Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Bill Cunningham New York”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Bill Cunningham New York” (photo)

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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 is a column with one simple goal: to help you decide what films you need to see before making your end of the year top ten list. Each installment features my thoughts on a critically acclaimed 2011 movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

This week, we’re covering one of the best reviewed movies of the year. Yesterday it earned a Gotham Award nomination for Best Documentary. Did it deserve it? Let’s find out.

Movie: “Bill Cunningham New York”

Director: Richard Press
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Plot Synopsis: A look at the life and career of photographer Bill Cunningham, whose two regular columns in The New York Times have helped define the discourse of the fashion industry for decades.
What the Critics Said: “Made me happy every moment I was watching it,” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“A delightful documentary,” Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
“A celebration of individualism, integrity, fashion, and passion,” Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
Were They Right? Absolutely. There’s no greater honor you can bestow upon an artist than making a work of art about them, and that’s exactly what director Richard Press did with this film. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in 2011.

President John Kennedy once described the life of an artist as “stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill.” Bill Cunningham lives his life like a man who took those words very seriously. For years, Cunningham lived alone in a tiny apartment in Carnegie Hall. A small bed on the floor belonged to him. The rest of the space was owned by his work: dozens of file cabinets, hundreds of books, and thousands of photographs. Cunningham has very few friends and fewer familial entanglements. He abhors money almost as much as he hates free time. He has spent his entire life thinking about fashion and putting those thoughts into words and images that he shares with his readers in the Times. On the basis of this film, it would seem to be a life well spent.

Press reveals the secrets of the 80-year-old Cunningham’s longevity in the youthful word of fashion: a relentless work ethic and an endlessly upbeat outlook. A melancholic interview late in the film about Cunningham’s personal life reveals some unacknowledged — maybe even unrealized — regrets. But the pleasures of the job far outweigh the burdens and Press shows enough of Cunningham’s photography to make it clear the man isn’t simply enjoying his work, he’s excelling at it. Cunningham devotes his “On the Street” column to celebrating the beauty and style of regular folks he sees while riding his bicycle around Manhattan. Press’ documentary essentially does the same thing. It points a camera at a subject that rarely gets much attention and discovers extraordinary hidden beauty.

Worthy of Oscar Nominations For: Best Documentary
Chances of Making My Top Ten: Not great. Chances of making my top twenty: almost guaranteed.

It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: you’re a fan of documentaries about the practical side of genius; if your two passions in life are women’s shoes and bicycles.

“Bill Cunningham New York” is now available on DVD as well as on Netflix Watch Instantly and Amazon Instant Video. Tell us what you think about the film in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Previously in Countdown to Top Ten 2K11
“Hanna,” directed by Joe Wright


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.