DID YOU READ

Fifteen snakes on a dead man’s chest.

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Now, who's up for some sushi?
Oh Tony, Tony, Tony. The "Do critics really matter?" discussion is so very last month. Still, nothing will stop the New York TimesA.O. Scott from martyring his chosen profession:

…Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the judgment of critics almost never makes the difference between failure and success, at least for mass-release, big-budget movies like “Dead Man’s Chest” or “The Da Vinci Code.”

So why review them? Why not let the market do its work, let the
audience have its fun and occupy ourselves with the arcana — the art —
we critics ostensibly prefer? The obvious answer is that art, or at
least the kind of pleasure, wonder and surprise we associate with art,
often pops out of commerce, and we want to be around to celebrate when
it does and to complain when it doesn’t. But the deeper answer is that
our love of movies is sometimes expressed as a mistrust of the people
who make and sell them, and even of the people who see them. We take
entertainment very seriously, which is to say that we don’t go to the
movies for fun. Or for money. We do it for you.

While we appreciate the ideas being expressed, there’s something a bit insufferable about the article — though it’s possible we’re just in a bad mood, as it’s 6,000 degrees in New York and we have no air conditioning in our apartment and this weekend we sprawled on the couch praying for death and watching "The Chronicles of Riddick" on TV because it was too hot to find the remote, and an extended sequence in which Vin Diesel bulgingly rock climbs his way up a mountain to escape the sun on some ill-advised planet where daylight burns you to a CG cinder was completely ineffective as we’d already been outside that day and experienced that unpleasant sensation in real life.

We had a point to make somewhere…yes, the film that prompted the article, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," continues to defy unimpressed critics, breaking record after box office record, but there isn’t the critical hostility greeting this fact that one would expect — maybe because no one expected the first film to be particularly good, and the fact that it was watchable was a pleasant surprise. The consensus with "Dead Man’s Chest" is that it’s a flashy, overlong mess, but there are worse cinematic sins. At Cinemarati, there’s a smart, lengthy and entertaining discussion of the film that kicks off with this key observation:

Is Captain Jack Sparrow the Doctor Frank-N-Furter of the new millennium? Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Knightley) here seem to channel Brad and Janet, zero chemistry between them, each deeply focused on Depp’s boozy brigand deviant. Explaining the state of pure Will’s heart to Davy Jones, Jack exposits, “He’s in love…” and quickly adds “with a woman…” Uh-HUH.

At Salon, Aemilia Scott chronicles the continuing adventures of "Snakes on a Plane," which we is striking us as the most joyless, calculated experiment in movie marketing imaginable, and the true thing critics should fear — films that abandon all pretense of art at all in favor of artificial and crowd-dictated camp appeal. If it can even be called camp (WWSSD: What would Susan Sontag do?).

This reveals the meaning of the cult classic. The C factor lies not in the shittiness of the film but in the agreement between moviemaker and moviegoer on the film’s shittiness. The moviegoer goes to see a movie and thinks, "Wow, this movie is going to be terrible for X, Y and Z reasons." The bad movie delivers reasons X, Y and Z. The cult film responds, "Oh yeah? You think you know X, Y and Z? We’re gonna show you some X, Y and Z!"

"Snakes on a Plane" is an agreement, but one born of an unlikely power shift. It’s an agreement between moviegoer and Hollywood. It’s an agreement between David and Goliath, where Goliath slips up and calls himself a knuckle-dragging retard giant.

Incidentally, as Josh Tyler at Cinema Blend reports today, "Snakes on a Plane" will not be screened for critics. Of course not! There’s no room for critics, even grumpily ignored ones, in this equation. Tragic.

+ Avast, Me Critics! Ye Kill the Fun: Critics and the Masses Disagree About Film Choices (NY Times)
+ Cinemarati Summit: POTC: Dead Man’s Chest
(Cinemerati)
+ Hissy fit (Salon)
+ Snakes On A Plane Hidden From Critics
(Cinema Blend)

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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

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

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

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

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