DID YOU READ

A Spirited Q & A With “Life During Wartime” Actress Allison Janney

A Spirited Q & A With “Life During Wartime” Actress Allison Janney (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.

“You know what I like about you? You’re so normal!” Allison Janney exclaims in her first line in “Life During Wartime.” It’s a funny line on many levels, first because it appears in a Todd Solondz film where questioning what normal is merely is par for the course — after all, if things were normal, there wouldn’t be much of a film — and then as uttered by Janney’s Trish in front of her soon-to-be-husband (Michael Lerner) for lunch, it takes on that breezy, yet clearly exasperated tone that makes you instantly empathize with her, even if it suggests she’s clearly in over her head.

With that rare ability for toeing the line between drama and comedy, it’s a wonder why it took so long for Janney and Solondz to work together, but it’s clear that Solondz relished the opportunity to work with her since he expands the same role occupied by Cynthia Stevenson in “Happiness” to arguably serve as the film’s central character. If you were to argue otherwise, you could simply say Janney pulls everyone else into her orbit as Trish, the harried housewife whose husband turned out to be a pedophile and projects a sunny disposition for her son to avoid confusion on his part but ultimately brings it upon herself.

It’s a considerably tricky role, even if it didn’t involve unbridled and unwieldy scene of simulated lovemaking or another scene in which she’s forced to confront her young son when he calls her a “bitch” after he discovers his father isn’t dead as Trish has told him. And Janney rises to the challenge with one of her finest performances to date, which is saying something, that is every bit as emotionally complex as Solondz’s largely ambiguous work demands. Indeed, “Life During Wartime” can indeed be hell, but watching Janney’s beatific expressions as Trish wrestles with the possibility of hope after years of dissatisfaction and disappointment is pure heaven.

Why did you want to make this film?

I have always admired Todd Solondz’s work and I’ve tried to work with him for many years. Finally for “Life During Wartime,” the timing was right and I jumped at the chance. I am a huge fan of the film “Happiness” and thought the idea of continuing the story with different actors was an interesting challenge; one that I was gladly up for.

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

Hmm….negotiating the choreography of the sex scene.

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

It certainly feels great to be recognized by festivals and groups around the world including Film Independent for this film. It is gratifying to be received so kindly…to know that you’ve put in the hard work, the emotional effort and that someone appreciates that effort.

Your favorite film, book or album from the past year?

My favorite books have been “The Millennium Trilogy” – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” As for films, there were some terrific performances in “The Fighter” and “The King’s Speech” that I am excited about right now.

“Life During Wartime” is currently unavailable on DVD, but airing on Showtime and The Movie Channel. 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.