DID YOU READ

Tony Curtis (1925-2010)

Tony Curtis (1925-2010) (photo)

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Tony Curtis, star of some of the greatest Hollywood movies of all time, died of a heart attack Wednesday, and The New York Times‘ Dave Kehr has their obituary. It’s full of details of his life and career both well-known (Curtis, born Bernard Schwartz, was a famous ladies man married five times) and obscure (he attended acting classes at The New School for Social Research with Walter Matthau).

Curtis’ cinematic immortality is assured three or four times over. Of course he’s best known today as one of the two cross-dressing musicians on the run from the mob in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot” (1959). But even if he hadn’t landed that role, or given such a brilliant performance in two different disguises (as “Josephine” and as an oil magnate who sounds suspiciously like Cary Grant), his legacy would still be strong. He played the title role in a memorable biopic of “Houdini” (1953). He earned an Oscar nomination for Stanley Kramer’s “The Defiant Ones” (1958) opposite Sidney Poitier. He collaborated with Kirk Douglas on two epic period adventures: 1958’s “The Vikings,” and 1960’s “Spartacus.” In that film Curtis appeared in one of the most notorious deleted scenes in Hollywood history, a thinly veiled homosexual encounter between his character, the slave Antonius, and Laurence Olivier’s Marcus Licinius. Olivier’s character tries to seduce Curtis while discussing his taste for “both oysters and snails.” I guess the veil was too thin; censors cut the scene, and it was lost for some thirty years until a restoration in the early 1990s by Robert Harris (available on the Criterion Collection DVD of the film).

I’ve saved one best film for last, 1957’s “Sweet Smell of Success” co-starring Burt Lancaster and, giving one of its finest performances in film to date, the city of New York, playing itself (in 1957, most movies set in New York were still shot primarily in Los Angeles). Curtis played a “cookie full of arsenic” of a press agent named Sidney Falco (a real PR firm in New York City now bears the character’s name). Though it was a critical and financial flop in its day, “Sweet Smell of Success” is now regarded as one of the best films of the ’50s, and an unusual but brilliant film noir. And Curtis is fantastic as a wildly ambitious barnacle on the hull of show business.

In 2008, Curtis told the San Francisco Chronicle “I will probably die within 15 years. I have to come to terms with that, though I almost don’t want to talk about it. When I was running around Hollywood … there was no such thing as death, not for any of us. Now I hope I’m prepared for it.” Sadly, it took a lot less than fifteen years. Early in “Sweet Smell of Success,” as Sidney lays out his plans, a character asks him where he’s trying to get. “Way up high, where it’s always balmy.” Sidney may not have made it, but Tony Curtis did.

The trailer for “Sweet Smell of Success:”

The trailer for “Some Like it Hot:”

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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.