DID YOU READ

Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters” Mash

Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters” Mash (photo)

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For a first-time filmmaker, there are worse things that could happen than the fear of getting kidnapped. At least, this is what I surmised when Gareth Edwards gave me a roll of the eyes when he thought I was about to ask about the budget of “Monsters,” the micro-budget sci-fi film that has become one of the year’s most talked-about debuts after premiering in March at SXSW amidst rumors that it cost a mere $15,000.

Not that Edwards would be reluctant to talk about it. Right now, he appears ready to talk about nearly anything, brimming with an enthusiasm that’s hard to come by — even by the standards of those who know they’ve pulled off their first magic trick — but money was hardly what was on Edwards’ mind as he backpacked across Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and Texas with actors Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy, a boom operator and a camera.

While there are roughly 250 special effects shots in “Monsters,” of downed helicopters, of trees infected with fluorescent pods, and of the octopus-like creatures that threaten the lives of Americans Samantha and Andrew (Able and McNairy) as they try to find safe passage through Central America after an alien invasion, the most special effect of Edwards’ film has nothing to do with computer graphics or camera trickery. Instead, it is the vitality of shooting in areas rarely seen outside of National Geographic back issues as a springboard for a tale that feeds on both the joy of the region’s indigenous cultures and the dread that as societies they’ve been left behind.

In a genre that’s known for subtext, the fact that Edwards brings these things to the surface is only one of the refreshing things about his debut, which doesn’t shy away from showing its “Monsters,” whether it’s the full glory of his CG creations or the random ferry operator who exploits the Americans out of a higher fare for their travel.

09052010_GarethEdwardsMonsters.jpgFortunately, Edwards knows what scares an audience more than what to be afraid of himself, asking complete strangers from the area to interact with McNairy and Able on their journey and dealing with the harsh terrain of the jungle, only to come home to the daunting task of waking up every morning to do every CG shot for the film. (“Computers are like dogs – they can smell fear,” says Edwards.) On the eve of facing an even more intimidating task — walking the red carpet for “Monsters”‘ premiere at this year’s Toronto Film Festival — Edwards talked about the evolution of special effects, how he turned nearby gunmen into production value and the cheap version of “Avatar.”

With the limitless potential of CG special effects, it seems like we keep getting the same movie. How did you make yours different?

I think the background being in computer graphics is you just become bored with it and I love computer graphics — there are some things that are so much easier to do in the computer than they are to create in front of the camera, so it is an important tool and you do need them, but I think also people rely on them for its own sake. They don’t sit there and picture okay, what would be a good film. Okay, how the hell do we do that? A lot of people sit down and go, okay, we can do anything we want in the computer. What’s not been done? Let’s try and do that instead and it’s not necessarily a good idea to do that because it’s not using computers in the right way.

09052010_Monsters2.jpgIt seems it took awhile for computers to catch up with your ambitions. When did you know this would be possible?

I kept trying to pull this off since 1997, not this film, but I bought a computer after I graduated film school and tried to learn CGI because I just figured it would be the future of filmmaking. Every year, I’d have a little pet project, not necessarily a movie, but something and it just was never good enough or never quite how I imagined it. It was like those embarrassing short films and experiments that you want to hide and delete and never have anyone see. I just kept trying and trying and I kind of get back to a point where I think why didn’t I do this earlier? You look back and think well, I actually couldn’t have done this five years ago for a few reasons.

The main one was a camcorder that you can run around with in your hand only recently have these special adapters that allow it to look like 35mm film, so you can have that narrow depth of field and look beautiful and cinematic, but still like very cheap and you can film for hours on end without it being expensive. And before that, computer graphics were really slow.

It’s very easy to think computers were always the way they are today, but you forget how slow and rubbish they were five years ago. I remember how long it took the software took — a day [for] every time you moved a frame forward and it would like slowly update after a few seconds — whereas now with high definition, I can play around with it in real time. It’s very fluid, and thank God, the technology’s at a point now where I don’t look like such an idiot as I did before when I used to try these things.

It’s equally ambitious to set your first film in Central America and Mexico when you’re not familiar with the region and I’ve heard stories of bigger film shoots that have shied away from the area for fear of kidnapping. Had you been warned?

09052010_Monsters3.jpgEverybody in the film in the daylight that’s got a gun is a real policeman and what happened was I was filming and I noticed the guys with guns, I was thinking this is great. This really helps our film — brilliant, get them in shot. And in another scene, I’d realize it was the same guy and I’d be like “Hang on, why is this guy also here? He was also at the other place.” The producer said, “No, no, no, they’re our bodyguards. The government has supplied them for free, so we don’t get kidnapped.” So you think oh shit, okay, that’s how dangerous it is here.

It’s funny because whilst we were there, all kinds of crazy stuff happened — there was a shooting outside the hotel, there was a prison break and they decapitated some prisoners, there was a week before we arrived into town, they machine-gunned everyone in this café. So when we arrived, there was these coffin protests in the street and all this stuff was going on and I was constantly shitting myself the whole film, but it was never about these things. I was constantly shitting myself that maybe I hadn’t got enough shots. Maybe something was out of focus. Maybe the film is rubbish, you know what I mean? That’s what was worrying me.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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