NYFF: “Capote.”

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"It's the book I was meant to write."Joan Didion once wrote something about how, no matter what they say to assure you otherwise, writers never have your best interests in mind when they convince you to talk to them. She puts it much better, and we wish we had the quote on hand, but it’s been a while since we carried "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" with us wherever we went (oh, you wish we were kidding — also, we suspect the line is actually in "The White Album," anyway). Early in Bennett Miller‘s "Capote," Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the titular writer, arrives at the house of Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper, who’s as always so compelling one wishes he would get allotted more than ten minutes of screen time per film). He’s looking for information on the crime Dewey is investigating — the brutal murder of a family of four — for an article in the New Yorker, credentials that didn’t go nearly as far, at his first meeting with Dewey, as they would have in New York. Now he, accompanied by his good friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), pre-publication of "To Kill a Mockingbird," sets out to charm. He gossips, he entertains, he drop celebrity names, and then, shamelessly, segues into a story about his mother’s death. That wins over Dewey’s wife, who demands of her husband that he give the two whatever they need. "These are good people!" she says, but the camera cuts to Hoffman’s face: held high, closed, but triumphant, even a bit smug. Truman Capote is not good people — in many ways, he’s a right bastard.

Miller’s film, from an excellent script by Dan Futterman, based off Gerald Clarke’s biography, assumes audiences are familiar with Capote’s pivotal "nonfiction novel" "In Cold Blood" — the underlying certainty of the man’s brilliance is left unspoken to counterweight the complicated and not-so-flattering portrait the film presents. It begins with Capote already well established as a writer and a society fixture — he goes to Kansas on a bit of a whim, and is initially out of his element, but soon inveigles himself into the reluctant good graces of the locals and, eventually, the two murderers.

It’s Perry Smith, the one who did the actually killing, who catches Capote’s eye. Half Indian, polite and intelligent, an orphan from a terrible background, he hopelessly intrigues Capote, and their relationship is the dark, complex heart of the film. Capote sets out, in a sense, to seduce Smith’s story out of him, but ends up getting more involved than he ever planned, becoming something between a friend and a vampiric figure, cajoling and bullying him for the sake of his book ("Sometimes, when I think how good my book could be, I can hardly breathe," he tells a friend) and sometimes stepping in, getting the pair a lawyer for their appeal, only to then disappear for months and not return the otherwise completely alone Smith’s pathetic letters. It’s hard to guess how Capote really feels about Smith beyond seeing him as source material; both Keener’s Lee and Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood), Capote’s long-term lover, try to sound him out, but it appears that he doesn’t know himself, though he once eloquently lets slide that "It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house, and one day I went out the front door and Perry went out the back."

Hoffman’s performance is a tour de force — there’s no way he won’t be nominated for an Oscar. But it is so very much a virtuous act that sometimes the film seems to grind to a halt around him while he struts and frets, while generally outstanding actors like Keener and Greenwood are pulled into his orbit.

We’re totally rambling on, but this is a hard film to get one’s thoughts in order for. It’s very smart, and in the end very well done, but much of it is as icy as the bleak Kansas winter landscape elegantly shot in the opening sequences. The myth of journalistic remove, perhaps — in the end, we’re just as caught up as Capote in what happens to Perry Smith. By that time, for him, it was too late.

"Capote" opens in limited release on September 30.

Click here for all the NY Film Festival reviews thus far.



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.