DID YOU READ

“Angels Crest,” reviewed

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A version of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

For all the people crying onscreen in “Angels Crest,” I never once felt the urge to cry myself. The problem, I think, is not with what’s in the film but what’s not in the film, and that’s specificity: specificity of character and location. Watching this movie feels like watching some very talented actors put on an acting workshop called “Advanced Grief in Small Town America.” On a technical level, their work is superb. But it doesn’t resonate on any deeper level.

Based on a novel by Leslie Schwartz, the film is an intense dirge about the residents of a town trying to get on with their lives after a terrible tragedy. Ethan (Thomas Dekker) drives his son Nate out to the mountains to play in the snow, but by the time they get there, Nate’s fallen asleep. When a herd of deer passes by, Ethan follows, and leaves Nate locked in their truck for a few minutes. When he returns, Nate’s vanished. Practically the entire town turns up to help search for him, but by the time they find him it’s too late. That’s what happens in the first, gut-wrenching ten minutes. For the rest of the runtime we watch Ethan come to grips with what he’s done, feud with Nate’s distant, alcoholic mother Cindy (Lynn Collins), and deal with the fallout from the local district attorney’s decision to charge him with criminal neglect.

From Dekker and Collins down, the cast is fantastic. It seems like every single person who lives in Angels Crest is a terrific actor. Mira Sorvino owns the local diner. Elizabeth McGovern and Kate Walsh are the lesbian couple who are friends of Ethan’s. And Jeremy Piven is the town prosecutor who has a dead child related trauma in his own past.

In individual moments, they’re all good. And the cinematography by David Johnson offers the beauty and cruelty of nature in equal measure. What’s missing is any sort of fabric that might weave these stories and images together into an emotional whole. “Angels Crest” is sort of stuck between an in-depth character study and a wide-ranging ensemble piece. There are too many digressions to keep the focus squarely on Ethan and his despair, but not enough to fully understand the relationships between all these other characters. And it’s never quite clear exactly how big or small Angels Crest really is. It’s big enough that Sorvino’s character doesn’t seem aware of Piven’s tortured past until he alludes to it, but it’s also small enough that everyone else in the town seems to know each other by name. Almost the entire film takes place in the diner, the woods, and a house, so we don’t get a real sense of the place or the people outside the small circle we see. In her post-screening Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Gaby Dellal said that the novel was much more sprawling. There were more characters, each with a chapter told from their perspective. To fit it all into a movie, she had to whittle down a lot of the details. No wonder “Angels Crest” feels a bit like a CliffsNotes version of a more expansive story.

From its wintry setting to its subject matter to its cast, “Angels Crest” reminded me of David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels,” an equally bleak but much better movie. It had the elements “Angels Crest” lacks: a sharper eye to detail and a real sense of how this tragedy touched the lives of an entire community. And oh how the end of that film made me cry.

“Angels Crest” opens today in New York City. Is also available on demand. If you see it, tell us what you think. Leave us a comment below or write to us 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.