Restaurant Florent, to be exact, a funky diner-slash-brasserie-slash-bistro in New York’s Meatpacking District. Owned and operated by French transplant Florent Morellet since the mid-1980s, the place was a haven for artists, eccentrics, outsiders, and regular neighborhood folks for several decades. As the documentary “Florent: Queen of the Meat Market” opens, all sorts of celebrities and cultural elites pay homage to the place, many of them standing right in front of the restaurant. That’s where we see the stencil on the window: “Serving 24/7 until the bitter(sweet) end: June 29.” And then below it in all capital letters: “AU REVOIR.” So we know this movie does not have a happy ending.
The story of “Florent” is a story of New York City; in other words, a story of change. When Morellet moved to the Meatpacking District it was still a working meat market. Almost singlehandedly, according to this film and the people in it, Morellet turned the area into the coolest place in town. Whether that is overstating the case, it’s clear that Morellet is a true renaissance man: a restauranteur, a political advocate, a cartographer, an artist, a philanthropist, even a children’s book author. He’s also got at least a few contradictions at his core: he loves preserving and restoring old things (like his diner, which he bought from its original owners, or the largest fireboat on the eastern seaboard, which he bought from the FDNY), but he hates nostalgia in all its forms. Given how intensely nostalgic this film is for his restaurant and for the days when the Meat Packing District was a haven for artists instead of yuppies, I wonder how he feels about it.
Yes, here’s yet another disaster we can blame on yuppies. Morellet was ultimately a victim of his own success; the transformation he helped create in the neighborhood eventually priced him out of his own restaurant. It’s a familiar story these days. Earlier this week the Upper East Side institution Elaine’s announced it, too, was closing after decades in the business. These amazing, unique places make it safe for banks and stores and cupcake bakeries; once they’ve brought in the money, they’re given the boot.
Director David Sigal lets his affection for Florent shine through, and he’s assembled a truly impressive list of celebrity testimonials, from Julianne Moore to Diane von Furstenberg to Isaac Mizrahi. His one mistake, I think, is to backload all of the actual narrative in the film — Morellet’s struggle to renew his expiring lease, his eventual decision to close, and his six week celebration of the artists and customers who made his restaurant special — into his documentary’s final 20 minutes. The rest of “Florent” is one endless series of talking heads and quirky anecdotes. It may have made more sense to organize the entire film around the closing, which then becomes the impetus to journey through the place’s history. It also would have been nice to see more of Morellet living his day to day life, rather than just constantly explaining what his day to day life is like. For documentary about such an unusual man, this is not a very unusual film.
Still, it is a fairly entertaining one, and for New Yorkers, a good conversation starter on the state of our city. Should we preserve places like the Meat Packing District? Or do we let progress and prosperity take their course? Maybe the most interesting thing about “Florent” is the fact that the film and its subject might have totally different answers to these questions.
Tenacious D is very animated about this year’s Festival Supreme, which returns to Los Angeles for a third awesome year on Saturday, October 10th. With a line-up that includes Amy Poehler, The Kids in the Hall, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunion, Aubrey Plaza, The Darkness and many more, can you blame them?
Now all they have to do is get to Festival Supreme in time to get the party started. And you can follow along as Tenacious D hit the road in a new animated mini-series.
In episode one, tragedy strikes when The D finds out the IFC jet has been double booked. (Maron strikes again!) How will they get to Festival Supreme now?
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You Just Watched:
“Florent: Queen of the Meat Market,” Reviewed
As the dynamic duo makes their way to California, someone crashes their road trip—literally.
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You Just Watched:
“Florent: Queen of the Meat Market,” Reviewed
The Kids in the Hall may have forgotten to get their passports, but that will never stop them from making it to Los Angeles’ Shrine Expo Hall & Grounds by Saturday, October 10th.
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You Just Watched:
“Florent: Queen of the Meat Market,” Reviewed
Will the gang be able to make it to Festival Supreme in time? Watch below, and be sure to grab tickets and follow IFC on Twitter for more updates on Festival Supreme 2015.
Ever wonder if Jackie, Kelso, Fez, Donna, Hyde, and Eric ever made it out of Red‘s basement? According to James Franco, those dumbasses definitely did not.
In a new episode of AOL’s “Making a Scene with James Franco,” the actor peered into the future of the gang from That ’70s Show to see what they’d be up to if the show actually continued into their 70s. Turns out they’re still sitting around the basement, sharing a joint, and listening to some of the Steve Miller Band’s greatest hits.
In the sketch, aptly called “That 70s ’70s Show,” Franco plays both a stoned, elderly Kelso as well as a nostril-hair heavy Eric Forman. The only member of the crew who has made it out of the basement is Donna, who has sadly passed away into a higher plane of existence (yes, it’s possible for them to get higher) leaving Eric to mourn the loss of his one true love.
Many fans don’t realize that That ’70s Showis set in an actual historical era. The ’70s really happened, although not in the way that people who lived through them remember it. The show occasionally refers to real 1970s events, social trends, and cultural icons, all through the lens of the Forman family and the gang of basement-dwelling misfits. Here are a few occasions on That ’70s Show when the real world showed through the smoky haze.
