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The week’s critic wrangle: “Friends with Money,” “4,” “On A Clear Day.”

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No longer just "Friends."
+ "Friends With Money": Despite reviews running from warm to lukecold on Nicole Holofcener‘s latest, no one is particularly excited about it, perhaps because hers are not the type of films one gets all giddy standing in line for. She is "a first-rate portraitist and something of a miniaturist," Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times in one of the more fond reviews, though she does suggest that it is "greatly appealing if not especially adventurous, either for its director or for her admirers." In LA Weekly, Ella Taylor muses that "if it lacks the bitchy, enraged vitality of the terrific ‘Lovely & Amazing,’ that’s because it holds true to its more mature mood and theme." Armond White at the New York Press likes the film (and loves Holofcener), but thinks that she overreaches with her themes of class this time around: "[T]he problem goes deeper—too deep for Holofcener to resolve through her usual delicate methods."

David Edelstein at New York outlines the pluses and minuses Holofcener’s deadpan, nonjudgmental style, which he finds makes for many good moment that don’t come together, though he quick to point out that the film is still a remarkable rarity: "Warm, female-centric, socially conscious comedies with juicy
parts—characters you want to talk about—for fortysomething actresses
don’t grow on Hollywood palm trees." Of Ms. Aniston‘s latest indie turn, the Village Voice‘s J. Hoberman (who isn’t thrilled by the film’s episodic structure) writes: "Scarcely a character, Olivia idly phone-stalks her married ex, but she is also something of a saint— remarkably free of class envy and as easily bullied by the men she meets as Aniston is upstaged by the three avidly hard-boiled actresses with whom she shares the screen." And Roger Ebert, after a bizarre "Crash" mention (any excuse, apparently), complains that the film "lacks the warmth and edge of the two previous features" and is "more of an idea than a story," but does also make this great point:

Yes, it’s about how Olivia’s friends all have money, and at one point Jane suggests they simply give her some to bring her up to their level. As it happens, characters do exactly that in novels I’ve read recently by Stendhal and Trollope, but in modern Los Angeles, it is unheard of. If you have millions and your friend is a maid, obviously what you do is tell her how much you envy her. Working for a living is a charming concept when kept at a reasonable distance.


"What goes down better at three in the morning, vodka or blood?"
+ "4": The Reverse Shot troop (Lauren Kaminsky, Michael Joshua Rowin, Jeff Reichert, and Michael Koresky this week) at indieWIRE give Ilya Khrjanovsky‘s "4" the most positive reviews we’ve ever seen them give anything — they even call in an extra writer, as if a full chorus of voices would give their praise more weight. A sample from Kaminsky: "This film does not imitate life, it creates it — it lives and
breathes a little different from anything you’ve seen before, and yet
the result is somehow painfully recognizable." At New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz calls the film "easily the most visceral work of art on screens right now," and though he has caveats, he does write that "For now, I’ll give this film the benefit of every doubt because it’s confident, mysterious and powerful, and because there’s a shortage of films that invite this degree interpretation and engagement." J. Hoberman at the Village Voice and Manohla Dargis at the New York Times are more restrained; Hoberman suggests that "’4”s most provocative quality is its ironic surplus of beauty," while also stating that "least one of the alcohol-infused lies [at the film’s beginning] turns out to be true," which is totally arguable. Dargis sums up the film’s symbolism thusly:

Sometimes a severed pig’s head is just a severed pig’s head, after all,
though sometimes a weeping crone yodeling mournfully about the Volga
River is also a symbol of a grotesque and nostalgic nationalism.

She also writes that while "4" is a "rather remarkable first feature," Khrjanovsky still has a lot to learn.


"You got made redundant — you should just face up to it like everyone else!"
+ "On a Clear Day": LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor likes Gaby Dellal‘s debut feature about an unemployed shipbuilder who decides to swim the English Channel and ends up reaffirming his self-worth, and even she writes that "I can’t defend this film, except as an opportunity for the deliciously mawkish weep some of us require for optimal mental health." Jeanette Catsoulis at the New York Times is also fairly (and less self-deprecatingly) fond, suggesting that "while Alex Rose‘s screenplay immerses itself in idiosyncrasy and redemption, [Peter] Mullan and his director, Gaby Dellal, balance the sentimentality with a healthy dose of working-class vulnerability." Less generous is the Village Voice‘s Michael Atkinson, who, in a rare showing these days, dusts off the snark:

The only asset ‘On a Clear Day’ comes equipped to exploit is Peter Mullan as—and here’s where I lose you—Frank, a disgruntled, laid-off Glasgow dad who decides in his miserable torpor to justify himself by swimming the English Channel. Will he make it?!

But the New York PressMatt Zoller Seitz is unimpressed even with Mullan, writing that "Nine-tenths of Mullan’s acting consists of scrunching up his face to telegraph ‘depression’; the remaining tenth is subdivided between rueful smiles, manic motion and disoriented glancing about (to convey the idea that Frank is ‘lost’)… Even small roles that have ‘scene stealer’ written all over them are so weirdly misjudged that it’s as if you’re watching a film made by space robots that landed on earth last week."



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.