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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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