DID YOU READ

Tribeca 2011: “Jesus Henry Christ,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “Jesus Henry Christ,” Reviewed (photo)

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When Dennis Lee made his first film a few years back called “Fireflies in the Garden,” he made one brilliant hiring decision. It wasn’t Ryan Reynolds or Willem Dafoe, who both starred in the film, but rather the cinematographer Danny Moder, who had but a few credits as a DP to his name and also a wife named Julia Roberts, who took a supporting role in the drama. As it stands, the film has never been released in America, the first of Roberts’ never to do so – and to be fair, the company with the film’s rights went belly up, which had the unintended consequence of making “Jesus Henry Christ” Lee’s debut in his home country, though it may very well be seen by just as few people.

While Roberts doesn’t actually appear onscreen in “Jesus Henry Christ,” it’s her production company (Red OM Films) that made it and should be mentioned, not because it’s intended to be mean to Ms. Roberts or anyone involved, but it goes a long way towards explaining how a disaster like this comes into being. Granted, it was based on a Student Academy Award-winning film by Lee as a Columbia grad student, but without Roberts’ involvement, this film wouldn’t be able to cast Toni Collette and Michael Sheen only to waste them, it would lose its provocative but ultimately empty title, and most likely sit somewhere in the middle of the pile of scripts that holds up the weak end of a producer’s desk. (If it’s of any comfort, Roberts does see a return on her investment in Moder since the film’s visuals are its one redeeming quality.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and that’s perhaps because I’m at a loss for how to describe “Jesus Henry Christ.” Maybe a good place to start is the Post-it notes. Multicolored and arranged perfectly around the office of Dr. Slavin O’Hara (Sheen), they may be the best encapsulation of what the film is. You see O’Hara may or may not be the paternal father of Henry (Jason Spevack), a genius child with a photographic memory that has come to seek him out since the only question he doesn’t have an answer for is how he was actually conceived. His mother Patricia (Collette) was a bra-burner in her day, not to mention a daughter who saw her mother burned to a crisp when her father doused her with alcohol in a birthday cake-related incident when she was 10, so she conceived via test tube to avoid males completely.

Now, Henry’s ten himself and she lacks the fire to keep him from searching for his biological father. He doesn’t have to look far as he discovers O’Hara’s book “Born Gay or Made That Way?” and O’Hara in a local bookstore. Conveniently, as a professor at a nearby university, O’Hara doesn’t look far for his subjects, either. His first book was based on studying his daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein), who’s mercilessly teased at school as being a “lesbo” after its publication. Once again O’Hara pulls out the Post-it notes for Henry because he lacks the memory to document the wunderkind otherwise.

But Lee has an ulterior motive for the Post-it notes, which are used ultimately to stage a climactic scene where during a storm where O’Hara flings open his office’s windows so that the Post-it notes can swirl around the professor like a rainbow. It isn’t the only 360° shot in the film – the first time the full quartet goes out for lunch, the camera goes round and round the table to document their clear unease with each other, though the main reason your head will spin is from all the BS psychobabble thrown in the direction of the audience.

However, all this motion doesn’t actually move the film forward, nor do digressions like visits with a jive-talking, dashiki-wearing white secretary at the sperm bank, a 10-minute conversation between Henry and his American grandfather in Spanish, or references to Jonathan Frazen being a hack. To Lee, they share the colors of the Post-it notes, bright pastels that burst in every direction, but exist only as messy individual thoughts that never coalesce into a whole.

Mistaking style for substance, “Jesus Henry Christ” would seem to want to tell the story of a makeshift family brought together by unusual circumstance, but the film only winds up pulling them apart, allowing each character to exist only in their private world where they can be a collection of quirks and insecurities rather than identifiable human beings who could possibly relate to each other or anyone else. When the film’s ending finally rolls around with a completely out-of-context admonishment to “Be the change we want to see in the world,” it becomes a sad self-reflexive commentary on how a film that tries so hard to be different ends up being so very average and one that isn’t memorable even with a stack of Post-its.

“Jesus Henry Christ” currently does not have U.S. distribution. It will play the Tribeca Film Festival on April 27th and 30th.

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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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