DID YOU READ

Aaron Katz Comes Out From the “Cold”

Aaron Katz Comes Out From the “Cold” (photo)

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“There’s no palm trees in Portland.” It was this simple observation that changed the course of Aaron Katz’s third feature from being a family drama into a thriller and may well change the course of his career. Not that any change is necessary on Katz’s part, but “Cold Weather” represents the film that could push the conversation about the writer/director beyond the cineastes who bring up his name to impress in conversation like a well-kept secret, knowing full well that loaning the DVD double feature of his first two films “Dance Party USA” and “Quiet City” is akin to turning a friend onto some really good drugs. Whereas the director’s last films indeed felt like trips – beautifully composed and immaculately realized dramas that captured the exuberance of youth – his latest, which sees Doug and Gail, a brother and sister (Cris Lankenau and Trieste Kelly Dunn) try to solve the mystery of his missing girlfriend, takes the form of a tantalizing brain teaser.

Which is where the palm trees come in. When Katz was talking to a friend who moved into the one building in Portland with a palm tree out front, “I thought that would be a good clue,” the director says now. “I thought I should keep that in mind for something if I ever write a mystery in Portland.” Sure enough, the Rasmussen Village apartment building shows up in “Cold Weather” as part of a stakeout, just one of the many conventions Katz turns on its head. As it turns out, a detective story was a natural fit for the filmmaker, considering that his films to date have taken great pride in the accumulation of small details. Here, Katz talks about all the minutiae that went into filming “Cold Weather,” from his work with the RED digital camera that illuminate the cloudy Portland skies to the film’s vibrant and unorthodox score.

How did you get interested in doing this film?

I started writing a script that was supposed to be about a brother and sister because there’s not really a lot of films about that relationship and I thought it was a really interesting relationship. I got about 30-40 pages in and I happened to be reading a lot of detective fiction around that time and I was up late at night writing and just started putting some mystery elements in it. I wrote about 10 pages introducing the beginnings of the mystery and figured I’d wake up the next day and say, well, that was fun, but let’s get back to the script I was writing. But actually I reread it and felt really excited and wrote the rest of the script really quickly. And I was actually reading the book that the main character Doug is reading in the movie, “Raffles” by E.W. Hornung.

02052011_ColdWeather2.jpgWhen you do this kind of film, how much of the mystery do you need to solve for yourself before realizing this could make a movie?

The first draft I came up with was pretty much a mess. I think it had all the right elements in it, but I had written it not knowing what was coming next, so Brendan [McFadden] and Ben [Stambler], two of our producers, and I sat down and spent about a month probably reworking stuff in the script, especially the mystery – on notecards. We made one for the entirety of the script, including the non-mystery portion of the movie, and it changed a lot. We had a lot of different ideas about how far to take the mystery, the stakes. That was one of the toughest things because we wanted the stakes to be high enough that it felt serious – it wasn’t like a spoof or something really silly – but also keep the stakes low enough so it doesn’t take it into traditional thriller territory where it’s some big conspiracy.

We had the idea that maybe there was this whole conspiracy about the lumber industry and it wasn’t money in the case, but some kind of documents or something like that, but that really felt wrong, so we dialed it back from there and came up with the thing that’s in the movie. One thing that we came up with as we were going through various permutations of the mystery is that we kept coming back to the most important thing was the relationship between Doug and Gail, that’s the note we wanted to end the movie on. So for us, it was about finding a way to resolve enough of the mystery to our taste, at least, and then bring it back to being about Doug and Gail.

One of the most striking things to me was just how great the RED Camera made this film look. Did it allow you to play with different colors and textures than you had before?

It opened things up for us a lot. And I think that the process, working with myself and Andrew Reed, our director of photography and also our colorist Alex Bickel, who was involved even before we shot the movie and we talked a lot about how to get those colors out of the RED camera. I think what you said – textures – actually is a good way to describe it. We talked a lot about textures. For example, we wanted to get the textures of the clouds in the sky in Portland and one of the great things about RED is you have a lot of flexibility in the look of the film and post-production, but you don’t have that if you’re not real careful to make sure everything is in the exposure. In many movies, parts of the sky are a little blown out and it doesn’t read as odd or anything, it’s just that’s normal, but we really wanted to make sure that wasn’t the case in this film – that you could really see all the texture of the clouds and in the color process, we really spent a lot of time bringing that out and bringing out the texture of, say, the asphalt when they’re driving, bringing out the texture of dirt or the texture of a stucco building.

I had gotten some warnings going in from the very first generation of people to shoot on the RED saying that things can look plastic-y or things can look almost fake [or] eerily sharp beyond how life looks. I actually didn’t find any of that. I found that we had so much control over the look of the film with the RED because unlike cameras we used on the previous two films, you can shoot with any 35mm lenses, so we were able to have so much control over the look in a way that we had never had before, so it was really great.

02062011_ColdWeather3.jpg This is probably going to sound like a naïve question since Portland is your hometown, but you show a side of Portland that might be surprising to even some who live there. Was it hard keeping a sense of mystery even when you knew the locations so well yourself?

I tried to pick out places that to me evoked what I think of when I think of mysteries. For example, I’m a big Raymond Chandler fan and there’s a quote on the back of fairly recent editions of his book — I forget who the quote’s from — but the gist of the quote is that Raymond Chandler gave L.A. a sense of romance it didn’t have before and I think that’s really true. I think part of that is that he doesn’t use Los Angeles as just a convenient place to set it just because that’s where he is or whatever. It’s really specifically set in Los Angeles and so I really wanted to take that idea and apply it to Portland, to really specifically set it there. Portland has an interesting combination of having a similar look to L.A. in terms of architecture because it was built up around the same time, a lot of the buildings that were built in the teens through the ’40s, so there’s a lot of stucco and a lot of old brick buildings and I really wanted to use those.

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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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