DID YOU READ

“Cool It,” Reviewed

“Cool It,” Reviewed (photo)

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For those coming to Ondi Timoner’s “Cool It” with a considerable amount of skepticism, the first half-hour will do little to sway you as Timoner strains to make you like Bjorn Lomborg, the controversial advocate of alternative energy strategies nicknamed for the title of his most famous book as “The Skeptical Environmentalist.” After a montage gingerly demonstrates how his views on global warming have clashed with the majority of the world’s scientists, Lomborg is shown caring for his mother with Alzheimer’s, feeding schoolchildren in Nairobi and gazing longingly over riverbanks and outside train windows.

Occasionally someone like Stanford environmental studies professor Stephen Schneider comes on screen to wag his finger in disagreement, but when the realization sets in that Timoner is burnishing Lomborg’s image only for the Greenpeace refugee to give a point-by-point repudiation of “An Inconvenient Truth” using Al Gore’s favorite weapon, the slideshow, against him, there’s good reason to believe “Cool It” will become the histrionic piece of propaganda that it is intended to rail against.

Certainly, the film indulges in a bit of that, opening and closing with twee animated sequences of earth with a voiceover by children and follows a rigid formula of persuasion, but if “Cool It” is effective, it’s because of Timoner’s ability to parlay her insistence on keeping an open mind onto her audience. As it turns out, the same curiosity that led the director into the claustrophobic and dangerous worlds of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s lead singer Anton Newcombe in “Dig!” or internet entrpreneur Josh Harris in “We Live in Public” is a necessity when trying to offer up energy alternatives such as algae fuel, cloud brightening and wave energy and urban heat islands (sidewalks that cool the surface) that seem even further afield for the average citizen than the more widely accepted solutions of solar or wind energy.

Since Timoner’s interest has always been in people rather than ideology, “Cool It” doesn’t appear at first to play to her strengths with the film’s half-hearted introduction trying to tell Lomborg’s story, even when he, like any activist worth their salt, would rather discuss his cause. However, once Lomborg gets into his groove speaking about alternative energy solutions that are off the beaten path, “Cool It” takes on the passion that probably brought Timoner and Lomborg together in the first place and in fact becomes exciting when it demonstrates how some of the crazier technologies that are lesser known to the general public can work towards cooling the planet. It also helps that Timoner expresses her humanistic touch in small ways with her subjects, depicting the many scientists and experts on hand not as a parade of static talking heads, but in their natural environments, whether it’s standing on a grassy knoll or sitting in a laboratories with a plate full of beakers of green algae fuel jiggling in the background.

Knowing Lomborg is already such a polarizing figure in climate change circles, Timoner dedicates ample time to clarifying his positions, immediately disavowing the notion that he doesn’t believe in global warming and gives Lomborg ample time with a chalkboard to explain his longtime poo-pooing of carbon emissions, which like many of his other arguments is based in the idea that it’s simply not as important in the bigger scheme of things as other pressing needs around the world like education, health care and clean water. Other scholars such as Paul Reiter, professor of medical entomology at Pasteur Insitute, appear on camera to bring up sentiments that won’t be popular amongst most environmentalists, with Reiter saying, “Science has been hijacked by alarmists” and Timoner, shortly thereafter, showing celebrities like David Duchovny and Lance Bass looking slightly foolish as they espouse the importance of using low-wattage light bulbs and driving hybrids when “Cool It”‘s commentators dismiss these actions as drops in the bucket.

Yet one of the film’s most keen observations is also its most subtle, depicting a room packed with photographers and reporters when Al Gore came to testify in front of Congress on climate change. Lomborg, who was there to meet the former vice president, uses the moment as the joke that opens his lecture, saying that he can tell the exact moment when Gore realized he was shaking hands with the enemy. But it is when you see Lomborg sitting in front of a congressional panel with an empty room behind him that you understand why “Cool It” is an important addition to the debate because even though many disagree with his views, more people should be there to listen.

“Cool It” is now open in limited release.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

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

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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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.