DID YOU READ

The Ultimate Dream DVD Commentaries

The Ultimate Dream DVD Commentaries (photo)

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Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel, hosts of the DVD Afternoon podcast, were nice enough to invite me on their show to talk about podcasting and film criticism and assorted other topics. We closed our conversation, which you can listen to here, with a topic so intriguing I thought it was worth extra discussion: dream DVD commentaries. In other words, if time, space, and technology were no obstacle, what people would you like to hear discuss what films in DVD commentary form?

Paul, Heather, and I had some interesting choices, and you can hear them all on the podcast. When I sat down to pick my three choices, I decided to go against anything too super obvious to spice up the show. But I have no problem leaving this blog post unspiced, and my initial shortlist included a lot of highly desirable but totally impossible gimmes. There’s plenty of great possibilities for Classic (But Dead) Filmmakers Exploring Their Most Important Work, from Orson Welles on “Citizen Kane” to Billy Wilder on “Double Indemnity” to Walt Disney on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” or Buster Keaton on “Sherlock Jr.” Of course those would be great. But we can go deeper.

All of my picks on the podcast wound up being in the subcategory that The A.V. Club calls Commentary Tracks of the Damned, tracks for flops, failures, and camp classics. Since so many DVD commentaries are backslapping lovefests, I treasure the ones where filmmakers wrestle with their work publicly, explaining their questionable creative choices and revealing the places where studio heads or censors impinged on their work. For example, as part of my 25 Oldest Looking Teenagers piece, I just watched the commentary by director David Nutter on the film “Disturbing Behavior.” Though spoken through a somewhat rose-tinted microphone, Nutter’s commentary explains the various places where executives demanded changes, like the unwarranted happy, sequel-threatening ending. I wouldn’t recommend the movie by itself, but I would recommend the commentary.

DVD Afternoon co-host Heather brought up a good area for dream DVD commentaries I hadn’t even considered: Notoriously Troubled Productions. In reality it might be impossible to convince a director to record a commentary track for a movie that was taken away from him in the editing room, or an actor to talk about the movie he got fired from. But in the world of Dream DVD Commentaries anything is possible. I like the idea of using the power of God to lock people in a room together and forcing them to talk against their will about a film (admittedly, my ambitions as a deity are small in scope). How about a “Back to the Future” commentary track featuring Michael J. Fox and the guy he replaced as Marty McFly a month into production, Eric Stoltz? Or how about a group commentary by all three credited directors on “Gone With the Wind?” Or all six directors of the James Bond spoof “Casino Royale?” Or what about getting director Michael Cimino and former SVP of production for United Artists Steven Bach to sit down for all 219 minutes of the studio bankrupting flop “Heaven’s Gate?” I lament the fact that there are so few DVD commentaries that end with the contributors coming to blows.

The last area of impossible awesomeness is one I thought of after we stopped recording the podcast: Historical Figures On The Movies About Them. That’s another subgenre of commentary of which there are precious few examples. But how amazing would it be to hear Richard Nixon’s reactions to “All the President’s Men?” Or Mark Zuckerberg on “The Social Network?” Houdini on “Houdini?” Spartacus on “Spartacus?” Granted the first half hour of that last one would probably just be him flipping his wig over the concept of movies and television and DVDs and doors with hinges. But it’s a long movie.

Yes, this is all wasted breath and key strokes on things that can by definition never come to pass. But it’s fun to imagine the impossible sometimes. So how about it readers? What Dream DVD Commentary do you crave?

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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.
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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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