DID YOU READ

Comedy categories would make the Oscars more relevant

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Let’s face it: the Oscars are not as cool as they used to be. Oscar, at age 83, is showing signs of tarnish. It is becoming a less and less compelling event for the digital youth culture. Last year’s Academy Awards were the sixth top social TV tentpole event of the year after the MTV Music Awards, the American Music Awards and even — God help up — the Grammys. Not a good look. If the American Music Awards are getting more social media attention than the Oscars, then there is something terribly wrong with Hollywood. Movie ticket sales, incidentally, hit a 16-year low in 2011.

Oscar, quite frankly, needs to chill the fuck out. And by chill I do not mean throwing a glossy-eyed James Franco and a hyperactive Anne Hathaway at the podium. Quite the contrary: the changes to save Oscar must needs be structural, not cosmetic, to affect real change. I propose as one solid structural change that might save the Oscars that it is time to honor comedies and comedic performances in the Best Picture and Best Actor and Actress categories. Life, after all, is not all drama; it is mostly drama, but it is also the moments of levity. Why not honor those?

Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” is the last alleged comedy to win best Picture at the Academy Awards. And it wasn’t even a pure comedy at that; “Annie Hall” happened to be just as dramatic as it was comedic. Which leads me to the question: Why do the Academy Awards ignore comedies, anyway? What does Oscar have against a great comedic performance? A comedic role — the nuance, the timing — when played pitch-perfect is a wonder to behold. Anyone who thinks comedy doesn’t work the actor’s chops as well as drama ought to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2004’s “Along Came Polly.”

Melissa McCarthy just got a Best Supporting Actress nod for “Bridesmaids.” This is a step in the right direction. Insanely great comedic performances rarely get a chance to even get to this point of speculation. Perhaps it is time to create a Best Actor and Actress in a Comedy category, like they have at the Golden Globes (only far less corrupt a process), to make sure that it gets a fair shake come awards season. It would certainly youth up the Oscars, which, with all the gravity and all the gowns, is in dire peril of becoming a magnum of chloroform.

Comedy categories at the Oscars might sound a revolutionary act, but it was not until the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998 that even snowboarding became an actual Olympic sport. And at the time there were the usual overly conservative arguments that snowboarding was not a sport, it was a fad of the youth, that it would somehow “sully” the image of the Olympics. The Olympics have survived just fine, and a greater consideration of the comic in life by the Academy would go a long way in making the Oscars more relevant. This is our Nagano.

If there had been a Best Actor in a Comedy category back in 2007, Sasha Baron Cohen would almost definitely have won for “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” And who among us didn’t think that was not an Oscar-worthy performance? Perhaps not solid enough to overtake Forest Whitaker’s Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” — which won that year — but definitely Oscarworthy. Finally, Oscar has other biases, of course, and that is not unexpected of an institution that is eighty three years old. Oscar doesn’t like Sci-Fi, not as Best Picture, anyway (Sci-Fi as a genre does well in the special effects ghetto). And that’s ridiculous. “The Empire Strikes Back” should have won Best Picture in 1980. But don’t get me started on the lack of respect given to the sci-fi genre.

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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.