DID YOU READ

Armond White and the art of trolling.

Armond White and the art of trolling. (photo)

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There are really two kinds of people who care about constantly controversial New York Press critic Armond White. There are those who care about keeping up with film criticism regardless of what the movie is; White’s a veteran critic, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, etc. He is Important, and you read him. And then there’s the rabid geek who lurks on Rotten Tomatoes, waiting for someone to challenge his or her (or, c’mon, his) sense of priorities.

Like “The 700 Club” and Glenn Beck, White’s work is reliably, pleasurably insane on a week-to-week basis; the volume of the outcry it provokes depends on who’s paying attention. And because the fanboys have a higher web presence than anyone else, it’s no surprise White’s distinctive take on “District 9” has them up in arms. For veteran readers, it’s business as usual: invocations of superior precedents (his beloved Steven Spielberg, natch), dismissive references to movies most people enjoyed as obviously stupid (“Children Of Men”), loving references to movies that annoyed most people (“Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull”), a Morrissey reference, and… scene. White’s main point — a not unreasonable one, for a change of pace — is that Neill Blomkamp’s apartheid allegory is poorly conceived and trivializes what it seeks to examine. It’s arguable, but at least it is, in fact, arguable.

Roger Ebert saw it that way initially when he wrote “In Defense Of Armond White” — a needed defense, considering Armond’s review stands at 497 comments and counting at Rotten Tomatoes, all of them negative and some of them straight-up racist. Tackling head-on “White’s reputation as a critic who ‘doesn’t like anything,’ ” he harrumphed that “it would be more accurate to say he dislikes a great many films approved of by fanboys.” Ebert likes “District 9,”, but agrees with the legitimate grounds for disliking it. But he backtracked when he saw a chart someone had prepared for the angry hordes, dividing up good and bad movies according to White, and noting that critical darlings “A Christmas Tale” and “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” fell under the “Bad movies” category, while first up under “Good movies” was “Transformers 2.”

Well, that was all Ebert needed. In his perpetual war against Michael Bay’s sequel, his mortal cinematic enemy, he was forced to retract and qualify: “It is baffling to me that a critic could praise ‘Transformers 2’ but not ‘Synecdoche, NY.’ […] I am forced to conclude that White is, as charged, a troll. A smart and knowing one, but a troll.” Personally, I’ve never doubted White’s sincerity. His most annoying tic is the one in which he reviews two movies in a week, using one as a stick with which to club the other. There’s no measured middle ground, just ecstasy and agony; this means that he’s occasionally forced to rhapsodize about, say, “Transporter 3.”

White has to enjoy his position as a bomb-thrower, but that doesn’t mean he’s kidding; one does not, generally, build an over two decade career on a desire to publish the print equivalent of “LULZ.” White is many things — most of them annoying — but he’s not a troll. And “Transformers 2” shouldn’t change that anymore than, say, the fact that Ebert gave three and a half stars to Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs”. You know?

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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.