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Fall Preview: David Gordon Green talks “The Sitter,” skinny Jonah Hill and if raunchy comedies still play

Fall Preview: David Gordon Green talks “The Sitter,” skinny Jonah Hill and if raunchy comedies still play (photo)

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David Gordon Green has enjoyed an interesting ride in Hollywood, bursting on the scene with heavy dramas like “George Washington” and “Undertow” and then switching to the lighter side of filmmaking with an array of adult-geared comedies. “Pineapple Express” and last year’s “Your Highness” delivered mature themes like drug-dealing protagonists, minotaur penises and naked jungle women, and now Green is turning his attention to the world of babysitting.

In “The Sitter,” out December 9th, Jonah Hill plays an unemployed college student who agrees to babysit his busty neighbor’s children. When Hill is offered a girl’s “vagina,” he drags the kids along to a club where he quickly becomes entangled in a drug deal, thus setting off a vicious race around town.


IFC: Was this a movie that you pretty much figured you’d have to do a red-band trailer for?

DGG: That’s interesting you say that because there was a lot of internal discussion about it. It’s definitely a very R-rated movie, but I have this strange thing where I always try to see if we can’t capture a vulgar sense of humor in a green-band. It was not the agenda to do that at from the get-go. But the more and more we were thinking about who we were trying to grab with the advertisement of the movie. So we decided to do both and do the online red-band.

IFC: I remember you did that with “Your Highness” too.

DGG: Well with “Your Highness” there was really no way to make me happy if it wasn’t a red-band. [laughs[ There was not that very much suitable for all audiences in that film.

IFC: You have one of the last movies with the large version of Jonah. Do you think that makes him funnier?

DGG: With him a lot of his comedy is internal. He has great wit and instincts, so I think once people get over this nice physical change of health for the guy then I think everyone will get over that and still be laughing. He’s a great guy and I think his sense of humor will translate.

IFC: It’s striking how much weight he lost when you’re watching the intro to the red-band.

DGG: I think that’s one of the reasons we did the intro is to let that be known. Let people see that and talk about it, and then let’s get on with the movie. That’s an important thing that people will hopefully come to recognize. And one of the great things about Jonah’s comedy that has nothing to do with his physicality. It’s just his reactions. He’s a great listener as an actor, and reacting and responding to the things people say is where I find the really great strides in what he has to offer comedically. Everyone is just setting him up to have that comic reaction. It’s great to have that verbal wit about him.

IFC: Do you feel the red-band is a pretty consistent take on what to expect from the film?

DGG: The red-band feels like an honest look at what to expect. It’s not a movie that we were really pushing the envelope on. It’s just a movie honestly that we were playing it very realistically. And we don’t use vulgarity for comic effect effect, we use it for reality effect. So we were trying to use a movie where had people saying what people would say in these situations. And yeah sometimes it’s a kid. But I don’t know any 12-year-old that doesn’t a filthy mouth on them. So it’s not often that Hollywood screenwriters iron that out, we let it loose. A lot of this movie is about the situation about a guy taking three kids on a cocaine deal. And then the reaction; it’s a very highly improvised movie. The kids brought a lot to it and Jonah brought a lot to it.

So we were literally just going with what felt real and right and what would come out of their mouth rather than what’s funny. It’s not like we were “Kindergarten Cop.” I remember some scene in that movie where they were exploiting where a kid says the word “penis” or whatever. Is it just literally trying to be what kids would do and say and have fun with it.

IFC: Was there ever a thought of how vulgar or dirty you should go in a movie with kids, or does that not even really matter since like you said, it’s nothing they haven’t heard before?

DGG: Almost every one of my films has had kids in it. My life is surrounded by great group of nieces and nephews and now I’ve got two kids of my own. So I think a lot of it is the actual kids’ maturity and their parents’ acceptance and maturity and seeing what they could handle. When I did this film “George Washington,” which was my first movie where we used the same aged kids, it was dealing with death and subject matter that was heavy and where the parents were accepting of the kids begin mature enough to go there. And in many ways it’s in very much the same thing. It’s just vulgarity instead of grief. Or in “Undertow” I used a lot of violence directed towards kids, and our kids were mature enough to go to sleep at night.

We often joke on all these movies, about what the kid from “The Shining” is doing. How did he integrate back into his life after that? He certainly didn’t integrate into Hollywood. So there’s always those concerns and there’s certainly a million cliches of Hollywood kids that don’t make it out with the best of results, but I do pride myself on running a really ethical ship and having a very family-friendly crew. So bringing kids into the mix in a comfortable way when their parents have a good head on their shoulders, and letting them loose and hear what they have to say. And saying, this is the one time in your life where mom and dad will let you cuss. It’s done with such a smile and so tongue in cheek that I think it’s totally fine.

IFC: When you’re going through the movie is there one scene in particular that kind of blows you away every time you see it?

DGG: I want the perception to really be the comedic kick of the movie because that’s what we’re hanging our hat on and that’s what it is, but there’s great dramatic honestly coming out of these kids. So that’s not probably the best headline for an article but that’s what I’m proud of. There are twists in these kids’ characters that take them to places that I’m really proud that they went that aren’t necessarily zinging one-liners. And there are plenty of those, so anyone with an appetite for kids raising hell, we’ve got it, but then I think what I take pride in is that it goes a step beyond that, so it doesn’t just fall into formula traps, it uses the formula and then put a little spin on it.

IFC: I saw “30 Minutes or Less” which I thought was amazing, but it didn’t do as well at the box office as I was hoping it would. Do you ever feel that there’s a lack of appetite among audiences for a smarter, actiony kind of comedy?

DGG: It is a real question that I couldn’t really say too much without being somewhat cynical about it. I think if timing and engineering and marketing all fall into sync, audiences will go to that place with smart, bold movies. For me there’s a fine line between the art house and the outhouse, as my father tells me. I was watching “Shortbus” this morning thinking about that and the extremes, and what could be considered vulgarity. This is kind a premature, unprocessed reaction to it, but I think if characters that say ugly things or do ugly things are somehow redeemed or they’re justified or people note that as horrible behavior or unlikeable behavior and the audience has people to point fingers at with people on the screen, that makes sense. Whereas there’s a very fine line of mean-spirited, and I think some people don’t want to laugh at things that are somewhat mean-spirited.

So I don’t know. It is a huge difference for me when I’m watching “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” versus when I’m watching “Observe and Report.” One I think is brilliant and one I think is obvious. I think there’s definitely those movies that the audiences will take those leaps with, when a likable actor does an unlikable character or a dramatic actor does a comedic role. Anything that’s throwing the audience a little bit off, sometimes there’s controversy. But ultimately I don’t know. Sometimes I watch the success of a movie and I’ll be like I can’t wait to see it, and I can’t imagine why people are laughing their asses off. And I’m just looking around bewildered. And other times that something you’re stoked about and fired about and everything looks like they’re falling straight-forward, and then it throws you a curveball and falls on its ass. It’s really frustrating. But we can certainly get away with a lot more raunch and comedy than we could 30 years ago, and the envelope is always being pushed.

David Gordon Green’s “The Sitter” opens December 9, and is featured in our 2011 Fall Movie Preview Guide.

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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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