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Cheryl Hines Gets Serious

Cheryl Hines Gets Serious (photo)

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Of the half-dozen scripts that actress/writer/director Adrienne Shelly completed before her tragic death in 2006, “Serious Moonlight” isn’t the obvious choice for first posthumous film to be made from her work. Produced by her husband Andy Ostroy, who’s committed to making all of her scripts into films, it’s a dissection of how a marriage can go wrong between a long-wedded couple (Meg Ryan and Timothy Hutton). After her breakthrough film as a director, the sweet-natured “Waitress,” “Serious Moonlight” is decidedly sour: Ryan’s long-suffering Louise takes her husband hostage by duct-taping him to a toilet; while a subplot involving home invasion might feel too close for comfort to those who know the details of Shelly’s murder. Yet in spite of those peculiarities, there is something all too perfect about “Serious Moonlight” as a showcase for Shelly’s idiosyncratic and wistful point of view. Its director, Cheryl Hines, took on the unenviable task of stepping in for her late friend and “Waitress” co-star to make her feature directorial debut. Shortly before the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, Hines talked about making “Moonlight” her own and how she finally gets why the pies got so much attention in “Waitress.”

After you finished “Waitress,” had you kept in touch with Adrienne?

Adrienne and I had kept in touch since “Waitress.” We had talked and e-mailed each other back and forth, but I didn’t know anything about the project until [producers] Andy Ostroy and Michael Roiff called me and asked if I was interested in directing.

Did it sound like a fun opportunity or did panic immediately set in?

A little of both. First I thought, “Why me?” And then when I read the script, I understood it, because Adrienne had a specific way of writing and she had a specific tone to her voice with a balance with comedy and drama. I really appreciate that, so that’s why I think Andy and Michael came to me and that’s certainly what drew me to it.

When you’re brought into a situation like this where you want to honor her and at the same time make your own directorial debut, how much do you want to make the film your own?

I think as a director you have to make it your own. It’d be a mistake to approach a project with the idea of “I’m going to do this the way I think somebody else would,” because then you’d never be clear on your idea. So I approached the project with the idea that I’m going to tell the story the best way I know how to tell it. I think that’s what Adrienne would want.

There’s one scene online between Meg Ryan and Kristen Bell, and there does seem to be that unusual tone where it’s funny, but it’s also like “am I supposed to be laughing at this?” Was it tricky to nail that tone down as a director?

For me, it wasn’t hard finding the right tone. That’s why I wanted to do this project — like you’re saying, it’s not a traditional comedy. Everything isn’t funny in this film. [laughs] There’re some really dramatic moments, and it’s not a broad comedy. The comedy that’s there is nuanced and it’s subtle.

As an actress, you’ve worked with so many directors with a distinctive style over the years. Did you find some of those influences creeping into your work?

Absolutely. When I was working with Barry Sonnenfeld, I’d watch him set up a shot and talk to him about what he was seeing and what it was to shoot comedy. He told me that a lot of times with comedy, it’s not just about getting the joke, but getting a reaction to the joke. That’s the laugh — it’s somebody’s else’s reaction to the joke. So there have been little pearls of wisdom along my path that I’ve been keeping with me.

I figure you might say to yourself making this, “Oh, that’s why Adrienne was spending so much time shooting those pies in ‘Waitress.'”

That’s so true. It is so true! I was thinking that the other day, about those pies and the different colors, and at the time, I thought, “This is insane. Why do these pies look like this?” [laughs] Pies in real life don’t look this color! And then when you see the film, you realize it’s all intentional. I understand it now.

“Serious Moonlight” does not yet have distribution, but will play once more on April 30th during the Tribeca Film Festival.

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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.