Disc Covering: “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale”

Disc Covering: “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale”  (photo)

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“He appeared in only five movies. All five of his movies were nominated for Best Picture. He worked with the best actors of his generation. He played one of the most iconic characters in film history. Yet today, most people don’t even know his name.” So read the title cards that open “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and is designed as a corrective to the mass ignorance surrounding one of most overlooked American actors of the 1970s. But does it succeed in revealing the man beneath those iconic cinematic images? Let’s find out.

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale
Directed by Richard Shepard

11092010_cazale2.jpgTweetable Plot Synopsis: A brief documentary on the life actor John Cazale, who made only five movies in short career, all of them nominated for Best Picture.

Biggest Success: Cazale died in 1978 at the age of 42 after a battle with lung cancer. Outside of his five feature films — “The Godfather,” “The Conversation,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” and “The Deer Hunter” — there’s almost no existing footage of him. So fans of Cazale, or at least fans of those movies, won’t see much they haven’t seen before. What you’ll hear, though, are some unique anecdotes and stories from his peers, people like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, and Meryl Streep, who don’t give a lot of interviews (and by a lot of interviews I mean any at all ever) but made time to talk about what sort of man and what sort of actor Cazale was.

11092010_cazale3.jpgBest Moment: Film critics understand the craft of filmmaking, but I don’t think a lot of them truly understand the craft of acting, certainly not in the way that trained actors do. Which is why it’s so great to hear actors like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Buscemi gush about Cazale in “I Knew It Was You.” They can scrutinize his work in ways that outside observers can’t and they pick up on subtle gestures and choices most of us miss. In the section of the film about “The Deer Hunter,” Sam Rockwell and Steve Buscemi assess Cazale’s performance so carefully it will make you look at his role in a completely new way.

Special Features: The DVD from Oscilloscope Pictures includes a commentary from director Richard Shepard about why he wanted to make the documentary and all the great stuff he had to cut to hit the 40-minute runtime that his distributor, HBO Documentary Films, demanded. The commentary’s sort of a double-edged sword: it’s great to learn that Cazale was a passionate baseball who snuck away from the set of “Godfather Part II” to check out games in Havana, but it would have been better to see it in the film. The disc also includes extended interviews with Pacino and playwright Israel Horowitz, an essay on Cazale by critic Mark Harris, and two short films from the 1960s, “The American Way” (1962) and “The Box” (1969), that Cazale starred in and photographed, respectively.

11092010_cazale4.jpgWorthy of a Theatrical Release? At only forty minutes, you couldn’t really release “I Knew It Was You” in theaters. If this film were an bonus feature on a “Godfather” box set, it would be the highlight of the package. As its own film, it’s more an appetizer than a full meal; as wonderful as it is to hear his colleagues speak about him, this documentary is as frustratingly brief as Cazale’s career. People say, for example, that Cazale brought a lot of pain to his performances but we never really learn where that pain came from. Viewers will learn about Cazale the actor, but Cazale the man remains a bit of a mystery. Still, this a must-watch (if not a must-buy) for fans of these movies and for anyone who likes to hear actors talk about acting.

For Further Viewing: an interview about “The Deer Hunter” with director Michael Cimino, who declined to contribute to “I Knew It Was You.” He talks about Cazale around the seven minute mark.



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.