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DID YOU READ

Serve in heaven, dine in hell.

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"Give them nothing! But take from them everything!"
More "300"? Yes, and we apologize, but no film has managed to stir the masses and provoke the critics quite like Zack Snyder‘s cash-walloping 80 minutes of idiocy. Last week, Variety‘s Peter Bart preeningly held up the film as proof of how out of touch critics were, wondering  "If the established media want to stay relevant, should their critics make a passing attempt to tune in to pop culture? In short, should at least someone on the reviewing staff try to be relevant to both quadrants?" Today in the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein tries to side with the fanboys:

Snyder has learned that film is a subliminal art, in the sense that he uses his visuals to supply the film’s emotional underpinning. In "300," the sky is always dark and unsettled, as if to signal the bitter bloodshed to come. "We tried to make the sky reflect the emotion in the movie, which you can’t do in a regular movie," he says. "That’s what is great about this kind of green-screen filmmaking. It’s not just the actors who matter. Every element in the frame supports the emotion of the moment."

Sadly, our critics, who seemed content with hooting at "300," have lost touch with what makes movies different from other art forms. Hollywood’s mass-audience films are not a literary or an intellectual genre. Never have been, never will be. They are built around visuals and emotion, the two elements that "300" used to capture the public imagination.

Honestly, we were sputtering with fury when we first read this article, but on second read it’s merely an embarrassment, and, beyond that, inane to sweepingly suggest that critics just don’t understand popular cinema — look at the reviews for "Spider-Man" and it’s sequel; for "X-Men" and it’s sequel; for "Pirates of the Caribbean" and… well, not its sequel; for "Sin City," for that matter. As for the cry of "it’s just a movie!", Goldstein lets Snyder speak for himself:

Snyder says he wasn’t perturbed by the nasty reviews. "Nah, I love ’em, they were funny," he says. "The reviews were so neo-con, so homophobic. They couldn’t just go see the movie without trying to over-intellectualize it."

In the same paper, Carina Chocano acidly disagrees:

Someday, maybe, the "entertainment defense" will no longer hold water. But for now, we’re slogging through the era of the completely implausible denial. Like many films that seem to riff on everything without stooping to make a point (which would be just so hopelessly earnest and dorky), "300" proudly claims to be about nothing. Or rather, like another type of purchased pleasure, it claims to be about anything you want it to be. As long as a movie is dumb and violent enough, it can quote whatever cultural allusion is handy, then deny that it did with impunity.

Sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson claims "300" for the geeks at the New York Times, writing that

The less politicized majority, who perhaps would like to draw inspiration from this story without glossing over the crazy and defective aspects of Spartan society, have turned, in droves, to a film from the alternative cultural universe of fantasy and science fiction. Styled and informed by pulp novels, comic books, video games and Asian martial arts flicks, science fiction eats this kind of material up, and expresses it in ways that look impossibly weird to people who aren’t used to it.

Others refuse to allow the film to worm its way around context: Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot writes that "it would be laughable if at this moment all signs weren’t pointing to an imminent Iran invasion by the Bush administration. The racial and political tangle that is 300 is indicative of a muddled culture, one which flaunts political incorrectness as a badge of honor. Postmodern? Try postmortem. Aesthetically and politically, we need 300 like a hole in the head." Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central sighs that "Though you could make the case that Snyder is going for irony in equating these ancient psychopaths with the politics of modern America, the better case is that 300 is an apology for bellicosity so intent by the end to cast history as hagiography that it quails at every moment of useful truth. I wonder if the simple fact that it’s a violent, self-justifying muddle doesn’t make it a decent allegory in spite of itself."

Also, when did a movie’s dumbness become its own defense? We’re bewildered by those who would duck behind the idea that because something is intended for popular consumption, it’s freed from any greater meaning. We don’t believe that "300" will ever be an addition to the canon in any sense other than as a timely cultural artifact, and we don’t think it’s a sign of the crumbling of the intelligent critical community. We are curious about the way it’s become a rallying point for the unexamined moviegoing life — we could care less about Snyder’s motives; the fact that the film is such a draw alone makes it worthy of closer inspection, simply because of it’s bearing on our current dire times.

Over at Pullquote, the cinetrix has thoughts on the film from Ed Koch: "The audience applauded lightly at the end of the movie, but I though it was a ridiculous film and a wasted evening. I tried to get a ticket to see the show on Friday night at a Cineplex which devoted five screens to the movie, but all shows were sold out. I saw it the next day at a different theater, and it was only 80 percent full. Maybe word is spreading. It’s all hype."

+ Film reviewers, moviegoers disagree (Variety)
+ ‘300’: It’s just a movie — or is it? (LA Times)
+ ‘300’ mixed messages (LA Times)
+ It’s All Geek to Me (NY Times)
+ 300 (Reverse Shot)
+ 300 (2007) (Film Freak Central)
+ Bengalis and platforms (Pullquote)

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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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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.