The week’s critic wrangle: Some Scorsese guy, “Little Children,” “Shortbus.”

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"When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?"
+ "The Departed": We had a suspicion Martin Scorsese‘s latest wasn’t going to be so great — no reason, except that perhaps it seemed a too good to be true. Scorsese returning to crime and criminals; Scorsese remaking "Infernal Affairs"; Scorsese doing Boston! Well, looks like we were wrong, thank gods.

At LA Weekly, Scott Foundas calls "The Departed" "the best thing [Scorsese]’s done in ages," and while noting that he "wouldn’t rush to call the movie one of Scorsese’s best," also concludes rather nicely that

Indeed, the very vibrancy of this movie is tied to its familiarity, to the thrill of seeing “Marty” shrug off his yen for enshrinement in some ersatz canon and rekindle the old razzle-dazzle — the pulse-quickening energy, the restless zooms and tracking shots, the explosions of gory violence — that once made every young film student in America want to be him (before they decided they wanted to be Tarantino instead).

Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly thinks that the shift of setting to Boston has freed Scorsese up: "In embracing this new locale, Scorsese creates a movie built on the foundations of GoodFellas and Mean Streets but not chained to it, a picture that feels as effortless as The Aviator and Gangs of New York felt effortful." At New York, David Edelstein writes that "[t]he movie works smashingly, especially if you haven’t seen its Hong Kong counterpart and haven’t a clue what’s coming. But for all its snap, crackle, and pop, it’s nowhere near as galvanic emotionally." He also finds DiCaprio a little "lumpish," and Nicholson a little too much "Jack," an emotion seconded by Manohla Dargis at the New York Times: "[H]e’s playing bigger and badder than life with engines roaring. It’s a loud, showy performance." In comparing this remake with the original, she adds that "Hong Kong and Hollywood action films are themselves doppelgängers of a sort, and Mr. Scorsese, himself larger than life, is one of their biggest, baddest daddies."

Dana Stevens at Slate (who cautions that "The Departed isn’t the masterpiece I have the feeling some may hail it as. It feels like the kind of movie critics might overpraise, if only because it’s nice to see Scorsese back in the saddle and a treat to find a cops-and-robbers thriller with some energy and wit.") is one of several to hail Mark Wahlberg‘s performance: "As the foul-mouthed putdown artist Dignam, Wahlberg can’t deliver a line without cracking the audience up. He shines even amidst a uniformly strong cast, just as he did in I Heart Huckabees."

At Salon, Stephanie Zacharek writes that "This is a picture of grand gestures and subtle intricacies, a movie that, even at more than two hours long, feels miraculously lean. It’s a smart shot of lucid storytelling." She goes so far as to say

People will want to compare "The Departed" with "Goodfellas," but the movies are worlds apart: "Goodfellas," for all its violence, carries nearly no emotional weight — it’s a tooting fairground organ with no soul. "The Departed" has weight and bite, although it’s also a thrilling entertainment.

And J. Hoberman at the Village Voice compares and contrasts "The Departed" with "Infernal Affairs" more than anyone else, finding the former lacking and "[n]either a debacle nor a bore." His problem, too, is Jack, and he slips in that "Scorsese has a long history of burdening films with unpleasant and even atrocious central performances, and Nicholson seems bent on twirling the mustache off Daniel Day-Lewis‘s heavy in Gangs of New York—a role that really belonged to producer Harvey Weinstein."



Pedophiles away.
+ "Little Children": While soundly derided by everyone we spoke to at the New York Film Festival (we passed on it — Matt Singer reviews it here), Todd Field’s second directorial effort has attracted mixed-to-good reviews from the general critical mass. Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly declares the film a "jolting, artfully made drama set in and around a suburban playground somewhere between American Beauty and In the Bedroom on America’s psychic highway," and A.O. Scott at the New York Times, in a thoroughly rapturous review, heralds Field as "among the most literary of American filmmakers, one of the few who tries to find a visual language suited to the ambiguous plainness of contemporary realist fiction."

Elsewhere, other aren’t impressed. At LA Weekly, Ella Taylor bemoans that the film "divides its time evenly between melodrama and black comedy, uneasy bedfellows under most conditions but especially in a movie that solicits sympathy for its wounded souls." David Edelstein at New York calls the film "an unusually powerful mess," but ultimately finds that it works: "This is satire that doesn’t diminish its characters. It makes them bottomless."

And Andrew O’Hehir at Salon wraps it all up:

"Little Children" is going to get some very good reviews, and right now its producers are expecting to line up onstage at awards shows toward the end of winter. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s an unholy mess, simultaneously too Gothic and too sarcastic, that preaches liberation and delivers only puritanism. It’s a craftsmanlike but robotic imitation of "interesting" filmmaking, only in patches, and by accident, the real thing. Let it win awards; no one will even remember it in five years.


"I like cute people."
+ "Shortbus": The surprise champion of John Cameron Mitchell‘s melange of unsimulated sex and post-9/11 trauma is Armond White at the New York Press, who sets aside his aversion for all things hipster to declare "If Gregg Araki’s kaleidoscopic Nowhere was Gen X’s La Dolce Vita, this is Gen Y’s funny-and-raunchy Rules of the Game":

I never expected a movie this playfully adroit and poignant from the director/star of the calamitous Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The events of 9/11 must have sent a jolt through Mitchell, causing him to understand that boho grandstanding on its own has little justification.

Others liking the film include Scott Foundas at LA Weekly, who writes:

The sex in the movie is “real” not just because it isn’t simulated, but because the bodies taking part in it are of all shapes and sizes, including a great many that would never pass a Hollywood screen test. But the boldest provocation of Mitchell’s sweet, tender and gently funny film may be its exuberant celebration of community and togetherness at a cultural moment rife with fatalism and disconnect.

Manohla Dargis at the New York Times is charmed: "Mr. Mitchell isn’t the first non-pornographic filmmaker to incorporate sexually explicit material into his work, but he may be the most optimistic and good-natured…Make those bodies laugh as well as writhe, as Mr. Mitchell does here, and the metaphors can feel less punishing, more palatable." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon is also charmed:

[T]he sex is the most unremarkable thing about it. What surprised me most about this gentle-spirited sprawl of a movie, set in post-9/11 New York City, is what I can only call the friendly, Midwestern quality of the filmmaking… This may be a movie made by a New Yorker (albeit a Texas-born one), yet it’s anything but insular. Gregarious, neurotic, maybe a little guilty of oversharing: "Shortbus" is American right to its nonexistent short shorts.

Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly declares that "If I’m going to see sex on
screen — as opposed to the brushing of teeth — I want something hotter.
I find these people silly, and desperately antic." And Reverse Shot‘s trio, which this week is made up of
Michael Koresky, Keith Uhlich and Jeannette Catsoulis, are mixed. Uhlich dislikes the "false-hearted pathos/catharsis," while Catsoulis and Koresky love and like it, with Koresky writing that:

Mitchell’s cinematic instincts — so musical, so grandiose, so spectacularly queer yet attempting to be hetero-friendly — are so dead-on ("Shortbus" contains the most humane, compassionate use of the close-up of any American film this year) that it will be easy for many to overlook "Shortbus"’s slightly faulty wiring and precarious plot pivots.


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.