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A Spirited Q & A With “Blue Valentine” Actress Michelle Williams

A Spirited Q & A With “Blue Valentine” Actress Michelle Williams (photo)

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As a way of celebrating this year’s nominees for the Spirit Awards in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, we reached out to as many as we could in an effort to better understand what went into their films, what they’ve gotten out of the experience, and where they’ve found their inspiration, both in regards to their work and other works of art that might’ve inspired them from the past year. Their answers will be published on a daily basis throughout February.

“I don’t know what’s in my life that’s current,” Michelle Williams says when asked if she had a favorite piece of art from the past year. She was referring to music mixes that she’s “kind of been living hand to mouth on” of late, and yet it felt all too appropriate a response when it feels like her own gifts as an artist are timeless. There’s no wonder that her triumphant return to the screen began in 2010 as the elusive wife to Leonardo DiCaprio’s bedraggled U.S. marshal in the 1950s-set “Shutter Island” and culminated in a turn as a 1840s frontier woman in the soon-to-be-released and Spirit Award-nominated western “Meek’s Cutoff.” While each of those roles tested her ability to pull any role into the here and now, they drew upon the same vulnerability and emotional precision that makes her performance in the Derek Cianfrance’s contemporary romantic drama “Blue Valentine” such an awesome achievement to behold.

If there was any joy to be taken away from the heartbreak of “Blue Valentine,” it came out of a deep appreciation for the depths Williams and Ryan Gosling were willing to plumb for the sake of an audience. As married couple Cindy and Dean, the two convey the ecstatic highs and crushing lows of a pair that is slowly unraveling after having adulthood, complete with a child and the responsibilities that entails, thrust upon them. Following the film’s premiere at Sundance, Williams admitted to IFC.com’s Alison Willmore that it was a character that “scared the shit out of me and Derek [Cianfrance, the director] talked me down off the cliff more than once.” That Williams is always willing to walk up to that edge time and again makes her the very definition of what the Spirit Awards is intended to honor and why it is only fitting our month-long fete of this year’s nominees begins with her.

Why did you want to make this film?

Where do I start? I’ve wanted to make this film since I was 22 years old and I’m 30 now, so I’ve found now in those eight years reasons – new reasons, different reasons – to want to make this movie. It changed as I did.

What was the best piece of advice you received that applied to the making of this film?

I’m trying to think because it’s been so long now. The thing that comes to mind is what I was thinking about during the last film I was making, so I’m going to steal it. It’s Nijinsky’s reply to the question, how did he jump so high? He said, “Well, I go up and I stay a bit.” Something about the simplicity and that effortlessness doesn’t have to be ephemeral, that it can be as concrete of an idea as anything else. That’s moved me.

What was the toughest thing to overcome, whether it was a particular scene or the film as a whole?

Toughest thing to overcome – I hadn’t worked for a year, so I felt rusty and I had to overcome that and quick.

What’s been the most memorable moment while you’ve traveled with the film, either at a festival or otherwise?

Every time I see Ryan and Derek, I just…I miss them and I get happy to see their faces.

What’s your favorite thing about the film that’s been largely uncommented upon?

I think one of my favorite moments in the movie is when Ryan’s interviewing at the moving company and the boss says, “Can you get here early?” He’s like, “Yeah, I can get here early. What time?” And the boss says, “Seven a.m.” – the look on Ryan’s face. Nobody’s mentioned it and I would watch the movie again, and I’ve seen it six times, just so I can have the pleasure of that moment.

What’s been the most gratifying thing for you to come out of this movie personally?

Like I said before, I was hesitant to go back to work. It had been a long time and I didn’t know if there was going to be anything in me and this movie brought me back to life creatively. It made me excited to go to work and it continues to make me excited to go to work because I discovered a new approach.

Have you had a favorite film, book or album from the past year?

A few things come to mind. I’m reading the Patti Smith book “Just Kids” right now. I’m way into that. Also, I read this book called “Poets on Poetry” that I found very moving and very relatable to acting.

“Blue Valentine” is currently open in theaters across the country. The Spirit Awards will air on IFC on February 26th.

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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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