The week’s critic wrangle: Let’s hear it for the ladies.

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Naomi Watts.+ "Ellie Parker": Scott Coffey‘s micro-indie was expanded from a 2001 short that starred a friend of his, the then-struggling actress Naomi Watts. It’s one in a long line of "Hollywood is Hell"-type films, and several critics note it’s brief nods to "Play It as It Lays," "The Day of the Locust" and "Living in Oblivion." Melissa Anderson at the Village Voice notes another film connection:

[W]here this trifle fascinates most is in its connections to David
‘s masterpiece ["Mulholland Drive"]. With the sunny, can-do attitude of Betty Elms,
Ellie [Watts] dons a lavender hoopskirt to impress the dissolute Russian
producers during her callback for a risible Civil War pic. And like
abject Diane Selwyn, Ellie is sexually betrayed, catching her boyfriend
(Mark Pellegrino, who played the hit man Diane hires to kill Camilla
Rhodes in MD) in bed with a low-level casting assistant (Jennifer Syme,
who died in a car crash and to whom Lynch dedicates MD).

Anderson finds the film a bit slight and clumsy, a sentiment echoed by Michael Koresky at indieWIRE, who likes it even less (of the reviewers he’s paired with, Kristi Mitsuda is exhilarated by its bleakness, and Nicolas Rapold thinks it’s all very community access sketch showish). Ella Taylor at LA Weekly acknowledges that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but that it still works, for what it is ("If you
still want to make it in the business after seeing this, you’re a very
sick puppy.").

Both Stephen Holden at the New York Times and Andrew O’Hehir at Salon like the film considerably. Holden calls Watts’ performance "a small, brave acting tour de force," and notes that "Ellie Parker" explores the dark, underlying psychological wear of auditioning and acting. O’Hehir devotes quite a bit of ink to getting all kinds of gushy, pointing out that the film is "one of the most proudly and genuinely low-budget features I’ve seen in a long time," as well as "the sharpest, most authentic portrait of Hollywood life made in the last several years."

Despite the interesting reviews, we think we’ve reached our limit on inside-the-industry satires for the year (and this most certainly was a year for the topic).


Sarah Silverman.+ "Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic": If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the many interviews with Silverman out there today (including one on our own site, by gum), our nation’s critics attempt to give her some context. Who is this Sarah Silverman?

J.R. Jones at the Chicago Reader: "The Los Angeles Times has compared Silverman to [Lenny] Bruce, a critical
cliche but in this case highly appropriate."

Ernest Hardy at the LA Weekly: "Silverman has been predictably compared to Lenny Bruce, but she’s more like an amped fusion of Dave Chappelle and Sandra Bernhard."

J. Hoberman at the Village Voice: "In the realm of stand-up Jews, she’s neither a Lenny Bruce philosopher nor a Sandra Bernhard performance artist. Borderline tiresome, Silverman’s racial and sexual obsessions might suggest Jackie Mason with a pretty face. But really, she’s a verbal Jerry Lewis, shamelessly willing to say anything."

A.O. Scott at the New York Times: "The
tradition she wants to join is that of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor,
and in some ways she faces greater challenges than they did."

Matt Zoller Seitz at the New York Press: "Silverman specializes in the sorts of jokes that got Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay in trouble 15 or 20 years ago."

Enlightening? Well, the critical consensus is solidly mixed — pretty much everyone likes Silverman, enjoys her jokes, but finds the movie mixed and a little tiresome (if any feature with a 70-minute runtime can be accused of being too lengthy). Also, it’s universal: the scattered songs throughout? Sucked.

The dissenting voice is Roger Ebert, who, in a somewhat odd negative review, dissects what he finds wrong with the film and Silverman’s delivery in an almost scientific way. Summing it up: "I liked everything about it except the writing, the direction, the editing and the lack of a parent or adult guardian."



Keira Knightley.+ "Pride & Prejudice": Can a Jane Austen movie by a guilty pleasure? Because that’s really what we’d call the appeal of Joe Wright’s new adaptation, for all of the talk of its high aims of social realism, and that may be why every critic seems to love it despite itself. Ella Taylor at the LA Weekly admits as much:

Elizabeth and Darcy may start out the very embodiment of the class and gender wars, but they end up its happy (and, not so incidentally, loaded) resolution. Even as I chortled at the virginal ending, in which the sun rises between two sets of puckered lips, I was tickled to see Lizzie having her feminist cake and eating it too.

Stephen Holden is far less abashed:

In its final
minutes, it makes you believe in true love, the union of soul mates,
happily-ever-after and all the other stuff a romantic comedy promises
but so seldom delivers. For one misty-eyed moment, order reigns in the

Roger Ebert similarly felt a warm, glowing, warming glow ("an almost unreasonable happiness"), while David Edelstein at Slate admits he had his doubts after seeing the purplish advertising campaign for the film, but deems it "marvelous," particularly liking Donald Sutherland‘s performance as the harried Mr. Bennet, and Keira Knightley‘s as Lizzie. Stephanie Zacharek at Salon and Jessica Winter at the Voice are both pleased with the film as well.

Anthony Lane at the New Yorker may have the most interesting review of all. Underneath the typical froth he works himself into attempting to channel Dorothy Parker is a true and injured sense of the proprietary over Austen (we feel a bit sympathetic, having written many a paper about many an Austen novel). Lane makes plenty of fun of how "Jane
Austen has been Brontëfied" (our favorite line: "He
has donned a long coat, which sways fetchingly in the mist; obviously
it was copied from a Human League video of the nineteen-eighties, but
I’m damned if I can remember which one."), but his ultimate issue may be this:

question is not whether the director was justified in that
transmutation but whether he had the choice; whether any of us, as
moviemakers, viewers, or readers, retain the ability—not so much the
scholarly equipment as the imaginative clairvoyance—to see Austen
clearly. Maybe we are doomed to view her through the smoked glass of
the intervening centuries, during which the spirit of romance, and the
role of the body within it, have evolved out of all recognition.

Fair enough. After reading so many overwrought reviews we wondered if we’d been too hard on the film ourselves (we certainly enjoyed it, regardless) in our expectations for a version of a book that may be impossible to capture. But then we thought back to Matthew MacFadyen‘s Darcy striding out, shirt half unbuttoned, into a field at an extremely lavender, soft-focus dawn to find Knightley’s Lizzie already there, telling him that she couldn’t sleep, and we think no, it’s true, this is a very silly film. Deliciously silly, but, like, silly.


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.