DID YOU READ

“Hesher,” Reviewed

“Hesher,” Reviewed (photo)

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Hesher is a strangely forgettable film, made even more strange since its final shot is of graffiti that reads “Hesher Was Here.” That’s not a spoiler – Hesher leaves an impression everywhere he goes whether he’s going to return or not. As played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he’s a nihilist who breaks into people’s houses to trash their backyard without reason yet abides by a moral code all his own, making it especially difficult for the 13-year-old TJ (Devin Brochu) to consider him a friend or foe.

For the sake of his father (Rainn Wilson) and his grandmother (Piper Laurie), TJ calls him a friend, though no member of the Forney family really knows why Hesher starts sleeping on their couch for days on end. TJ can only suspect it has something to do with accidentally stumbling into the stringy-haired drifter days earlier while trying to escape a schoolyard bully, and after suffering the loss of their matriarch, no one in the household can muster up the courage to kick Hesher out.

This contrivance gives Spencer Susser’s directorial debut its greatest strength and its biggest weakness as Gordon-Levitt is at the top of his game as the film’s titular character even if the film around him falls apart like so many ashes Hesher has left behind him. Hesher’s gravitational pull isn’t questioned as he heaves tables and sets fires, acts that the Forneys and their local ineffectual supermarket clerk (Natalie Portman), who also befriends TJ, only wish they could do in polite society. But Hesher, the film and the character, is defined by extremes, so having a strong center only magnifies what a dull world that’s created around him, insisted upon by Susser’s eternally sepia-tinged color palette and the characters’ eternal refrain from actually taking action.

Ironically, the foundation of the style here was also present in “Animal Kingdom,” the crime family saga made by David Michôd, one of Susser’s partners in the Blue Tongue Collective, the Australian group of filmmakers who are exciting thus far precisely because of their interest in upsetting the mundane. But Michôd, who is credited as a co-screenwriter on “Hesher,” had a far more interesting setting for his directorial debut, making a slow burn thriller where the outbursts of violence in an otherwise sedate tale of backroom manuevering worked as an interesting contrast to genre conventions, whereas when “Hesher” goes for the profound, it falls into the traps of indie quirk.

There are knowing nods in that direction – Hesher says at one point, “People always ask if I’m speaking in metaphors” after launching into an explanation of why he has only one testicle, and indeed, the testicle that’s gone missing could be an allusion to all the lost souls in “Hesher” with a missing piece. Unfortunately, by speaking around the truth, it feels like truth is absent from the film, an ambiguous search for meaning that disconnects from reality and never really creates a fully-formed alternative. There are lapses in logic — a subplot involving TJ’s interactions with a scrapyard dealer for his mother’s wrecked Volvo is one of the most glaring, and while it’s fun to see Hesher randomly pop up at any time as an apparition would, the lack of storytelling rules begins to drain the film of any narrative tension.

Besides squandering Wilson, who dealt with grief in far more intriguing ways recently in “Super,” “Hesher” is also a missed opportunity for its director Susser, a clearly skilled filmmaker with a sharp eye for composition and a potentially stronger one for observation. Little details sprinkled throughout the film, which gets fine performances out of nearly all its cast, suggest he understands the ripple effects of the smallest gestures – a gentle “whoa” from Portman’s Nicole as Hesher sets a diving board ablaze may be the film’s finest moment. But befitting of a story about a tempermental outsider, “Hesher” is wildly uneven, capable of a few whoa moments of its own when it isn’t getting lost in its cockeyed stab at spirituality.

“Hesher” is now open in limited release.

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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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