DID YOU READ

“Carnage,” reviewed

“Carnage,” reviewed (photo)

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

Nobody makes a trapped-in-a-house-slowly-going-insane movie quite like Roman Polanski. You’ve got “Repulsion,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Tenant,” “The Ghost Writer,” and now “Carnage,” the first out-and-out comedy of the bunch. The film, based on the Tony Award-winning play by Yasmina Reza, is sort of Polanski’s version of Buñuel’s “The Exterminating Angel:” one Brooklyn couple comes to another Brooklyn couple’s apartment to resolve a squabble between their two children. Though the matter is seemingly cleared up minutes into the film, the visiting couple can’t quite leave; every time they make a move for the door some other petty disagreement, or offer of cobbler, or inability to schedule a return visit with kids in tow pulls them back in. They’re trapped by good manners and bad conversation, and the camera and the audience is trapped right along with them. After the opening credits, set in a park overlooking the Manhattan skyline, the movie never leaves that apartment. “Carnage” is not a film for claustrophobes.

However, “Carnage” is a movie for film lovers looking for a cinematic experience that mimics the sensation of claustrophobia. As spacious and inviting as the home of Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster) looks on first glance, once Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) almost leave, then almost leave again and again, the apartment begins to take on sinisterly cramped dimensions. Watch how often Polanski frames shots to put the apartment’s front door in the background of the action. So close yet so far.

The atmosphere may be awkward, but the mood is playful, almost jubilant. Polanski’s own son plays one of the two boys involved in the inciting altercation, and I imagine the movie is full of observations drawn from the director’s own frustrating altercations with his children’s friends’ parents. The insipid conversations, the feigned curiosity, the strained attempts at compromise; they’re all here. Polanski’s getting his revenge, and he’s having a wicked good time of it.

The actors looks like they’re having a lot of fun as well. I expected greatness from Winslet, Foster, and Reilly and got it, but was very pleasantly surprised that Waltz, despite a wonky American accent, outshone them all in the meaty role of Alan, the power-brokering lawyer who can’t stay off his cell phone. Alan is the first of our quartet to abandon the pretense of politeness and the funniest of the bunch, though Winslet does make her character’s digestive suffering surprisingly comic as well.

“Carnage” is not a groundbreaking film by any stretch of the imagination, and plenty of audiences will complain that it didn’t “open up” Reza’s play in any way. For Polanski, though, keeping the play stiflingly closed off was surely the point. For decades, this man has made horror films about the terror of feeling isolated and confined to an apartment. This time he’s made a hilarious movie about the one thing that’s worse: being isolated and confined to an apartment with other people.

“Carnage” opens today in limited release. If you see it, tell us what you think 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.