DID YOU READ

“The Two Escobars,” Reviewed

“The Two Escobars,” Reviewed (photo)

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This review originally ran as part of our coverage of The 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

In 1998, Associated Press reporter Steve Wilstein noticed a bottle in Mark McGwire’s locker. It was filled with androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancer that boosted the body’s production of testosterone. In short, andro is a steroid, banned at that time by pro football, the NCAA, and the Olympics, though not Major League Baseball. McGwire was in the midst of a season in which he would hit more home runs than any other player in history and the interest in his chase was fueling a resurgence in the game. When Wilstein wrote about McGwire and andro, the press didn’t rush to investigate McGwire’s drug use; they chastised Wilstein for making it public. In other words, what McGwire was doing on the field was so good for baseball that nobody wanted to know what McGwire was doing off of it to make it possible. Give the public big enough results, they’ll turn a blind eye to everything else.

For further proof, consider the story portrayed in the devastating documentary “The Two Escobars” from directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist. Colombians were so excited to field their first truly great soccer team, led by captain Andrés Escobar, that they didn’t care that the team was backed by brutal drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Though Pablo’s backing fueled Colombia’s meteoric rise to the top of the class of international soccer, it also sparked the team’s precipitous and fatal decline.

It all came down to money. Just as small market baseball teams lose their best players to teams like the Yankees or the Red Sox who can afford to sign expensive free agents, Colombia had never been able to afford the salaries necessary to keep their best players from leaving for more lucrative work in Europe. Pablo Escobar changed that by using his near limitless resources to fund an all-star team. His motivation was three-fold: he was a genuine soccer fan; his generosity to his players and their community helped buy him enough good publicity to keep his critics and the government at bay, and, most importantly, soccer provided a very convenient way to launder money by falsifying attendance records or player salaries. Soon other Colombian dealers got into the act, sparking a period that one talking head in the film calls the era of “narco-soccer.”

“The Two Escobars” originally premiered as part of ESPN’s ongoing documentary series “30 for 30,” which celebrates the network’s 30 years on the air with a slate of 30 documentaries. Though each film covers a different topic, some themes popped up repeatedly throughout the series; many, for instance, focus on the symbiotic relationship between a sports team and its community. “The Band That Wouldn’t Die” by Barry Levinson examined how Baltimore struggled to maintain its identity after the football team it had invested so much of itself in before the Colts abandoned them for Indianapolis; “Kings Ransom” explored how Wayne Gretzky’s departure for the Los Angeles Kings affected Edmonton, who lived and died by Gretzky’s former team, the Oilers. The Zimbalists paint a similarly sad portrait of a very troubled country. Sick of its association with the drug trade, Colombians desperately hoped the team they sent to the 1994 World Cup, populated by many of Pablo Escobar’s players (including Andrés), could help to rehabilitate their national image. Instead, the team’s poor play and the violent reaction it set off back in Colombia that included kidnappings, death threats, and eventually murder, only wound up reinforcing it.

The Zimbalists cut back and forth between the lives of Pablo and Andrés, a technique that yields more coincidences than comparisons. Other than one very costly mistake in Colombia’s final World Cup match in 1994, Andrés does not play a significant role in any of the national team’s games, and as the directors focus more and more on Pablo Escobar and his increasingly absurd battles with the law, the film’s balance begins to tip more and more heavily in his favor. Linked through soccer and a shared last name, the two were otherwise very different individuals. The churchgoing Andrés was known as “The Gentleman of the Field,” and used his status as a soccer star to try to curb violence in Colombia. The remorseless Pablo, referred to by the former president of Colombia as “the bin Laden of those times” bought Colombians’ love by paying for health clinics and houses for the homeless while ordering the assassinations of anyone who dared to speak out against him.

But even if the connections between the two men aren’t as strong as the movie would like, there’s no denying that their fates are intertwined, or that their stories serve as an effective clothesline upon which the filmmakers hang a chilling cautionary tale about what can happen when success becomes a drug. As with any addiction, once you’re hooked, the only thing that matters is maintaining the high at any cost.

“The Two Escobars” opens Friday in New York City. For a full list of upcoming play dates, go to the film’s official site.

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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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