Yo ho, yo ho, a critic’s life for me.

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"It's the greatest movie I’ve ever seen..."
At his blog, Dave Kehr writes about the New York Daily News’ decision not to renew the contract of film critic Jami Bernard, and then rants about the paper in general:

During my tenure at the news – seven years that I keep hoping will
disappear down an Ambien hole and never disturb my troubled sleep again
– Jami and I suffered unbelievable interference from the editorial
higher-ups, all of whom seemed to believe that they were vastly more
capable of registering the “populist” perspective on a given film (in
DN speak, “populist” is a term of art meaning “barely sentient”) than
the people they’d somehow (and clearly, mistakenly) hired as experts on
the subject. I recall one managing editor flying off the handle because
Jami had failed to recognize the cultural and aesthetic importance of
“Sudden Death,” a 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme film about terrorists
taking hostages during an NHL game (if only we had listened then!).
“It’s the greatest movie I’ve ever seen,” the editor announced,
betraying not a hint of irony. One editor-in-chief became notorious in
our small department for rejecting any review of a Disney film that
suggested something less than complete enthusiasm, on the ground that
the DN was a family newspaper and Disney – an indisputable fact – made
family movies. Hence, no possible grounds for criticism.

Awesome! We’re not particularly a fan of Ms. Bernard’s work, but we loathe this trend of moving away from staff critics — a key part of the pleasure of reading reviews is coming back to someone’s writing again and again.

At The House Next Door, Jeremiah Kipp interviews Film Freak Central‘s acid-tongued (Er, penned? Er, keyboarded? Curse you, metaphors!) and very smart Walter Chaw:

JK: How would you respond to the perception of you as a “bomb-thrower”, or a guy who employs hyperbole to get a rise out of people?

WC: Is that the perception of me? I think that’s the easy way out of assessing what it is that I actually write about in my work. Maybe I don’t succeed—I certainly don’t for those folks. Let me say that in my mind the “guys who employ hyperbole to get a rise out of people” are the Earl Dittmans and Jeffrey Lyons and Larry fucking Kings of the world who call every neo-Stanley Kramer piece of leaden dreck that floats down the bilge the “best film of the year” or “a masterpiece” or “the first great. . . of the year”. When I look at what I write (and I seldom have to, thank god), I hope that what I’m seeing there is a real, throbbing outrage at films that are out to do harm and, on the other side, a real live joy at films that feed me. Stuff that’s just out to make money off of easy stereotypes and nakedly shilling to robotically-demarcated demographics of imaginary people – and looping back around, here, offering up all this feckless garbage to the blind eyes of the vast majority of the critics in lofty positions that I (if no one else) hope are manning the gates—makes me exhausted.

This is older, but we missed it the first go-round: at RockCritics.com, Aaron Aradillas interviews Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum:

[W]hat I don’t get is this:
years after Kael’s death, why are we still talking about Kael vs.
Sarris as if choosing a team color is Topic A? As if, indeed, any
serious movie critic must declare a team in order to play? Why does the
mention of Kael, in particular–and the declaration for or against on
the part of an army of male critics (it’s predominantly men who get het
up about the subject)–still generate so much ink? I’m being a little
provocative here for the sake of, oh, I don’t know, pantsing the
keepers of the flame, but I’m also serious: The humorless orthodoxies
of the competing teams baffle me.

And New York‘s David Edelstein has an immensely entertaining dispatch about serving on a Tribeca Film Festival jury with Rosie Perez and Moby.

+ Another One Bites the Dust (DaveKehr.com)
+ Keep up, or get out of the way: an interview with film critic Walter Chaw (The House Next Door)

+ Entertaining Weekly (RockCritics.com)
+ Tribeca Jury Duty (New York)


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.