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Something’s Got a Hold on Me, And I Don’t Know What: “Somewhere,” Reviewed

Something’s Got a Hold on Me, And I Don’t Know What: “Somewhere,” Reviewed (photo)

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As we left our screening of “Somewhere,” a colleague observed that he’d never been to the Chateau Marmont, where much of the movie is set, but that he “couldn’t believe how crappy it looked.” I’ve never been there either, and while I’m not sure that that’s the description I’d choose, as it’s sketched out in the film the famous West Hollywood hotel doesn’t conform to any of the expected trappings of luxury — the grounds look rambling and overgrown, the eclectic furniture comfortably broken in, the overall air studiedly unpretentious. It’s a very high-end version of what George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air” deemed “fauxmey” — a shabby chic, sun-dappled aerie filled with beautiful, sometimes famous playmates, where everyone knows your name and room service is available 24 hours a day.

That sense of coddled coziness is important to Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), because the Marmont is the hotel he lives in when not off staying at other hotels, on shoots, press days and Italian award shows. Johnny is a movie star and, as far as we can divine, a very famous one, enjoying an easy, debauched break between features. So rudderless is his lifestyle that his days are shaped by the people who show up at his doorstep or call him on the phone — his agent rings to tell him a car will be out front in 15 minutes to take him to a junket; he comes home to find his best friend presiding over a party in his suite; he wakes up to find his daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) signing the cast he has on the arm he broke taking a boozy accidental dive down some stairs. Cleo lives most of the time with her mom and Johnny’s ex Layla (Lala Sloatman), but she comes to stay with her father twice — the first time as a regular instance of a partial custody agreement, the unscheduled second because her mother needs some space.

12222010_somewhere3.jpg“Somewhere” has obviously echoes of Sofia Coppola’s earlier melancholy movie star story “Lost in Translation,” playing out like a minor B-side to that better film, though one with its own petite pleasures. While “Lost in Translation” focused on a relationship enabled by the impermanent jetlagged bubble of displacement of a Tokyo hotel, that bubble is where Johnny has chosen to spend his life, the only abiding aspect of which, the only permanent mark he’s left on the world beyond a string of the more forgettable type of multiplex movie, is his 11-year-old child.

He’s a charming, unreliable bastard, a noncommittal man so sedated by indulgence that he’s arrived on the cusp of middle age without a moment of self-reflection. Women are always either throwing themselves at him or throwing a tantrum at him when he fails to return their calls or treat them with respect. Even Cleo is enchanted by him but wary — there’s no doubt that he loves her, but also that he’s made no larger place for her in his life. On a trip to Rome, for instance, they spend an evening watching TV and ordering in gelato, but after she’s gone to sleep he summons a former lover he ran into in the lobby, the three taking an awkward breakfast together in the morning.

Johnny and Cleo’s time together is everything of substance in this wisp of a movie, and Fanning is touchingly good as a little girl whose still takes delight in the giddy perks of A-list existence, but no longer really finds them enough to make up for her only semi-present dad. When her breakdown happens, it is, like most of the emotional moments in the film, all the more powerful for being underplayed — a child weeping with worry that her parents are too busy with their own needs to pay attention to hers. Johnny’s own comeuppance, on the other hand, is artless and heavy-handed, a bald stating out loud of what had been delicately left understood before. Or maybe it’s that Johnny’s more an absence of a main character than any active force (something that is, admittedly, part of the point of the movie), and so whatever change happens in him over “Somewhere”‘s course seems more like a new impulse to be indulged rather than any growth.

12222010_somewhere4.jpgIt’s a seductive thought, that the most beloved and pampered of stars can find their lives empty and emptied of meaning, and “Somewhere” seems aware of and plays into our desire for celebrity schadenfreude a bit. Coppola’s unmoving camera observes from a wry remove the pole-dancing pair of strippers Johnny orders to his room, or his race car circling a track, zipping in and out of the frame but never going anywhere. And yet, through the unaffected gaze of Cleo, these things seem magical again, for Johnny, of course, but also for us in the audience. Sure, it’s a shallow existence, but it can also be pretty sweet — providing you have someone to remind you of the fact.

“Somewhere” opens in limited release today.

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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.