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A Heart-Stopping (Literally) Premiere

A Heart-Stopping (Literally) Premiere (photo)

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In a horror film, it’s usually the audience that’s freaking out, but that wasn’t the case Saturday night at the Tribeca Film Festival, when Michael Cuesta’s “Tell Tale” made its world premiere. Right as the stylish retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” reached its climax, one audience member’s heart literally stopped, at least momentarily, as the film was suspended and an ambulance was called. (Though Cuesta initially suspected it might be a stunt on the part of Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, the director was later told it was likely a fainting spell or a transient ischemic attack.) Apparently, it wasn’t the only breathtaking moment of the evening — though there were far less serious implications as Brian Cox gave a chilling rendition of Poe’s classic at the film’s afterparty.

Cuesta and Josh Lucas couldn’t stop talking about either of the two events when they sat down to chat about “Tell Tale,” which stars Lucas as a single father whose recent heart transplant has led to unfamiliar palpitations and an unexpected violent streak.

What’s as strange as what happened at the premiere is that I read you had to shoot a scene at an Amtrak station where a man is run over by a train only a week after someone had died there from exactly that. Did anyone feel like this film had an omen against it?

Josh Lucas: Someone said last night afterward that the ghost of Poe reared his head. [laughs] The production didn’t really have those issues. It’s one of those films I felt like there was an awareness enough to feel it around you to know that you needed to be protective of it. Last night, that was part of what was so uncomfortable too, that like something like that could go down, or something like the train incident as well.

Michael Cuesta: The production was very difficult in more of a logistical way, but [the train incident] happened and it was so upsetting and I remember thinking, shit, I hope the movie’s not cursed. Poor man, he was a train worker, he was killed [and] we all had to go to track school for a half a day and I lost a half-day shooting. Producers wouldn’t pony up another day — that’s a lot of money. So that was the first “oh shit.” [laugh]

JL: You are making an Edgar Allan Poe film. [MC laughs]

Since the horror genre in general has changed quite a bit since the days of Poe, I got a sense with this film that what’s old is new again since the storytelling is so nuanced — is it even appropriate to call “Tell Tale” a genre film?

JL: It’s alright to call it a genre film because in a sense, we all knew we were setting out to make one. The source material is Poe, so you automatically have an elegant literary depth. There’s a reason those stories can take hold of a society [so they can] still be told now.

MC: I approached it as a horror film. When I was making the film, I always referred to [the original story[ just for the inspiration. I co-write stuff — I’m not really a strong writer — and I looked at his prose and it’s so evocative that I would close my eyes and say “what would that look like?” That had a lot to do with the look of the film. And what do you feel when you read the “The Tell-Tale Heart”? It really does what I like to think happened last night a little bit. Josh’s performance is so intense, and it really hit me last night because it was the first time I saw it on a screen that big with an audience. He captured that Poe insanity — teetering on the brink from the get-go.

Josh, the characters you’ve been playing in recent years seem to have a quality of knowing all the answers — or at least they seem to think so — and here you’re playing a character where you have no answers for your actions or why you’re in this situation. Was there a different challenge for you with that kind of a role?

JL: I think I’m more interesting in playing a level of vulnerability, and what I really liked about this character is playing someone who’s intensely vulnerable, intensely out of control. The challenge of [playing] a man who’s doing monstrosities — violent, horrible acts — that are not of his [own making]. In watching some of those other movies [I’ve done recently], what I felt was lacking a bit was a vulnerability. That’s what attracted me to Michael’s filmmaking, and why I thought this was not going to be an obvious genre film. You have a director that deals in the abstracts, pieces that are not clear cut, and can take a movie like “L.I.E.” and have compassion for a monster.

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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.