Review: “Beware the Gonzo,” not your typical teen comedy.

Review: “Beware the Gonzo,” not your typical teen comedy. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

There seems to be no end to interesting tales from high school. Take for instance, Bryan Goluboff, who, while attending Bellmore Kennedy off the shore of Long Island, started up an alternative to his high school newspaper when he was fed up with the leadership and was fired. With the gusto of your average New Yorker, Goluboff explained to the crowd gathered for his directorial debut: “First, I was righteous, then I was savage… and possibly psychotic.”

He described how he wanted to transfer his personal story to film, opening with a battered Ezra Miller confessing to the camera how he ruined all of his personal relationships by starting up a newspaper, just so the audience wouldn’t think this was your run-of-the-mill teen comedy. “I wanted to show the high school types and sort of explode them as I went,” said Goluboff.

Apropos of the high school milleu, Goluboff fills “Beware the Gonzo” with plenty of one-liners that detonate like cherry bombs. Alas, too few really explode. It doesn’t help that its star Miller was the face of the truly incendiary “Afterschool,” where his narrow eyes, high cheekbones and blank stare suggested a killer instinct that’s played for punchlines here. As a cub reporter reared on Hunter S. Thompson, Eddie “Gonzo” Gilman pushes a microcassette recorder in the faces of fellow students and wears a trenchcoat to signal he’s dogged. Supposedly, this has impressed the dean at Columbia’s School of Journalism, with whom we’re led to believe he has a running dialogue.

04232010_BewaretheGonzo2.jpgGonzo’s barely acknowledged by anyone at his own Parker Prep until he decides to create a tabloid named in his honor, the Gonzo, and relies on the work of his small group of outcast friends — a bob-haired Asian with constantly upturned lips, a wiry kid with a fetish for the fat and disabled, and a solemn target for bullies whose jet black-rimmed glasses quite pointedly offset his pale white flesh and tufts of red hair. (As Goluboff said of the actor playing him during the Q & A, “You can’t teach that complexion.”)

The Gonzo‘s first publication makes waves amongst the student body, but its sudden success is at the expense of the film’s, since it’s unimaginable that throngs of students would be lining up the following day to work at the paper, let alone read it. This is something Goluboff understands… to an extent. He inserts a conversation about the death of newspapers into the film early, having the devoted ink-stained wretch Gonzo defend the power of print against his future sex columnist Zoe Kravitz’s claims that they need to start a website. But allusions to Thompson and the McCarthy hearings may go over the head of the film’s intended audience, unless of course they mistake the latter as a relative of Jesse McCartney, who plays the film’s villain Gavin Riley, a rare editor-in-chief who doubles as a star athlete. (His introductory scene drew shrieks from a certain segment of the crowd.)

Unlike the worlds built in similar films of recent years, like “Assassination of a High School President” and “Brick,” “Beware the Gonzo” doesn’t strive for a heightened reality, but gets there anyway. Any time Riley enters the room with Gonzo, the room magically clears as if a “High Noon” duel was about to take place. Similarly, one of the film’s more intriguing confrontations, when Kravitz’s Evie Wallace executes her plan to out the guys who have lied about having sex with her in her sex column, is diffused quickly when the jerk in question challenges her in the middle of the school lunch hall and is taunted by the entirety of the cafeteria, as if on cue.

04232010_JesseMcCartneyBewaretheGonzo.jpgIf the tone were consistent, such scenes could make sense, but when a particularly ugly reveal happens late in the film, it feels out of step with a movie that’s primarily concerned with having a good time, something that’s at odds with Goluboff’s previous writing credits on “In Treatment” and “The Basketball Diaries.”

It should be said that “Beware the Gonzo” might not be entirely finished yet — when an audience member asked about a story point at the end of the film, Goluboff realized a line of dialogue went by too fast and suggested he would go back and tinker. This feels like a film that could be improved in the editing room.

“Beware the Gonzo” is currently without U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Beware the Gonzo,” Cornerstore Entertainment, 2010]


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.