DID YOU READ

A New Experience Home and Abroad

A New Experience Home and Abroad (photo)

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With all the emerging talent on display at this year’s Spirit Awards, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s new and next in terms of the films we’ll be seeing in the future, but what’s often overlooked is the surfeit of new places and experiences that has been on display in independent cinema over the course of the past year. Actors routinely take audiences into emotional terrain where they haven’t been before, but in 2010, it was often the surroundings that shared the spotlight.

In “Winter’s Bone,” director Debra Granik showed off a side of America that’s rarely seen onscreen with the poverty-stricken rural community that exists as its own insular world in the mountains of Missouri and Best First Feature nominee “Get Low” showed the majesty of Tennessee during the ’30s. “The Kids Are All Right” and “Greenberg” reveled in both sides of Los Angeles, demonstrating the way the sun can shine or burn, depending on which way its denizens fall on the thin line between success and failure while New York got an unusual closeup in films like Best First Screenplay nominee “The Exploding Girl,” where the cacophony of the city wreaked havoc on its main character, or Best First Feature nominee “Tiny Furniture,” in which Manhattan is a playground for a college grad who knows not what to do with her life.

This year’s Someone to Watch category may as well be called the “Somewhere to Watch” category since each of the three nominees take a camera to places where it’s rarely been before – into the underground of Iran for Hossein Keshavarz’s “Dog Sweat,” on the bumpy road from Florida to Nashville in Laurel Nakadate’s “The Wolf Knife” and the California desert through the eyes of two Japanese tourists in Mike Ott’s “Littlerock.”

However, nowhere is this the sensation of new and next felt more than in this year’s race for Best Documentary where two of the nominees are from distinctly different mediums than film and naturally bring perspectives that can safely be considered outside the box. For “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” renowned troublemaker and street artist Banksy put down the spray paint can and picked up a DV camera to turn the tables on a paparazzo-turned-graffiti artist named Mr. Brainwash who had been making his own documentary about the street art scene in Los Angeles. The result was one of the most audacious, not to mention harrowing, films of the year as it exposed audiences to the always elusive Banksy and a group of artists that uses urban landscapes as their canvas while the rest of us sleep at night.

Of more serious consequence, but equally innovative when taking a camera into a place it’s never been before, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s “Restrepo” follows a group of U.S. soldiers during a year in Afghanistan, taking audiences closer to the day-to-day experience of war than perhaps had ever been experienced in film. Part of this had to do with the equipment, which naturally is smaller and more technically advanced than ever before, but much more had to do with the collected experience and skills of Hetherington’s as a war photographer and Junger as a veteran reporter to first get access to a military outpost that had been unprecedented and then know exactly how to document the action and emotion that was unfolding in front of them while being seemingly invisible.

Being invisible was also a key part of Ilisa Barbaash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s “Sweetgrass,” which uses no soundtrack or narration to tell the story of a group of Montana sheepherders on their last drive through the Beartooth Mountains in 2003. The film captures both a way of life that is dying and yet the vibrant environment still largely untouched by modern-day life, preserved for those of us in the cities and suburbs in a way so that we can visit without harming nature’s beauty.

The two other nominees in the Best Documentary category also capture beauty in unique ways, even if their actual settings may seem quite familiar. Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol” tells the story of a man who creates his own World War II-themed town populated by era-attired G.I. Joe figurines and Barbies after a brutal attack leaves him psychologically wounded in Kingston, New York, while Mark Landsman’s “Thunder Soul” chronicles the rise and reunion of Houston’s Kashmere Stage Band, a high school funk band that were better than most professionals during the ’70s and gather together once more in the present day to see if they can still jam. Both films, like many of this year’s Spirit Award nominees, show there are no limits to what’s new and next since they demonstrate how art can take us to a different world altogether.

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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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