DID YOU READ

I Love “I Love Phillip Morris”

I Love “I Love Phillip Morris” (photo)

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When a movie takes a long time to come to theaters after its festival premiere, there’s a tendency to assume the worst. We forget sometimes that festivals are more about heat than quality, and that it’s the hottest movies, not always the best ones, that are most quickly acquired and released. A lengthy interim between festival and release doesn’t necessarily mean a movie is shelved because it’s bad. It might just be a tough sell. I got a big-time reminder of that this week when I watched “I Love You Phillip Morris” by writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

Released late in 2010 almost two full years after its premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, “I Love You Phillip Morris” hybridizes and satirizes several different genres, most prominently the con man movie and the romantic comedy. Jim Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a police officer and family man who has an epiphany one day and decides he can’t live a lie anymore. So he comes out of the closet and moves to Miami. He even gets a couple of adorable little dogs. Things are going well for Steven until his expensive tastes begin to outpace his income. His get rich quick schemes eventually land him in jail, where he meets his soulmate, another gay prisoner named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). “I Love You Phillip Morris” makes fun of a lot of stuff about life and movies, but it doesn’t make fun of Steven and Phillip, or of the idea of two men falling in love. And Carrey and McGregor have absolutely terrific chemistry together. Here is their first meeting.

I’m really kicking myself over waiting so long to see this film because I know and love the directors’ best known work as screenwriters. “Bad Santa” was a movie so brilliantly deranged that at the time it was released some speculated that Ficarra and Requa were actually Roderick Jaynes-esque pseudonyms for the Coen Brothers, who executived produced the movie. What Ficarra and Requa do better than just about anyone except the Coens is blend really dark humor with unforced sentimentality. This next scene is a perfect example. It’s romantic and hysterically funny all at once. It’s also NSFW with lots of profanity, so put your headphones on for this one.

I grew up a Jim Carrey fan, first from watching on “In Living Color” and then all through his early livewire physical comedies like “The Mask” and “Dumb and Dumber.” There was a time when I knew every single line from “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and could act it out as a one man show (and did, on a few pathetic occasions). “I Love You Phillip Morris” is the first time I’ve seen the Carrey I loved as a kid in a film in at least a decade, and he’s fused that manic persona with the brilliant dramatic side he showed in films like “The Truman Show” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

The quintessential Carrey hero is the modern man at total extremes: the man who can’t tell a lie, the man who can’t say no, the man granted godly powers. Steven Russell is the man who can’t tell the truth; sort of “Liar Liar”‘s Fletcher Reede in reverse. But “I Love You Phillip Morris” adds a dimension of genuine emotional drama: Russell’s condition isn’t the result of a kid’s magic wish, or a bored God putzing around our mortal coil, it’s borne of genuine human pathology. Russell knows he has a problem and is powerless to stop it. He’s a little bit of an inversion of Truman from “The Truman Show” as well; instead of the naive innocent at the mercy of a world that is always performing in front of him, Carrey is now the one manipulating everyone around him with deception and lies.

Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for comedy here as well. This scene showcases some great Carrey physicality, and shows off some directorial chops from Ficarra and Requa as well:

The stuff I’d read and heard about “I Love You Phillip Morris” made the film sound a bit one note — following a guy repeatedly trying to break out of jail to reunite with a lost lover — but it’s much more nuanced than that. True, there are some brilliant escape plans, but long stretches feature both Steven and Phillip out of prison, and subversively poke fun at suburban complacency and idiotic corporate culture. They key to any good con man movie is that the film itself has to be as smart as its protagonist. This one is. All of Steven’s lies and deceptions reflect back on his love for Phillip. In some ways, the couple is freer in prison than they are in “polite society,” where they have to keep their relationship secret from the squares Steven works for.

Those scenes also work metatextually as commentary on the film’s struggles at the box office. “I Love You Phillip Morris” earned back all of its budget and more overseas, but made just $2 million dollars domestically. Jim Carrey has almost three million followers on Twitter, which means less than ten percent of them turned out in the U.S. for his best performance in years. I can only assume the film’s stateside flop was because close-minded American audiences still aren’t willing to watch a romantic comedy about two gay men. Those people should reconsider. In a world where romantic comedies have become tiresome and formulaic, “I Love You Phillip Morris” is exactly the kind of rom-com we need. It’s funny, sweet, and, thanks to Russell’s constant con games, wonderfully unpredictable.

“I Love You Phillip Morris” is now available on DVD. You can buy it on Amazon or rent it on Netflix.

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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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