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DID YOU READ

The week’s critic wrangle: The Wind That Shakes My Wife.

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"That what you call a martyr, is it Teddy?"
+ "The Wind That Shakes The Barley": Ten months after it surprised many by winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Ken Loach‘s film about the conflicts in early 20th century Ireland arrives in a few US theaters (and, as it’s being released by IFC First Take, also on VOD). Reviews, as you’d expect given the pedigree, are generally good. David Denby at the New Yorker calls "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" "a beautifully realized work and perhaps Loach’s best film… Refusing the standard flourishes of Irish wildness or lyricism, Loach has made a film for our moment, a time of bewildering internecine warfare." At the New York Times, A.O. Scott writes that:

Radical though he is, Mr. Loach is hardly a romantic, and the deep humanism that informs his best work — a category in which “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” surely belongs — is insulated from sentimentality by the sense that history is a long, bruising fight, a chronicle of compromise and defeat as well as of tentative triumph and provisional hope.

At LA Weekly, Scott Foundas spies some modern-day parallels, writing that it is "a profound consideration of the fog of wars that rage between not only nations but, all too often, within their own borders."

At indieWIRE, Chris Wisniewski finds the scant sketching-in of ostensible main characters Damian (Cillian Murphy) and Padraic Delaney (Teddy) is almost problematic, writing that the film "could easily suffer from its thin characterizations and somewhat conventional plotting, but both actors bring a genuine, earnest quality perfectly suited to Loach’s improvisational sensibility." Armond White at the New York Press (who allows that Loach is "a real artist, albeit a didactic one") does find it problematic, concluding that:

It’s as if Loach abhors conventional dramatic development in order to resist bourgeois platitudes (including the romanticism of Neil Jordan’s failed Irish epic Michael Collins). Damien and Teddy are only identified by what happens to them (medical student Damien is rushed into fighting, athlete Teddy is tortured by prison guards). Who they are as individuals is muddled, almost desultory.

Jeremiah Kipp at Slant sighs that "As a document of the shape of political thought, the film is successful; but as a living, beating heart about a populace living through a time of upheaval and confusion, it’s mediocre," while Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club calls "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" "[b]y far the most spinach-y film Loach has made lately," while also finding that "Loach and [writer Paul] Laverty are still capable of creating moments startling in their naturalism—almost like a window into the past." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon (who interviews Loach in a podcast here) generally likes the film, while shrugging that "I wouldn’t mind Loach and Laverty’s old-line Marxist convictions either if they didn’t tend to create scenes where characters suddenly stand off against each other like ideological positions rather than people." And Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly writes of the end, as the two brothers argue over whether to continue fighting or to lay down their arms: "If Loach had given full voice to each side of this division, he could have made a great film — maybe the great film — about the Irish struggle."

 

"I'm losin' my finger-lickin' mind over here!"
+ "I Think I Love My Wife": Chris Rock‘s rendition of Eric Rohmer is generating mixed reviews. Fondest is the New York TimesA.O. Scott, admits that Rock "is still, unfortunately, not much of an actor," but still declares that the film works, in part because "[w]ithout making race into a Big Theme, Mr. Rock and [co-writer] Louis C. K. nonetheless pepper the film with sharp insights into the black middle class, taking note of how the consciousness of race remains lodged in the fine grain of daily life." At the Onion AV Club, Scott Tobias similarly notes that Rock "can’t really play anyone other than himself," but finds that the film, "[though] hampered at times by Rock’s limitations as an actor and a director…stays faithful to the spirit of Rohmer’s original, grappling honestly with the uncertainties of settling down and the temptations that lurk outside even the most stable marriages."

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon makes the ballsy argument that, while Rock may be "no threat to Rohmer as a filmmaker," his remake…is, for all its aggressive American obviousness, a much livelier picture than the original." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly disagrees: "Rock…has taken Rohmer’s marvelously probing, psychologically refined, exquisitely yakky, and deeply French movie and turned it into a coarse-talking, race-conscious, tonally challenged life-crisis comedy."

Dana Stevens at Slate decrees that "it’s not a funny movie. At all." She goes on:

There is at least one moment in the film that gets a legitimate laugh, when Rock does a bit about women who dress too provocatively on the subway platform. This openly nasty rant is funny because it resembles Rock’s stand-up style, which uses his natural sweetness as a foil for the expression of some really hostile and aggressive impulses. During Rock’s best stand-up moments, you go, "Wow, this nice guy thinks like that?" Unfortunately, the rest of I Think I Love My Wife tamps down that aggression just enough to let it leach out in the form of laugh-free misogyny.

Armond White at the New York Press writes that "Trouble starts with Rock’s temerity to direct another movie after the disastrous Head of State. Call this one State of Confusion instead because it’s difficult to tell Rock’s directorial ineptitude from a lack of thematic focus." And Nathan Lee at the Village Voice, while teasing us by calling "Pootie Tang" "one the greatest movies ever made" and then not elaborating on the argument, echoes Stevens statement, concluding that "Rock capably directs a screenplay graced with one or two chuckles (‘You stare at a soccer mom too long and they’ll post your name on the Internet’) and soured by a whole lot of misogyny."

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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.