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Tribeca 2011: “Jesus Henry Christ,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “Jesus Henry Christ,” Reviewed (photo)

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When Dennis Lee made his first film a few years back called “Fireflies in the Garden,” he made one brilliant hiring decision. It wasn’t Ryan Reynolds or Willem Dafoe, who both starred in the film, but rather the cinematographer Danny Moder, who had but a few credits as a DP to his name and also a wife named Julia Roberts, who took a supporting role in the drama. As it stands, the film has never been released in America, the first of Roberts’ never to do so – and to be fair, the company with the film’s rights went belly up, which had the unintended consequence of making “Jesus Henry Christ” Lee’s debut in his home country, though it may very well be seen by just as few people.

While Roberts doesn’t actually appear onscreen in “Jesus Henry Christ,” it’s her production company (Red OM Films) that made it and should be mentioned, not because it’s intended to be mean to Ms. Roberts or anyone involved, but it goes a long way towards explaining how a disaster like this comes into being. Granted, it was based on a Student Academy Award-winning film by Lee as a Columbia grad student, but without Roberts’ involvement, this film wouldn’t be able to cast Toni Collette and Michael Sheen only to waste them, it would lose its provocative but ultimately empty title, and most likely sit somewhere in the middle of the pile of scripts that holds up the weak end of a producer’s desk. (If it’s of any comfort, Roberts does see a return on her investment in Moder since the film’s visuals are its one redeeming quality.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and that’s perhaps because I’m at a loss for how to describe “Jesus Henry Christ.” Maybe a good place to start is the Post-it notes. Multicolored and arranged perfectly around the office of Dr. Slavin O’Hara (Sheen), they may be the best encapsulation of what the film is. You see O’Hara may or may not be the paternal father of Henry (Jason Spevack), a genius child with a photographic memory that has come to seek him out since the only question he doesn’t have an answer for is how he was actually conceived. His mother Patricia (Collette) was a bra-burner in her day, not to mention a daughter who saw her mother burned to a crisp when her father doused her with alcohol in a birthday cake-related incident when she was 10, so she conceived via test tube to avoid males completely.

Now, Henry’s ten himself and she lacks the fire to keep him from searching for his biological father. He doesn’t have to look far as he discovers O’Hara’s book “Born Gay or Made That Way?” and O’Hara in a local bookstore. Conveniently, as a professor at a nearby university, O’Hara doesn’t look far for his subjects, either. His first book was based on studying his daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein), who’s mercilessly teased at school as being a “lesbo” after its publication. Once again O’Hara pulls out the Post-it notes for Henry because he lacks the memory to document the wunderkind otherwise.

But Lee has an ulterior motive for the Post-it notes, which are used ultimately to stage a climactic scene where during a storm where O’Hara flings open his office’s windows so that the Post-it notes can swirl around the professor like a rainbow. It isn’t the only 360° shot in the film – the first time the full quartet goes out for lunch, the camera goes round and round the table to document their clear unease with each other, though the main reason your head will spin is from all the BS psychobabble thrown in the direction of the audience.

However, all this motion doesn’t actually move the film forward, nor do digressions like visits with a jive-talking, dashiki-wearing white secretary at the sperm bank, a 10-minute conversation between Henry and his American grandfather in Spanish, or references to Jonathan Frazen being a hack. To Lee, they share the colors of the Post-it notes, bright pastels that burst in every direction, but exist only as messy individual thoughts that never coalesce into a whole.

Mistaking style for substance, “Jesus Henry Christ” would seem to want to tell the story of a makeshift family brought together by unusual circumstance, but the film only winds up pulling them apart, allowing each character to exist only in their private world where they can be a collection of quirks and insecurities rather than identifiable human beings who could possibly relate to each other or anyone else. When the film’s ending finally rolls around with a completely out-of-context admonishment to “Be the change we want to see in the world,” it becomes a sad self-reflexive commentary on how a film that tries so hard to be different ends up being so very average and one that isn’t memorable even with a stack of Post-its.

“Jesus Henry Christ” currently does not have U.S. distribution. It will play the Tribeca Film Festival on April 27th and 30th.

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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.