“Bill Cunningham New York,” Reviewed

“Bill Cunningham New York,” Reviewed (photo)

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Bill Cunningham is an unlikely subject for a documentary since like most photographers, he’d much rather be doing the documenting. As a staple of the Sunday New York Times Style section, Cunningham has been responsible for illustrating society high and low with the “Evening Hours” and “On the Street” columns that cover the entire strata of fashion in the city. And beyond the fact that it apparently took director Richard Press a decade to convince the notoriously private Cunningham to serve as the basis for a film, while the city and its denizens have changed dramatically in the half-century Cunningham has taken pictures, the photographer has not.

Outfitted in the same blue jacket he picked up decades ago and on his 29th Schwinn bike (since he’s had 28 stolen from him over the years), Cunningham glides effortlessly down 5th Avenue from his apartment right above Carnegie Hall, forsaking the luxury of the people he photographs for a complete dedication to chronicling what they wear. He won’t drink at the parties, the bed in his cramped apartment is merely an inconvenience on his way to voluminous file cabinets, and he hardly takes notice of cabs that threaten to hit him in the street as he snaps pictures with one hand on his camera and another on a handlebar. Such commitment has earned him the respect and time of the likes of Anna Wintour and the late Brooke Astor, who make rare on-camera appearances to attest to Cunningham’s discrete charms, though it has left him without much of a life to call his own.

“Bill Cunningham New York” makes few judgments in this regard, ultimately bringing up the photographer’s lack of any real relationships aside from the one to his camera as something other than a quirky character trait near the end of the film. It’s that reticence both of the subject and filmmaker Richard Press of delving much deeper that keeps it mostly on the surface, but then again, that’s the most accurate way to approach Cunningham, who at one point sees a throng of paparazzi around Catherine Deneuve and asks why anyone cares about anything but what she wears. Fortunately for Press, Cunningham is naturally charismatic, an ease with people that’s likely come with decades of asking them to take their picture, and has some endemic drama with the impending eviction from his Carnegie Hall perch, of which only he and the nonagenarian artist Editta Sherman still pay a rent-controlled $530 a month.

One might think the main appeal of “Bill Cunningham New York” would be the hook of a survivor story since Cunningham’s immediately distinguishing trait is that he’s still taking photographs well into his eighties, capturing the trends that dictate the style of generations well behind him. However, it’s the single-mindedness of Cunningham about his work that is so infectious as well as so strange, given that he prides himself on blending into a crowd when he prizes those who stand out more than all else. Though it might’ve been against his own wishes, it’s something of a privilege for the rest of us that he’s been allowed to stand out with his own film since the only thing more fleeting these days than the fashion Cunningham has illustrated in the pages of the Times is the passion he holds for his craft.

“Bill Cunningham New York” is now open in New York and Los Angeles.


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.