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Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See

Three Peter Yates Films Every Movie Fan Should See (photo)

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The Associated Press reported Monday that British director Peter Yates died over the weekend of an illness at the age of 81. As The AP reports, Yates had a unique career path:

“Born in Aldershot, southern England in 1929, Yates trained as an actor, performed in repertory theater and did a stint as a race-car driver before moving into film, first as an editor and then as an assistant director on films including Tony Richardson’s ‘A Taste of Honey’ and J. Lee Thompson’s ‘The Guns of Navarone.'”

Yates had a long and, at times, not-quite-illustrious career: his filmography includes the fantasy cheesefest “Krull” and the underwater cheesecakefest “The Deep”, a “Jaws” knockoff that became a hit mostly because Jacqueline Bisset spent a good portion of the movie in a wet t-shirt. But a couple of duds don’t tarnish an impressive legacy, including at least three films that, in my opinion, every movie fan should see. They are:

“Bullitt” (1968)

01122011_bullitt1.jpgThe Library of Congress selects movies for its National Film Registry based on their “cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance.” No wonder that “Bullitt” was chosen in 2007: it has all three. Steve McQueen’s iconic look as San Francisco police lieutenant Frank Bullitt — sportcoat over turtleneck with that elaborate shoulder holster — still remains one of the signature looks for cops in films. And of course the film’s rightfully famous car chase, which lasts more then ten minutes, remains one of the greatest in movie history.

One of the best things about all of Yates’ films are their real sense of place. “Bullitt” is set in San Francisco: not Toronto playing San Francisco, not a Hollywood backlot doubling for San Francisco, but San Francisco, the real city. That’s never clearer than during that incredible car chase, when the camera assumes the perspective of Bullitt behind the wheel of his 1968 Ford Mustang GT, as he flies down the hilly streets of The City By the Bay.

“Bullitt” is a police procedural free polish and gloss. McQueen is cool, of course, but his job doesn’t look glamorous; it looks exhausting. Bullitt works as hard as he can but he still can’t save everyone; despite his best efforts, people still die, brutally and horribly. With its anti-authoriarian hero and blunt depictions of violence, “Bullitt” made cop movies relevant for 1960s audiences. And it still holds up today.

“The Hot Rock” (1972)

01122011_hotrock1.jpgSteven Soderbergh watched two movies as research for directing “Ocean’s Eleven:” “Ghostbusters” and Yates’ “The Hot Rock.” The influence is obvious from the very first scene: both movies begin with their heroes getting released from prison and immediately diving right back into the con game. In the case of “The Hot Rock,” that hero is John Dortmunder, ably played by Robert Redford with just the right mix of laconic cool and world-weariness. Plus, his sideburns are amazing.

Redford and his brother-in-law Kelp (George Segal) are hired by an African diplomat (Moses Gunn) to steal a rare jewel from the Brooklyn Museum. They pull the heist off but one of their partners gets nabbed by the cops, and he’s the guy who was carrying the stone. That’s Greenberg (Paul Sand). So now they’ve got to break Greenberg out of jail to get at the gem. Only to keep it from the cops, Greenberg had to swallow the rock, and when he, ahem, passed it, he had to stash it in his holding cell in another jail. So now they’ve got to break into that jail, which is on the top floor of a police station. “Couldn’t you just keep swallowing it?” the exasperated diplomat asks. Greenberg thinks about it, as he clearly thought about it in the jail, debating whether or not he could swallow a priceless poop. Finally, he responds. “No!”

I guess you could argue that “The Hot Rock” doesn’t have much going for it in the stakes department, and that Dortmunder’s buddies are so laid-back about robbery and so unfazed by failure that their repeated attempts to nab The Hot Rock don’t amount to much. But “The Hot Rock” is, like Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” as much fun to watch for the lovable characters as it is for the heists. Their repeated failures are bad news for them and great news for us because every time they lose the rock it means we get to spend a little longer with these hilarious screw-ups.

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973)

01122011_coyle1.jpgJust one year after “The Hot Rock,” Yates directed a film that plays like its twisted doppelganger. “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is as gritty and bleak a heist film as “The Hot Rock” is a bubbly and comic one. Both movies are about the same ideas — loyalty, friendship, and family — but where “The Hot Rock” tells a crime story that celebrates and upholds those values, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” shows how all of those ideals mean nothing when tested against the strongest human impulse: self-preservation.

In one of his best performances, Robert Mitchum plays Eddie “Fingers” Coyle, a career criminal awaiting sentencing for a botched truck robbery. His only hope of avoiding jail time is by ratting out the guys he works with, including his gun supplier, who delivers the film’s best line: “This life’s hard, man. But it’s harder if you’re stupid.” From Mitchum on down the line, the cast is fantastic: Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, and Alex Rocco as a bankrobber Coyle sells Brown’s guns to.

The movie includes several terrifying heist sequences featuring Rocco’s gang, clad in eerie, dehumanizing masks, as they pick apart Boston-area banks. But really this is a movie about mortality, about an old guy coming to grips with the fact that he’s all played out and, as such, it’s probably the most fitting movie to watch this week to celebrate Yates. This is a sad movie. The title is so cruel too. A real thief doesn’t have friends: just potential betrayers.

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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.