DID YOU READ

A Spirited Q & A With “The Wolf Knife” Director Laurel Nakadate

A Spirited Q & A With “The Wolf Knife” Director Laurel Nakadate (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.

Ordinarily, one would refrain from mentioning in a piece intended to praise a Spirit Awards nominee that an early trade review of a film counted the number of walkouts that occurred during one of its press screenings. But in the case of “The Wolf Knife,” it may just be the best way to describe the film’s uncompromising nature that drove away some which makes it something worth celebrating for so many others. Of course, Laurel Nakadate has likely become accustomed to such divisive reaction to her work. As a renowned video artist and photographer, her art — currently on display in her first major exhibit at the MoMA PS1 in New York — often deals with the objectification of young women and the politics of sex. “The Wolf Knife” is no exception as it follows two teen girls (Christina Kolozsvary and Julie Potratz) on the road from Hollywood, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee in a style as stripped down as its swimsuit-clad leads.

Shot in 10 days with just two other people on crew using a car that wasn’t Nakadate’s, the production was not one for the timid. Naturally, the film that resulted is similarly brave. While the implication of a nomination in the Acura Someone to Watch category of the Spirit Awards that suggests Nakadate is new on the scene may be a slight misnomer since her debut “Stay the Same Never Change” in 2008 already made that announcement, there is perhaps no more apt nominee, since with her films, it’s hard to look away. Navigating the fragile psyche of girls on the verge of becoming women with equal aplomb as the American landscape that has long been a backdrop of her art, Nakadate may often travel a lonely road, but continues to push boundaries wherever she goes.

Why did you want to make this film?

I was interested in telling a dark and awkward story about teenage girls’ relationships. I think that, in the moment between adolescence and adulthood, there is a complicated window where childhood relationships are tested and out of that testing can emerge an uncomfortable and urgent story. I was really interested in talking about discomfort, beauty and desire. I knew I could make the film, the moment I met the lead actors, when I saw their faces, I knew I could tell the story I wanted to tell.

02032011_WolfKnife2.jpgWhat was the best piece of advice you received that applied to the making of this film?

When I was in grad school, I was lucky enough to take classes with the very gifted photographer Gregory Crewdson. He told us a story about how, early on in his career, he left a note at a woman’s house asking if he could make a perfect circle in the grass behind her house in order to make a photograph. The woman left him a note in return saying something to the effect of “Do whatever you need to do”. I’ve never forgotten this story, and I often marvel at and find comfort in it when I’m up against a massive creative obstacle.

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

I’d say it way I chose to cast the film. I only cast the two lead actors in advance; the entire supporting cast was found, after I’d arrived in the cities we were shooting. I loved working with all those local people, in the towns we traveled to and shot in, but it was a bit harrowing at times, the uncertainty of knowing whether I would find the correct actor for the part we had to shoot the next day. Some days it was thrilling, the challenge of just going with it, and some days it was very, very, scary. I really learned to trust my gut and settle into the idea that all the pieces would fall together and that chance and fate would be more brilliant and exciting than absolute, pre-planned certainty and traditional casting approaches.

What’s been the most memorable moment while you’ve traveled with the film, either at a festival or otherwise?

On the morning that we shot the final scene of the film, we drove to a baseball field that we’d noticed the night before. The sun was just coming up and Chrissy had to cry in front of that sunrise. I remember her standing there, in her dirty costume, tears welling up in her eyes as an airplane rose across the sky. It disappeared into the sun and then emerged on the other side. In some ways, I feel like making this film was like disappearing into the sun and being lucky enough to emerge on the other side.

What’s your favorite thing about your film that’s been largely uncommented upon?

The production crew was only three members. I wrote, shot, edited and directed the film. Christina, the actor who played “Chrissy” brought on two of her friends from school to serve as sound and productions assistants. I love that it was a challenging shoot and that the three of us managed to produce the film that we did.

02032011_WolfKnife3.jpgWhat’s been the most gratifying thing to come out of this film for you personally?

The film was shot on an extremely modest budget. We had to borrow everything: camera, car, floors to sleep on, swimming pools and living rooms. It was an affirmation of the greatness of friends, trusting the creative process and the idea that if you want to make something badly enough, you will find a way to make it. I suppose that was the most gratifying thing. Humbling too.

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

I love Todd Solondz’s “Life During Wartime.” I can’t stop thinking about that film, actually. It sort of destroyed my heart. He’s just so brilliant.

“The Wolf Knife” currently does not have U.S. distribution, but will play San Francisco on February 24th. A full schedule can be found here. The Spirit Awards will air on IFC on February 26th.

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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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