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DID YOU READ

Tribeca ’08: “Man on Wire”

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04182008_manonwire.jpgBy Matt Singer

[For complete coverage of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, check out IFC’s Tribeca page.]

As a boy, Philippe Petit enjoyed climbing things. Many boys do. But Petit never grew out of it, the way many boys do, and when he learned about wire walking, he found his calling in life. When he heard about a pair of towers being built in lower Manhattan — even though they were still years from completion, even though he’d never been to America, even though the very act was sheer suicide — he immediately decided that someday, he would walk on a wire at the top of the World Trade Center.

His journey to accomplish his goal is the story of the documentary “Man on Wire,” and we know that it ends happily because we see Petit as an older man, recounting and reenacting his story with the sort of boundless enthusiasm a person must have if he is going to sneak into a heavily guarded landmark and perform an audacious and incredibly dangerous crime in the name of art. The fact that Petit obviously survives could potentially sap the suspense from the documentary, which has the structure and tone of a lighthearted heist film. But those sorts of considerations fall away whenever Petit gets up on a wire hundreds or thousands of feet in the air. The sight of him balancing on this tiny rope without a care in the world is enough to make the steeliest of nerves jangle and the steadiest of palms sweat.

Petit’s excitement is contagious enough to convince everyone around him to help with his caper. I’d never do anything this illegal, nor, certainly, this dangerous. I don’t understand the allure of doing what Petit did and I don’t necessarily see artistry in his quest. Yet I can’t deny that his enthusiasm won me over; the man really does have what one of his conspirators describes in he film as “the pitching skills of a timeshare salesman.”

Director James Marsh (“The King”) has a bit of a tightrope to walk of his own. To Petit, the Twin Towers meant hope and excitement and wonder. To many people, especially in New York, the destruction of the buildings on September 11th redefined them with a whole new set of darker meanings and associations. Marsh never directly addresses 9/11 — and we never get to hear Petit’s reaction to that day — but Marsh begins the movie by juxtaposing images of his subject’s childhood with archival footage of the WTC being built. After seeing nothing of the Trade Center but its destruction for so many years, there’s something uniquely poignant about watching the care that went into its construction. At a dedication ceremony, an official promises that the Twin Towers will promote “harmony and communication between the nations of the world,” an ironic statement now, but one that Petit’s illegal, reckless and jubilant act affirmed.

As I watched Petit risk life and limb to traverse the summit between the two tallest buildings in the world, I kept asking myself, “Why? Why would anyone do this?” As Marsh shows us, after Petit’s performance, that’s what the entire country wanted to know. They were understandably mystified when he revealed that, in fact, there was no reason. Americans, Petit chuckles, always want the concrete — and my initial reaction only supports his stereotype. “The beauty of it,” he says, “is I didn’t have a why.” Until I saw “Man on Wire,” I would have been just as confused as the public was in 1974. But upon seeing the documentary, and feeling the very visceral reaction I had to the images of Petit 1300 feet in the air on that wire, audaciously smiling in the face of death, I think I have a better understanding.

[Photo: “Man on Wire,” Magnolia Pictures, 2008]

For more on “Man on Wire,” check out the official site here.

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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.