DID YOU READ

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010 (photo)

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We got a lot of listener feedback about our two podcasts on the best of 2010 in film. Many listeners offered their own suggestions in our eclectic categories like Best Performance in the Worst Movie. Listener Patrick Fisackerly submitted a nominee in a category of his own devising: Best Scene in the Worst Movie. His pick was the following scene from “Step Up 3D,” a duet to Fred Astaire’s “I Won’t Dance.”

I didn’t get a chance to see “Step Up 3D” in its entirety yet, but this is a very charming scene. And the use of long take certainly amplifies its charms. It shows off the real New York locations and the skill of the dancers, not only physically (they have to perform an entire dance’s choreography perfectly, with no mistakes) but mentally as well (they have to remember all of the steps, as well as all of the ways in which they must interact with their environment).

Watching that scene from “Step Up 3D” reminded me that several dance films in 2010 used similarly impressive long takes, all deployed to similar effect. For example, there was the hauntingly beautiful “Passage For Two” dance atop the High Line in “NY Export: Opus Jazz.” (NOTE: Though this clip intercuts the scene with title cards, the scene in the finished film is one long take for almost all of a five minute dance routine).

Long takes accentuate the passage of time. No cuts means creates a documentary-like connection between a shot and time: for this period of the film, this happened and this much time elapsed. Here the lack of cuts makes us hyperaware of that gorgeous sunset sweeping through the background of the scene. That sky, slowly shifting from orange to purple, lends the dance a magical quality; for this shot to exist, everything had to go right. The dancers had to perform correctly while the notoriously difficult-to-direct Sun had to hit its mark exactly. The lack of cuts also brings us deeper into the atmosphere of the scene and the dancer’s slow, sensual movements. I don’t know what each individual movement of Jerome Robbins’ choreography is meant to suggest, but to me their cumulative impact evokes the fleeting and impossible love: the dancers sway together in perfect sync but their faces remain blank and emotionless, surrounded by the decay of the High Line. To cut during “Passage For Two” (a title that also refers to the passage of time) would be to break the scene’s spell. The long take makes the dance almost hypnotic.

My personal favorite musical long take of 2010, though, was the one in “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.” It spans the entirety of the number “Love in the Fall.”

Here we see how long takes can also accentuate a film’s sense of realism. The scene is a crowded house party jam session and the camera appropriates the perspective of a guy in the room just trying to get the best view of the action, angling around the other spectators and whipping back and forth between the tap dancers and star Jason Palmer’s trumpet solos. Instead of presenting a pristine, omniscient representation of this event, the camera gives us the opportunity to feel like someone actually in the room with the performers, witnessing it as anyone else there would. The whole film values emotion over perfection (which would make it the ideal second half of a double bill with Darren Aronofsky “Black Swan”), and so does the long take: the camera sometimes misses the hoofers’ steps because it’s late panning into position, but it never misses their infectious enthusiasm for their art.

And maybe that is what all of these shots have in common: passion. There are much easier ways to film all of these dance numbers, and if done skillfully, the results wouldn’t be that much less satisfying. But the long takes are difficult. They require so much planning and demand pinpoint execution. In a world of half-assed movies, they say “I care.”

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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.
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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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