What year did they invent politics again?

What year did they invent politics again? (photo)

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Yesterday I was mugged. After spending the day waiting at police stations and banks, I finally ended up back at home, dispirited and having been away from you, gentle reader, for far too long. I fired up all the blogs I would’ve normally gone through hours ago, and instantly, there was balm for my weary soul. Big Hollywood gifted me with one last inane faux-controversy to end the year, about one of my least favorite people.

“Will Ben Mankiewicz Be Allowed to Destroy Turner Classic Movies?” the headline screamed. This would be the same Mankiewicz who, til of late, co-hosted the failed post-Ebert “At the Movies” alongside the feckless Ben Lyons. Of the two Bens, it was the obviously overwhelmed Lyons who got most of the hatred; next to his co-host’s proudly know-nothing enthusiasm, Mankiewicz came off as just about okay.

But now that he’s out on his own, there’s no lesser figure to draw all the fire. And so it was that Mankiewicz — TCM’s weekend host when the venerable Robert Osborne is off duty — incurred the wrath of Andrew Breitbart’s corner of the right-wing blogosphere this weekend.

The occasion was Elia Kazan’s 1957 “A Face In The Crowd,” an ever-timely parable starring Andy Griffith as a folksy radio show host who becomes a powerful mass media figure. Mankiewicz, as a commenter paraphrased it, “openly wondered if the producers had been able to see 50 years into the future and witnessed how people in this country were being manipulated and duped by angry media personalities, some who could cry on cue. He clearly was referring to conservative talk radio.” (Editorial note: no shit.)

That’s an innocuous enough observation. It’s also true, incidentally, to how Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg thought of the movie themselves: as J. Hoberman writes in the Village Voice, “In the ’80s, Kazan began saying that he and Schulberg had made a movie about Ronald Reagan back in the days when Reagan was still shilling for GE.” Schulberg himself compared Mike Huckabee to the Lonesome Rhodes character.

But that’s not how Big Hollywood sees it. Editor John Nolte fulminated over the slight, seeing it as the beginning of TCM’s transformation from apolitical haven for classic film lovers (who apparently all skew right-wing) to MSNBC liberal talking head: “Those of us who just want to sit back and relax and enjoy something without having to be on guard concerning a cheap sucker shot aimed at who we are and what we believe in have seen it start just like this a thousand times,” he moans, his back against the world.

As usual the commenters drive it into the paranoiac stratosphere. “Jeff Perren” asks: “Is Mankiewicz the grungy fellow who yaks from a set that looks like a SOHO loft, complete with bicycle? […] To the Progressives, nothing good from the past can remain clean and untouched. It has to be ‘modernized’, made ‘hip’.” Guestorama waxes conspiratorial: “Look up Ben on Wikepedia and see what you get – former air america host, had a liberal talk show for years by himself, dad was a super hollywood lib that was on Nixon’s ‘enemies list’. This guy is from ground zero of the liberal world, his whole family is a who’s who of liberalism AND HE JUST HAPPENS TO GET THIS GIG and then HE JUST HAPPENS TO SPOUT HIS LIBERAL DRIVEL.”

The comments are even weirder over on the TCM comments page (which eventually got moderator locked). “mikeroykirk” shared the text of his letter to TCM: “There was no need for this comparison only for Mr Mankiewicz’s need to make a point maybe partially out of jealously and his dislike for Beck,Limbaugh and their fans.”

It’s even funner to watch the comparative praise for Alec Baldwin, who apparently keeps his liberal politics to himself while co-hosting “The Essentials” with Osborne. Seeing Baldwin praised by conservatives; seeing Mankiewicz jeered…man, yesterday almost didn’t completely suck.

[Photos: Ben Mankiewicz, TCM; “A Face In The Crowd,” Warner Bros., 1957]


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.