“Up In The Air”: pundits love it!

“Up In The Air”: pundits love it! (photo)

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From time to time, political pundits feel the need to take on an Important Movie. (They never seem to go digging through genre releases for hidden messages, though I’d give a lot to read, say, Thomas Friedman explaining how “Ninja Assassin” validates “glocalization” or whatever with its leveraging of Korean stars, Japanese history and American money.)

The film of choice this season is Jason Reitman’s “Up In The Air,” which recently became the target of competing op-eds a week apart from different sides of the political aisle. Liberal Frank Rich went first last weekend in the New York Times, followed this weekend by George F. Will in the Washington Post.

Both love the movie, because both believe it confirms the way they see the world (which really speaks — like “Juno” — to how watery Jason Reitman’s vision is).

In his piece, Rich notes early on that it’s “not a political movie,” and that it “won’t be mistaken for either a Michael Moore or Ayn Rand polemic on capitalism.” Instead, it’s about an entirely non-political subject, “an America whose battered inhabitants realize that the economic deck is stacked against them, gamed by distant, powerful figures they can’t see or know.” So, yes, not political in the slightest.

He proposes that the folks who got us into the recession “never saw the workers whose jobs were shredded by their cunning games of financial looting” and therefore we live in “two Americas” — “corporate culture” and “the rest of us,” which seems a bit simple-minded (as is the implicit suggestion that if only they saw what they were doing, we’d all be living in a paradise of responsibly self-regulating and non-rapacious capitalism). Oh, and “the fate of Americans on the ground remains very much up in the air.” (Emphasis mine.) Come write for a blog! We love that kind of stuff.

Will’s appraisal is half summary (literally: the first page out of two), and he thinks the opening version of “This Land Is Your Land” is “weird”: “this hymn to Depression-era radicalism is catnip for people eager to tickle a political manifesto from any movie that has a contemporary social setting” (as opposed to, I suppose, a contemporary setting whose social mores are taken from the Edwardian era).

12212009_uita4.jpgBut he concludes the movie is not about the recession (because the novel was written before it) but instead indicts “a welfare state that siphons increasing amounts of wealth from the economy to give to the elderly. Having willed this end, America must will the means to it — sometimes severe economic efficiency to generate revenue to finance the entitlement culture. ” Unchecked capitalism is the fault of Medicare! Also, this “is sobering entertainment for a nation contemplating a giant addition to the entitlement menu.” “Up In The Air” is actually about how health care reform is bad!

These piece are certainly no more painful than, say, Armond White’s experiments in neo-con reviewing masquerading as disinterested artistic shot-calling, or Jonathan Rosenbaum saying “Bobby” is better than “Nashville” because it’s less cynical. If anything, pundits seem more tentative in their political readings of films than film critics, who are often inclined to baldly assigning political values and worths to their subjects.

But in the end, neither of these readings are convincing: they just endorse the film as a talking point for (let’s face it) elitist-esque columnists, fodder to be plugged into the weekly agenda as another example, which is somehow the dullest way to talk about movies.

This is why I don’t read op-eds. Seriously.

[Photos: “Up In The Air,” Paramount, 2009]


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.