DID YOU READ

“True Grit,” Reviewed

“True Grit,” Reviewed (photo)

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It’s remarkable how different Joel and Ethan Coen’s “True Grit” is from the 1969 version starring John Wayne even though the two have all the same characters, nearly identical narratives, a lot of the same dialogue from Charles Portis’ original novel. The biggest difference is the Coens themselves and the attitude they bring to the material. The original “True Grit” is a sentimental story about the Old West and a girl who has lost her father and who, in her quest to avenge his death, finds a new one. It has dark moments and themes, but overall it’s a light-hearted film; at times it plays more like boozy frontier comedy than a Western revenge thriller. In contrast, the 2010 “True Grit” is a far bleaker and more severe portrait of life in the West, a place the Coens portray as sad and scary even as it is exciting and beautiful. Their version has comedy as well, but it’s much a much darker kind. To call it gallows humor would be entirely accurate, particularly since in an early scene the Coens turn a public hanging into a enormous punchline.

Though the commercials make it appear like Jeff Bridges is the film’s hero, that title actually belongs to a 14-year-old girl named Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who hires Bridges’ cantankerous U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, to help her find her father’s killer. Later they’re joined by a egotistical Texas Ranger named La Boeuf, who is hunting the same man on a different charge. Cogburn and La Boeuf are reluctant to deal with the headstrong Mattie, and then even more reluctant to take her along into “dangerous Indian territory” when she demands to accompany them. But the charmingly bull-headed Mattie will not be swayed. By focusing on this unstoppable, empowered young woman and showing her to be the equal of her more seasoned gunfighter partners rather than a damsel in distress, “True Grit” plays sort of as a chick flick/Western hybrid, and a highly satisfying one at that.

One key element of that satisfaction — and another key difference between the “Grit”s — is casting. Kim Darby played Mattie in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 production, and though she had a charmingly warm relationship with Wayne, she was 22 when she played the part and looked it. Steinfeld, on the other hand, was 13 when she shot “True Grit,” and the tininess of her pre-teen frame enhances every scene; accentuating the humor when she bullies around businessmen who underestimate her intelligence and the danger when she’s held at gunpoint by outlaws. Damon, hilariously impressed with his own abilities as a Texas Ranger, is also a major upgrade over the original cast (sorry, Glen Campbell).

The highest compliment you can pay Bridges is that he draws no comparisons to Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn, a performance that earned the actor his only Academy Award. Bridges’ Cogburn is a totally different guy, more ornery, more surly, more in touch with his film’s dryer sense of humor. It’s also interesting to note how different Cogburn is from The Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” the last character Bridges created with the Coens. Other than the fact that both men are introduced on or around the toilet, they have almost nothing in common. The fact that one man could so convincingly play two disparate men is yet another impressive feat by Bridges, one of our best actors.

The Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” may not be a better movie than the original but it’s certainly a better production. The cinematography by Roger Deakins, who shot the Coens’ “No Country For Old Men,” stunningly recreates the sepia-toned texture of old photographs and the production design by Jess Gonchor immerses us in one of the most believable Western settings I’ve ever seen onscreen. I liked the John Wayne “True Grit,” and I liked the Coens’ “True Grit” too. They’re similar in some ways, different in others, but both work on their own terms.

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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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