DID YOU READ

“Another Earth,” reviewed

“Another Earth,” reviewed (photo)

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Science-fiction should ask questions. The whole foundation of the genre is speculation: why we’re here and where we’re going, what makes us human and whether those qualities are shared by other life forms in this universe. The problem with modern sci-fi movies is that so few of them can be bothered ask questions. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” doesn’t ask questions, it just makes statements. “This is what a robot looks like.” “This is what it looks like when he transforms.” “This is a big action scene.”

I don’t love “Another Earth” but I appreciate the fact that it asks questions. It presents a premise — that there is another Earth, identical to our own in every way, floating out there in space — and interrogates it. How would someone react to that discovery? What would it mean to someone who felt that their life had gone down the wrong path? And how far would they go to try to fix the mistakes they’d made?

Our someone is Rhoda, played by the film’s co-writer, Brit Marling. On the day this other Earth is first discovered, Rhoda, a college student studying astrophysics, makes a terrible mistake: she drinks and drives. That decision had disastrous consequences on the life of a Yale music professor named John (William Mapother). A few years later, Rhoda has paid for the crime she committed but still feels crushed under the weight of her guilt. She takes a job as a school janitor and spends most of the rest of her time walking around with her sweatshirt’s hood pulled over her head, as if she’s trying to hide away from the world and from herself.

On a whim, Rhoda visits the site of her accident and happens to see John, who is there as well. She follows him home, and learns about what happened to him after their accident. She wants to apologize, but chickens out at the last minute. Instead, she pretends to be a maid and soon she’s regularly coming to clean John’s house. The two begin to talk and grow closer.

Meanwhile, that other Earth is drawing closer and closer to our own. The two planets make contact. They appear to exact duplicates of one another. A wealthy futurist decides to pilot a private space mission to the so-called “Earth 2,” and invites ordinary citizens to submit essays explaining why they deserve to make the journey. Rhoda is intrigued. If she went, could she meet herself? And would that version of herself had made the same bad choices she did? A second Earth might mean a second chance.

All of this could be the basis of a two hundred million dollar blockbuster directed by Roland Emmerich. But director and co-writer Mike Cahill uses this great concept to tell a very different kind of sci-fi story. “Another Earth” is not an outward journey through space but an inward journey through a woman’s tormented soul. Marling is wonderful at evoking Rhoda’s grief, and her relationship with the brooding Mapother is a moving one. Cahill doggedly maintains his microscopic focus; all the exposition we get about Earth 2 is cleverly conveyed through sideways glances at television screens or snippets of overheard radio reports. And the image of that other Earth hanging in our sky, dripping with foreboding or promise, is a beautiful and powerful one.

The problem with “Another Earth” is not the questions it asks, but rather the questions the audience asks of it. Cahill and Marling have, to some degree, put their themes before their characters. In order to pull off this meditation on regret and redemption, they write themselves into a few corners they never really escape. They rely on too many coincidences to connect the dots, and all of the absurdity begins to pull us out of the story.

Suspension of disbelief is a funny thing. It’s easy to buy that there’s another Earth exactly like our own, and that after thousands of years hiding behind the sun it’s suddenly headed our way. It’s easy to disregard the fact that such an event would probably cause environmental catastrophes on a global scale. That we accept. But for some reason, it’s really hard to ignore the fact that John should know exactly who Rhoda is. How can he not know the woman who completely ruined his life? Very late in the film, the screenplay offers an explanation how Rhoda could pull off this massive charade. It’s plausible, but it’s also contrived.

In small, individual moments, “Another Earth” is a beautiful film. The scenes in that Connecticut farmhouse are tender and touching, and Cahill and Marling raise some interesting questions about the human condition. Purely on the basis of its ambition and uniqueness, “Another Earth” is worth watching. It’s just a shame the filmmakers couldn’t figure out a way to bring their characters together that didn’t feel so forced. This movie gives you a lot to think about, and a few things you wish you could forget.

“Another Earth” opens in limited release this Friday. If you see it, let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and .

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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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