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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.