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Michel Gondry’s Different Shade of “Green”

Michel Gondry’s Different Shade of “Green” (photo)

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At Comic-Con, usually the last place one would go for personal confessions, Michel Gondry told an aside about the stereoscopic club in France that his grandfather was president of, clearly not realizing the audience really only wanted to hear how badass the 3D in “The Green Hornet” would be. Those same people may not be all that interested in how the film is a culmination of personal quirks and professional craftsmanship for the director of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Be Kind Rewind,” but they should know it’s the reason why “The Green Hornet” is special.

From the opening frame of a child with a suspiciously Gondry-like mop of hair thrusting his arm out the car window with a superhero doll in hand to an anarchic montage that details the film’s central conspiracy near the end, it’s Gondry’s childlike wonder (and mischief), clearly shared by screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, that lets “The Green Hornet” glide where so many superhero stories have trudged before. The fascination with how things work give particular oomph to the mechanics of the action sequences and the joy of discovering one’s strengths resonate because Gondry and Rogen are finding new muscles of their own. And so far, whereas Gondry’s films have often had innocence undone by reality, here reality is no match for the fun to be had with masked crimefighters who have no use for laws.

01132011_GreenHornet1.jpgIt’s almost a dark joke that this is all done in the service of a coming-of-age story – “The Green Hornet” follows the origin story of Britt Reid, a spoiled scion of a newspaper empire who must learn responsibility fast in the wake of his father’s death — and it wouldn’t be the only one in the film. But it’s pure unbridled glee that powers Gondry’s latest film forward, which is remarkable considering for the past few years this has been one of the most scrutinized and slow-simmering productions around, so much so Gondry was attached to direct the film in 1997 before a succession of other permutations involving Jet Li, Kevin Smith and Stephen Chow came and went. But for a man who once solved a Rubik’s cube with his nose, it was just one more puzzle to figure out and he recently spoke to me about controlling chaos, why there’s no crazy dream sequence in his biggest-budget film to date and what makes The Green Hornet so malleable.

01132011_GreenHornet2.jpgThematically, a lot of your films have dealt with characters trying to keep their innocence as they’re becoming adults, so was it freeing for you to finally have characters that have to embrace being able to discover things for the first time?

It’s a very good point you’re making. I think creativity is really connected to being a kid because if you look at young cats, how they learn life is by playing. If you take kitties, you see them playing 75 percent of the day of waking time and it’s how they learn. And sometimes it’s cruel because they play with mice and kill it and they don’t realize because they don’t think the way we do about death and stuff. But it’s how you train yourself to learn – it’s by being playful. And I think humans share that. If you want to be creative, you have to put yourself in this frame of mind and that’s theoretically connected to your childhood. And as an adult, you’re sort of encouraged to lose that. And I think it’s important to see what it is you might lose or keep because you want to be an adult.

You don’t want to be a kid for everything. I have a child – he’s an adult now, but I had to make decisions for his good and to be able to become an adult, but then when I’m directing a film and I want to create something, I have to remember how it was to discover the world. This joy I had when I saw the forest for the first time or I saw the street or the city for the first time and I want to be back in this place of wonder, so I taught my mind to switch from one side to another because when I’m a director, I have to be leading a lot of people and give them orders, otherwise you don’t move forward, but then when it’s time to be creative, I need to switch back to this frame of mind which you have as a kid, so it’s a balance between both states.

01132011_GreenHornet6.jpgOne of the things you’ve been able to maintain throughout your career is a real handmade quality to your films. With such a large crew for “The Green Hornet,” were you comfortable giving up more control than you had in the past?

It’s not necessarily control, you know, Sometimes I get this effect by making sure there’s a little bit of chaos that’s maintained. Not that I want things to explode or collapse all the time, but when I say chaos, it’s just a texture in life that you counterproduce if you control everything because life is so complex. If you look somewhere in the street, you have so many cars or people or animals and things that cross the frame and when you do a movie, you sort of have to wipe everything out and recreate it under the control of what you’re allowed to do. If you want to make the audience feel they are watching real life, you have to recreate this chaotic aspect. It’s introducing a level of uncertainty that nobody really can put their hands on and it’s losing control over things in the way you desire.

The handmade quality is because I’m going to ask somebody to do something at the last minute before I can analyze it too much and it goes to the art direction. There is something when Seth goes into his mind and trying to piece things together [in the film’s climax], we made that all practical, so we had so little time and so little money to do this extra piece of work that nobody could argue or really understand what was going on. They just went for it. Then it goes to the acting where people are challenged at the last second to change or try something different and then they don’t know exactly why they’re doing it, so they become more themselves. To me, the handmade quality could apply to the acting as much as the props.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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