“The bad-ass girl-power movie ‘Sucker Punch’ wanted to be,” Christy Lemire, Associated Press
“Almost a terrific movie, or a partly terrific one,” Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
Were They Right? O’Hehir was the closest, though I liked the movie a bit more than he did, I think. I was actually surprised to see the film had just a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, because I’ve read and heard some really strong endorsements on the film; “Hanna”‘s apparently more divisive than I first realized.

My own opinion of the film is somewhat divided as well. The premise is intriguing and some of the action is fantastic (what’s better than Eric Bana taking on four dudes at once? Eric Bana taking on four dudes at once in a insanely long unbroken shot). Less fantastic is the film’s obsession with its own artfulness. With her years of training, Hanna makes everything she does look so easy; why, then, does the movie look like it’s trying so hard? It doesn’t take long for “Hanna” to establish itself as a contemporary take on an old fairy tale. Wright’s allusions to Grimms’ old stories are quite subtle at first — a hero who looks like Goldilocks, a villain who whistles like the Pied Piper — but he keeps piling on more, one after another after another. One character actually says “So off to Grandmother’s house we go!” Another screams “Run little piggy!” The final showdown between two characters takes place on a Big Bad Wolf themed roller coaster in an enormous Grimm-inspired amusement park. It’s like Wright can’t stop himself. Eventually, the subtext overwhelms the text.

Still, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Ronan gives an impressive performance; a bit mannered, but appropriately so, since her character has spent her entire life cut off from the rest of society. She’s equally credible playing confused and cunning. Bana is great too in limited screentime (Blanchett, on the other hand, seems oddly stiff as the Wicked Stepmother character). Alwin H. Kuchler’s cinematography shines in obviously showy moments like Bana’s one-take fight scene and Hanna’s lengthy escape from a CIA safehouse, but he also does a nice job of filling the frame with subtler visual cues for each of the movies numerous locals, from the Artic to Morocco to Germany, so that we always know exactly where we are in any given scene. The Chemical Brothers techno score is used sparingly but very effectively. And Wright puts in all these strange little details that give “Hanna” marvelous texture: a close-up of a young girl’s face so tight we can see the peeling skin on her sunburnt nose; a woman cleaning up the crumbs from her kitchen table in the moments before her murder; an obsessive mercilessly scrubbing her gums until they bleed. I just wish he didn’t go so far overboard with the fairy tale imagery. Hanna, who’s lived her whole life in a complete cultural vacuum and doesn’t know Romeo and Juliet from Sawyer and Juliet, could have picked up on these references.

Worthy of Oscar Nominations For: Original Score, Cinematography
Chances of Making My Top Ten: Very slim.
It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: If you liked “Atonement,” but wished there were more scenes where Saoirse Ronan kicked people in the neck; you reeeeeeally get off on fairly tale imagery.

“Hanna” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Tell us what you think about the film 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.