The Timing of “Pelham 1 2 3”

The Timing of “Pelham 1 2 3” (photo)

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I first saw Joseph Sargent’s original “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” at Film Forum less than a month before September 11th. The theater’s later revival of the classic 1974 heist movie unspooled two weeks after the blackout of 2003. The coincidental timing of both engagements reinforced what makes Sargent’s film (with a script by Peter Stone, based on John Godey’s 1973 novel) one of the best movies about New York City: a group of disparate Gotham cranks, weirdoes and hotheads come together in the face of disaster. The original “Pelham” may have been made during the era when President Ford told the city, reeling from crime and near-bankruptcy, to “drop dead,” but the passengers aboard that hijacked subway car and the team of negotiators led by Walter Matthau’s grumpy Transit Authority cop proved they weren’t going down without a few up-yours to the quartet of hoods who messed with them.

Tony Scott’s remake, with the slightly altered title “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” completely deracinates the city, turning it into a garishly sleek soundstage where, in typical Scott fashion, cars are chased and blown up, men are pulverized in the middle of Park Avenue in a hail of bullets and the Manhattan skyline is depicted in tedious, tricked-out edits. The moxie of the original characters, major and minor, has been replaced by the sluggish battle between “Pelham”‘s two bloated leads: Scott regular Denzel Washington in the Matthau role and John Travolta as the villain originated by Robert Shaw, whose suave Mr. Blue did crossword puzzles in between negotiating with Matthau on the squawkbox. Travolta’s psychopathic Ryder, who once managed a private-equity fund, checks the price of gold on his laptop in the motorman’s cab of the hijacked southbound 6 train. This broad, toothless vilification of Wall Streeters is scriptwriter Brian Helgeland’s wan attempt to make the “Pelham” update seem timely — a task repeatedly undone by Travolta’s inability to play a convincing bad dude, his enunciation of “motherfucker” sounding more Edna Turnblad than Vinnie Barbarino.

In an article in the New York Times last month, Scott admitted to having never ridden the subway before starting work on “Pelham.” It shows. The passengers — the hippie, the Jew, the pimp, the gay — in the original “Pelham” may occasionally tip over into stereotype, but they are true, recognizable New Yorkers: a tough, irascible, kvetchy group, unlike the cowed, nearly mute bunch in Scott’s film. The Straphangers Campaign — or anyone with a MetroCard — may want to sue for defamation of character.

06102009_FoodInc.jpgAt the end of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” Denzel Washington’s humble transit cop takes the 7 train home, purchasing, as his wife requested, a gallon of milk. No jacked-up-with-growth-hormones leche for Washington and his wife: Inside his shopping bag is Stonyfield organic 2% milk, a purchase that would surely delight many of the talking heads in “Food, Inc.” (especially Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield Farms). Robert Kenner’s documentary forcefully indicts big agribusiness and horrendously lax FDA standards. Our food is, quite literally, killing us, whether through E. coli-contaminated hamburger meat or the high-fructose corn syrup that’s the main ingredient in extremely cheap products stocked on grocery shelves and found in fast food restaurants, leading to sky-high rates of morbid obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Kenner believes people have the power, exhorting us to shop at farmers’ markets — certainly a wise suggestion, but one that may prove difficult for families on extremely tight budgets, like the one profiled all too fleetingly (and never named) that has difficulty affording fresh broccoli after Dad’s diabetes medicine has been paid for. And though a cheery self-sustaining farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley boasts of how well his pigs and chickens are treated before they’re slaughtered for human consumption, meat, for many, is still murder (and is killing, not so softly, Mother Earth); why Kenner didn’t talk to any advocates of vegetarianism is puzzling.


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.