The Naughts: The Romantic Pair of the ’00s

The Naughts: The Romantic Pair of the ’00s (photo)

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    I knew what she looked like by heart this time.
    That scrap of newspaper she was on should
    have been worn ragged by now, the number of
    times I’d pulled it out and looked at it when I
    was alone in the place.

        — Cornell Woolrich, “The Black Angel”

It’s the fear as much as the tenderness. It’s the desperation in the way they clutch hands in a darkened theater, and the sensuousness in the way they caress each other in bed. It’s the contradiction of having found yourself by stepping into a mystery, and the cruelty of discovering that the heaven of love is a gossamer skein stretched over a black hole. “And the mysteries of love come clear,” is the way David Lynch put the paradox in the song he wrote for “Blue Velvet.” Those mysteries have never been as heartrending in Lynch’s work as they are in his 2002 dreamtime noir “Mulholland Dr.”

Love, for David Lynch, is convulsive or it’s nothing. Adolescents, and those capable of living with the adolescent’s self-dramatizing intensity, are the characters for whom he has the greatest affinity — think of Donna and James in “Twin Peaks”; Jeffrey and Sandy in “Blue Velvet.” If surrealism is the way Lynch naturally sees the world, then the kind of romance that makes you feel so alive you think your heart is going to stop, the kind lived out by Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty in “Splendor in the Grass,” is the natural way Lynch thinks of love.

And because that kind of love doesn’t last, every pair of Lynch’s lovers is threatened. In their self-constructed world they’re like Moses’ burning bush, awash in flame and not consumed. They’re hunks-a, hunks-a burnin’ love, and yet it’s not Elvis’s voice we hear watching them, but a far quieter, more worried one, that of Gary Troxel, lead singer of the two-girls-and-a-boy trio The Fleetwoods. “Outside my window/You’re walkin’ by with someone new/Outside my window/The way I used to walk with you,” Troxel sang in 1960, a spectator doomed to seeing his perfect love unravel.

12092009_MulhollandDrive4.jpgThe heartbreak of “Mulholland Dr.”, the reason its romance is the decade’s most emblematic, is seeing a love that has already unraveled achieve the perfection of dreams. Naturalism and quirk seeped throughout indie film, studio love stories seemed to take place in an artificial alternate universe — but “Mulholland Dr.” spanned both while being neither.

Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita (Laura Elena Harring), Lynch’s most wounded, beautiful and endangered true hearts, are the transfigured phantoms of the romance turned deadly for Diane Selwyn (Watts), a failed actress who has had the added injury of seeing her lost love Camilla Rhodes (Harring) have all the success she hasn’t. Diane is hungry, and it’s Camilla’s world. Their interactions have the awful indignity of a dead love affair, desire being answered not by desire but by a feeling of responsibility.

And yet before we know any of that, we feel the stars have gone out of alignment for Betty and Rita. In most stories of doomed love, the young lovers face a world in which they, the eternal they of the outside world, don’t understand. Lynch’s lovers are against something cosmic and unidentifiable. In “Mulholland Dr.,” Betty and Rita are often framed against darkness so soft and velvety it’s like a hovering nimbus, ready to swallow them if they awake from the film’s dream. And when they are swallowed, when smoke fills the frame as if the sulfur of hell itself were obscuring our vision, we feel as if not just a romance has been broken, but the beauty of the world has been cursed.

“Have you ever done this before?” Diane asks Rita as, scarcely believing it, she finds herself in the arms of another woman. The insomniac Rita’s answer, “I don’t know,” is a sleek joke. But their sex doesn’t matter. Neither one of them has done this before, throwing themselves into the kind of love affair where every kiss feels as if the universe is opening before you. And yet the universe is closing down on them, too.

What’s beautiful and what’s threatening here is all of a piece. Noir is the most seductive of genres because the things we associate with it — darkness and shadow, rain-slicked streets, cigarette smoke, women at their most beautiful and desperate and treacherous — invite us to revel in the sensuousness of movies. You feel that here when Rita gazes on a poster of “Gilda”; when she and Betty sit in that rundown theater, the place seeming to emit the perfume of decay, listening to Rebekah Del Rio’s heart-stabbing version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”; when a sleek limo glides along dark canyon roads against a mournful wash of strings; when, working like diligent detectives to uncover the mystery opening up before them, Betty and Rita are alive with the glamour that only danger can confer.

12092009_MulhollandDrive7.jpgAnd because the fatalism of noir promises the terror (the thrill?) of seeing it all dashed, eroticism and dread are fused.

Betty and Rita aren’t just figures in Diane Selwyn’s dream but in our dream as well, the collective dream the movies encourage us to lose ourselves in, the dream of peril and romance and sex and mystery. In “Mulholland Dr.,” the movies have become so much a part of the air that they are literally the stuff of dreams, the place we’d rather live.

