DID YOU READ

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” Reviewed

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” Reviewed (photo)

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Writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are victims of their own success. Their new film, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” is getting the worst reviews of their career. As I write this, it’s currently hovering around 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, thirty points lower anything else they’ve made. I suspect that has less to do with the quality of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” than its relationship to their previous films, “Half Nelson” and “Sugar.” Those films were designed to defy conventions, while this one is designed to conform to them. By comparison, I would agree that “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is an inferior film: it is not as bold or original as Fleck and Boden’s others. But it is clearly not intended to be. It’s based on a young adult novel and it feels like a “young adult movie,” if such a thing exists. It tells a teenage story for a teenage audience and like a lot of teenagers it’s bound to be misunderstood by a lot of adults.

What adult could relate to the problems of Craig, the film’s protagonist? Played by Keir Gilchrist, he is a whiny, self-centered mope. Despite his comfortable and supportive home, despite having two parents and seemingly all the opportunities in the world available to him, he is depressed. Considering suicide, he walks into the emergency room of a New York City hospital and announces “I want to kill myself.” The clerk is nonplussed. “Fill this out,” is the response. This was not the reaction Craig anticipated. Neither is the result: since the hospital’s teen wing is under renovation, he’s placed in the adult psych ward, amongst people like Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a Craig on the other side of middle age with a strange sense of humor.

Watching Craig, it becomes apparent that his troubles aren’t nearly as serious as his new neighbors, who face crippling social anxiety or schizophrenia or self-mutilating urges. He’s just a horny, lonely, misunderstood kid feeling pressured to get into the right school and find a girlfriend. To an adult, these problems seem trivial and hardly worthy of an entire film. To a teenager, these problems are the biggest problems in the entire world and not only are they worthy of a film, they’re worthy of thirty films and a hundred books, and a thousand Facebook wall posts.

Boden and Fleck do bow to cliché more often than they should; they’re smart enough to know that no film under any circumstance should include a scene where a guy tells a girl he loves her at the exact moment another girl he likes walks in the room, then runs away in tears. And they’re a bit too quick to laugh at the illnesses of the other hospital patients. But they understand the teenage psyche in ways a lot of mainstream films geared toward that age bracket do not. They treat teens’ petty obsessions like the world-ending crises they feel like at the time, but they don’t shy away from the fact that Craig needs to grow up either. They also get uniformly excellent performances out of a cast that includes Jim Gaffigan and Lauren Graham as Craig’s parents, Zoë Kravitz as Craig’s longtime crush, Viola Davis as a sensitive psychiatrist, Emma Roberts as a cutter locked up with Craig, and Galifianakis who, all things considered, played much crazier characters in “The Hangover” and “Dinner For Schmucks.”

We shouldn’t let directors off the hook when they fail, but we also shouldn’t hold them to a standard higher than they held themselves to. The adult in me got weary of Craig’s complaints pretty fast, but the part of me that remembers what it was like to be that age got it. I’m pretty sure if I’d seen this movie when I was 17, I would have loved it. Critics bashing it for not living up to Boden and Fleck’s past movies sound like tyrannical parents who are way too hard on their kids when they bring home an A- instead of an A on a really tough test.

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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.