DID YOU READ

“Blank City,” Reviewed

“Blank City,” Reviewed (photo)

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Although it’s an unfortunate turn of phrase given the era, the best way to describe the documentary “Blank City” is still as something of a gateway drug when it comes to the late ’70s, early ’80s underground film scene in New York. It’s easy to tell this since it’s obvious French director Celine Danhier recreates her own experience of discovering the no-budget avant garde movement known as “No Wave” cinema in her documentary, presenting one snippet of rare footage after another, teasing the audience with clips of Michael Holman’s self-descriptive “Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ” and Charlie Ahearn’s groundbreaking hip-hop flick “Wild Style” and having such personalities as Deborah Harry and Steve Buscemi talk about what a wild and crazy time it was.

It’s the shortcoming of “Blank City” that it isn’t as adventurous in mirroring the era the film documents, settling into a style where the era’s survivors talk about the crazy things that happened in the usual talking head format at a remove in new interviews, but when you have alternative culture iconoclasts like Richard Hell, Nick Zedd and Jim Jarmusch onhand, it’s still enough to keep things lively, especially when they’re placed next to clips of a woman pounding a nail into her head in Vivienne Dick’s “Guerillere Talks” or “The Long Island Four,” the late Anders Grafstrom’s film about Nazis who make their way to America.

The title, of course, is a reference to Hell’s punk band The Voidoids’ song “Blank Generation” and the film of the same name that inspired in 1980. As it’s repurposed by Dahnier, it suggests the bombed out Lower East Side of Manhattan as a canvas on which filmmakers, locked arm in arm with the vibrant music and art scenes that were simultaneously going on, were allowed to express themselves freely and created a body of work that would ultimately prove influential as well as unusually important anthropologically, as films like the Jean-Michel Basquiat starrer “Downtown 81” and Richard Kern’s walking tour “Goodbye 42nd Street” captured the economically plagued area gave way to artistic experimentation.

At first, “Blank City” feels as though it’s going to chronicle everything, which would be unnecessary since recently there’s been a wave of documentaries about the era such as “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” and “Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB” that have covered similar territory while concentrating on one medium, though ultimately “Blank City” wisely does the same. Out of the clips and interviews emerges a fascinating history of how a group of radical filmmakers were able to beg, borrow and steal equipment and film stock to create content and distribute it themselves through the New Cinema on St. Marks, director Becky Johnston’s makeshift video theater that would show the films nearly moments after they were shot. And though the films were tossed off quickly after being produced, they were thought through as reactions to what the filmmakers saw in mainstream cinema, rectifying gender and racial imbalance and not afraid to be overtly political.

There’s no doubt it was difficult for Dahnier to track down many of the films today, which is part of “Blank City”‘s great appeal, as much if not more so than tales of how Jarmusch dragged houseguest Basquiat under the frame to keep him out of “Permanent Vacation” or Zedd making an autobiographical film about his ex-girlfriend Lydia Lunch dumping him starring the actress as herself. While that may be frustrating for those who want to delve deeper into “No Wave” cinema, it’s almost appropriate that even in a history of such a transient cinematic movement, you’re only treated to brief glimpses.

“Blank City” is now open in New York before opening on May 6th in Denver and Chicago.

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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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