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SXSW: “Manufacturing Dissent.”

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Moore at the Oscars.
The most interesting part of the premiere of the querulous doc "Manufacturing Dissent," from Toronto-based filmmakers Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk, was the unusually aggressive Q&A that followed the screening. As heralded in the New York Times in late February, the good-natured Canadians were admirers of their subject, Michael Moore, when they chose him to be the topic of their fourth film, but found him to both be an intractable subject and one with troubling inconsistencies in his public persona and outright falsehoods in his work. Not a popular subject for a left-leaning city (even though the filmmakers themselves are politically liberal), but audience members seemed less put out by the thesis than the approach; the film is, in form, more loyal to its subject than it may have intended. "Manufacturing Dissent" is a documentary in true Moore fashion, narrated by and sometimes featuring Melnyk, augmenting its argument with damning news footage and a chorus of talking head interviews, and landing a few solid blows amidst plenty of cheap shots.

Melnyk and Caine don’t have Moore’s undeniable gift for the entertaining polemic, as well as his less appreciated ability to thread his arguments into a narrative, and "Manufacturing Dissent" wobbles between unflattering unauthorized profile and closer chronological look at the "Fahrenheit 9/11" years. There are plenty of provocative ideas floated: Moore exaggerated his working class hero image (the filmmakers visit the Flint suburb in which he grew up, paying a visit to a fair in the town and talking to a few kids, who deem it "rich"); Moore manipulated his footage (the "Roger & Me" moment in which his mike is cut off at the GW stockholders meeting was apparently faked at another theater); Moore lies (he actually did get an opportunity to question Roger Smith, but left the footage on the cutting room floor and asked others to forget it happened); Moore wants fame and fortune (we get a shot of his expensive house). There are also plenty of strange pettinesses brought up as evidence of…what? Moore’s 80s Michigan alt-weekly didn’t pay the $10 a month it owed for a syndicated rock column! Moore didn’t want to admit to a film critic on Canadian television that his sole narrative effort, "Canadian Bacon," was not very good! When Moore made the leap from his local alt-weekly to the editor-in-chief position at national magazine Mother Jones, he didn’t have enough experience to pull it off!

These moments just muddy an already unclear moral. The slippages and falsehoods amongst Moore’s films are unfortunate, but not a stunning revelation in these days of reality show techniques. That Moore’s films are manipulative is not a new idea either — back in 1989, when "Roger & Me" made its US premiere at the New York Film Festival, Vincent Canby observed, gleefully, that "Mr. Moore makes no attempt to be fair." We can’t speak for everyone, but we’ve always regarded Moore’s work as a series of pragmatically entertaining and blatantly one-sided attempts to inflame a passive liberal population. He may be a blowhard, he may be a provocateur, but we don’t think he ever made the claim for being a practitioner of journalistic remove.

As for Moore’s desires for recognition and cash money, well, we also didn’t expect him to be Left Wing Jesus, though maybe others did. As one audience member asked, how are the filmmakers of "Manufacturing Dissent," with its prime marketing hook and built-in audience of Moore haters, any different?

Throughout "Manufacturing Dissent," the filmmakers attempt several times to secure, in person, an interview with Moore, eventually printing out fake business cards to get press access during the 2004 Slacker Uprising tour, and getting thrown out, filming all the while. It’s not the first such twist on "Roger & Me"; Michael Wilson shaped his 2004 documentary "Michael Moore Hates America" around the same idea. The incidents don’t add up to much more than one wondering, well, why the hell would you grant an interview to someone who’s blatantly trying to broadside you? Moore, and Wilson, for that matter, understood that that was the joke.

"Manufacturing Dissent" currently has no US distribution.

+ "Manufacturing Dissent" (SXSW)
+ "Manufacturing Dissent" (IMDb)



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.


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.