When I first saw “Mulholland Dr.,” I emerged into Times Square at night and nothing looked right to me. Corners weren’t squared, the lights and neon and traffic and crowds wouldn’t cohere into a visual pattern that I could make sense of. The world I’d just left seemed more real. In that dream of love and danger, Betty and Rita, the light angel and the dark angel, are the presiding spirits, two Nancy Drews become love’s keepers of the flame.

This feature is part of the Naughts Project.

Judy Greer Arrested Development

Cheer for Greer

10 Roles That Prove Judy Greer Is a National Treasure

Catch Judy Greer on an all-new Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P on IFC.

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Judy Greer is basically the human equivalent of bacon — she makes everything better. In the last year alone she’s appeared in Tomorrowland, Entourage, Ant-Man and Jurassic World, doing her best to elevate often underdeveloped characters. With Greer stopping by Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought it was high time to celebrate the roles that have made her a national treasure. And to see how she scores so many great roles, check out her universal audition tape.

10. Bran Lowenstein, Love Monkey

This show only lasted three episodes for hit factory CBS, but it was enough to earn a cult following. The story of a bunch of young New Yorkers navigating life and love could’ve been yet another Friends clone, but Greer and an all-star cast gave it a funky flavor that would be more at home on cable today.

9. Shannon, Addicted to Fresno

Greer earned rave reviews for her role in this 2015 film about a sex addict who accidentally kills a guy and needs her sister (Natasha Lyonne) to help her get rid of the body. Combining big, broad comedy with some real pathos, this is Greer at her absolute best.

8. Fern Mayo, Jawbreaker

TriStar Pictures

TriStar Pictures

Greer went from geek to glam in this dark cult comedy that proved she was destined for big things.

7. Alice the Waitress, Adaptation.

Is it any wonder that Greer was the dream girl for writer Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), considering her mix of beauty, brains and being approachable while also being fierce?

6. Lucy Wyman, 13 Going on 30

Here is Greer in one of her patented best friend roles, showing us that even when she doesn’t drive a scene, we can’t take our eyes off of her.

5. Lina Bowman, Married



Greer can currently be seen surviving marriage on this FX series, which allows her to showcase a wide variety of hilarious faces.

4. Julie Speer, The Descendants

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fox Searchlight Pictures

As home in Oscar-winning dramas as she is in comedy, Greer nails this role of an aggrieved wife who’s just trying to keep her family from falling apart in Alexander Payne’s 2011 film.

3. Ingrid “Fatty Magoo” Nelson, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Greer is perfectly cast as Sweet Dee’s arch rival, who always seems to know the exact wrong thing to say to her.

2. Kitty Sanchez, Arrested Development

Imagine Television

Imagine Television

Greer, with the help of the always on Spring Break Kitty Sanchez, helped show the world and Michael Bluth that she was a force to be reckoned with.

1. Cherly Tunt, Archer

FX Productions

FX Productions

And then there’s Cheryl, a bondage loving secretary who moonlights as a world famous country singer. If ever there was a role Greer was born to play, this is it.


David Cross in NYC

David Cross Is Coming to NYC’s Live Employee Of The Month Podcast

Todd Margaret returns Jan 7th at 10P on IFC.

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No one would ever accuse Todd Margaret of being a good employee. After being assigned to the London office of Thunder Muscle, he ended up blowing up the entire world. It’s safe to assume that Todd Margaret isn’t going to get a raise after those shenanigans, but David Cross, who plays Todd in the series, just got named Employee of the Month.

The comedian is appearing at the live talk show event on November 20th at NYC’s Joe’s Pub which will be recorded for an accompanying weekly podcast. Cross will be subjecting himself to host Catie Lazarus‘ trademark unorthodox line of questioning about how he created such an awesome career, including With Bob and David, Arrested Development, Todd Margaret and so much more.

David will be appearing alongside Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupuis and actress Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America) who finally managed to escape from Portlandia‘s Women & Women First bookstore.

Get tickets here. and be sure to catch the return of a very, very different Todd when the third season of Todd Margaret premieres January 7th at 10P ET/PT on IFC. Check out the trailer for more.

What’s Employee of the Month? Watch the video below. 

Ghostbusters II 1920

Ghostbusters Sitcom

See What Ghostbusters Would Look Like As an ’80s Sitcom

See what happens when Ghostbusters meets Charles in Charge.

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Have you ever wondered what Ghostbusters would be like if it was a little more like Bosom Buddies? Check out our video that reimagines the Ivan Reitman comedy classic as a 1980s sitcom straight out of the Who’s the Boss? and Growing Pains playbook. Ghostbusters with a peppy ’80s theme song is guaranteed to make you feel good.

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Whats Eating Gilbert Grape

Depp Gets Real

10 Times Johnny Depp Was Great Without Makeup

Catch IFC's Nightmare on Elm Street movie marathon Friday, November 20th starting at 6P ET/PT.

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Photo credit: Everett Digital

Ever since Johnny Depp reached teen idol status as a pretty boy cop on the late ’80s TV show 21 Jump Street, he’s made a career of seeking out film roles that he could disappear into. In most of his career-defining films — like Edward Scissorhands, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the Pirates of Caribbean series — Depp has proven to be one quirky chameleon. For his fans that may have forgotten what he actually looks and sounds like, here are 10 times Johnny Depp was great without makeup.

10. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Depp was one of the sleep-deprived teens in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and his character isn’t remembered for rocking a half shirt or being sufficiently freaked out by Freddy. Depp, who played the boyfriend to Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy, is remembered for being killed in glorious, horror film fashion. As Freddy’s glove springs through his bed, Depp awakens to get sucked in before blood shoots out at the ceiling like a geyser. Depp played a part in one of the greatest moments from the Nightmare on Elm Street series, except for once the other guy in the scene was buried underneath makeup.

9. Platoon

In another pre-21 Jump Street role before he became a household name, a young Depp was cast as “Gator” Lerner, one of the members of the platoon in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War classic. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him role, which Stone cut down to be even smaller, Depp proved he could blend into an ensemble. It was one of the few times a Johnny Depp performance could be described as “subtle.”

8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

After wowing audiences by believably portraying an outsider with scissors for hands and a knack for landscaping in Edward Scissorhands, Depp began a string of acclaimed dramatic roles in the early ’90s. Unlike quirkfests like Benny & Joon and Don Juan DeMarco, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape allowed Depp to play a relatable, not-so-out-of-the-ordinary twentysomething meandering through everyday life. In a movie where Leonardo DiCaprio received the lion’s share of the acclaim for his quirky portrayal of the always dirty, mentally challenged Arnie Grape, Depp gave a noteworthy, understated performance in the titular role that sets the tone for this highly likeable film.

7. Donnie Brasco

In this acclaimed crime thriller, Johnny Depp had his own undercover cop Serpico role that pitted him against the legendary Al Pacino in some highly charged dramatic moments. Depp’s character is based on the real life Joe Pistone, an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the Mob. If you’re going to be playing someone who learns the ropes of the gangster life, you can’t do better than Pacino, and the duo have genuine chemistry. Depp’s Donnie Brasco battles his own conscience and allegiances as he loses himself in the Mafia world.

6. Chocolat

As Jason Segel’s character in I Love You Man said, it’s hard to argue that the cinematic bon bon Chocolat is “just delightful.” There’s a sweet (pun intended) tone to this adult fairytale of a film, and both Depp and Juliette Binoche play off each other well. Their flirty scenes fit the sweetness that Binoche’s chocolate shop begins to bring to the repressed French town she arrives in with her daughter. In Chocolat, Depp puts on the European charm as a suave traveler who falls for the effortlessly beautiful Binoche and for once he doesn’t chew scenery like so much delicious chocolate, er, “chocolat.”

5. Secret Window

In Secret Window, which is based on a Stephen King novella, all Johnny Depp plays a disturbed writer holed up in a remote cabin. Like Misery, Secret Window has the brand of psychological thrills that we’ve come to expect from King. Depp’s Mort Rainey is accosted by a stranger, played by John Turturro, who claims he stole his manuscript. It is Turturro who plays it creepy with the over-the-top accent, but by the end of this thriller the audience is taken on a ride into Depp’s own madness. Secret Window is classic King, and proof that Depp is due for a return to psychological horror.

4. Dead Man

Depp gives an understated performance in Jim Jarmusch’s moody Western where for once he’s the one reacting to the quirky characters. (It’s hard to be the “head quirk” in a film boasting cameos from Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop and Billy Bob Thornton.) An underrated film in Depp’s canon, and a good showcase for his deadpan comedic timing.

3. Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the final movie in the Robert Rodriguez-directed El Mariachi trilogy, and it lives up to the over-the-top action, gunfire and general baddassery of its predecessors. Johnny Depp’s CIA agent character Sheldon Sands steals every scene he’s in, creating one of his funniest and most likeably devious performances. You can’t take your eyes off of Depp, as his character becomes more entertaining after losing his.

2. Ed Wood

Even Depp’s most hardcore detractors have to admit that he gave one his funniest and richest performances as Z-movie director Ed Wood. In one of his least mannered and overtly “quirky” collaborations with director Tim Burton, Depp puts his stamp on a real person without creating an over-the-top caricature. His scenes with Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of horror icon Bela Lugosi, are some of the best work Depp has done in his long career.

1. Finding Neverland

After his comically on-point role in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Depp brilliantly took on as opposite a part as he could the following year, portraying famed Scottish author and playwright J.M. Barrie in this acclaimed drama. If you’re looking for the definitive great Depp performance where he’s not relying on make-up or a cartoonish wig to help bring his character to life, you’ve found it. (Even his Scottish accent is understated here.) Depp seamlessly embodies the Peter Pan creator with childlike imagination, as he forms a bond with Kate Winslet’s Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons. The chemistry between Depp and Freddie Highmore, as the real life Peter, is so heartwarming, even Captain’s Hook and Sparrow would get emotional in the scene where the two sit on a bench as Barrie comforts the boy after the loss of his mother.

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