DID YOU READ

“The Stunt Man” On Blu-ray: The Ultimate “Double” Feature

“The Stunt Man” On Blu-ray: The Ultimate “Double” Feature (photo)

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We don’t think much about stunt men in this business because we’re not supposed to think much about stunt men. But consider what it must be like to risk your life on a daily basis, doing the things they won’t let a guy who looks like a more rich, famous, and handsome version of you do because they’re too dangerous, with no shot at riches, fame or additional handsomeness. That inequity — stars getting adoration for things a stunt man does — could drive a man crazy. And maybe that’s what I like best about Richard Rush’s film “The Stunt Man,” out today for the first time on Blu-ray. It may not be the most accurate depiction of Hollywood moviemaking, but it’s a very believable depiction of the mind of a stunt man. On a bad day, it must feel like the world is out to kill you.

Admittedly, Rush had a lot more on his mind when he made “The Stunt Man” than just plumbing the depths of a body double’s soul. “The Stunt Man” is a classic passion project: overflowing with ideas, bursting with ambition, bloating under the weight of its loose ends. It’s an action film, a deconstruction of action films, a movie about movies, a love story, an anti-war film, a meditation on how perception colors reality, and a Biblical parable about a director as an all-powerful God and a stunt man as his Job-like test subject. “The Stunt Man” isn’t just a movie; it’s every movie. It’s an action director trying to make his “The Tree of Life:” an attempt to distill the totality of the universe and filmmaking into a single microcosmmic story of a single Hollywood production.

That production is run by Peter O’Toole’s mad and madly charismatic film director Eli Cross (O’Toole reportedly based his portrayal on his “Lawrence of Arabia” director David Lean). A grungy Vietnam vet and fugitive from the law named Cameron (Steve Railsback) wanders into the middle of Cross’ movie shoot and accidentally causes the death of a stuntman. Since he can’t afford for the police to shut him down, Cross makes Cameron a deal: replace the dead stunt man and he won’t turn him over to the cops. With no other options, Cameron agrees. But working for a director so unfazed by the death of one employee makes him wonder: would he care at all if it happened again? And with an already damaged psyche from the war and its aftermath, Cameron isn’t in the best frame of mind to be jumping from buildings, leaping from explosions, or play fighting guys with machine guns. One way or another, this job will kill him.

Rush’s presentation of a movie set is less informed by the realities of filmmaking than a cynic’s perverse nightmare of it. Action sequences of the film-within-a-film stretch to near-satirical length and feature long takes of such complexity and barely organized chaos they would make Martin Scorsese howl with jealousy. But it all makes sense when you realize you are seeing this place not as it truly is, but as it appears to one very screwed up and bewildered veteran. The role of point-of-view in film is just one of the many elements of cinematic syntax that Rush gives a good tweaking; note the POV shot early in the film from O’Toole’s perspective as he munches on an apple and delivers the line “That’s your point of view.”

With his autocratic demeanor and penchant for floating in and out of scenes on a camera crane, it’s easy to read Cross as some sort of deity (his last name certainly helps too). Of course, you can also read him as a stand-in for Rush. After all, the themes of Cross’ movie are the same as Rush’s, and the two men seem to share a similar stance on war and a similar obsession with this material. But we should also note that if “The Stunt Man” has a villain, it’s Cross, and that it takes a far more sympathetic view of its lowly stunt man than its brilliant but cruel director. If the film is autobiographical, it’s also a stinging self-critique.

Even as it flails around with aspirations to high art, “The Stunt Man” is still a blast to watch; it has pretentions, but it’s not pretentious. Rush keeps us in the dark about Railsback’s crimes and O’Toole’s motives, inviting us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the confusion. Characters are rarely what they seem, and motivations shift constantly, even within individual scenes. That means even at its worst — and some of Railsback’s love scenes with Cross’ leading lady (Barbara Hershey) are pretty painful — it is always an engaging mind-fuck.

The same goes for the new Severin Blu-ray of the film as well. New exclusive features include a delightful, rambling O’Toole recollecting the making of the film, plus interviews with Rush, Railsback, Hershey, and co-star Alex Rocco, and a post-screening Q&A at L.A.’s New Beverly Theater. The most entertaining extra, though, is one from the long out-of-print collector’s edition of the first “Stunt Man” DVD. Entitled “The Sinister Saga of the Making of ‘The Stunt Man,'” it features unbelievably entertaining anecdotes from the long and messy production and unbelievably cheesy video editing effects of said anecdotes as Rush himself recites them while he walks around his mansion, or gasses up and then flies the camera around on his private jet. The inside baseball details and casual declarations of massive ego (and, y’know, the ride in the private jet!) are so collectively absurd, that the film rivals the mad vibe of Robert Evans’ audibook of “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” “The Sinister Saga” is sort of the perfect sequel to “The Stunt Man:” another messy, passionate statement destined for cult status.

“The Stunt Man” is available today on Blu-ray or DVD from Severin Films. Are you a fan? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter and 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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