“Circo,” small lives under the big top.

“Circo,” small lives under the big top. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Of all the death-defying stunts performed by the Ponce family in “Circo,” the most impressive may be keeping the family business alive. Tied up in tradition more constrictive than the chains that their teenage Cascaras finds himself trying to loose himself from for the benefit of a half-filled cheering section, the Ponces are descendants of a once-strong clan of traveling circus performers. Circo Mexico, led by the indefatigable ringmaster Tino Ponce, is presented as the only example of that 100-year-old entertainment legacy to still draw a crowd as they traverse the small towns and villages of rural Mexico.

It’s no wonder director Aaron Schock centers his film on Tino, not only for Tino’s hard-earned charisma, but also given Schock’s own insistence on having no crew to help him shoot “Circo.” While Schock would have his hands full with a boom mic and a camera, Tino is similarly swamped with announcing Circo Mexico’s arrival in town, tending to the small collection of tigers and putting on his helmet to ride a motorcycle in the “Globe of Death.”

Tino doesn’t bitch about having so many responsibilities, only the rising taxes and costs of renting spaces to perform, despite the fact he labors under the thumb of a shadowy father who mainly collects money at the door, and constantly bickers with Ivonne, the long-suffering mother of Tino’s children who is always complaining about that father’s take.

06232010_Circo2.jpgSpeaking of Tino’s tykes, they can mostly be seen doing backflips or performing practical tasks like scaling electrical poles to filch some power; when Tino remarks at one point, “Your obligation as a father is to train your kids,” you’re not entirely sure if he’s talking strictly about life or the circus. Later, when one of the children tells him, “We’re just employees,” his appeal is “We’re artists of the circus.”

If that can be construed as having the potential for child abuse, Schock doesn’t discount it, showing the different paths of some of Tino’s relatives who have found lives outside the big top after either burning out or discovering something more interesting. However, the key detail “Circo” gets right is a sense of pride that carries the Ponces, and primarily Tino, through the personal and professional problems that could rip the family apart at any minute.

Though aided by a vibrant but occasionally over-aggressive score from Calexico, “Circo” isn’t exactly crackling with excitement on its own, but more of a slow burn that tiptoes around the grounds of whatever temporary locale the circus has set up in. It picks up the long-held resentments between the older family members, the burgeoning romances of the younger ones and the absolute commitment of all to keep their way of life from going extinct.

One shouldn’t expect Schock to give it new life with this film, but “Circo” does far more by preserving Circo Mexico’s place on the cultural map even if it’s fast disappearing from the geographical one.

“Circo” does not yet have U.S. distribution.


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.