DID YOU READ

“Beautiful Boy,” Reviewed

“Beautiful Boy,” Reviewed (photo)

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“Beautiful Boy” is tough in every sense of the term. A film that deals with the aftermath of a school shooting from the perspective of the parents who raised the assailant, it’s the type of subject matter that would rather be left unexplored by most and doesn’t go out of its way to suggest you sympathize with Kate and Bill (Maria Bello and Michael Sheen), a couple in the suburbs who already sleep in separate rooms after their son Sammy (Kyle Gallner) has left for college.

Keeping up the charade of a connected family has become an afterthought for both parents and son — Sammy barely registers interest when Kate calls to suggest they take a vacation together to Miami after school finishes up and Bill takes his dinner alone in the afternoon after telling Kate, “I think you’re putting a lot of pressure on one vacation.” As it turns out, they never do make it to the beach and one of the most interesting aspects of Michael Armbruster and Shawn Ku’s script is that the cause of the family’s collective unhappiness isn’t dwelled upon, dissipating from the moment an officer arrives at their door to inform them that there’s been a shooting at their son’s college and Kate’s collapse into tears as soon as she hears ominously, “There’s more…”

As a story, “Beautiful Boy” depends on those two words, perhaps too much as its 100-minute running time wears on, since the grieving process isn’t all that cinematic, especially when it’s in the service of a suicidal mass murderer. Yet as a director, Ku often literally gets out of the way of his performers to show the emotional and logistical steps the parents must take to accept their loss and reclaim the lives before, even if they know what they’re going back to is equally unsettled.

MichaelSheenBeautifulBoy_05302011.jpgOwing a debt to the likes of Paul Greengrass, the camera hides behind in corners, from the backseats of cars or over the shoulders of its characters, catching moments, rather than seeking them out, an approach that makes Bill weeping in the shower or Kate’s confusion at hearing a description of her son on television feel tastefully observed rather than mawkishly manipulative. The work of cinematographer Michael Fimognari, who also did an impressive job with the low-budget frat hazing thriller “Brotherhood,” unexpectedly leads to the film’s bravura moment – an unmediated fight in a hotel room between the two, who are forced into seclusion by the media attention – which is unedited and unhinged from any stationary position, as if it’s finally out in the open along with the thoughts of the parents who cling onto memories of who they remember they once were while no longer recognizing the person in front of them.

Bello and Sheen are equally fearless in their performances, though the limitations of their characters’ circumstances and ultimately, the predictability of the story conspire to result in something stagey, where their raised voices drown out a gently constructed narrative when a subtle expression would do. There’s no doubt this is what Ku asked for – the film’s introduction with Sammy reading an essay outlining the potential trouble ahead suggests that there will be punctuation marks instead of periods at the end of “Beautiful Boy” and when they start arriving, it becomes obvious the premise has worn thin, leaving Bello and Sheen with little to play but the broadest of emotions. However, they never resort to playing the victim, a quality that sets “Beautiful Boy” apart, even if it can only stay above the fray for so long.

“Beautiful Boy” opens in New York and Los Angeles on June 3rd.

Do you want to see “Beautiful Boy”? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook

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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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