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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Joshua,” Fox Searchlight, 2007]

Last week, I reviewed the Swiss film “Vitus,” about a child born with extraordinary intelligence and parents he cannot relate to. This week’s “Joshua” is about a very similar child with a very dissimilar temperament. And so “Vitus” is a light-hearted drama and this year’s Sundance hit “Joshua” is a black-hearted comedy. It is one of the enduring miracles of the movies that two can be made about much the same thing in totally different ways and both can be totally worthwhile.

Joshua (Jacob Kogan) is the older son of posh Manhattan couple Brad (Sam Rockwell) and Abby (Vera Farmiga). We don’t know what he was like before Brad and Abby had their second child, but since his little sister Lily was born, Joshua has been acting strangely. He never seems to sleep, wanders his parents’ gorgeous uptown apartment at all hours, and plays baroque music on the piano for hours on end (another amusing parallel with his phantom brother Vitus). The addition of a sibling is always a distressing time in a young child’s life. When my brother was born I got a “Knight Rider” pedal car to keep me happy and occupied while my parents took care of the baby. Unfortunately for Brad and Abby, New York City is no place for a pedal car.

At first, the only problem Brad sees with his strange little son is one of relatability. How, he wonders, did he produce a child like this, one so utterly different from him in so many ways? This is surely a thought that has crossed the minds of many parents (Lord only knows what Papa Singer thought of me growing up). But as little Lily spends night after night distressed, and Abby slowly unravels, Brad begins to fear there’s something seriously wrong with his firstborn.

The movie traffics in many clichés — like the one that demands all wealthy families look absolutely perfect in the first act and downright monstrous by the end credits — and it owes more than Farmiga’s haircut to Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby.” But director George Ratliff manages to put a fresh spin on the material with a unique perspective and a wicked sense of humor. We’ve seen plenty of evil children in movies before, but probably not one as mysterious and passive aggressive as Joshua. Youthful villains like these always look sweet on the outside, but they usually reveal their true colors to the audience, if not the characters around them, early on. Kogan, with Ratliff’s help, no doubt, plays most of the movie a bit closer to the vest. We don’t always know how much is Joshua’s doing and how much is in the minds of his disturbed parents. Was he the one who did that to his sister? Did he push that person down the stairs or did that person merely fall?

Ratliff’s best choice may have been casting Rockwell as Brad, and allowing the actor to push the material from more naturalistic horror into surreal dark comedy in the final act. So many of those devil spawn films devolve into outlandish, unintentional humor when their furious little tykes go off the deep end. When Brad finally realizes the depths of Joshua’s madness he doesn’t react with fear but with disgust; treating his child like a leper he has to care for, but doesn’t have to like. One sequence, in which he adds an extra lock to his door to keep Joshua at bay, is laugh out loud funny, something no movie like this has ever really been (at least, not on purpose). Though Rockwell doesn’t strike us as the high-flying investment banker Brad’s supposed to be early in the picture, he is very much the sort of guy who would lock his son out of his bedroom (interestingly, Rockwell’s other film at Sundance this year, David Gordon Greene’s “Snow Angels,” also cast him as the patriarch of a deeply troubled family, though, in that case, it was his character that caused its fractures).

The scary scenes could be a little scarier (except for that one game of hide-and-seek, which is terrifying) and Vera Farmiga could stand to be a little less Farmiga-ish (i.e. she needn’t act quite so loudly in every scene), but why quibble over a few minor flaws in one of the most effectively paranoid visions of New York City parenthood, well, ever?

“Joshua” opens in limited release on July 6th (official site).


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.