DID YOU READ

Hotel Chelsea, Stanley Bard, Sam Bassett

Hotel Chelsea, Stanley Bard, Sam Bassett (photo)

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I made my way through the city at night to the Hotel Chelsea, that inn of legend where so many writers, musicians, and maniacs of all disciplines made their mark. If New York was the 20th century’s creative center, the Hotel Chelsea was it’s white hot core. Mark Twain, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clark, Roy Lichtenstein, Allan Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Arthur Miller, William Burroughs, Hendrix, Joplin, Warhol. They say Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend to death there in ’78.

[Stanley Bard inside the Hotel Chelsea, from Sam Bassett’s “Stanley Bard]

I’d never been there before, only walked by. I expected a lot of whitewash, or worse, the trendy douche takeover phenomenon when I arrived for a clandestine screening of “Stanley Bard,” a documentary about the Hotel’s beloved 50+ year manager/owner who has been semi-ousted by an absentee board of directors. Amazingly, there was no visible scheme by management to capitalize on the Hotel’s historical hip factor and I was pleasantly surprised to find the whole place covered in a weird, jumbled, art strewn patina.

I followed my cryptic instructions to the director, Sam Bassett’s studio (he lives in the Hotel) and atop a staircase adorned with tape sculptures and old mobiles, found the roof door I was looking for. It had two signs on it, one stating that I could not enter, and one hand-scrawled stating that I could. Next to that, an alarm system blinked at me, somewhat alarmingly. Wind howled through the old skylights above. I was sure that my next action would either result in tripping a horrifying alarm, ruining a film screening or that I’d get stabbed. Happily, before either could transpire, the door opened and friendly faces directed me out onto what must be one of the greatest roofs in the city, a gallery of cozy nooks, and wide wild vistas.

Bassett’s studio is housed on the roof within a kind of pyramidal tower. His photos greet you in an entrance that gives way to a large workspace with a view over 23rd street. Banks of flat panel monitors perch on a long work table and lighting equipment obscure an old fireplace which I just had to touch and consequently wielded one black smudged hand for the rest of the night. A flight of stairs leads up into the high ceilinged interior of the pyramid and Bassett’s bedroom/screening room. A bunch of writers and assorted characters were there. Stanley Bard himself came and sat on a couch for the premiere of what is essentially a memoir of his time at the Chelsea. He’s not just a guy who ran the place for half a century. In fact, the film seems to assert through a bizarre metaphor with the old parquet flooring in Bassett’s brilliant space and Bard’s own memories, that he is the Hotel Chelsea. At least it is his spirit and good nature that made it what it is, this angel of the arts who often did not demand rent from struggling artists. I doubt any board of directors would consider such a method for running the hotel.

The score is fantastic, and full blown for such a small intimate doc. I was surprised when Bassett told me it was composed by Michael Nyman (“The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover,” “The Piano,” “The Libertine”), but then the roster of artists associated with each other because of Stanley Bard and his wonderful hotel is no mystery, it would come naturally in such an environment – still alive and well.

“History is shaped by very few people,” Bard said after the film ended. He was speaking of all the greats who’ve shaped culture and the arts, come and gone from the Chelsea, but It’s clear he’s been one of them too.

“Stanley Bard” will make its New York City film festival debut at the Royal Flush Festival on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 6:30pm at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003.

Watch the trailer here.

FYI I’ll be on the Royal Flush Festival’s “Blog This Panel” tomorrow, at 4pm at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center’s Milagro Theater, 107 Suffolk Street.

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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.