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DID YOU READ

“The film nobody wants to see.”

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United 93.
In his intro to the Village Voice‘s Tribeca picks (some sounding a little grudging — was 40 an arbitrary goal?), J. Hoberman surveys the sprawl that is the festival’s fifth year and writes that "The festival is a triumph of branding, but has it found its niche? Like the city it celebrates, Tribeca has proven resilient, but like New York, it’s far too sprawling and abrasive to ever attain the grooviness of SXSW or the exclusivity of Telluride. Marketing—yes. Market—we’ll see." He calls the festival "the
first 9-11 memorial, and surely the most upbeat," while referring to opening night’s "United 93" as "the movie everyone I know is afraid
to see."

On that topic, there are now three early reviews out of Paul Greengrass‘ film, two positive and one not. In a measured piece at the Voice, Dennis Lim calls it "at once scrupulous and ghoulish, visceral and sober," and "best understood as a memorial," though he does write that

‘United 93"’s claim to authority is precisely its biggest problem. Greengrass has been grandiose in his public statements: The film aims to arrive at "a believable truth" and may even reveal "the DNA of our times." Its quasi-vérité suggests an implicit fidelity, when what’s in operation is at best imaginative empathy and at worst arrogance, an obviously untenable assertion that this is how it happened.

He seems to be looking at the film with a bit of remove, but it’s still an undeniable recommendation. Less reserved is Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum, who concludes:

Do we need to see this? No. There’s no right or wrong way to remember
9/11, no shame in skipping the movie-fied sight or prize for those who
dare to look. Do we benefit from recognizing, in United 93, that
there’s no difference between those who died and us, in fear and in
courage? Absolutely.

And at The Hot Button, David Poland weighs in:

Ultimately, "United 93" leads to a dozen people fighting for their lives over about 12 minutes. Is there a message about the overall event? I don’t see it. I think that an unflinching examination of the people on that plane might have held deep secrets, even untold. I think that the impotency of the men in the air traffic control rooms around America, especially those who are supposed to have control of our protective forces, might have offered great insights.

But all I see in "United 93" is a beautifully made, well-acted, earnest, well-intended human horror show that brings an event in American history to life, though mostly as a guess.

On the wires today, Claudia Parsons gathers quotes from the family members of those who died on the flight, who seem a fairly supportive and magnanimous bunch.

At his blog, Army Archerd talks to Universal’s Ron Meyer: "And yes, he admits that the studio was ‘very careful’ not only in the telling of the story but in its advertising, that is, the trailer. ‘But everyone (at Universal) felt that this story needed to be told.’ "

And at the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein prepares to take on all comers on the "Too soon?" question:

While I respect the fact that New Yorkers in particular may see this issue in a very different light from the rest of us, I think everyone is looking at this film, made by British writer-director Paul Greengrass, through the wrong end of the telescope. Instead of asking "Is it too soon?" I wish people would say, "What took so long?"

For 4 1/2 years, not a week, perhaps even a day, has gone by without mention of Sept. 11. Our newspapers and magazines have been filled with stories, often illustrated by graphic photographs of the tragedy. Stacks of books have been written. The war on terrorism has been a central focus of our political lives. So many documentaries and TV movies have been made about 9/11 that reviewers now contrast the new offerings the way film critics compare vintage versus latter-day Scorsese films. The playing of never-before-heard tapes detailing the frantic chaos in Flight 93’s cockpit made headlines last week as jurors pondered the fate of Al Qaeda zealot Zacarias Moussaoui.

With emotions obviously still running high, it’s no wonder some people seem so wary of Hollywood weighing in on the subject. But it seems disingenuous for those of us in the media, after having exhaustively explored every possible 9/11-related nook and cranny, to suddenly express outrage or brow-furrowing concern over the specter of Hollywood finally tackling the issue. After all, Greengrass went ahead with the film only after soliciting permission from — and working closely with — the family members of the 40 crew members and passengers on the flight.

It’s been hard for us to put our ambivalence about this film into words — we haven’t seen it and doubt we will, but not out of any particular sensitivity that not enough time has passed, though we don’t buy Goldstein’s arguments that, because there have been 9/11 docs and cheesy television movies, Hollywood’s take is no big deal.

It is a big deal. It’s a feature film, a carefully scripted product with a cast that includes a few, while not famous, certainly recognizable actors. It’s fiction with a gleam of prestige, "based on true events," however well researched, and other than those made-for-TV flicks, which benefit from being in bad taste, there’s been very little in fictional literature, cinema, or television that’s directly taken on 9/11. This is untread ground, partially because of all the tough questions it raises — what is a 9/11 feature to accomplish? Is it entertainment? Is it, as Lim suggests, a memorial, capturing some idea of those midair moments in cinematic amber? Is it didactic, is it sentimental?

We have no doubt that Greengrass’ film is in somber good taste (though we do wish he would quit with the gradiose statements about it and let it stay that way). But ultimately, that’s beside the point…we’ve tried to imagine a fiction film about the events of 9/11 that we’d want to see, and we can’t. There’s just nothing there for us, nothing that filtering events through a dramatic arc and flashy editing could say that the news footage hasn’t said more eloquently.

+ The Top 40 Picks of the Tribeca Film Festival (Village Voice)
+ A Flight to Remember (Village Voice)
+ United 93 (Entertainment Weekly)
+ April 19, 2006 (The Hot Button)
+ Victims’ relatives say 9/11 film not profiteering (Reuters)
+ United on "United 93"? (ArmyArcherd.com)
+ It’s time we looked (LA Times)

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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.