DID YOU READ

White vs. Brown; or why Armond would be banned from reviewing “Greenberg.”

White vs. Brown; or why Armond would be banned from reviewing “Greenberg.” (photo)

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If there were a Gawker-type site for film critic gossip, the only thing that would keep it from being horrifically dull would be the antics of the NY Press‘ splenetically quotable Armond White, who always seems to be ruffling feathers. The last time we checked in on Mr. White, he was trolling “District 9” lovers. This new story, though, is more interesting than the usual Armond vs. Rotten Tomatoes sparring. There’s a history.

White’s reportedly been banned from attending all press screenings of “Greenberg” by the personal fiat of writer/director Noah Baumbach and producer Scott Rudin. I was among those who got an email from the pseudonymous “John Doe,” who had some very nasty things to say about the matter.

“Some of you may think that Armond is a pretentious pompous fool who has no idea what he’s talking about, but he is still a fellow film critic,” the email notes. “Publicists are akin to Nazis.” (The analogy is extended: apparently in this scenario we’re Armenians caught in a genocide.) It suggests that “Greenberg” not be reviewed, Focus Features president James Schamus be emailed (Now I have his email address! Sorry, sir.) and Scott Rudin’s work be review blacklisted. “Hail the First Amendment. Fuck the talentless hacks” is the sign-off.

I’m sure that for most publicists, not having to screen any of their movies for review and instead forcing everyone to do fawning “star profiles” and interviews would be a dream come true, so I wonder how a review blacklist would work. But for those of you who don’t care about the rabbit-hole politics of this kind of thing (that should be everyone, really), there’s a more interesting extended history of animosity here.

Back in the ’80s, Noah Baumbach’s mother Georgia Brown was a Village Voice film critic; she and White never got along, culminating — among, I assume, other minor skirmishes lost to history — with an ugly appearance on “The Leonard Lopate Show” in which White accused Brown of racism, Brown demanding proof of said racism, and White responding that it wasn’t his job to tell her about her sins.

03092010_margot.jpgThe sins of the mother, though, have been passed down to Baumbach’s films — White’s reviews of them aren’t analyses so much as pure character assassination. Regarding “The Squid And The Whale,” he wrote that the film “inadvertently reveals how smugness gets transmitted from the dinner table to the pages of the New Yorker.” Then he accused New York reviewers of falling for the “film and literary references” and admiring “snide and obtuse behavior.” The headline of his “Margot At The Wedding” piece is “Self-Punishment,” the review itself little more than raving — the movies are “repellent” both in their visuals and personalities (“New York’s most obnoxious people”).

The subtext, as always, is White’s history with Brown — briefly but impersonally alluded to in the “Squid” write-up as “an undistinguished film critic but a former Voice employee,” which is about as inside-baseball and, uh, obnoxiously New Yorker-y as you could get. It’s safe to say more people care about “The Squid And The Whale” than a 20-year-old New York film critic feud, much less whether or not movies are apparently solely made for a NYC elitist circle jerk. For good measure, in an interview he declared that Baumbach (sight unseen!) is obviously an “asshole,” which he can tell from his work. (“I don’t need to meet him to know that. Better than meeting him, I’ve seen his movies.” I can tell you right now, this is nonsense.)

So Baumbach and Rudin have barred him from seeing “Greenberg.” Normally, I’d be up in arms, but for these three point. Normally, writing those kinds of things gets you close to a restraining order. Given this past history, it’s not unlikely that White’s review wasn’t pre-composed, with arguments waiting to be fleshed out with new examples. And, frankly, this is a major conflict of interest — it’s not hard to figure out that the anger White has at Baumbach’s mother has trickled down to his films. There’s no way he should’ve reviewed any of those movies.

For once: the publicists are right. Though I wish they’d invited me. I actually like Baumbach. Oh well.

[Photos: “Greenberg,” Focus Features, 2010; “Margot At The Wedding,” Paramount Vantage, 2007]

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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.