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Derek Cianfrance, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams Pen a “Blue Valentine”

Derek Cianfrance, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams Pen a “Blue Valentine” (photo)

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“Blue Valentine” is the story of Cindy and Dean, an ordinary couple who meet, fall in love, get married, have a child and, eventually, split up. And in the hands of director Derek Cianfrance and his exceptional leads Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, that story is something both intimate and epic and, however you look at it, a genuine heartbreaker. The film juxtaposes the elation of falling in love with the unvarnished moment when that love slips away, worn down by time, disappointment and the weight of a thousand small concerns. I got a chance to talk to Cianfrance, Gosling and Williams at Sundance back in January, where the film premiered. Since then, it was acquired by the Weinstein Company and fought a high-profile battle against an NC-17 rating, eventually emerging triumphant. It’s one of my favorite films of the year.

Why craft both ends of a love story like this? Movies tend to be more interested in the beginnings of them.

Derek Cianfrance: Well, there is a model for love tragedy, and that’s “Romeo and Juliet” — the story of these two young lovers who at the peak of their romance die and their love is preserved for all time. As I was going through my life, I never met anyone who had that good romantic fortune to die at the peak of their life. They had to suffer through, and time became this betrayer. So the story we’ve been told is “Romeo and Juliet,” but the story behind that story, you know?

12302010_derekcianfrance.jpgRyan, Michelle, what was the appeal of this love story with a gap in the middle?

Ryan Gosling: Working with Michelle was a big appeal, working with Derek. I also had been a part of one of those big romantic movies and — this is a long time ago — people would come up to me and tell me that they thought it was romantic, but one guy told me that he was engaged and [his fiancée] broke up with him after that movie because she said to him, “You wouldn’t build a house for me, would you?” He was like, “Well, no, but I don’t know how.” She said, “But if you knew how?” He said, “No, I wouldn’t. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.” She said, “Yeah, it does.” And she called it off.

If you see some of those movies, then you look at your own romance and it doesn’t compare, you think, oh, what I have isn’t love because that’s love. And our hope, I think, in making this movie is that you will recognize your relationship in this, maybe not to this extreme, but on certain levels, and go home and realize that that’s really what it is. We hold ourselves to unreasonable standards, it’s probably why a lot of times we don’t stick it out.

The film is definitely about romance and being romantic, but it also seems like it reverses roles in having the male character be the big romantic and the female character be more concerned with what the practical reality of the relationship and where it’s going is.

DC: One of the things I used to try to tell Michelle and Ryan is that she was the man and he was the woman. That was pretty much the extent of my direction.

12302010_bluevalentine3.jpgDo you agree with Dean when he says “I think men are more romantic than women”?

DC: I don’t know. I was interested in the feminine man and the masculine woman. I don’t think you see a lot of that. The majority of the time movies are from a man’s point of view, and there’s always some kind of adultery that’s going on or whatever — I just never related to it.

RG: I thought it was exciting because was like new ground for a female character that I hadn’t really seen. I mean, I love my character for all of his flaws and I know that guy, I meet him a lot, in myself sometimes too. But [Cindy’s] a great female character and if I was an actress, I would watch and watch and watch this movie.

Michelle Williams: It scared the shit out of me. [laughs] Derek talked me down off the cliff more than once.

What was scary about it?

MW: Just that, inverting the dynamic and doing something there wasn’t like such a model for in current cinema. That isn’t necessarily where people’s empathy extends to. But then I also, in my own mind, reconcile it. I realized somewhere in the middle of the movie, this is two days. It’s two days in their marriage, just two really, really bad days. I thought of it sometimes as… it wasn’t the end of the story, it’s not just the divorce papers the next day. It’s an ongoing fight and maybe it’s the beginning of something real, like when you break new ground in a relationship. Weirdly, this is a lesson I’m learning, you can find more love there.

RG: I think there have been some oddly sexist reactions to the film from females at the festival that I was kind of shocked by.

12302010_bluevalentine4.jpgReally? What kinds of things have you been hearing?

RG: It just seems like there’s this idea that if a woman has a guy that loves her and loves their kid and is faithful, that she should be happy. And there’s no mention of, like — does she love him? Does she love their life? She’s just obligated to stay, she can’t look around at her life and say, this is great, you’re great, but I’m not happy and I don’t know why. I need to figure that out and I can’t do that if you’re here. I got pregnant when I was a kid, I’ve been married now and I’m still figuring out that part of me…

MW: And that you move from your father’s house to your husband’s house and never have a space of your own. All your identity is wrapped up in the way that your father thinks of you, the way that your husband thinks of you — what do you think of you?

RG: And now you’re raising a little girl and she’s learning from your example. What kind of example are you setting?

MW: And we haven’t been able to break the family habits and the cycles. These aren’t people that have access to therapy, so it just feels like a tangle of wires like in her head. But also maybe you’re a hard guy to leave. [laughs] I’m probably not going to get a lot of sympathy from women who are like what?!?

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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