DID YOU READ

Mark Ruffalo is Doing “All Right”

Mark Ruffalo is Doing “All Right” (photo)

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During actor Mark Ruffalo’s early career struggles, the handsome and humble star of “Zodiac,” “The Brothers Bloom” and “Shutter Island” admits to having performed strange jobs for money (“things that weren’t exactly above board, but weren’t hurting anybody”), but donating sperm wasn’t one of those. However, if you’d care to imagine what Ruffalo’s good genes might produce, look no further than “High Art” director Lisa Cholodenko’s progressive new dramedy “The Kids Are All Right.”

Ruffalo co-stars as Paul, a blithe bachelor and L.A. restaurateur who discovers his most personal of donations has resulted in two teenage kids who have been raised by a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore). An unconventional bonding ensues, not only between Paul and his offspring, but between him and Moore’s straight-curious character. I sat down with Ruffalo to discuss potentially awkward sex scenes, his best dish, and the stigma against actors who become filmmakers (such as himself).

How conventional was your family growing up?

I think it was pretty traditional. Big Italian family, and a lot of family around a lot. My parents were together until I was in my mid-20s. They were really open parents, and sweet, and weren’t really strict with us. So maybe it wasn’t in that sense, but then, what is a traditional family?

07072010_MarkRuffaloKidsAreAllRight5.jpgBefore you were married, were you as carefree a bachelor as Paul?

I wish I was. I had two things going against me: I didn’t have money and I had too much conscience. I had a pathological, overly active conscience that felt like you couldn’t really sleep with two women at the same time. [laughs] I tried juggling many different mates, but in the end, it was just too exhausting. It’s a lot of work to get that lifestyle going.

Speaking of mates, I read that your wife Sunrise Coigney is friends with Julianne Moore. Even as a professional actor, did it make your racy scenes together awkward?

You’d be surprised. It actually takes a lot of pressure off. I don’t have to go home and hear, “Who is she? What was she like? You’re into her!” When a woman doesn’t know, when it’s a question mark, an unknown, they fill the void with the worst. But because they’re friends, she knows, loves and trusts Julie. In a weird way, it was a lot easier than it was with [co-star YaYa DaCosta], so to speak.

So you’ve had that awkwardness with other actresses?

Yeah, can you imagine your spouse going off and doing that? That would suck. I wouldn’t be into that, and I know guys are dogs, too. [laughs]

07072010_MarkRuffaloKidsAreAllRight8.jpgWhy is that? Or specifically in this film’s case, why are men prone to seeking unusual conquests?

Well, genetically, I think it’s to keep the human race going, but there’s some ego in it. I think Paul lives his life purely for his own pleasure. When he hears he has two kids, it’s a vague curiosity and there’s a bit of machismo in it: “Yeah, I made them.” Then he’s taken by them, and you see a really confident man fall apart at the seams.

Where do your own worldly pleasures lie, outside of work?

Honestly, just being with my kids and having nothing to do but swim and run around and play video games. Whatever they’re doing is a real gift to me.

Are you much of a foodie, like Paul the restaurant owner?

Yeah, I come from an Italian family. My grandfather had a big garden, so it’s not that foreign to me. I’ve had gardens over the years whenever I could. I had to support myself by my garden, and I’m a passable cook. I could work my way around the kitchen. I make a pretty mean eggplant parmigiana. I have about six eggplants growing in my garden right now, so I’m looking forward to harvesting them. It’s my wife’s favorite thing. She could literally have that every night.

07072010_MarkRuffaloKidsAreAllRight4.jpgYou’ve said before that Lisa Cholodenko is wonderful with actors. How so?

It takes a special kind of director to trust an actor, and to open themselves up to having an actor bring something that maybe wasn’t what they saw or thought. Lisa is a rare director that knows actors, by the time you’ve finished your first week of shooting, probably know the characters better than the writer or the director. She creates a safe environment, and she casts well. She knows what to bring out of people.

Because of that, you feel free to move and live between the lines. She lingers on a scene. She loves behavior. She’s not afraid to explore. You’re not getting, “Well, the line is actually… I really just want you to say the line like it is.” It’s not that formal. You get a chance to stretch yourself out. That’s a fun way of working.

But you’ve worked with greats like Martin Scorsese, Jane Campion and David Fincher. Can you think of any instances that are specific to Cholodenko?

In the sex scenes, as odd and uncomfortable those are, we knew we wanted it to be funny. How do you make a sex scene funny? When Jules is riding Paul and using his face as a pommel, that was a moment that showed an interesting side of human sexuality that we don’t get to see often in film.

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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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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.