DID YOU READ

“Apocalypse Now” and Forever, Thanks to a Definitive New Blu-ray Edition

“Apocalypse Now” and Forever, Thanks to a Definitive New Blu-ray Edition (photo)

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Like a mega-mind Great American Novel or hundred-hour Wagnerian opera cycle, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” remains larger than our concept or evaluation of it, larger than its director’s quasi-cosmic ambitions, larger, really, than itself. Any brief history of movies’ most astonishing follies — which translates to cinema’s biggest badass landmarks, if not necessarily the “greatest” by many measures — must include Coppola’s Vietnamization of the American cultural experience. It doesn’t hurt that there are multiple versions, from the Cannes rough cut to the two endings we had in 1979 to 2001’s “Redux” version to the five-plus-hour workprint of which you can still buy bootleg copies online. Add to the pile the new “Full Disclosure” Blu-Ray package, which completely obliterates the need for that tempting illegal workprint by way of hours of new supplements, coordinated and sometimes directed by Coppola, letting loose with piles of excised footage but also giving it all a dense dose of context.

Of course the Blu-Ray transfer is as lovely a presentation as the film has had since it emerged from the printer’s bath in 1979. You get both official versions, but “Redux” is imperative. Unlike most “director’s cuts,” the Walter Murch re-edit restored over 50 minutes to the film that weren’t just fun or worthwhile, but all told reinvented the thrust of the film. In 1979, the pared-down cut had a baroque grandness that many critics took as top-heavy self-importance. But the restored scenes (the Kilgore surf board, the Playboy bunny interlude, the French plantation, etc.) revealed what “Apocalypse Now” was always at its core: a satire.

Not for nothing does writer John Milius, in a new interview conducted by Coppola in his vineyard’s cask room, say that the biggest influence on the genesis of the film was “Dr. Strangelove” — a point even Coppola seems a little enlightened by. Once we could see the deliberate, outrageous humor of “Apocalypse Now,” leaked like gasoline into nearly every major set-piece, what once might’ve seemed like a grandiloquent acid-opera about Vietnam became more Voltairean than Conradian, an explosive, sardonic rip through American neo-colonialism, as it was indelibly infected with hippie excess and civil-rights-era rage and plopped down upon a huge and unconquerable swath of Southeast Asia.

10172010_DuvallApocalypseNow.jpgGranted, the Colonel Kilgore sequence was always bitterly farcical; now it’s high comedy, and for a second Martin Sheen’s PTS-poisoned assassin actually smiles. Dennis Hopper’s yackety-yack photojournalist suddenly makes complete sense within the film’s personality (instead of being just a brilliant blast of irony), and Marlon Brando’s lurching, enigmatic rogue-king isn’t the ballooning deity he thinks he is, but just a bizarre product of American military hubris, mutated into a homicidal wacko by the needs of jungle warfare. The load of literary allusions piled into the film (Conrad, Eliot, Robert Frazier, plus, as Milius points out, again to Coppola’s surprise, Homer — think of Kilgore as the Cyclops and the Playboy bunnies as the Sirens) are all about maturation, passage and corruption. They don’t pump up the stature of Kurtz so much as shadow-play the entire, soul-sick project of white American violence, going back centuries.

It’s certainly sweet to have Coppola, still a fecund and talkative cine-philosopher, control the disc’s supplements, going so far as to assemble a short himself, “The Hollow Men,” out of behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes from the Kurtz compound shoot, with Brando narrating Eliot and the Filipino natives tolerantly recruited as corpses, soldiers and body parts. Otherwise, the Milius interview is a pleasure, as always (Milius remains one of the most entertaining talkers in Hollywood, although it’s still something of a mystery as to how he could write “Apocalypse Now” and love “Dr. Strangelove” and still be such an unmitigated jingoist), coming with Coppola’s express agenda to reassert Milius’s role as the “author” of the film’s most famous sequences, and indeed most of its deep ideas.

Sit-downs with Martin Sheen, producer Fred Roos, editors and soundtrack laborers are fascinating (and supplemental themselves to 1991’s making-of doc “Hearts of Darkness,” also included), but the wealth of entire cut scenes (especially a Herzogian chiller known simply as the Monkey Sampan scene) is catnip for the unalloyed fan. Not that some scenes weren’t wise to have been lost — apparently, Scott Glenn’s Colby was once a much more active character, and the scene where he breaks down and kills Hopper’s harmless jester character with a shotgun is wince-worthy.

10172010_CoppolaHeartsofDarkness.jpg“Apocalypse Now” was already famous before it was released as being “about” Coppola’s journey through self-destruction, crazed ambition, madness and a kind of auteurist neo-colonialism just as much as it was about its narrative journey and primal themes. (As Milius puts it, Coppola’s high-wire, commit-everything, bankruptcy-causing megalomania redefined what it meant to “be a director.”) But there’s also here, in the sea of new docs and remembrances of the early Zoetrope days, an almost idealized notion of what young-ish filmmakers are supposed to do: band together and break the rules. Making Hollywood movies for these guys began a series of bullshit sessions and spontaneously proceeded as a tumble of crazy accidents.

Typically, Coppola tells how he came to the film’s famous opening — palm trees, The Doors, “ghost helicopters,” slo-mo napalm — by impulsively reaching into a garbage can full of discarded shots and saying, maybe this would work. Only Terrence Malick has gotten away with this kind of epic whimsicality recently (as in, the last 20 years), and on yet another huge, crazily poetic war film. But by all reports Malick didn’t suffer the agonies of his own creation (“The Thin Red Line,” also just out in a supplement-packed box, from Criterion) like Coppola did. It’s possible no director ever has since, and if “Apocalypse Now” still radiates the strange, massive aura of a terrestrial event, it’s probably because for Coppola it was genuinely do or die.

“Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure” is now available on Blu-ray.

[Additional photo: “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” American Zoetrope, 1991]

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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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