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Tribeca 2011: “Limelight,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “Limelight,” Reviewed (photo)

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Billy Corben is the drug documentary kingpin of indie film. He’s made two docs about cocaine, one about marijuana, and now “Limelight,” about New York City’s ecstasy soaked club scene in the 1990s. His particular specialty are films that ape their subject’s pharmacological effects: “Cocaine Cowboys” is twitchy and paranoid; “Square Grouper” is mellow and easygoing to a fault. “Limelight” sends us tripping on a relentless 100-minute roll.

The man who leads us on this journey is Peter Gatien, a one-eyed club empresario from Canada who moved to the US and started opening upscale discos all along the Eastern seaboard. New York, Miami, Atlanta, and then back to New York where he created his crown jewel: Limelight, a massive dance complex housed in a former Episcopal church. The AIDS epidemic of the mid-1980s nearly killed his business, but when a tough guy from Staten Island with the temerity to call him “Lord Michael” brought London’s rave and ecstasy culture to Manhattan in the early 1990s, he made Limelight his headquarters and transformed Gatien’s business into a full-blown empire.

“Limelight”‘s first half is all about the party: the good times, thumping music, and groovy celebrities that made Gatien’s clubs — Limelight, Palladium, Club USA and Tunnel — the places to be in ’90s New York City. But any user will tell you, no high lasts forever. Though Gatien never took money from Lord Michael or any of the other dealers who worked his clubs, he never stopped them either, and he definitely profited from all the customers they brought through his doors. Their behavior was so flagrant — even serving “ecstasy punch” right out of the DJ booth to encourage early arrivals at the club — that police intervention was inevitable. After Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York City in 1994, he put an intense crime prevention program into place. It was only a matter of time before the clubs came into his crosshairs. Gatien’s iconic eyepatch and decadent reputation made him great tabloid fodder and an even better target for the Giuliani administration.

Corben’s last film, “Square Grouper,” suffered from a lack of scope. He had to combine three different stories of the South Florida dope trade that weren’t strong enough to support a movie on their own into one anthology film. “Limelight” is the exact opposite: this is a sprawling, epic tale of vice and sin, with enough fascinating supporting characters and subplots for three movies. In fact, one of the supporting characters here already has had two movies of his own: Michael Alig, the subject of the documentary “Party Monster” and, later, the biopic of the same name. Plus there’s Sean Kirkham, the career informant and gay prostitute who claimed to have slept with the lead prosecutor of Gatien’s case and later tried to sell information about the London subway bombings. And Alessandra, an apparent con artist with multiple identities who Gatien married over the objections and warnings of basically every former Limelight employee who appears in the documentary. The film is a barrage of one unbelievable plot twist after another, strung together by great, candid interviews. In a nice touch, all the talking heads are shot under stark, club-ready neon lighting, even the squares who investigated and prosecuted Gatien for drug distribution.

“Limelight” maintains its momentum from its opening moments — a frenzied montage of news footage narrating Gatien’s early years — to its final ones. With all of the clubs and drugs and subplots, the whole thing could spin out of control very easily. But Corben does an impressive job of streamlining a sprawling crime saga into a digestible piece of pop entertainment. Best to take it with some water though. You know how ecstasy is. You don’t want to get dehydrated.

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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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