This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.

DID YOU READ

“Black Swan,” Reviewed

“Black Swan,” Reviewed (photo)

Posted by on

Does a genius need to be a little bit crazy to be great? Darren Aronofsky seems to think so. He returns to that idea in film after film, from “Pi” to “The Fountain” to “The Wrestler” to his latest, “Black Swan.” All of Aronofsky’s movies are about obsession, about people who take the things they love to unreasonable and frequently self-destructive extremes. His latest mad genius is Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a dancer struggling to cope with the pressure of being cast as the lead of a new production of the ballet “Swan Lake.” Just as her career reaches its pinnacle, her mind reaches its breaking point. A girl turning into a swan; that’s just supposed to be her role in the ballet. But when no one’s around, NIna feels funny. She sees things. Her back itches. Her toes stick together. She’s so committed she could be committed.

You hear artists talk about their work taking over their life, but that’s literally true for Nina; her life becomes a psychosis-induced production of “Swan Lake.” Her director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel) is her handsome prince. Her rival in the company and for Thomas’ admiration, Lily (Mila Kunis), is her dark double. Nina is a technically gifted dancer but for her dual role in “Swan Lake” she will need to be more than that. “Perfection is not just about control,” Thomas tells her. “It’s also about letting go.” In everything he makes, Aronofsky wrestles with that same dilemma. His movies move like music. They begin under rigid formal control then build to feverish crescendos of emotion. “Black Swan” is no exception. Aronofsky has made it in such a way that it validates the theory of art set forth by its characters. Great art isn’t just technical brilliance. It’s messy. It takes chances.

Boy, does “Black Swan” take chances. The whole movie is told from Nina’s perspective and as she loses her mind, the film sort of loses its too. She starts to hallucinate, and the movie hallucinates right along with her. The ending, set amidst the frenzy of the company’s production of “Swan Lake,” is big and melodramatic in a way that might be too much for a cynical modern audience to bear.

That will be their loss. “Black Swan” is a powerful and terrifying movie — “Repulsion” and “Rosemary’s Baby” rolled into one with more than a little “Red Shoes” thrown in for good measure — and Nina, played by Portman in a mesmerizing performance, is one of the most fascinating characters in any film this year. At age 28, her career is already almost over. At this stage of her life, her connection to ballet is like a junkie’s to his drugs. These rituals — stretching, breaking in her toe shoes, nursing her bruises — once gave her pleasure. Now she can’t live without them, but she doesn’t particularly enjoy them either. Ballet used to be heroin, now it’s methadone.

Nina lives with her mother (Barbara Hershey) in a state of arrested emotional development in a room that belongs to a little girl. “He picked me, Mommy,” she says to Hershey when gets gets the part in “Swan Lake,” revealing all her issues in a single line of dialogue. Nina never grew up because her controlling stage mother and the rules of a young ballet dancer’s life didn’t allow it; her understanding of love and even her own sexuality is shockingly immature. She’s given her entire life to dance, but it’s not enough. Now dance wants her sanity as well.

From the perspective of the orchestra seats at the Koch Theater, ballet is human perfection: bodies telling stories through graceful movement, performing athletic feats that should be impossible. Using the same style of camerawork as “The Wrestler,” Aronofsky brings us close enough to see us the imperfections. Mirrors, at once so important and so cruel to a dancer, dominate the production design, fracturing and splitting characters into doubles of themselves. The use of color is particularly bold, contrasting the ordered world of Lincoln Center, with its blacks, whites and grays, with the blood reds of Nina’s increasingly frazzled mind.

The moving close-ups during the ballet numbers may have served a practical purpose — keeping us so close to Portman as she dances forces us to focus on her face and not on her feet — but it also represents a refreshing change of visual pace for dance movies. The camera moves with Portman and the rest of the dancers like another member of the company. We’re onstage with them, delighting in their talents and sharing in their miseries. Aronofsky lets us thrill in the in the act of creation without ever letting us forget the terrible sacrifices many artists make to entertain us.

IFC_ComedyCrib_ThePlaceWeLive_SeriesImage_web

SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

via GIPHY

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. 

via GIPHY

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.

Neurotica_105_MPX-1920×1080

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_CC_Neurotica_Series_Image4

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.

Neurotica_series_image_1

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.

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?”

via GIPHY

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).

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.