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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: “Hard Candy,” “Kinky Boots,” and “The Notorious Bettie Page.”

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It’s a weekend of naughty titles attached to not-so-naughty films.

Ellen Page.+ "Hard Candy": "Not to sound like Michael Medved here, but really: Isn’t there a statute of limitations for the rape-revenge genre?" wonders Rob Nelson at the Village Voice, who finds it half bemusingly guilty pleasure and half "pure torture—to watch, some will say." In the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas suggests David Slade‘s film is somewhere between the traditions of "Death and the Maiden" and "Funny Games," and writes that, despite lacking the sense of humanity of those films:

[L]ike its eponymous confection, the movie gets lodged in your throat and sticks there for a while, admittedly more for its aggressive shock value than for anything it has to say about the greater implications of vigilante violence, the information superhighway’s rampant sex culture or the slipperiness of cyber identities.

He also labels the ending acts of the film "monotonous." And Manohla Dargis at the New York Times writes that "Viewers who find torture entertaining, even in the age of   Abu Ghraib, may find this watchable. Not so those of us who, like an acquaintance, get pretty bored with people in trapped-in-apartment movies having philosophical debates while fearing for their privates."

 

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Joel Edgerton.
+ "Kinky Boots": Stephanie Zacharek at Salon suggests that "You could do worse if you’re looking for a gentle pick-me-up: ‘Kinky Boots’ is a sweet-tempered, mildly entertaining picture. But there’s that word mildly…" She finds that "Kinky Boots" and the recent comedies like it don’t live up to their Ealing predecessors, but do "offer a showcase for performers whom we often think of as "serious" actors to do light comedy, to loosen up and have fun." In the New York Times, Stephen Holden shows more spark than we might have ever seen from him in a review:

Lola’s being black lends her an extra layer of alienation and insight
into oppression, which automatically translates into an extra layer of
nobility. In one scene, she deliberately loses an arm-wrestling
competition with a bully to allow him to save face. That’s what I call
saintly.

Look at you, Mr. Holden! He also calls the film a "product stamped on an assembly line." And at the Village Voice, IFC’s own Matt Singer grumbles that "’Boots’ is unforgivably tame; only foot fetishists (or possibly Imelda Marcos) could get off on such desexualized, PG-13-rated fare."

 

Gretchen Mol.
+ "The Notorious Bettie Page": Pulled-quote style…it’s time for us to head home.

David Denby at the New Yorker: "‘American Psycho,’ [Mary] Harron‘s nastily satirical thrill-kill drama, came off as inordinately proud of its own heartlessness; it was all curdled smarminess and gleaming surfaces sprinkled with designer blood. This movie, however, is lively and sweet-tempered and often funny."

J. Hoberman at the Village Voice: "Not for nothing is this movie opening on Good Friday. It can be as boring as church. There’s no snake in Bettie’s Eden and no narrative to Harron’s movie. It’s more of an altar piece: Our Lady of the Garter Belt, the Fastidious Bettie Page."

David Edelstein in New York: "By no means is ‘The Notorious Bettie Page’ a pinup anthem. Its tone is semi-parodic, with lurid black-and-white cinematography and brassy, tongue-in-cheek music. But Harron stops well short of camp. There’s a hint that Bettie goes in for stylized S&M because of how she was sexually damaged: She bombs in Method-acting classes; she seems incapable of doing all that psychological plumbing. She’d rather be a clown, doffing her clothes, pulling saucy faces, and wagging her finger as she mock-disciplines other trussed-up models."

Ella Taylor at LA Weekly: "As played by Gretchen Mol, whose natural radiance is all but drained of its animal energy by her vague, unfocused acting — the vacantly agreeable smile never leaves her doll-like features for long — Page comes across less as the free-spirited, instinctive bohemian Harron clearly means her to be than as a good-natured provincial noodle to whom life merely happens as she wanders from one potentially adverse situation to another, spinning dross into gold by accident."

Reverse Shot
‘s Michael Koresky at indieWIRE: "Couched in truth as it may be, Harron’s approach drains Bettie Page’s aura of anything even remotely resembling eroticism; rather than trying to recreate the excitement or sexual energy of Page’s iconic images, Harron settles for safe, distancing irony. For all its sexual individualism, ‘Bettie Page’ assumes a rather condescending air of its own: Page is a sweet-faced kewpie doll angelically dolling out whack-off material for the pervs who are into leather and chains."

Armond White
at the New York Press: "Scenes of Page failing her acting-class exercises are doubly strange because of Mol’s own unsuccessful bid at stardom. (The film’s notion of female exploitation is complicated by Mol’s history in which a poking-nipple Vanity Fair cover is her claim to dubious fame.)"

Stephanie Zacharek
at Salon: "’The Notorious Bettie Page’ is a true feminist movie, but one that avoids cant and facile theories about victimization. Harron and [screenwriter Guinevere] Turner find a great deal of friendly good humor in the Bettie Page story."

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "If the inner Bettie remains somewhat out of focus here, even to the beatific finale, it’s largely because what made her a sensation — both in the 1950’s and the 1980’s revival that made her into a modern cult figure — wasn’t her acting aspirations or the religious convictions that might have pushed her to leave modeling, but that she was a genius of the body. It’s a truism of art history that while men act, women appear, smiling demurely away from the gaze of the viewer. In many of her photographs, by contrast, Bettie looks straight into the camera with a grin that is by turns twinkling and devouring, and flips that old truism on its head by turning her appearance into a performance. She knows what you want; she wants it, too."

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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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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.”

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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.