The week’s critic wrangle: Cinderella Pants.

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060305_cinderellaman+ "Cinderella Man": A subtle film, this is not. "Schmaltz" and its kindlier brother, "sentimentality," seems to be the operative words here. Roger Ebert says "There is a moment early in "Cinderella Man" when we see Russell Crowe in the boxing ring, filled with cocky self-confidence, and I thought I
knew what direction the story would take. I could not have been more
mistaken." He’s the only one even remotely surprised by any of the plot twists in this, by all accounts, archetypal Ron Howard Uplifting Movie. He also likes it the best.

How much others liked "Cinderella Man" hinges on their tolerance for being manipulated. At Slate, David Edelstein says that "It’s schmaltzy — but it’s schmaltz veined with foie gras," but also admits that, as much as he was a sucker for this film and for "A Beautiful Mind," he always feels a little dirty afterward. Anthony Lane at the New Yorker, who, underneath the elegant cynicism is a big softy himself, also pegs the film as brutally manipulative, then blames the acting from Russell Crowe as boxer James J. Braddock and Paul Giamatti as his manager Joe Gould for making "it seem a better and more bristling film than it actually is." Everyone else is impressed by Crowe, save LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor, who finds him and most of the film’s other major players to be "calamitously miscast."

Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek, certainly not one to indulge her inner sap, unsurprisingly hated the film. So did Ella Taylor, while the New York Press‘ Matt Zoller Seitz seems far more affected by it than we would have expected. He, along with Taylor and Edelstein, notes the odd anti-welfare tinge the film has — Braddock is ashamed to be seen in the welfare line (seriously, it was the Depression!) and Braddock’s friend, played by the very talented Paddy Considine, is a would-be union organizer who, as Taylor puts it, is cast "as a bit of a pinko, know what I mean, and a drunk to boot."

It’s hard to tell what La Manohla, with her Mona Lisa smile of a review, really thinks of the film, other than that it tows the aforementioned schmaltz/sentimentality line (and maybe that’s wise — reviews will slide off this film like Teflon). But she does find that Crowe and Giamatti have lent more complexity to "Cinderella Man" than its creators intended:

One of the satisfactions of "Cinderella Man" is that, in the end, the story that unfolds inside the ring is not the same one that Mr. Howard,
his screenwriters and the composer Thomas Newman seem keen to sell.
Their Cinderella Man is the decent little guy who affirms what movie
people call the triumph of the human spirit. The story Mr. Crowe tells,
with Mr. Giamatti riding shotgun as a gleeful Mephistopheles, is that
of a man who, having sampled the blood of others, clearly enjoyed the

060305_travelingpants+ "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants": Roger Ebert likes the film (he does tend to like everything these days, as Stephanie Zacharek seems to dislike almost everything), which sounds like a well-done, not surprising but also not too condescending tween flick. Or, as Dana Stevens in the New York Times puts it: "’The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ has plenty of plot twists that grownups will see coming a mile away,
but that’s no reason to deny its pleasures to the less jaded younger
set." Oh, and a name check from Ebert:

Tibby [played by Amber Tamblyn] has perhaps been watching IFC too much and possibly envisions herself at Sundance as she heads off to the Wal-Mart clone with her video camera.

IFC, motivating the disaffected and summer retail-entrapped! Howard, you got nothing on us.

060305_lordsofdogtown+ "Lords of Dogtown": Never mind, Roger Ebert doesn’t like everything: "Not only is there no need for this movie, but its weaknesses underline the strength of the doc." The doc would be Stacy Peralta’s 2001 "Dogtown and Z-Boys," which tells the same story of the rise of street skateboarding in non-fiction form. A. O. Scott disagrees, finding "Lords of Dogtown" "from start to finish…pretty much a blast," and speaking of an authentic feel to its construction. The LA Weekly‘s Scott Foundas is put off by the sense that the film,

which was scripted by Peralta, seems a movie made by an entirely different person — by someone looking at the material from the outside in, as though Peralta fed his own experience into some screenwriting software program that homogenized everything into threadbare clichés about the innocence of youth and the pressures of success.

The only saving grace, for him, is Heath Ledger‘s scene-stealing turn as the Z-Boys’ erratic, charismatic manager Skip Engblom, a performace A. O. Scott also admires (he suggests it’s "a demented tribute to Val Kilmer’s performance in ‘The Doors’").

Stephanie Zacharek, again with the hypersensitivity to obviousness, is irritated by director Catherine Hardwicke‘s heavy-handed means of showing how hard life was for the Z-Boys, growing up in SoCal poverty. But she’s entranced by a few sequences of beauty, particularly the scenes in which the boys sneak into the backyards of the wealthy to skate in their empty pools (the state being the midst of a drought): "The kids dip and swirl against these magnificent matte-blue surfaces, like empty bowls of sky. It’s a simple, effective metaphor, showing us how for them, skating equals freedom."



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.