DID YOU READ

Why “The Hurt Locker” isn’t hurting for awards.

Why “The Hurt Locker” isn’t hurting for awards. (photo)

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Our long, slow death march through awards season continues with this morning’s Golden Globe nominations, which delivered nothing unexpected. All our familiar friends — “Precious,” “Up In The Air,” Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz et al. — are present and accounted for.

Notable “snubs” (I suppose) include not nominating Lee Daniels, Carey Milligan for her much-praised turn in “An Education,” and, uh, Abbie Cornish for “Bright Star” (that last one’s kind of a stretch, but I guess some people believe anything).

The biggest snub, though, is Jeremy Renner for “The Hurt Locker,” which otherwise got the three big nominations it needs to keep it moving through trophy season: Best Picture/Director/Screenplay. Odd, since it was agreed upon in pretty much every review that Renner gave a break-out turn as Sergeant First Class William James, expert bomb defuser and rock star of the battlefield. And Renner is, indeed, excellent: innocuous-looking but freakishly relaxed in the tensest of situations, taut when it’s unnecessary.

But what is it with this movie and its near-universal critical acclaim? (Check out this awards scoreboard, in which its status as critics’ circle darling is fleshed out.) It’s one compulsively entertaining and watchable film, but — at least from where I’m sitting — it has some serious, far from negligible missteps, most notably (MAJOR SPOILERS) a willingness to not just kill kids for gut-level impact but to do so in the most graphic way possible, not to mention Renner’s abysmal, unsalvagable final monologue — delivered to a baby, no less — where he explains exactly what he’s about, making the perfectly obvious explicit. He likes adrenaline! He likes thrills!

Admittedly, I’m way in the critical minority here, and “Hurt Locker”‘s highbrow/middlebrow critical consensus has been remarkable and overwhelming. It’s striking that many of the high-profile reviews — David Denby, Scott Foundas, Lisa Schwarzbaum, A.O. Scott, Kenneth Turan — all insisted rather over-loudly on two key points:

One: This is a kick-ass action movie you should see for the visceral thrills as much as anything else (“If ‘The Hurt Locker’ is not the best action movie of the summer, I’ll blow up my car.” — A.O. Scott).

Two: This is the best film about the war in Iraq yet (“will be studied twenty years from now when people want to understand something of what happened to American soldiers in Iraq” —David Denby), which means it’s the first good one of the bunch, so you shouldn’t be wary of seeing it.

12152009_hurtlocker6.jpgThere was also an insistence that the film was both non-ideological while somehow giving the “truth” about the war and — more compellingly — many, many commendations of Bigelow for delivering a spatially coherent action movie that didn’t go all cubist-blender-Michael Bay and stuff.

My thinking isn’t that the impeccable action groove validated endorsing an Iraq film, finally, but rather the other way around: grave subject matter elevated the lowly action movie to critical godhood. Critics love to give lip service to well-crafted action movies, but they can rarely place them at the top of their lists: there’s a mental block there leftover from the ’50s or something.

“The Hurt Locker” is action par excellence, but it’s Iraq action, which has safely brought it to the critical forefront. Personally, I think “Near Dark” is better, but it’s about vampires. This is about The War We’re In — it’s an action movie you don’t have to feel guilty for thinking is the best of the year. Whatever. If this is what awards bait looks like in 2009, I can totally live with that.

[Photos: “The Hurt Locker,” Summit Entertainment, 2009]

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.