DID YOU READ

Carla Gugino and Sebastian Gutierrez’s Life of “Luxx”-ury

Carla Gugino and Sebastian Gutierrez’s Life of “Luxx”-ury (photo)

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There are many filmmakers who sound nothing like the films they make. Sebastian Gutierrez is not one of them. Within seconds of opening his mouth, a flood of words escape in all directions, all hurdling towards some greater point. This has served the writer/director well on two fronts – the first being his recent run of films, beginning with 2009’s “Women in Trouble” and eventually its sequel “Elektra Luxx,” that sprint on the colorful flourishes of its aesthetic and banter, if not the wild tonal shifts from slapstick comedy to musical numbers to melodrama that make the fact that their main characters are porn stars seem tame by comparison. Gutierrez’s way with words also helped him out of a jam when a projection problem at last year’s SXSW premiere of “Elektra Luxx” resulted in one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever experienced at a film festival after he commandeered the stage and entertained a rapt audience of over a thousand with stories from the set, his newfound facility with digital cameras and advance word of his next film “Girl Walks Into a Bar,” which, to show there are no hard feelings, will premiere at SXSW on Friday simultaneously with its debut on YouTube.

Yet even as Gutierrez is using new technology to bring his work to the masses, he is relying on the oldest of engines to power his films – interesting characters and even more interesting actors to bring them to life. Which is where Carla Gugino, Gutierrez’s leading lady both onscreen and off, comes in. As the titular heroine of “Elektra Luxx,” Gugino is asked to do just about everything one can in her performance as an adult film star who leaves the industry when she becomes pregnant and life becomes even more complex when a flight attendant (Marley Shelton) who finds the lyrics of the baby’s deceased rock star father asks for an unusual favor of Luxx as a finder’s fee. While the criminally underrated actress has demonstrated such versatility over the years, she and a cast that includes Adrianne Palicki, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marley Shelton, among others, clearly relish the opportunity to show off a different side. With that in mind, I recently spoke to both sides of this creative team separately to talk about “Elektra Luxx,” why patience is not a virtue and breaking other rules.

Since you’ve collaborated with Sebastian so often, have you started getting involved in the creative process earlier?

Carla Gugino: It’s interesting because definitely I think there is a real collaboration. [Sebastian] is the vision behind all of these pieces and that’s something that I actually champion and love. There may be a story someday that I feel like maybe only I can tell, but at this point, I really love being an interpreter. I’m really amazed at people who come up with something out of nothing — writers. I find it to be an incredible talent. But what’s been really nice is because we have worked together so many times and have a real trust in each other, it’s always an exciting moment when hot off the presses, I get the next script of his. And he’s always really receptive.

Generally I’m the first person to read the ones that I’m in and it’s become an interesting process because I might say “Oh, is this clear? Is this not clear? Why don’t you explain this?” And he’ll say, “No, I didn’t do that because of this but that’s a good idea” – so it’s a nice, natural building upon each other. I also think it is wonderful to be a muse of someone who’s very talented and yet because I think we both have been doing this for so long and I love acting so much, it certainly has become a co-created affair.

03102011_ElektraLuxx2.jpgYou and Sebastian have made no secret of casting friends of yours in these films, but instead of being some indulgence, they’ve really shown off things in these actors that you haven’t had a chance to see. Has that been really gratifying?

CG: It’s really wonderful and that’s the thing is I’ve always felt from the start is I would never want a friend to recommend me for a job because I’m a friend, nor would I ever recommend a friend for a job because of that. But because we are surrounded by incredibly talented actors who I appreciate and love both so much as human beings and I love their work, the idea that we get to go and create together is just about as good as it gets.

Also, I think something worth noting is I think Sebastian is a perfectionist, as am I, and I think all the people involved in these movies have a very high standard for themselves. In that way, I think a lot of times when people think low-budget or a short shooting time, it’s this idea that it’s sort of haphazard and improvised and you’re grabbing the camera [when in actuality] these are actually really little condensed versions of a big movie that are shot with care, written with care, acted with care. That’s something that’s very exciting because young filmmakers can know that you can actually make a really good quality movie in a very brief period of time with very limited funds as long as you have the material, the actors and the director.

You can feel that, but at the same time, these films have also retained a kind of “tossed off” energy. Where does that come from?

CG: I think that comes out of a lack of pretense and a lack of preciousness because of the time. This particular kind of way of filming in terms of timeframe and structure really was started as just a fun experiment. And I think that’s the nature we always want to keep them — it’s never worth it if you don’t make a good movie. That’s obviously the reason to do it. But in the midst of it, the nature of it has been this great creative experience and experiment and I feel like if we can maintain that, that’s an important thing and you feel it.

03102011_ElektraLuxx3.jpgIn “Elektra Luxx,” you have a scene with your twin sister where you’re playing both parts, a musical number and plenty of other emotional highs and lows. Is it a challenge to keep the tone when you’re doing so many things?

CG: Yes, it is. It is. I think that’s also why people tend to want to separate things by genre and go, “Well, is this a musical or is this funny or is this serious?” One of the things we wanted to do with this while hearkening back to old screwball elements of 1940s when women were the box office draw and also a bit of a good ol’ fashioned sort of melodrama [was to have] those kinds of elements ultimately keep a heart to the film that’s very unencumbered, but stylistically be able to touch on a lot of different styles.

Everyone compliments Sebastian on how well he’s able to write women, and just like so many of those 1940s films you mentioned, it’s in the service of a character that’s been marginalized by society, updated here as a porn star. Have you found that to be an interesting thing to play?

CG: Yeah, a lot of judgment. It has been. And I was going to say also because I realized I kind of didn’t answer the question in terms of tone from a performance standpoint because yes, it is tricky because you’re dealing with a movie where it’s screwball enough that you’re accepting the fact she’s going to sleep with a guy [Timothy Olyphant] who’s the fiancé of this flight attendant [Marley Shelton] because she owes it to her. So there’s already an element of heightened reality to take into play. And you can justify it because she’s a pornstar, etc. But what was always very key was never did it become a caricature and I think that’s in reference to the pornstar question too, which is the fact that that’s her profession reflects itself in a couple of different ways, but mostly, she’s done everything for herself. She’s been on her own, she’s made a good living at this and she’s never actually been able to see herself through what might be her daughter’s eyes and when she sees that, she realizes she may have to make a change and what comes along with that. To me, that was the compelling notion of the movie.

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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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