DID YOU READ

A Venetian on Venice in “The Tourist”

A Venetian on Venice in “The Tourist” (photo)

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Alberto Zambenedetti is a film scholar and a critic originally from Venice, Italy. He has published many articles and book chapters on Italian cinema and writes regularly on spietati.it. Alberto and I went to see the new spy thriller “The Tourist” starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, which is set in Venice, and afterwards we had a conversation about the film’s depiction of his hometown.

Matt Singer: Putting aside your feelings about the movie as a whole, how did you feel about the portrayal of Venice?

Alberto Zambenedetti: It was a missed opportunity. The way the movie used the geography of the city on the whole was very jumbled. This film could have been set anywhere. It doesn’t have to be Venice. It could be Amsterdam. It could be any city, other than the fact that they’re always on boats. But they could have just been in cars.

There is that big boat-and-foot chase in the middle. Jolie is in a boat, pulling Depp who’s tied up in another boat, and meanwhile these goons with guns are running from bridge to bridge trying to shoot at them. Is that possible in Venice?

Yeah, it’s possible.

The boat seemed to be going very slowly. Is that a rule in Venice that boats can only go so fast or did she just get in a crappy boat?

[laughs]

I guess the only way for people on foot to keep up with a boat is for the boat to go very slowly.

Yeah.

I was wondering if there is maybe a speed limit for boats in Venice.

Yeah, but why would you obey it in a chase?

Good point.

That didn’t bother me as much. What really bothered me was the incoherent way they mapped out the space. You’ve got this place, one of the most interesting in the world when it comes to actually having to find your way around. It would be a perfect place to stage a good chase scene. And the chases were just very dull. What did you think? For someone who’s never been to Venice, did you feel like the movie showed you anything that you haven’t seen before?

Well I took note of the Hotel Danieli, where Depp and Jolie first stay when they arrive. That’s a real hotel?

It’s one of the top hotels in the world. It’s beautiful. They just put it in the wrong place in Venice.

It’s in the wrong spot?

That’s not where the hotel actually is. Everything you see from their window is wrong.

I also took note of how poor the roofing was everywhere around it. Depp sneaks out of the window of their suite to escape some bad guys and winds up on a rooftop where he keeps cracking and moving all the shingles. Are Venetians known for their poor roofing skills?

Not that I know of. That did look like a really bad roofing job.

You audibly groaned a few times in the movie. The first time was when they arrive in Venice at the train station.

Yeah. They filmed Johnny Depp walking out of the train station, which is on the Grand Canal. Then Angelina Jolie pulls up in her boat. When we get the reverse shot of them taking off together in her the boat, they’re in a completely different place.

So the boat pulls up to the dock at the Grand Canal. When it leaves it’s magically transported to a different location?

Right in front of St. Mark’s Square. That’s what made me cringe. In a movie set in New York, it would be like having two characters standing in Brooklyn Heights, looking at all of downtown Manhattan. Then in the reverse shot, the characters are in Central Park. Both are highlights of the city but they’re completely unrelated places.

You also made a noise when Angelina Jolie dropped Johnny Depp off at the airport later in the film.

Yeah, because she drops him off at the water taxi station at the airport. The airport is not on the main island of Venice. Then there’s a reverse shot, she’s pulling away in a boat already back on the main island. It doesn’t make any sense.

When this film plays in Venice, how do you think people will react to these mismatched locations?

They’ll laugh at it.

I’m sure this is not the first movie to do this sort of thing, though.

Well it’s happened before but this is really a low point.

It’s that bad?

This is terrible. Even “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was better, and that had Harrison Ford in the sewer system in Venice — and of course there is no sewer system in Venice. This just really uses the city as a backdrop. A flat backdrop.

So you thought this represented a low-point for Venice onscreen?

Absolutely.

It didn’t seem that bad to me. But I guess that’s what they’re counting on, people like me who don’t know anything about Venice. What non-Italian movie best evokes what the city is really like?

“Don’t Look Now” is good. “The Comfort of Strangers” is pretty good, although it has a dreamlike quality to it. Even the wacky Bond movies weren’t bad. [“Casino Royale” and “From Russia With Love”]

And have you seen any worse than this?

No, this was the lowest point.

What? Have you seen “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?” There’s a car chase in Venice!

I have not. But then again, that’s a fantasy. This is meant to be in the real world. It’s not like the city isn’t represented well by some of the beautiful helicopter establishing shots. But if you’re making a movie in Venice, why keep it in the background the whole time? When you make a spy movie in New York, you bring the city into the story because it has its own geography and character. Just compare “The Tourist” and its use of Venice to the “Bourne” films. This film could be something. But it isn’t.

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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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