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Tim Grierson on the Five Good Things That Came Out of Oscar Season

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Oscar season, which starts approximately at the beginning of September, at long last came to an end last night. Even someone like myself who finds much to enjoy about this time of year has to admit that the past five months of constantly tracking which movies and performances have “heat” or “buzz” has been incredibly tiring. Still, optimist that I am, I’d like to think that there’s still some net good that comes out of the seemingly endless buildup to the Oscars. The Academy Awards may still reward the wrong people and overlook the truly worthy, but this year, as always, they also had their positives…

1. They inspired people to see small movies they might not have otherwise.

Films like “Argo” or “Les Miserables” would probably have been hits even without a Best Picture nomination. But nominations for other films helped elevate them to must-see status for people who are choosier in their viewing habits. “Amour” might have seemed too depressing, “Lincoln” could have looked too dry, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” might have seemed too strange, and “Zero Dark Thirty” could have felt too difficult. But hearing that these movies were in the running for the Oscars’ big prize no doubt helped push folks to give these movies a try. Encouraging audiences to seek out challenging fare can never be a bad thing.

2. They raised awareness for worthwhile social and political issues.

The Best Documentary nominees often cover a vast array of important topics, and this year’s crop was no different, whether it was relations between Israel and Palestine (“The Gatekeepers,” “5 Broken Cameras”), sexual assault within the U.S. military (“The Invisible War”), or the history of the AIDS-awareness organization ACT UP (“How to Survive a Plague”). But even the Best Picture field had its share of meaningful films, including “Amour,” which is an unsentimental look at aging and mortality. Perhaps the most important discussion prompted by any Oscar film this year, though, came from “Zero Dark Thirty,” a sobering, absorbing examination of the U.S. government’s 10-year pursuit of Osama bin Laden. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s thriller raised complaints from some, including a few U.S. senators, that the movie celebrated the use of torture — or suggested that it was an effective tool for hunting down terrorists. The debate may have ultimately been more about political posturing, but at least it opened a wider discussion about U.S. policy in the aftermath of 9/11 than any film had been able to do before. (And for the record, anyone who watches “Zero Dark Thirty” will see that the movie is far more nuanced and ambiguous in its commentary than its critics will acknowledge.)

3. They provoked some memorable social-media moments.

Because the Oscar campaigning goes on so long, there are inevitably unexpected side effects. For instance, the creation of memes that are very funny at the moment by may not have a long shelf life. (Angelina Jolie’s Leg was good for some chuckles a year ago. But now?) This year had its share of parodies and homages, their effectiveness very much a question of personal taste. Plenty of friends love the fake Michael Haneke Twitter account where the austere Austrian filmmaker is turned into a cat-loving, spellcheck-deficient goofball. (Me, I think it’s just the same joke repeated over and over again.) And then there was the parody of Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” performance from “Les Miserables.” But my favorite is probably from comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who took to the stage of Largo in Los Angeles in December to perform an utterly sincere rendition of Adele’s “Skyfall” theme. Soon, it hit YouTube, becoming a viral hit. The comedian’s “Skyfall” rendition represented the best of pop cultural referencing, honoring what made the original so fantastic while adding a new, fun dimension to it.

4. They actually had a little suspense.

In the early months of award season, there’s always a little uncertainty about who the frontrunners might be, but eventually the clear-cut favorites assert themselves, and by the time of the actual ceremony, everybody knows who’s going to win Best Picture and most of the major categories. This year, that didn’t happen, as “Les Miserables,” “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo” and even “The Master” were discussed as being possible winners at one point or another. This, of course, is great news for Oscar bloggers and other awards handicappers who want to keep us interested, but for those of us who actually like the Academy Awards telecast, it also created a lot of suspense. That doesn’t happen that often. Their value isn’t in telling us what’s the best

5. They’ll never replace your own preferences for the year’s best films.

From your perspective, any collection of individuals voting on the best anything will ultimately fail to get it right unless they completely agree with you. That’s why I’ve never understood getting that annoyed with the Oscars (or the Independent Spirit Awards or the Golden Globes) when they don’t line up with your individual tastes. If nothing else, the Academy Awards are a way to make each of us consider what constitutes the greatest films and the greatest performances. The Oscars can have their definition — we each have our own.

You can follow Tim Grierson on 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.