DID YOU READ

The To Do List Review: Pretty Raunchy, Only Kinda Funny

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In The To Do List, it’s as easy to root for Brandy as it is to cheer on the actress playing her. Starring Aubrey Plaza, this sex comedy follows Brandy as she graduates valedictorian from her high school in 1993, preparing for college and a seemingly bright future. But there’s one problem: The mousy gal is a virgin, and after being scared by her sexually assertive older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) into believing that her lack of experience will be a major obstacle at school, Brandy makes it her mission to spend the summer making up for lost time. However, because she’s nerdy, that means putting together a thorough list of every different sexual encounter imaginable, including “motorboating” (she has no idea what that means), hand jobs and, eventually, penetration. Though that sets the stage for all sorts of spirited hijinks, Brandy adorably proceeds about her quest with the same bookish studiousness she would a homework assignment.

Rated R and determinedly raunchy, The To Do List is like other recent teen sex comedies (American Pie, Superbad) in that its seemingly shocking subject matter is really a front for a sweeter, more sensitive core. Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Maggie Carey, the movie doesn’t want to turn Brandy into a slut as much as it wants to show how young women can be tripped up by equating sex with love, acceptance and approval. Surrounded by dumb jocks (Scott Porter, enjoyably going full mimbo), loser burnouts (Bill Hader) and sensitive guys-next-door (Johnny Simmons), she remains a likeable, albeit confused kid trying to negotiate choppy waters.

It’s a godsend having Plaza in the role. Best known for her ultra-dry, deeply sarcastic character April from Parks and Recreation, the actress has established a no-nonsense persona that helps sells Brandy’s cool intelligence, but The To Do List also allows Plaza to be warmer and more vulnerable than her sitcom character. (It’s a good bet that April would never stop rolling her eyes at Brandy’s cluelessness.) Carey tries to upend a few teen-comedy gender stereotypes, but one she holds onto is the myth of the beautiful geeky girl who wows all the guys once she takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. In “The To Do List,” that means having Brandy enchant all those around her by cavorting in a swimsuit as a lifeguard, and it’s to Plaza’s credit that she sells the character’s klutziness as much as her attractiveness. This is a charming, self-deprecating turn that mostly finds the balance between the humane and the humiliating.

Unfortunately, the movie as a whole isn’t nearly as nimble. The To Do List basically plays by the same rules as previous sex comedies, and its attempts to be truly transgressive are either tiresome or just flat-out disgusting. (Consumer alert: A gut-churning poop joke awaits you.) And predictably, the movie ultimately falls back on the notion that, deep down, everyone’s just looking for someone to love: Blowjobs and masturbating are all well and good, but if you’re the main character in a comedy, you still need to end up with a suitable partner. Those who came of age in the early ‘90s will no doubt be sucked in by the movie’s wall-to-wall nostalgia — Trapper Keepers! Girl vests! — but there’s also a danger in playing on our fondness for that bygone era. As someone as nerdy as Brandy when it comes to proper chronology, I immediately noticed that Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” couldn’t have possibly been playing at the time of the movie — it came out a year later. No wonder I graduated from high school a virgin myself.

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.