Toronto 2010: “Ceremony,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Ceremony,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

There is a natural analogy to be made between “Ceremony” executive producer Jason Reitman and director Max Winkler, son of Henry, but that’s probably not the one either would want to hear first. It’s a good thing then that Max also happens to share Reitman’s eye and ear as a filmmaker, making his first feature, after honing his skills on Web series like “Clark and Michael” and “Wainy Days,” the promise of greater things. However, their styles shouldn’t be confused as Winkler seems to come more from the Wes Anderson/Whit Stillman school where style is dictated by dialogue, the energy of the scenes derived from the rat-a-tat rhythm of its players who exist in a reality that’s only partially identifiable to our own.

This is immediately evident when we meet Michael Angarano’s Sam Davis, a character who has wandered out from the fake-it-until-you-make-it world that Anderson and Stillman’s creations usually inhabit, an author of children’s books, if we’re being formal, but more appropriately could be called a raconteur since when we first meet him at a public library reading of his latest effort, he has an audience of one: Marshall (Reece Thompson), a friend who he sweet-talks into taking him to crashing the wedding of a woman he once had an affair with (Uma Thurman).

09162010_Ceremony2.jpgIf that last story strand sounds implausible, given Angarano’s boyish looks and Thurman’s statuesque proportions, you’d be surprised since Thurman lets her hair down as Zoe to the point where it seems credible she’d be the type to take in wounded birds and as her fiancé Whit (Lee Pace) describes, she’ll read absolutely any thing and everything, which is how she first got seduced by Sam in the first place. So it is during a weekend retreat on the eastern shoreline that Sam and Marshall find themselves at Zoe and Whit’s wedding party where Sam tries to work his charms once more to pry Zoe away from her soon-to-be significant other, an adventurous TV nature show host who, ironically, can offer her security, but not the adventure that Sam can.

As a departure from the roles Angarano is known for mostly as a wimp, Winkler taps into a wonderfully manic energy that feeds into the party he’s trying to throw. Although it would be nice if the film had a few more laughs, largely relying on the exploits of Zoe’s socially aberrant brother (“Paper Heart”‘s Jake Johnson) and dashed-off non sequiturs in both the script and the production design for chuckles, “Ceremony” begs to be watched with a martini in hand, getting that ineffable quality of a slinky, hazy, celebratory vibe onscreen. This is no easy feat, with cinematographer William Rexer constantly surveying the beach or inside Whit’s palatial home with tracking shots to find where the fun is being had, and the party seems endless. There are three-legged races, cake presentations (it’s Whit’s birthday too), and dancing and boozing in every corner of the house.

“Ceremony” might come off a tad twee in this regard, but Winkler’s direction is so assured and his cast of characters so well-defined that what the film lacks in gut-busting humor or overcompensates for with quirk, it makes up for with its polish that makes it go down smooth, even as one complication piles on top of another. Winkler isn’t out to reinvent the wheel here, but he spins it fast and keeps it on track, delivering a pleasant diversion that’s refreshingly free of cynicism, full of vibrancy and ultimately, a curiosity about what he will do next.

“Ceremony” 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.