This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


The Doc Days of Summer: “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child”

The Doc Days of Summer: “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” (photo)

Posted by on

Tamra Davis has seen the highs and lows of fame more than most. One of the most successful contemporary female filmmakers around (not to mention the wife of a Beastie Boy), she directed Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Dave Chappelle and Britney Spears in their first leading roles. She offered Drew Barrymore her couch to crash on and Barrymore’s first adult part in 1992’s “Gun Crazy,” a few years after the former child star was told by her agent her career was over at the age of nine, and hung around Kurt Cobain before his untimely passing.

“I’ve been in that position where I’ve seen people who have incredible talent but also who are very sensitive and have a very difficult time dealing with fame,” said Davis. “And I’m always amazed at the people that I know that keep going.”

Consider her latest film, “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” as a way of keeping alive the memory of her friend, the wildly talented painter who died much too young at the tender age of 27, but not before she and their mutual friend Becky Johnson filmed an interview with him and other additional footage of him painting in 1984. Davis was a film school student working at the Ulrike Kantor Gallery in Los Angeles when she first met Basquiat at a gallery opening and was captivated from the moment he stepped in the room.

The beauty of Davis’ portrait of Basquiat is that it’s much like the man she met that night who insisted on setting up a dance area in the back of the gallery — it’s brash, engaging, impetuous, audacious and ultimately a bit transcendent.

“When you hung out with Jean-Michel, that’s what your world was like,” said Davis. “It was just so fast and so vibrant and he was always listening to all these different kinds of music and everything moved super-fast. I felt like that his world had that collage aspect to it and even now, when I stand in front of his paintings, they’re so loud. There’s so much information just pouring out of them, so I really wanted the film to have that kind of boom for real explosion of ideas.”

07212010_TamraDavisJeanMichelBasquiat.jpgWhile “The Radiant Child” touches on many of the combustible elements in Basquiat’s life — the drug use, the flings with ’80s scenesters like Madonna, the sometimes racist art snobs that claimed his contribution to the form was “practically nil” — it is primarily a celebration of his unusual and groundbreaking neoexpressionist work that marries personal accounts from friends, including Fab 5 Freddy, ex-girlfriends like Suzanne Mallouk and gallery owners such as Larry Gagosian with one of the most extensive retrospectives of his paintings and sketches imaginable.

Amazingly, it almost never left a drawer in Davis’ house. After Basquiat’s death in 1988, Davis shelved the film she had, only dusting it off in 2005 when a friend from the Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art mentioned they would soon be hosting an exhibit of his work. She edited the footage into a short that accompanied the exhibit, but between an offer from Arthouse Films’ David Koh to produce a feature version and Davis’ own desire to get away from the grind of directing narrative features on location away from her family, she decided to get serious about a full-length Basquiat doc.

“Having kids kind of gave me that opportunity to slow down a little bit and dig into projects that needed that kind of devotion and time,” Davis said. “I did like this little cooking show and I also think that gave me the confidence that you don’t really need a lot to make a movie, you just need a camera and a vision, so I was like okay, I think I can do this.”

Once she reached out to Basquiat’s father Gerard, who gave his blessing, Davis went about digging up old photographs and talking up the survivors of the decadent art world of the ’80s like Julian Schnabel. E-mails from photographers would lead to discoveries about Basquiat’s early period as the graffiti artist SAMO© and archival snapshots and recollections of Basquiat would reveal the artist to be a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum at six and recount his traumatic car crash at seven.

07212010_JeanMichelBasquiatRadiantChild3.jpg“Each person I’d talk to was like a new map,” said Davis. “Their memory of Jean-Michel was always so vivid still in their heads that they could even describe like details down to like the color of a car or the street corner they were on. He was such a character that their memories were still so strong.”

Although Davis was reluctant to include herself in the film, it’s her occasional interjections about rescuing her friend from the ever-ringing doorbell when he lived on Crosby Street in New York or sitting atop Mulholland Drive and eating Chinese food in her car that bring a humanity to the picture amidst the experts who rightly praise Basquiat as a visionary and extol his skills as a quick draw artist given to easy inspiration (Warhol envied his speed).

Davis hopes the doc will inspire other young artists to keep pursuing their talent, even if like Basquiat they are rejected at first, and she herself has been reliving her younger days as an independent filmmaker on the festival circuit, excited to travel to Deauville after stops at Sundance and SXSW. The post-screening parties have even brought out a few old friends.

“Chris Rock came [to one of the screenings] and afterwards, we just sat around having the best time saying like, “Chris, we’re still working. Can you believe it?”

Thankfully, Davis is preserving the work of others as well.

“Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” is now playing in New York before opening in Denver and Seattle on August 6th and Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston on August 20th.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

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.

Posted by on
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.