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The week’s critic wrangle: “American Dreamz” and “Somersault.”

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No new reviews from us this week — we ain’t seen nothin’.

Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore.
+ "American Dreamz": Roger Ebert ledes with "’American Dreamz’ is a comedy, not a satire. We have that on the authority of its writer-director, Paul Weitz, who told Variety: ‘Satire is what closes on Saturday night. So it’s a comedy.’ Actually, it’s a satire. Its comedy is only fairly funny, but its satire is mean, tending toward vicious." Ebert, who gives the film three stars out of four, is one of the few impressed by Weitz’s satirical talents — Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek (who was also a big fan of Weitz’s "About A Boy") is also won over by "the outrage, and the deep frustration, embedded…in the movie as a whole." She’s also writes that "isn’t a subversive comedy — in fact, it’s so unapologetically upfront that I suspect some moviegoers will accuse it of lacking teeth"…and in fact, some critics do. At the Village Voice, J. Hoberman, while not overwhelming negative (he finds the film more interesting than edgy), does conclude that "Ultimately, ‘American Dreamz’ is less social satire than social realism—the contestants are virtually indistinguishable from those on the real American Idol; the pols are as comfortingly stupid as we might wish them to be." And according to New York‘s David Edelstein:

Paul Weitz’s politics-showbiz parody suggests that the biggest problem facing satirists today is that they can’t begin to compete with what’s happening in Washington, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, or even the sleazy corridors of network TV. Consider the reality: the fourth amendment in tatters; carnage in Iraq; a potential U.S. nuclear strike on Iran; Simon Cowell as an arbiter of taste. It’s so much wilder than it is in "Dr. Strangelove" or "Wag the Dog," let alone in this spottily funny clown-show, which is dwarfed in its insights (and its laughs) by even a bad day on "The Daily Show."

At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis is the least impressed, wondering "where’s the beef and, as important, where are the jokes, the heart and the understanding that every age creates its own variation on the American dream?"

Incidentally, the lack of comedy in this, er, comedy is a point raised by several critics: Dargis, Hoberman and Anthony Lane at the New Yorker ("I winced three times, and gave a couple of short laughs, but that was it."). Finally, at the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas suggests that only at its conclusion does the film manage anything actually provocative by "suggesting that the global fascination with American kitsch could just be the thing that will stop us from destroying each other. In which case, may I propose Paula Abdul for president?"


Abbie Cornish.
+ "Somersault": Cate Shortland‘s award-winning Aussie debut about a teenage runaway has garnered mostly positive (if generally removed) reviews — it’s one of the odd effects of the triumph of the capsule review for these smaller releases that people seem to use up their entire 200 words just describing the film, or don’t get around to that in making fun of it. But no one’s making fun of "Somersault" (though the most opinion Melissa Levine in the Village Voice manages is calling saluting the film’s "dreamy, sexy, rather chilly style"). Stephen Holden at the New York Times guardedly likes it and Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly calls it "remarkable," while at Salon, Andrew O’Hehir writes that

I’m sure some people will be driven mad by the deliberate ambiguities of "Somersault," and by its characters’ near-total inability to understand themselves or express themselves. But to me, that makes it uncannily true to life.

But screw this, let’s get down to the important part: how hot is star Abbie Cornish (who, because all Australian actresses have been grown in vats in the same Outback clone farm, has been called both a younger Nicole Kidman and a younger Naomi Watts)?

Foundas: "the talented Cornish, who asserts the role with sexy, know-it-all confidence, then shows us the trembling little girl lurking just beneath."

Holden: "With the face of an angel and a sexual magnetism she wields with only a partial awareness of its seismic force, Heidi (Abbie Cornish), the blond 16-year-old runaway who thrashes through Cate Shortland’s "Somersault," is the kind of young woman who drives men crazy."

Levine: "…beautiful…"



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.