DID YOU READ

Getting in the Act: 11 Novelists Who Found Their Way Into the Script

Getting in the Act: 11 Novelists Who Found Their Way Into the Script (photo)

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Rock stars want to be movie stars and movie stars want to be rock stars; models want to be designers and designers want to tooth-tug Keira Knightley’s ear on the cover of Vanity Fair. These are known facts, demonstrable often to a shudder-inducing degree. What to make, though, of the latent career ambitions suggested by the humble novelist’s propensity for cameos? Do they all want to be comedians? Professional winkers? Or just slightly richer?

From Saul Bellow playing the “Man in Hallway” in an adaptation of his novel “Seize the Day” 30 years after it had been first published to Michael Chabon taking abuse in a bookstore in the upcoming adaptation of his 1988 novel, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” many authors can’t resist the idea of essentially walking into their own novel when put to celluloid. Below are a few of those, and a few more whose motivations are more elusive.

02162009_twilight.jpgFilm: “Twilight” (2008)
Author Appearance: Stephenie Meyer

In this information-obsessed era, much of the appeal of a cameo — its element of surprise — has been lost to the need to know now, before, first. And so well before the film came out — days after the scene was shot, in fact — news of crazy-selling author Stephenie Meyer’s cameo in the adaptation of the first installment in her vampire chronicles was all over the internet. Early reports suggested that Meyer’s cameo would consist of the author ordering a vegetarian plate in a coffee shop scene (in her books, there are also vegetarian vampires) and that set off a “controversy” that no doubt lit up a thousand Tumblrs, but by the time it hit theaters, her screen time was reduced to a silent sit at a lunch counter. Too shy to go along with director Catherine Hardwicke’s wish that she have a line, Meyer regrets doing it at all: “It was not my idea to do the cameo,” she said in retrospect. “They talked me into it. They thought it would be, you know, cute for the fans because most of them would recognize me. I was thinking it was going to be more like a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ thing. Like I walk by for one second in a crowd and if they can find me, cool. That’s the one scene in the movie I would happily cut — the first five seconds, and the one that I had to watch like, I mean like this [covering her eyes], ‘Ah, is it over yet?’ It was really hard for me.”

02192009_AnnieHall_TrumanCa.jpgFilm: “Annie Hall” (1977)
Author Appearance: Truman Capote

“Oh, there goes the winner of the Truman Capote contest,” Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) says to Annie (Diane Keaton) during a Central Park-set scene in “Annie Hall.” However, this being Central Park, it really was Truman Capote, just passing through, in an uncredited cameo. By 1977, the literary set had all but abandoned Capote — “Answered Prayers,” his long-awaited follow-up to “In Cold Blood” was excerpted in Esquire, in 1975 and 76, to disappointing reviews. But the Studio 54 crowd embraced him for what he was: a gadfly par excellence. Late in life, Capote was best known for knowing everyone, and seemingly being everywhere; that he should wander through an Allen film seems like a knowing nod in ubiquity’s direction. In the ’60s, Capote was close with it-girl Mia Farrow, who attended his famous Black and White Ball, but the Allen connect may have come through Keaton, whose Hollywood home she rented in 1976. “She never bothered to change her number,” Capote said. “I would have the most intimate conversations with the people who called her. ‘Well, Diane’s not here right now, would you like to leave a message?’ Then the person would go into a deep psychoanalysis of Woody Allen. Ho, ho, ho.”

02192009_Backtoschool_KurtV.jpgFilm: “Back to School” (1986)
Author Appearance: Kurt Vonnegut

Taking the cameo to its most comfortable register — the absurd — is Kurt Vonnegut’s appearance in the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy “Back to School.” As nouveau riche buffoon Thornton Melon, Dangerfield is, well, back at school, and when he is assigned an English paper on Vonnegut, he hires the man himself to help him with it. Vonnegut has just one line of introduction, although when the resultant paper gets an F (shades of the famous Marshall McLuhan cameo in “Annie Hall”) with his teacher (Sally Kellerman) fuming, “Whoever did write this doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut,” the “Slaughterhouse Five” author gets an irate call from Dangerfield, who threatens to go with Robert Ludlum next time. Interestingly, Keith Gordon, who played Dangerfield’s son in the film, went on to direct a number of films, including “The Singing Detective,” “A Midnight Clear,” and an adaptation of Vonnegut’s novel “Mother Night” in 1996.

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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.