Nothing Else to Do?

Nothing Else to Do? (photo)

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At UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater this past Saturday, Boston Phoenix critic and filmmaker Gerald Peary confessed to a crowd that included David Ehrenstein and David Ansen and filmmakers Mel Stuart (the original “Willy Wonka”) and Allan Arkush (“Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”) that it’s been 16 years since he’s last been in Los Angeles. Here’s hoping the discussion that followed, coming after a screening of his doc about film criticism “For the Love of Movies,” doesn’t scare him from coming back.

On a panel moderated by Anne Thompson, Peary sat idly by for most of the lively hour-long talk that involved Vogue‘s John Powers, former L.A. Weekly and current NPR critic Ella Taylor, former Christian Science Monitor critic David Sterritt and current CSM critic Peter Rainer. But it was now-retired Time critic Richard Schickel who took center stage, both literally and figuratively, with his admission that he never really loved movies, as the title of the documentary suggests of all critics, and questioned whether it would’ve been wiser to spend his 43 years reviewing doing something else.

“Watching all these kind of earnest people discussing the art or whatever the hell it is of criticism, all that, it just made me so sad. You mean they have nothing else to do?” asked Schickel before adding, “I don’t know honestly the function of reviewing anything.”

03012010_RichardSchickel.jpgAnd he was just getting started. As the panel caromed from subjects like the ever-depreciating value of movie reviews at major outlets to the viability of online journalism, Schickel was always ready with the most biting response. On why editors at major publications — i.e. “former beat reporters and city desk guys and rewrite men that managed to stay upright in their chairs before they were finally felled by drink” — are no longer interested in serious film criticism, Schickel remarked, “They’re going to spike your review because it’s insufficiently enthusiastic… It’s like the insufferable optimism of America.”

When asked by Thompson if he ever read criticism online, Schickel gave a forceful “no,” before explaining “Why would you do that? I don’t actually read many reviews. I never did. But I’m not going to go around looking for Harry Knowles [the portly Ain’t It Cool News founder who is featured in the documentary]. I mean look at that person! Why would anybody just looking at him pay the slightest attention to anything he said?!? He’s a gross human being.”

Thompson did her best to bring the conversation back to the web, as there was no one officially on the panel to defend the merits of online film criticism (she eventually prodded Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, who was sitting in the audience, to ask a question), but like Peary’s film itself, the conversation drifted towards eulogizing a bygone era of serious debates about film between the likes of Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris and the dearth of films worth writing about. Powers made the point that “movies back in the ’60s and ’70s were at the center of the culture. They’re not now. And for lots of critics or people who grew up to be critics like myself, we got spoiled.”

03012010_TaxiDriver.jpgHe continued, “I remember talking to Paul Schrader once about how when he came into movies, he thought he entered what was the natural state of movies, which is you got to make ‘Taxi Driver.’ You got to make all these weird, interesting movies and Hollywood wanted you to do it and it was only when it began to stop he realized he was living in the historical aberration. And for a lot of film critics, we are living in the historical aberration probably in the history of the arts where you got to make a lot of money, write about an art form at its peak and actually not only have it at its peak, but the public in general was going to that art form for ways of understanding the world. It’s not that way now.”


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.