DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: “Tsotsi” and that “Unknown White Male.”

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Presley Chweneyagae.
+ "Tsotsi": Our own review is here — basically, we think this is half of a good movie.

Reviews are good-to-mixed when it comes to Gavin Hood‘s Oscar-nominated film about the redemption of a Johannesburg street thug who unintentionally kidnaps a baby — it’s tough to bash a film that so clearly wears its heart on its battered leather jacket sleeve. But most acknowledge the film’s narrative is hardly a new one. Jessica Winter at the Village Voice sums it up: "tough guy humanized by a cute kid." She also points out that Hood "isn’t inoculated [oof] against cliché; the flashbacks are mawkish, and when Tsotsi sneaks up on a disabled beggar in an abandoned lot, the soundtrack signals the threat with a Sounds ‘R’ Us rattlesnake effect," but acknowledges there’s still a lot to like about the film. Manohla Dargis at the New York Times places "Tsotsi" in a long line of that "carry a patina of sociological import" because they’re about the grim lives of criminals: "[D]espite the flavorful patois and subtitles, ‘Tsotsi’ isn’t much different from every studio cautionary tale with an unhappy past, a criminal present and an unhappier future" — still, she salutes star Presley Chweneyagae‘s performance as well as the film’s sincerity.

Ella Taylor at LA Weekly finds the film manages to sidestep schmaltz despite a plot that’s "verging on crude" she finds it superior to recent releases portraying Africa as lost without the aid of crusading white Westerners because of its "vigorously transcendent spirit of self-help." And Andrew O’Hehir at Salon doesn’t quite get around to reviewing the film, instead interviewing Hood, but does call it "an explosive wide-screen vision of the street life of Soweto, bursting with music, danger and vitality, and the extraordinary story of a ruthless young criminal."

 

"Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders."
+ "Unknown White Male"
: Half of the reviews about this possible doc about a 35-year-old man who inexplicable loses his memory are more concerned with the current questioning of the film’s veracity than the film itself. J. Hoberman at the Voice (who calls the doc "haunting if sketchy"):

To call this story unbelievable is to say the very least. If it’s a hoax, [Doug] Bruce is a fantastic actor (but then, the movie suggests, so are we all). If not, you may wonder less about Bruce’s personality than his condition. No convincing medical or psychological explanation is ever given; Bruce is a walking metaphor, even a miracle.

Manohla Dargis similarly points out the lack of facts one would think are essential ("conspicuously missing are any firsthand diagnostic discussions") and notes that director Rupert Murray‘s list of influences, which includes Man Ray, Tarkovsky and Buñuel, is notably short on actual documentarians. She concludes that the film wouldn’t be better or worse as a hoax: "this is just one man’s freaky saga, the kind that gets you to thinking about how our lives are built from wisps of memory and markers of memory like photographs."

David Edelstein at New York thinks the film’s a little lightweight, possibly because of Murray’s protectiveness over his friend/subject, and notes that "Murray doesn’t come out and say what many of us are thinking—justly or unjustly-in the new post–James Frey era: that this is all a little neat." And at this week’s Reverse Shot review trinity at indieWIRE, Jeannette Catsoulis is enchanted ("mesmerizing and miraculous"), Michael Joshua Rowin is disturbed by the film’s idealization of its newly wide-eyed subject, and Nicolas Rapold wonder if "Unknown White Male" is "the most hilarious example of the persistence of class-consciousness or what?"

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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.