1. The Gas Crisis
During the early 1970s, an oil embargo made gasoline prices skyrocket to over 50 cents per gallon. Americans realized they were at the mercy of foreign oil producers, a situation referred to today as “That’s How It’s Always Been, Right?” In the pilot episode of That ’70s Show, Eric ends up getting the iconic 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser as a result of what Kitty calls “The Gas Crisis.” Red has been forced to buy a Toyota to save fuel, but Eric is glad to get the old gas-guzzling Cruiser, even if it is a “pump- sucker.” Happily, that phrase did not survive the ’70s.
Running around naked—the norm for 90 percent of human prehistory—experienced a sudden resurgence as a fad in the 1970s. In 1974 there was even a streaker at the Academy Awards, where host David Niven joked about the man showing his “shortcomings.” On That ’70s Show, a visit from President Gerald Ford prompts the gang to give streaking a try. The show used a digitized Smiley Face to hide Topher Grace’s, uh, shortcomings, although for the record, it was a rather large Smiley Face.
Carsey Werner Productions
The 1970s were a time of often shocking transformations and radically changing gender roles—and that’s just David Bowie. In 1973, 55 year-old male tennis star Bobby Riggs lost a “Battle of the Sexes” match to Billie Jean King. That ’70s Show tackled the growing feminist movement in the “Battle of the Sexists” episode. Donna consistently beat Eric in sports and games, leading Eric and his friends to question his masculinity. This was long before society realized that it’s not who wins the game, it’s who gets paid 30 percent more to play it.
Disco fever swept the country in the 1970s, creating a huge boom for suppliers of mirror balls, polyester suits, and tiny glass vials. By 1976, when the first season of That ’70s Show is set, the craze had even infiltrated heartland towns like Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the gang ventured to shake their groove things. By Season Eight — and by 1979 in real life — an anti-disco backlash had led to public burnings of disco records, lending the phrase “Disco Inferno” a literal meaning.
5. Gay Rights
In 1970s Wisconsin, leisure suits weren’t the only things that were kept in the closet. The modern Gay Pride movement took off during the ’70s, when the first Pride Day was celebrated in 1970 in the wake of the Stonewall Riots of the previous year. That first year, marches were held in New York, LA, Chicago, and San Francisco. It took a while longer for Gay Pride to reach Point Place, Wisconsin. When Eric’s new lab partner, Buddy (played by a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt) turns out to have a crush on him, Eric has to deal with something the actor’s fans would be totally fine with now.
6. The Pill
In the ’60s and ’70s, oral contraceptives — or simply “The Pill” — revolutionized sex. Amazingly, contraceptive pills were not available to unmarried women in all states until a 1972 Supreme Court decision. But after that and before the AIDS crisis hit in the ’80s, there existed a golden age of easy and worry-free sex. Of course, on sitcoms, nothing is ever easy or worry-free, especially sex. The episode “The Pill” is an exciting “whodunit,” at least in one sense of the term. The show spoofed parental fears of their daughters’ newfound sexual liberation with an old-timey instructional film with the double entendre title “Open for Business.”
In the world of video games, before anyone hit on the blatantly obvious idea of having two Italian plumbers as the protagonists, there was only Pong, where two upright lines did battle with a moving dot. Oh, it also went “boop.” This concept was too simpleminded even for Kelso, who takes it upon himself to improve Red’s Pong game and turns out to be something of a Pong savant. On the upside, nobody ever accused Pong video games of making kids violent, unless they lashed out from sheer boredom.
8. The Recession
The 1970s were a time of economic stagnation, hardship, and high unemployment… just like now, except in those days you sent a typed resume to the HR department (who were known as Personnel department) and two weeks later you received a typed rejection letter. In Season Two of That ’70s Show, Red loses the job at the plant where he had worked for years. Set adrift, Red joined a whole generation of guys who thought they would work a factory job all their lives, only to end up living in a Bruce Springsteen song.
9. CB Radio
In Season Two, Kelso put a CB radio in his van to meet hot chicks. In the ’70s, CB radio amazed people by allowing them to talk to each other in their vehicles. The technology was so impressive it hardly mattered that most of your conversations were with truckers on a 4-day amphetamine binge. Thanks to the hit 1975 song “Convoy,” the ’70s echoed with trucker CB slang like “Breaker, breaker,” “Bear in the air,” “10-4 Good buddy,” and other things that made modern texting abbreviations like LOL and OMG seem like Marcel Proust.
10. Cable TV
In the 1970s, deregulation of the cable TV industry lead to the rapid expansion of cable to ever-increasing numbers of subscribers. By the end of the decade cable reached over 16 million households. One of them was the household of Red Forman, who finally broke down in Season Six and got cable TV, which was promptly hijacked to the basement by Hyde. Once confined to a handful of broadcast stations, thanks to cable our nation now finally has an adequate supply of WWII documentaries, cooking shows, and airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.
