DID YOU READ

Ways to object to “Precious.”

Ways to object to “Precious.” (photo)

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For anyone familiar with habitual barnburner Armond White and his politics, it’s zero surprise that the NY Press critic objects strenuously to “Precious.”

His review of the film has, as usual, much food for the comment trolls, particularly in his insistence that, by attaching their names and confessing personal histories of abuse, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey are converting “their private agendas into heavily hyped social preoccupation,” which I guess means… child abuse is really just another way for a couple of whiny celebrities to beg for attention? He also compares “Precious” to “The Birth of a Nation” and does a good job of hiding the fact that he does have a point — any movie that features a morbidly obese black woman stealing a bucket of fried chicken probably isn’t as nuanced as it thinks it is.

Just to make sure he alienates any potential allies, though, White saves his best salvo for the last paragraph, reminding everyone that no matter how much he dislikes any given movie, he hates his fellow critics more. The same Armond who instructed us not to trust any critic who endorsed “WALL-E” (effectively all of them) says that what was even worse than “Precious” itself was “the ordeal of watching it with an audience full of patronizing white folk at the New York Film Festival.” He then proceeds to commit his semi-factual error for the week, proclaiming his certainty that the crowd at Harlem’s Magic Johnson theater would laugh it off the screen; would that be the same theater where it was test-screened pre-Sundance and widely acclaimed? Yup. Arguing this on strictly racial lines won’t work.

Still, I have to concede a point to Mr. White — there do seem to be plenty of guilty white liberal critics signing off on this movie for reasons other than pure admiration, as patiently spelled out by the L Magazine‘s Mark Asch. Even the judicious pan from Slate‘s Dana Stevens’ hedges its bets in the headline with an apologetic “Sorry, I didn’t like this movie.”

Meanwhile, way to the right of Armond sits a Wall Street Journal editorial by Juan Williams, which is about how awesome “The Cosby Show” was and how terrible ghetto literature is and how it encourages pathological images of blackness sold back to the community. Basically, it’s like an episode of “The Boondocks” without the jokes. But you could substitute pretty much any cultural artifact Williams disapproves of for “Precious” and have the same ready-made editorial.

Still, my favorite objection to “Precious” is an entirely common-sense one from Newsweek, where, in a brief but well-done piece, Jennie Yabroff points out that Precious loves math class at the start of the movie, but upon entering alternative school is encouraged to journal her life away and never does math again. “The world does not reward self-expression as readily or consistently as it rewards a good head for numbers,” Yabroff scolds, pitilessly dissecting the cliche of self-rehabiliation through journaling. This polemic in favor of math education being celebrated on-screen is actually a far more trenchant analysis of the film than any of the criticism thus far.

[Photo: “Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” Lions Gate, 2009]

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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.