DID YOU READ

Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright’s All-Out “Attack” on SXSW

Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright’s All-Out “Attack” on SXSW (photo)

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The only invasion more impressive than the wildebeest-like aliens that descend on a South London street corner to terrorize its denizens in Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block” is the way in which the film itself came in and conquered SXSW. Deep in the heart of geek culture…err, Texas, the debut appeared to be one of the surest bets of the festival, given the involvement of executive producer Edgar Wright and that Cornish’s arrival in the States comes after years of being a favorite in his native England as a radio host on the sketch comedy program “The Adam and Joe Show” and his work on two scripts with Wright for two of the more anticipated films around, Wright’s “Ant-Man” and Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.”

It’s probably no coincidence then that Cornish just made a film that thrives on the wit and joy that permeates Wright’s work, hearkens back to the heyday of when Spielberg was producing seamless blends of science fiction, adventure and fantasy during the early ’80s, and yet is something entirely unique unto itself as it takes a group of untested group of young actors who seem more likely to be cast in the next Ken Loach film and turns them into a group of teen ruffians who must protect their apartment building, armed with little more than bats and fireworks, from aliens with glowing green teeth. It’s rare when a movie can have it both ways, but “Attack the Block” manages to be realistically gritty while simultaneously indulging in all the reasons we escape to the movies, pumped up with a simply awesome soundtrack by the Basement Jaxx, fearsome creatures, and as one character says in the film, “Too much madness to explain in one text.” So in addition to Matt Singer’s recent chat with Cornish and co-star Nick Frost, who appears in the film as a pot dealer under siege, in the IFC Crossroads House, I sat down with Cornish and Wright to discuss the origins of the film and their friendship, as well as Cornish’s rare ability to treat teens with a proper amount of gravitas, the dearth of genre film in the UK and the anxiety of his SXSW premiere.

How did this become the film you wanted to make as your debut?

Joe Cornish: Well, I’ve always wanted to make a film. I went to film school after I left school in Britain, the same place Edgar went to actually in a seaside town called Bournemouth in the south of England and then my career path was weird really. I worked as a production assistant on feature films in London and then I got a break to do a TV show called “The Adam and Joe Show” in the UK and I developed stuff for years and this was just the one that kind of came to fruition. I pitched a whole lot of ideas and this was the one that everybody leapt on.

You mentioned the other night how it was a bunch of first-timers working together – the cinematographer Thomas Townend, Basement Jaxx, many of the young actors in the street gang are all doing their first films — how did that manifest itself into the type of atmosphere you had on the film?

I’m sure Edgar will agree on your first film, it is difficult because everyone around you has more experience. The lighting guys will have done five films a year and you’re the guy who’s in charge but yet you’re the guy with the least experience. Plus, I think actors who will agree to do a first film usually are probably a particular type of actor, do you think? A little bit generous, prepared to take a risk, prepared to put their reputation on the line. I think it’s a particularly good type of actor who will take a risk on someone like me or maybe -[pointing to Edgar] you’d done “Spaced,” so you had more authority maybe, but I certainly felt that.

Edgar Wright: We both have come from a TV background before our films and sometimes in lots of different ways, you’re made to feel like you’re not worthy of doing a film.

JC: Yeah.

EW: [laughs] It still feels like a big leap, doesn’t it?

JC: Very much so, between TV and film, absolutely. But the nice thing about those kids were they were as inexperienced as I was and it was like we were all going on an adventure together and they were so enthusiastic. They were just so excited about being in a film about fighting aliens. They couldn’t believe it. I think they expected to be, if they got their break, their break to be some gritty, depressing crime drama and to be asked to be in a film with chases, aliens, explosions, motorbike stunts and effects, CGI? That was exciting as well because these kids are the target audience, so to know that they’re just excited by the premise before you’ve even started shooting was really cool.

I have to imagine that you had to be excited by those things as well as film geeks – what’s it like when you get to create your own monster or do the makeup tests for the first time?

JC: It was exciting. It was super exciting to get Terry Notary, who was our creature performer, he was in on the ground floor and he worked with Spectral Motion based on my design and yeah, the whole thing’s amazing, man. To have an idea, to have someone have the confidence to give you the money and particularly as a first-timer with something this ambitious, I still don’t quite believe that they had confidence in me, especially in Britain because we don’t make films like this very often. So hats off to Film Four, to Optimum and big hats off to Edgar, really, because if Edgar hadn’t made “Shaun of the Dead,” and that hadn’t been successful, I don’t think I would’ve been able to make this film. He opened those doors that I, with a bit of luck, have gone through.

Edgar did forge something quite unique with “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” in particular where the genre was obviously where the ideas sprung from, but he’s created a genre of his own where it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s not parody, but at the same time it’s very funny. Did you feel you had those type of expectations on this film, given he was an executive producer?

JC: Well, I made a very silly TV show, with a lot of stupid sketches and animation and yeah, I was concerned that people would expect me to do a kind of…I flatter myself by saying a “Team America”-type thing because that’s a fantastic film. But I think people maybe thought I would do something sillier, but for me, my favorite comedy films aren’t out and out comedy. They’re something else plus comedy. And comedy’s the bonus. For me, comedy works best when it’s a drama with laughs, a thriller with laughs, a horror film with laughs. And for me, the key is to be dramatic or scary and then the laughs come from that.

EW: I think we both came from a TV comedy background. I don’t think people necessarily thought my first film was going to have a horror element. I think probably me and Joe were, when we were doing TV, frustrated genre directors. [laughs] So I think our start in comedy comes through in Joe’s film and my first film. But I think both of us are at a similar age where we grew up in a period in the UK where there’s quite a dearth of genre films and all of the ones that we would be watching that were on general release were all American, occasionally some international ones, but not usually at the cinema. [Looking at Joe] Would you agree those were the films growing up that both of us as we had come to get our first opportunity to make one of the films we wanted to make whilst we were growing up?

JC: Definitely. Yeah, I think our generation, we had Spielberg and Lucas making the best kids’ adventure cinema there’s ever been. In England, there was a particularly amazing period when home video first started when we were children where there was no certification. So you could go to the cinema and watch these incredible, historically good kids’ films and you could go to a video store and we could watch “Zombie Flesh Eaters,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Exterminator” and then be completely traumatized by that stuff. So we grew up in a cool time in pop culture when none of it was really being reflected in our home culture. There’s a lot of good genre stuff on TV in the UK, but for some reason in the ’80s and ’90s, it seemed to be abandoned. There’s loads of good shit in the ’60s and ’70s in the UK, but for some reason, the ’80s and ’90s is a bit of a dead zone. [looks over to Edgar] Is that too much of a generalization?

EW: No, I think that’s fair and one of the things I think is a lot of genre films in the UK were lauded in retrospect. I don’t think many people were proclaiming the original “Wicker Man” as a classic when it first came out or even the Hammer Films. I think they’re looked back at fondly rather than necessarily being [having] any kind of real critical support at the time. And then what happens in the ’80s and ’90s, the British genre film had gone completely.

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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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