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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Certified Copy”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Certified Copy” (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 time we’re covering “Certified Copy,” the acclaimed new film from Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. But is it a genuine work of art? Let’s find out.

Movie: “Certified Copy”
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Plot Synopsis: The author of a new book about the meaning and importance of authenticity in art (William Shimell) joins a fan (Juliette Binoche) for a tour of the Italian countryside. But their relationship might not be as simple or as casual as it first appears.
What the Critics Said: “[Like] a middle-aged ‘Before Sunrise,'” Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
“A staggering amount of weighty, wide-ranging issues about connection,” David Fear, Time Out New York
“A genuine triumph,” Peter Howell Toronto Star
Were They Right? Well, I already used my own genuine pun in the intro, so I must agree with Howell; yes, this movie is a genuine triumph. Its conversational structure and beautiful European setting does call to mind Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Sunset” films, though the questions and issues Fear mentions turn Kiarostami’s work into something else entirely.

Describing what “Certified Copy” is about is tricky because the movie is constantly in the process of redefining what — and who — it is about. The characters remain the same but their identities are always in flux. Shimell’s James Miller is in Italy for a reading of his new book about authenticity in the art world. Binoche’s unnamed character attends with her son, but has to leave early. She passes an invite to Miller to stop by her local art gallery and he does. When he says he’d like some air, she offers to drive him to a nearby town. Along the way, they talk about Miller’s work and theories about art, and how those theories relate to their own lives. But later in a key moment, Miller and the woman’s relationship inexplicably changes in an instant. Suddenly, they’re acting and talking to one another completely differently. Were they pretending before? Are they pretending now? Are both somehow true? As you can see, the notion of authenticity in art is being explored in “Certified Copy” in more than just Kiarostami’s dialogue.

I’m always astounded by actors in movies like this. How do they know exactly what truth to play when the director doesn’t want the audience to know exactly what that truth is? I don’t know Kiarostami’s direction to Shimell and Binoche, but whatever it was, it worked. Both actors are wonderful as they walk the fine line between intriguing mystery and frustrating obfuscation. Their job is made even more difficult by the fact that the film is essentially plotless and teeming with conversation. The focus is entirely on them. I don’t know that “Certified Copy” could withstand a sequel in the same way that “Before Sunrise” became “Before Sunset,” but I would love to see these two actors share the screen together again.

Even before the film hits its critical juncture point, there are hints of a deeper truth between the characters. Or maybe it’s a deeper lie that binds them together. What makes “Certified Copy” so remarkable is the way it refuses to present itself as an argument, one way or another, on the issue of “fakes” or “copies” in the art world. Instead it presents a scenario as complex and ambiguous as the issue of “fakes” and “copies” in the art world. There are a million ways to interpret that issue, and there are probably a million ways to interpret this movie. Having only seen it once so far I can’t be certain, but I have a feel you could watch “Certified Copy” a hundred times and see new things in it every time. And even then, you still wouldn’t fully understand its secrets. But wouldn’t you love to try? I mean, really.

Worthy of an Oscar Nomination For: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay (Abbas Kiarostami), Best Picture.
Chances of Making My Top Ten: As real as my marriage. …OR ARE THEY??? (Yes. They are. [And it is.])
It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: You enjoy films that are more interested in leaving you with questions than answers; you secretly like “F For Fake” more than “Citizen Kane;” you and your spouse get off on role playing in public.

Previously in Countdown to Top Ten 2K11
“The Descendants,” directed by Alexander Payne
“We Need to Talk About Kevin,” directed by Lynne Ramsay
“Point Blank,” directed by Fred Cavayé
“The Arbor,” directed by Clio Barnard
“Cold Weather,” directed by Aaron Katz
“Meek’s Cutoff,” directed by Kelly Reichardt
“Margin Call,” directed by J.C. Chandor
“Bill Cunningham New York,” directed by Richard Press
“Hanna,” directed by Joe Wright

Have a movie you wanted covered in a future installment of Countdown to Top Ten 2K11? Let me know on Twitter.

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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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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.”

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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.