DID YOU READ

Is this the age of fanfiction films?

Is this the age of fanfiction films? (photo)

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Last week, film critic Drew McWeeny wrote a really interesting piece at HitFix called “Muppets, Avengers, and Life In The Age Of Fanfiction.” It was inspired by a conversation with his colleague, TV critic Alan Sepinwall, who described the new “Muppets” movie as “the greatest work of fanfiction [he’d] ever seen.” That spurred McWeeny to write his piece on what he calls “the Age of Fanfiction.”

“What’s been truly bizarre, though, is the way the mainstream has slowly headed in the same direction, and without anyone noticing it, we seem to have handed over our entire industry to the creation of fanfiction on a corporate level, and at this point, I’m not sure how we’re expecting the pendulum to ever swing back. I know people love to blame Spielberg and Lucas for creating the modern blockbuster age, but at least when they decided to pay tribute to their inspirations, they did so in interesting ways. Spielberg has talked about how his frustrations at hearing that only English filmmakers could direct James Bond movies led to the creation of Indiana Jones, and Lucas was working out his love of Flash Gordon when he created ‘Star Wars.’ Those are healthy ways to work through your love of something, and absolutely make sense as important pieces in the creative process. What’s scary is how these days, filmmakers wouldn’t bother with that last step, the part where you take your inspirations and run them through your own filter. Now, instead, we live in an age where we are simply doing the source material again and again and again, and where original creation seems to be almost frowned upon as a ‘risk.'”

The other examples McWeeny cites besides “The Muppets” are J.J. Abrams‘ “Star Trek,” “The Twilight Saga,” and the upcoming movies based on “The Avengers” and the old horror soap “Dark Shadows.” And there are a lot more examples he could have cited from just this year alone. Early in 2011 we got “The Green Hornet” which extrapolated the metatextual rivalry between the Green Hornet and Kato on the old TV series (where the Hornet was the star and the sidekick, played by a young Bruce Lee, got all the press) into the main character dynamic of the film. Later, there was “Fast Five” with an all-star cast reunion that could have been based on a “Fast & Furious” die-hard’s fanfic about characters from every single previous entry joining forces to pull off one amazing heist. Two of the best blockbusters of the summer were prequels with classic what-were-they-like-before-we-met-them fanfic premises: “X-Men: First Class” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

McWeeny writes about how modern filmmakers don’t bother reimagining their childhood cultural addictions as new properties, and instead simply remake the the old properties over and over again. That’s not entirely true, though. J.J. Abrams followed his “Star Trek” fanfiction film with “Super 8,” where he took his love of early Steven Spielberg movies like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.” and reworked their themes and imagery into a pastiche. In true fanfilm wonk fashion, he even got Spielberg, his idol, to executive produce the film.

This isn’t just about blockbusters, either. The Age of Fanfiction’s begun to seep into lots of other genres that have nothing to do with rebooting old television shows or films. The core idea of fanfiction — of the author assuming creative control over their obsession — is a crucial theme of several of this year’s most critically acclaimed movies. Three frontrunners for the Academy Award for Best Picture — “The Artist,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Hugo” — are clear expressions of the Age of Fanfiction. In the latter two cases, you even have directorial surrogates onscreen (Owen Wilson for Woody Allen in “Midnight in Paris,” Michael Stuhlbarg for Martin Scorsese in “Hugo”), who give the filmmakers the opportunity to indulge in the fantasy of interacting with that thing or person they love so dearly. The Artist” doesn’t include an obvious stand-in for director Michel Hazanavicius (whose two previous movies about the old spy series “OSS 117” probably qualify as fanfiction films as well), but he does essentially rewrite history from a fan’s perspective, giving — SPOILER! — a corrective happy ending to a silent film actor cruelly discarded in the transition to sound.

McWeeny thinks the Age of Fanfiction could give way to the Age of Invention, but for that to happen the Age of Fanfiction would have to falter at the box office. Then again, it makes you wonder: if this generation’s movies are all reworkings of the previous generation’s movies, what are the next generation’s movies going to look like? Fanfiction about fanfiction? Nostalgia for nostalgia? Eventually, someone’s going to need to create something new. Maybe that’s when the Age of Invention will really begin.

What other recent movies qualify as “fanfiction films?” Tell us in the comments 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.