DID YOU READ

Miranda July discusses “The Future,” voicing a cat and why adults should use their imagination

Miranda July discusses “The Future,” voicing a cat and why adults should use their imagination (photo)

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Artist/writer/filmmaker Miranda July has been on my radar since 1999, when I discovered her spoken word album The Binet-Simon Test. It includes the track “Lena Beamish,” which is about a talk show about siblings who do daredevil stunts because they can’t feel physical pain. This is the sort of thing I liked listening to on my boombox as a teenager, while I lay on the floor waiting to grow older so my real life as an interesting person could begin.

July’s new film, “The Future,” is all about this waiting game, and the milestones we set for ourselves that we may never reach. Sophie, a dance teacher (played by July), and her boyfriend Jason (the dreamy Hamish Linklater), have been dating long enough that they’re ready for the next level of commitment: they’re going to adopt an injured cat (voiced by July). But Paw Paw isn’t ready to come home just yet, and in the interim, the couple’s life changes dramatically.

IFC: I think something you’ve done really well in your work is conveying the theme of growing pains. You’ve done it with children, and in “Me and You and Everyone We Know” with the teenage characters, and now it’s the growing pains of being in your mid-thirties. It never ends.

MJ: Yeah, and you think…there’s a point at which you become adult.

IFC: And you can stop projecting into when it’s going to be “better.”

MJ: Exactly. I do think I’m hopeful, and there is a sort of buoyancy to that, but I also am thinking the good thing is about to happen and I get there and I’m like, “Oh, this is what the good thing feels like?” I always have to remind myself: when the good thing happens, remember that you may feel bizarrely empty. (laughter)

IFC: You have symbols for growing pains, like in this movie it’s Sophie’s dance with the yellow shirtie, and in “Me and You” when he lights his hand on fire…and there’s this idea of having to exaggerate it so that it can really reach. Even the wig in your story “Something that Needs Nothing.”

MJ: Yeah, it is true that I like, especially for these ideas that are kind of esoteric, to have it be an object, or something that you can fill with meaning, and then the object is that, and you don’t have to keep talking about growing or anything.

IFC: Like you give it weight and mass.

MJ: Yeah. Exactly.

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IFC: I like how you do so many voices. I think that’s what drew me to your CDs back when I was in my bedroom as a teenager.

MJ: Yeah, so for you the cat is not…

IFC: I totally get the cat.

MJ: That’s nice. When I was doing that, I was like, “What am I doing?” This is going to be confusing: I’m Sophie/I’m the cat. And a few people said, “Miranda, this is so what you do. This is connecting it to past work.” And I was like, Oh…is that a good thing? But ultimately, if anyone was going to pull that off, at least it would be someone who wasn’t doing arbitrarily. It comes from a real comfort. I like doing that.

IFC: I was an only child until I was eight, so I used to make radio shows and I would do all the parts…

MJ: I just found one of those tapes actually, of mine, doing the same thing: a radio show. It’s really bad because I’m trying to involve my mom while she’s making dinner and she’s trying to cook and entertain me and…

IFC: And you were being her director.

MJ: Yeah, and she’s like, “Back to you, Sam,” and I’m like, “I’m not Sam, I’m Joe!” And I’m really angry and she’s like, “Oh, sorry, Joe…”

IFC: Do you feel like the way you lived in your imagination then has never stopped? Like some people stop playing make-believe or playing dress-up and they grow up, and for you, you just kept performing?

MJ: To some degree that must be true, but I resist the idea that it’s so childlike, because God, it takes such diligence, you know? And I would like to think that it’s an adult way to be also. So I’m trying to espouse that.

IFC: That it’s a skill and a craft…

MJ: Well that, but also I mean that these things, what if we thought of them as adult things? This kind of curiosity or playing, what if we shifted and thought, “Oh that’s a really mature, thoughtful and appropriate thing to do.” I actually think it’s good for my relationships; it helps me understand myself. I think the way it’s good for children, it’s also good for adults.

IFC: You’ve said that part of your career is about forming this intimacy with your audience, and I’ve noticed that in how you title things for your audience, or you include your audience in your title.

MJ: I use “you” a lot. I know. I think it’s because it works on me. I put this on my blog, but I had passed some graffiti that said “YOU WOULD,” and I felt very called out by it. That pulled me right in. I got away from it with this title (“The Future”), but I have a book coming out in the fall called “It Chooses You.” So now I’m falling back in.

IFC: I also think of your short film, “Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?” When I heard that title, I thought, “Am I?” And then you see the movie and you’re like, “Whose favorite person am I?”

MJ: I know.

IFC: Like the graffiti, it calls you out.

MJ: It’s trying to use self-interest, all of our self-interest, as a tool in a way. A useful tool.


Leigh Stein is a writer and teaching artist. Her first novel, The Fallback Plan, is forthcoming from Melville House in 2012 and can be pre-ordered here.

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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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