DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: 9 Songs about the Last Days of Hustling & Flowing.

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Unsimulated sex, suicide and prostitution — just another week in indie film. And damn right!

Margo Stilley and Kieran O'Brien+ "9 Songs": Michael Winterbottom‘s real sex, fake (we presume) drugs, and real rock and roll finally slinks its 69 controversial minutes onto select screens. And the question here seem to be less "Is it porn or is it art?", as Kristi Mitsuda poses at indieWIRE, and more whether Winterbottom’s reduction of a love story to its purely physical elements provokes an astonishing sense of intimacy or emotional detachment. Matt Zoller Seitz:

It will be fun to watch critics pretend to be loftily bemused, and not the slightest bit aroused, by Michael Winterbottom’s sexual drama "9 Songs," then dismiss it as pretentious, empty and un-erotic.

He claims this is the "standard American response" to films about sex, which seems a little unfair — sometimes they really are boring (we have to admit, after the first half-hour of "Lies," we were sorely tempted to just fast-forward every time someone took their clothes off). Stephanie Zacharek likes the film even more than Zoller Seitz, finding that " The fun and pleasure of sex are relatively easy to put on film. But subtler shades of feeling and doubt…are harder to capture, and that’s what Winterbottom gets here." Stephen Holden finds it a picturesque failure, with the characters remaining "frustratingly elusive," and Michael Atkinson call it "a common human rite fastidiously caught in amber, giving off no heat or joy but crystallized for the future."

Michael Pitt+ "Last Days": "Imagine a Kurt Cobain movie by Oliver Stone — rubber tourniquets biting into a skinny arm, flashbacks to warring parents, fawning crowds, Courtney losing it on- and offstage, the imploring eyes of their neglected baby, the climactic shot ringing out — and you’ll see everything ‘Last Days’ is not," Ella Taylor writes of Gus Van Sant‘s latest ode to death and narrative experimentation. For the most part, everyone else has high praise for the film. Dennis Lim calls the film brilliant, "a biography without a story, a sustained monologue that can barely be heard, an interior portrait that denies access to inner life." Manohla Dargis is similarly impressed by the way the film’s rhythms echo the drifting detachment of Blake’s (Michael Pitt) life: "He is out of time, out of step and in the wilderness." Armond White is, as always, a dissenting voice, dropping in a paragraph at the end of his "Hustle & Flow" review to declare the film nothing but "tedium."

Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Dashon Howard+ "Hustle & Flow": We’re a little shocked that Stephanie Zacharek likes it, but more than that, she loves it:

"Hustle & Flow" suspends you in its spell of mood, of feeling, of climate. It’s a pop picture that finds its richness in peeling down to the essentials of good storytelling. In a world of movies that try far too hard to move, entertain and dazzle us, the artistry of "Hustle & Flow" lies in the way it waits for us to come to it.

Roger Ebert is also fond: "What we see in the ‘Hustle & Flow’ is rarely seen in the movies: the redemptive power of art." Armond White (and we actually discussed at length with Matt our predictions on how he’s feel about this film…sample: "It looks like the Village Voice might like it, so he’ll definitely hate it." "But it looks like a lot of others won’t like it, so maybe he’ll champion it as a misunderstood masterpiece.") declares that "’Hustle and Flow’ isn’t really about a pimp. Its concern is with the emotional turmoil a man faces while dealing with women on top of the social difficulties that beset impoverished black men." He provides an interesting counterpoint to Ebert’s "redemption" angle: "That Djay finally finds an outlet in rap music isn’t so much a sinecure (or salvation) as it is a sign of his desperation and the limited options that our society has left open to men of his social background." Laura Sinagra finds the film less artful:

The tale of a broke-down Memphis pimp turned rapper is being dismissed as shallow wish fulfillment, poverty porn, a hip-hop cash-in, and just plain silly. Of course, Hustle & Flow is all those things, but it telegraphs its intentions quite clearly. With 8 Mile in its rearview, this flick openly guns for the Rockys.

And A. O. Scott manages to articulate most of what we thought of the film, including the fact that Howard is so good he almost overcomes the "complexity – one might less charitably say the incoherence" of main character DJay, as well as the uncomfortable portrayals of women: "A pimp might be forgiven for failing to see his own misogyny – pimping is not a profession usually associated with feminism – but the movie can’t just slide off the hook along with its hero."

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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.