11. Space Invaders
Most of the 1970s was the era of pinball with its silver ball, flippers, buzzers, bells, and lights a-flashing. But as the decade waned, change was in the air, and the age of video arcade games dawned with powerhouse shooting games like Space Invaders. During Season Four of That ’70s Show, Kelso was behind the curve, buying a stake in the pinball machine at The Hub. Fez turned the Bally tables on him by having the pinball machine replaced by a brand new Space Invaders game, which had just launched in 1978. And Space Invaders would continue to delight gamers for decades, at least until the release of the Adam Sandler vehicle Pixels in 2015.
In the era before television shows were streamed, downloaded, or DVR’d, they were watched on a device called a television. Then in the mid-70s, manufacturers introduced the first home video cassette recorders. This enabled viewers to watch the Tony Orlando & Dawn Rainbow Hour while recording Baa Baa Black Sheep (and yes, some sadist actually scheduled those two shows against each other on Tuesdays at 8 in 1976). That ’70s Show paid homage to this era in an episode where Red buys a Betamax videotape recorder. Beta was a doomed technology, beaten out by the technically inferior but better-marketed VHS. Red’s Betamax is undoubtedly in a landfill somewhere alongside his 8-track tape and Laser Disc players.
No, not like today’s marijuana, where you take a doctor’s note to a dispensary and vaporize a pinch of connoisseur cannabis that could incapacitate a herd of wildebeests. In the ’70s, pot was illegal, cheap, and you needed to smoke up a Dust Bowl-sized cloud to get a buzz. And back then, pot was treated just like it was treated in many states today —everybody was obviously smoking it, but it was technically taboo, so it was never mentioned. The gang sat in the famous “Circle” in a cloud of smoke every episode for eight seasons without explicitly saying what they were explicitly doing. Not until the finale of Season Seven did Red catch the kids, and even then it was never flat out stated what he caught them doing. Marijuana goes down as the biggest — and uncredited — star of That ’70s Show.
It was a convergence of comedy giants when three alumni from both Mr. Show and W/ Bob and David sat down and chewed the fat for a recent episode of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast. Host Scott Aukerman welcomed co-creators Bob Odenkirk and David Cross to talk about their return to the TV sketch comedy foray as well as recount some anecdotes from their early years on the landmark HBO series. (Frequent Comedy Bang! Bang! guest Paul F. Tompkins was also on hand to provide some behind-the-scenes stories while his pious doppelganger Reverend Robert Parsimony bemoaned the War on Christmas.)
Between the two interviews, the episode is packed to the Earwolf-ian gills with behind-the-scenes tidbits — like Bob didn’t want the new show to reference Mr. Show at all and that Portlandia‘s Fred Armisen can do a killer Odenkirk impression. With so many stories shared, here are five things we learned from this Bob and David-tastic episode of the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast.
1. W/ Bob and David was originally going to be a live tour.
Before the show was underway, Bob and David were planning on doing a live tour for a 20-year Mr. Show reunion. But after sussing out the workload, rehearsal time, and travel, they realized they might just as well do a standalone series. And as a bonus, according to Bob, they wouldn’t be inundated with fans from the cities they just performed in, asking, “When are you coming to our town?”
2. With cast members older and wiser, pre-production went very smoothly.
Considering it had been a decade-and-a-half since Mr. Show went off the air, David remarked that there was a bit of trepidation prior to the first writers meeting. However, the cast immediately fell into their old dynamic with the added benefit of experience and maturity, which quashed any fears of hurting someone’s feelings if their sketches were shot down.
3. But that didn’t stop Scott from pranking Bob in the first meeting.
In the interim between series, careers flourished and responsibilities increased — especially for Bob, who became involved with many projects as a leading actor and producer. But that level of success comes with a multitude of interruptions, which Bob and the crew discovered when his phone wouldn’t stop ringing even before the first script was read. And as Paul F. Tompkins revealed on the podcast, Scott used Bob’s frequent phone calls as an excuse to pull one of his patented pranks. Just as Bob began to settle into the meeting, Scott called Bob’s phone as a playful dig to everyone’s favorite TV lawyer.
4. Scott, Bob, and David each have different favorite sketches.
During Bob’s interview, he related that his favorite W/ Bob and David sketches were “Salesman” and “Extra Beatle,” the latter possessing a level of silliness he doesn’t get to see anywhere else. David chose “Better Roots” as his favorite fully-formed sketch but mentioned Bob as the Pope made him laugh the hardest during the editing process. As for Scott, he enjoyed the infamous “C-Word” sketch the most and said writer Dino Stamatopoulos created such a definitive sketch that the subject should never be touched again.
5. Nobody wanted to waste time and energy on linking sketches.
One of the defining aspects of Mr. Show was how well the main sketches were linked together as a cohesive whole. But that was a grueling process for the writing team who, after hours agonizing, relied on several “pulling out from the TV” links into the next sketch. This time around, everyone agreed that they wouldn’t spend nearly as much time working toward that perfect link and instead shifted their focus to the main sketches.