DID YOU READ

“Marwencol,” Reviewed

“Marwencol,” Reviewed (photo)

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This review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

“Marwencol” opens the way I might imagine the fleeting final seconds of memories would flood through the mind of a G.I. Joe figurine before meeting its maker. There’s a montage the includes the daily raising of the flag, that time Joe made it with one of the nurses, the day he shuffled off the battlefield wounded with the help of a medic. And then director Jeff Malmberg pulls back to show there’s a man in the background documenting all of it with a digital camera.

Moments later, we realize these could’ve just as easily been the images that passed through Mark Hogancamp’s consciousness as he was laying bloodied and beaten outside of a bar in Kingston, NY. Hogancamp, the man with the camera, had been left in a coma and lost much of his memory in the attack by five strangers. When he regained some of his cognitive ability, he began to develop the alternate world of Marwencol, a fully realized World War II-era town “in Belgium” populated by immaculately detailed Barbies, Steve McQueen dolls and other plastic figurines.

09022010_marwencol2.jpgA place where men are men and women wear Manolo Blahnik slingbacks, Marwencol is both a retreat from Hogancamp’s real life of trying to figure out who he was as well as the menial work of sweeping up at a local restaurant, and a playground for all of his obsessions and fantasies that have all the twists and turns of a 1940s pulp novel. Every person from his real life has a Marwencol doppelganger, from his best friend Bert, who is immortalized in plasticine as a British commander, to his next door neighbor Colleen, the object of Mark’s intense affections who indulges him up to a point and whose Barbie doll falls for Captain Hogancamp.

Though Colleen’s real marriage prevents that from happening in reality, it doesn’t prevent Mark from naming a tank (and the last third of the town’s name) in her honor. (To the director’s credit, as compelling as Hogancamp’s personal story is, Malmberg’s smart enough to realize Hogancamp’s storylines for his characters, full of love triangles and combat intrigue, are equally entertaining and devotes plenty of time to simply displaying the still portraits of the villagers in eerily realistic action.)

Malmberg actually wasn’t the first to come across Hogancamp’s pictures; instead, that honor would belong to a photographer named David Naugle and Tod Lippy, the editor of the cultural journal Esopus, which was the first to publish Hogancamp’s work in an artistic context. Ultimately, the duo’s legitimization of what had simply been a therapeutic exercise for Hogancamp plants the seed for what becomes the film’s narrative backbone as he prepares for a gallery opening in the city. The film also gradually weaves in the details of the brutal attack that befell Hogancamp in 2000, suggesting that the creation of Marwencol wasn’t his first attempt of creating an alternate identity for himself.

09022010_marwencol3.jpgSince Hogancamp is fuzzy on the details of his life before the beating and still a bit taciturn — he was married once and an alcoholic, with his diaries from his recovery being among the few items left that can jog his memory — the film itself is a bit rough around the edges as the interviews with Mark’s friends and family mostly only illustrate how much of an enigma the man always was. Still, “Marwencol” is a film that never sits in judgment of its subject, a quality that allows for unforced answers to the usually ineffable questions of how art is created, how it can heal and how artists can reconcile their reality to the one that stands outside their door.

“Marwencol” opens in New York on October 8th.

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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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