The week’s critic ramble: Riding Alone in Mutual Appreciation.

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Also opening this week: The awesomely ridiculous-looking "Crank," Neil LaBute‘s enigmatic "The Wicker Man" remake, and Mike Judge‘s "Idiocracy." But no reviews for you (or us)! "Crank"’s press screening, at least here in New York, is today at 11am. "The Wicker Man" is infamously (well, infamously in our tiny entertainment news bubble) not being screened for critics. And "Idiocracy"? Is opening unheralded in a few cities today — New York is not one of them — sans even a website.

Also, some documentary we may have mentioned before opens today.


"I'm the actor behind the mask."
+ "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles": Mostly kind, if not glowing, words for Zhang Zimou‘s latest. Everyone’s quick to point out the film’s sentimentality — as Nathan Lee writes in the New York Times:

Vulnerable, corny and disarmingly frank, a film in which people don’t just weep but slobber and moan, “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” drives melodrama right off the map. Cynics are in for a very long haul.

But he admits that "for all its schematic hyperbole, the film is warm and affecting." At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir groups the film stylistically with "Not One Less" and "The Road Home," and declares that "once you get used to the apparent flatness and emotional reserve of
this picture, it’s a sad, slyly comic tale of family trauma and
reconciliation that packs a wallop."

At the LA Weekly, Ella Taylor is more dismissive, and in a nicely incisive review writes that the film is a "fatally reverential vehicle for veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura and the greater glory of the post-Mao proletariat":

Far from paying tribute to the rural poor, Riding Alone patronizes them by conflating simplicity with simple-mindedness and reducing them to binary oppositions.

Armond White at the New York Press likes the film, calling it "a cerebral tear-jerker."


"Do I have a girlfriend?"
+ "Mutual Appreciation": It’s been ages since we’re seen Andrew Bujalski‘s latest interpretation of our fumbling generation’s poignant cri de coeur, too long ago to write a proper review, and our roommate absconded to California with our DVD copy. Still, we wanted to say that we like it an awful lot, partially because it manages to transcend the self-consciousness and reflexive irony that have crippled the work of most young filmmakers. Its characters are themselves crippled by self-consciousness and reflexive irony  (and perhaps too much aimless niceness); the film, on the other hand, is sharply observed without ever being snide or too easy.

Anyway, almost everyone else loves the film: At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis compares the film to Jean Eustache‘s "The Mother and the Whore":

The men and women in “Mutual Appreciation” often come across as being as inwardly directed as those in the Eustache; the crucial difference is that the shadow of 1968 that hangs over the French characters invests their self-absorption with an intimation of tragedy. Mr. Bujalski’s characters, by contrast, don’t even have generational failure on their side, an absence of history, of myth, alluded to by Alan’s drunken confession that all he wants out of life is “a good story.”

J. Hoberman at the Voice pens a positive review that’s still packed with backhanded complements — in the absence of Armond White on this one, we have Hoberman to thank for breaking out the "s" word: "Funny Ha Ha managed to be both charmingly lackadaisical and annoyingly smug; Mutual Appreciation, which Bujalski shot in grainy black-and-white in hipster Brooklyn (and is self-distributing), is even more so." David Edelstein at New York writes that "With its halfhearted breakups of halfhearted relationships and fumbling declarations of attraction, Mutual Appreciation is a tapestry of indecision. It’s full of ‘random’ encounters that resonate like crazy, like the one in a bar with an acquaintance of Ellie’s who says, ‘I’m finding all this plant stuff, so I think it means I should start a garden.’ "

Heh. Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly also makes the Eustache comparison; he does think the film is a "wee-bit-too-wee." And this week’s Reverse Shot three, Jeff Reichert, Nick Pinkerton and Michael Koresky, are prompted to engage in an interesting discussion on the topic: "Is Andrew Bujalski the cinematic voice of a mumbling, inarticulate, moderately employable generation, or a talentless student filmmaker who’s managed to spin a single badly done trick into an honest-to-goodness moviemaking career?"


And now we’re blowing town for the long weekend. Back Tuesday.


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.