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Five Insanely Romantic Fred Astaire Dances

Five Insanely Romantic Fred Astaire Dances (photo)

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Call me old-fashioned, call me an insanely committed movie dork; hell, call me an insanely committed, old-fashioned movie dork but there’s nothing I like better on Valentine’s Day than a quiet night in with my wife, a home-cooked meal and great old films. Our favorites are the classic MGM musicals. You can’t go wrong with Gene Kelly, of course, but I think Valentine’s Day belongs to Fred Astaire, who produced many of his best onscreen moments with a woman at his side. The air of romance in Astaire’s best films is so thick it’s beyond intoxicating: it’s positively infectious. Here are five of his most insanely romantic dance numbers.


“I’ll Be Hard to Handle”
From “Roberta” (1935)
Featuring Astaire and Ginger Rogers

The first image we think of when we think of Astaire is the elegant gentleman in top hat and tails, squiring Ginger Rogers to some impossibly lavish Depression-era ball. And nobody made unattainable opulence look quite as warm and inviting as Astaire and Rogers. But the most famous dancing team in movie history often had their best chemistry in more casual numbers, like the ebullient “Pick Yourself Up” from “Swing Time” or the rambunctious “I’ll Be Hard to Handle” from “Roberta,” which captures the team at their most flirtatiously playful. Astaire and Rogers play former sweethearts who reunite in Paris and reignite their relationship. The routine, a high-spirited tap, finds the pair even finishing each others sentences — through dance of course — as they trade intricate steps back and forth like fast-paced screwball banter. Bonus points for the all-natural tap sounds, which are clearly coming straight from Astaire and Rogers’ feet and not from any artificial post-production sweetening.


“So Near and Yet So Far”
From “You’ll Never Get Rich” (1941)
Featuring Astaire and Rita Hayworth

Astaire built a persona of gentility and refinement, and as he aged he played opposite a lot of much younger leading ladies, a situation that often made him look like Mr. Rogers romancing one of his fans. He wasn’t exactly known as a sensual dancer — which is why I love this Latin-flavored number he did with the gorgeous and very sensual Rita Hayworth in 1941’s “You’ll Never Get Rich.” It’s called “So Near and Yet So Far” — a title that could refer to fact that dance, while pleasurable, is not nearly as pleasurable as what dance often acts as a stand-in for in old movies, namely sex. Astaire seems genuinely enchanted by the hip-shaking Hayworth as they twirl on an ocean-view balcony. The number ends with Hayworth leaning back into Astaire’s arms, so near and yet so far, as they cuddle and exit stage right. To do what, we’ll never know.


“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”
From “The Barkleys of Broadway” (1949)
Featuring Astaire and Rogers

“The Barkleys of Broadway” was Astaire and Rogers’ final cinematic pairing, and it only came about after Astaire’s original co-star, Judy Garland, needed to be replaced at the very last moment. When they made “The Barkleys,” Astaire and Rogers hadn’t danced together for ten years, adding a great deal of poignancy to the film’s plotline, about a husband-and-wife dance team who split up and then reconnect, and to this touching final number, where Fred serenades Ginger with George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” The words are almost too perfect for a legendary couple reuniting for what would be the last time onscreen: “We may never, never meet again on that bumpy road to love / Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of / The way you hold your knife / The way we danced ’til three / The way you changed my life / No, no they can’t take that away from me.” After Astaire’s touching vocal, the pair enact an elegiac final dance, a celebration for has been and what will never be again. It’s not one of their most intricate or most graceful scenes, but it feels more charged with genuine emotion than anything else they’d ever danced.


“Dancing in the Dark”
From “The Band Wagon” (1953)
Featuring Astaire and Cyd Charisse

A simple walk in the park becomes a rapturous dream of falling in love in “Dancing in the Dark” from Vincente Minnelli’s “The Band Wagon.” The scene contains no words of either the spoken or sung variety. Instead, everything is communicated through movement: Astaire and Cyd Charisse’s hopeful glances, followed by their first tentative steps, and culminating in remarkable duet between two incredible artists. Astaire tended to be the most graceful member of any pair he danced in, but Charisse is his equal: watch the effortless way she bends in his arms around the 3:15 minute mark, or the her seductive swoon into Astaire’s neck after the twirl at 2:03. The choreography perfectly matches the rise and fall of Arthur Schwartz’s soaring music: the climactic crescendo is echoed by the dancers’ symbolic climb up a small flight of stairs to a waiting carriage. Also: I’m no fashion expert, but I think dresses like Charisse’s, which bounces and floats with her every movement as if it’s made out of some kind of gravity-defying material, desperately need to make a comeback.


“He Loves and She Loves”
From “Funny Face” (1957)
Featuring Astaire and Audrey Hepburn

Here’s one of those potentially creepy May/December romances I was talking about: Astaire was a full thirty years older than Audrey Hepburn when they made “Funny Face” together in 1967. After a series of comic confusions and misadventures, Astaire, a fashion photographer, and Hepburn, a model, have finally realized their mutual love for one another. Still dressed in her fashion show wedding gown, she looks adoringly into Astaire’s eyes as he sings “He Loves and She Loves” then joins him for a low-key “stroll” through the French countryside. Most of Astaire’s musicals were shot on soundstages, so there is something especially striking about watching him move through director Stanley Donen’s lushly verdant mise en scene, and the choreography makes the most of the freedom that comes with location shooting — it’s not every film that you see two dances connected via a ride on a river raft. Despite the age difference, the chemistry works. Hepburn seems genuinely smitten with Astaire; in my favorite moment from this dance, they’re so enraptured by each other’s presence they nearly dance themselves right into a pond.

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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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