DID YOU READ

“The Bang Bang Club,” Reviewed

“The Bang Bang Club,” Reviewed (photo)

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This is a strange week to review “The Bang Bang Club.” When I saw the film about ten days ago, it was a biopic about the past, and war photographers in 1990s South Africa. Today it feels like a movie about the present. Sitting here, trying to write about the film, I can’t stop thinking about “Restrepo” director and war photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed earlier this week covering the civil war in Libya. We think of movies as these fixed things. But they change right along with us. When I saw “The Bang Bang Club” ten days ago, I liked it. Now, I feel haunted by it.

The film is about a real-life group of photojournalists who were known as “The Bang Bang Club.” They went into the most dangerous parts of South Africa and took photographs that others were too afraid to get. In the process, they brought a secret war to international attention. There were four members of the group: Greg, Ken, Kevin, and Joao. By the time their careers as war photographers were over, either by choice or because of their deaths, two of them had won Pulitzer Prizes for their work.

Director Steven Silver goes to great lengths to recreate the Bang Bang Club’s pictures in the film, even shooting many scenes in the same locations where the original events took place. Even as simulations, these pictures make an impact. Recreations of township riots and fierce militant gunfights pulse with unsettlingly realistic energy. You can feel the tension in every scene.

Though all the members of the Bang Bang Club were South African, several of the actors in the film are North American. Ryan Phillippe plays Greg, the last addition to the crew and the first to win the Pulitzer. Taylor Kitsch plays Kevin, the open-hearted soul who welcomes Greg in. He frames the narrative with an interview with a radio station. “What makes a photograph great?” the host asks Kevin. He pauses, at a loss for words. The movie that follows provides the answer. You know what they say about pictures and words.

The rest of the Club includes Frank Rautenbach as Ken and Neels Van Jaarsveld as Joao. All four make a convincing tight-knit group of friends and colleagues, and Phillippe and Kitsch’s South African accents are good enough to be unnoticeable, which is good enough. The most physically attractive photojournalism staff ever assembled is rounded out by Malin Akerman as their editor, Robin. A love story brews between Greg and Robin which doesn’t add much to the film, though that might be as much the fault of the real people involved as the screenwriters trying to adapt their messy lives into a manageable narrative. Such are the hazards of biopics.

I would have liked “The Bang Bang Club” to more clearly delineated the various forces fighting for control of South Africa. And I wish it directly confronted the racial component of a film about four white men documenting — and also profiting from — the horrors that legions of black men were visting upon one another. The film is largely apolitical, perhaps by design. The Bang Bang Club saw it as their job to witness and record these events, not necessarily to comment on them.

Give “The Bang Bang Club” credit though. It manages to be an entertaining and illuminating look into the lives of photojournalists without blindly valorizing them as perfect, golden heroes. They may be brave; the may also be thrill-seekers. And the film pays more than lip service to the idea that for all the good that these photographers did, they could have done more. To get the shot that won him a Pulitzer Prize, Kevin Carter had to resist the urge to help a starving child as a vulture circled her. After witnessing Greg’s coldness with some subjects, Robin says he pretends like the people he photographs aren’t even human. Greg doesn’t argue. Does that make his actions — and inactions — inhuman?

Phillippe and Kitsch are both such handsome actors, that it’s easy to forget the actor part and focus on the handsome part. But both give strong performances here that honor the legacies and memories of them men they’re portraying. There’s room for more nuance in “The Bang Bang Club,” but there was enough to keep me engaged. And after this week’s news, the film flooded back to me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

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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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