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Tribeca 2011: Massy Tadjedin Can Finally Look Past “Last Night”

Tribeca 2011: Massy Tadjedin Can Finally Look Past “Last Night” (photo)

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The irony doesn’t seem lost on Massy Tadjedin that it’s taken over two years to release her directorial debut that takes place over the course of an evening, though if she has her way, the conversation about “Last Night” will outlast both. A prisoner of Miramax’s slate of films that were orphaned when ownership of the company changed hands, the drama stars Sam Worthington and Keira Knightley as Michael and Joanna, a married couple that begin to have their doubts about each other when they’re separated by a business trip where Michael finds himself tempted by a co-worker (Eva Mendes) and Joanna bumps into a former flame (Guillaume Canet).

No stranger to mysteries having previously penned the 2005 Knightley-Adrien Brody thriller “The Jacket” and currently supervising the writing on an adaptation of “Tell No One” author Harlan Coben’s “Long Lost,” Tadjedin finds one with no pat conclusions in “Last Night,” which made it all the more intriguing for the writer/director who creates a story where each part of the love quadrangle reveal themselves not to be what they appear as at first and not every romantic entanglement seems to be resolved before the end credits.

However, there is at least one loose end being tied up with this evening’s premiere of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival, since in addition to presenting the film in New York, the festival’s nascent distribution arm will also bring “Last Night” to theaters around the country on May 6th as well as making it available on VOD now, presumably to torment couples with the same issues as Michael and Joanna right where they live — and ultimately come out as satisfied as Tadjedin is with the final result. With the uncertainty of seeing it released now long behind her, Tadjedin spoke about what led her to become a filmmaker, making the jump from writing to directing, and the limits she placed on herself and more importantly, the ones she didn’t.

Has it been a tough time waiting for this to be released?

When something like this happens, you wonder what the lesson in it is. It’s been a long time because we finished shooting it at the end of ’08. I finished making it in August ’09 by the time we were done with post and then Miramax kind of came apart. Then it was for sale and the selling process was so long, but we finally found a home, which is nice, and if there’s a lesson in it, I suppose you really do just make the film to make the film and then you just trust that it finds its audience. You can’t get hung up on how and when it comes up. You just have to trust that it will.

LastNightKnightleyWorthington_04232011.jpgHow did you get into filmmaking?

I’ve wanted to make films since I was 12, probably because I had immigrant parents and their idea of everything being okay would be if we were just home, so I was allowed to watch anything I wanted as long as I wasn’t going out too much. They didn’t actually censor what I watched, which was great because I would go to the video store and rent pretty much all kinds of things I shouldn’t have been seeing at the age I was watching them at.

But I remember very early on seeing the names at the beginning or the end of the film and thinking, who are those people and how do they get to do that? That seems so fun to me. So I studied English literature and then I began writing – I always wanted to direct, but it took several years of writing to get the credibility to be able to have people trust you enough to direct. Then with “Last Night,” it was a great first film for me because it was really contained and it was manageable for the money that we had. It’s not like I’m blowing up anything.

I remember your producer Nick Wechsler once said it was obvious you were going to be a director. What do you think it was that made it so evident?

It’s never that I wanted to direct out of a sense of frustration as a writer. I always wanted to direct from the beginning and I think that’s so nice what Nick said — I remember the meeting when he told me [that] because I also think very visually in terms of how to execute the story. Also, I think that some of the things that I write are also really specific. Like “Last Night,” if you look at it from afar, it doesn’t even look like a script that would even interest another director. It’s very specific. It has a certain tone, it has a certain feel, has a certain execution. If I could, I would probably do so much more on the film. If I could write music, I would probably want to do that. If I could shoot, I’d probably want to be the cinematographer. I love all of it.

LastNightKnightleyCanet_04232011.jpgWhat is it like getting those new tools when making the jump from writer to director and discovering how to use visuals to do what things words can’t?

When you’re writing, the burden of all the expression for the script stage is on you and on what you can communicate and what you can convey on the page. And obviously, the learning curve on your first film is so steep, but what’s so interesting is that every stage of the making of the film, you see how much of it can be shorthanded by what your collaborators bring to it, especially the actors because it’s like I’ll write two lines of description to try to communicate and convey how a certain look is. Then I’ll follow it up with two lines of dialogue in case the look wasn’t expressed adequately in the script — when you’re shooting it, you just catch it in a millisecond and you have it.

Oftentimes, it’s very different from exactly what you had scripted, but it is what feels truthful to the scene and that’s the kind of stuff you can’t anticipate when you’re writing, but the stuff that makes directing so invigorating because it’s alive. It’s living. When you’re writing, there’s a certain joy, and it is a joy because everything is doable when you’re writing. When you’re directing your options are much more limited, but they’re much more interesting because you just can’t expect or predict all of them.

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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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