Death to the death of film criticism.

Death to the death of film criticism. (photo)

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Over the past five years, if not more, we’ve been treated to an endless series of articles about the “death of film criticism,” a phrase that has nothing to do with Vincent Price vengefully offing spiteful (theater) critics all the way back in 1973’s “Theater of Blood.” Price would find his cravings at least partially satisfied these days if he had an RSS feed.

Film critic firings started en masse in the summer of 2006 — the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Sean P. Means has been keeping a handy list of “the departed,” now up to 65. With the cuts have come endless bloggage, journalism and general hand-wringing over the situation. Sight & Sound devoted an issue to it a few years ago, but even that didn’t staunch the flood.

This year alone, the Chronicle of Higher Education deigned to weigh in, A.O. Scott expressed optimism in the New York Times, Big Hollywood explained it away as a byproduct of the culture wars, there was the Kevin Smith thing, and so on.

The latest salvo came from veteran media commenter Howard Kurtz, writing in the Washington Post — this, regrettably, the same day that two film critics got new prominent positions (Eric Kohn over at indieWIRE as their lead film critic, Stephanie Zacharek joining Movieline after exiting Salon), which might put a crimp in the argument.

No matter though: there’s always room for another redundant article — this some five days after Ronald Bergen’s take in the Guardian on the subject. It’s enough to make you chuckle when Kurtz quotes Entertainment Weekly‘s founding editor Jeff Jarvis: “We can’t afford repetition in journalism anymore.” Apparently we can.

You would think all the arguments would have been beaten to death; all that’s really missing is one of those videos where Hitler finds out about it. All of the arguments and hypotheses have been exhausted (victims of the decline of literacy, obsolescence in the age of online aggregation, people have finally caught on to the snobbishness and prefer to ask their neighbor Bob what he thought of “How To Train Your Dragon,” etc.). The film critic has been made a stand-in for the crisis of print journalism, and is trotted out repeatedly and asked to stand still while they are poked, prodded and anatomized once more.

04132010_ego.jpgAnd it’s become so boring that most critics are absolutely sick of it — I know I am, of the inevitable invocations of Anton Ego from “Ratatouille,” discussions about Rotten Tomatoes, comparisons with restaurant reviewers, reminders of the power once wielded by Pauline Kael and/or Roger Ebert, wistful remembrances of the ’60s and ’70s (i.e., the decades When Film Really Mattered and the whole world thrilled to Altman and Fellini). And not only is it repetitive, speculative and prone to doom, it exacerbates the problem. Think people don’t like critics now? Wait until the gossip and doom-laden chatter leaves the bars and saturates the internet.

This nuisance must cease. This isn’t the gossip industry, where the nuances of whether or not someone is pregnant/divorced/married/coked-up/whatever can be parsed infinitely with the help of a few qualifiers and ambiguously worded rumors attributed to anonymous sources. This is film criticism — a hard enough task to make exciting to general readers in the first place, and one which invariably invites people to repeat themselves ad nauseam in the comments section (as if there weren’t enough of those to go around). We won’t solve the problem of how journalism is reshaping itself in with another 800 words so close to someone else’s they’re nearly plagiarism.

[Photos: “Theater of Blood,” MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1973: “Ratatouille,” Disney, 2007]


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.