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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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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.