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Match Cuts: “Sin City”

Match Cuts: “Sin City” (photo)

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In Match Cuts, we examine every available version of a film, and decide once and for all which is the one, definitive cut worth watching. This week, in honor of Robert Rodriguez‘s new “Spy Kids” movie, “All the Time in the World,” we’re looking at the director’s adaptation of the graphic novel series “Sin City.”

EDITIONS:
-Theatrical Cut (2005): 124 minutes
-Recut, Extended, Unrated Cut (2005): 147 minutes (sort of)

THE STORY:
Maybe “The Stories” is more accurate here; “Sin City” began its life as a series of noir comic books by writer/artist Frank Miller set in the corrupt and venal town of Basin City. The adaptation, directed by Miller and Rodriguez, brings four of those stories to life. In “The Customer is Always Right,” a man with ulterior motives (Josh Hartnett) seduces a woman (Marley Shelton) at a party. In “The Hard Goodbye,” a hideous mook named Marv (Mickey Rourke) seeks to avenge the murder of a kindly prostitute (Jaime King). “The Big Fat Kill” follows Dwight (Clive Owen) as he tries to clean up a mess caused by a couple of not-so-kindly prostitutes and a sadistic police officer (Benicio del Toro). Finally, “That Yellow Bastard” features Bruce Willis as Hartigan, a good cop, framed for child molestation by a sick pervert (Nick Stahl) whose father is the corrupt senator (Powers Boothe) who runs Basin City.

REASON FOR MULTIPLE VERSIONS:
Technology more than anything else. There’s certainly no great narrative reason — Dimension didn’t force Rodriguez and Miller to lose one of their short stories for the sake of a more commercial runtime or anything like that — nor are there any major censorship concerns. In fact, even though the “Sin City” Special Edition’s “Recut, Extended, and Unrated” cut boasts that it is, yes, unrated, it doesn’t contain any significant additions of violence or sexuality. I’m quite sure it’s unrated only because Dimension didn’t submit it for a rating; if they had, it surely would have received exactly the same rating as the Theatrical Cut. Mostly this is just Rodriguez, a guy who loves big DVDs with comprehensive special features, giving the hardcore fans of the film an extra version that breaks up the film’s four stories and presents them like individual episodes in an anthology mini-series.

KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MULTIPLE VERSIONS (SPOILERS AHEAD):
The disappointing part of the Recut, Extended, and Unrated Cut (henceforth the REU Cut) is that there really aren’t any key differences. Although the DVD packaging boasts that the REU Cut features “over 20 minutes” of new footage, that claim is extremely misleading, even if technically true. Three of the four stories are in fact extended. But basically 13 of the 20 new minutes are redundant credits sequences added to the end of each individual episode. In other words, the Theatrical Cut has one end credits sequence. The REU Cut has four.

The seven new minutes of actual content do very little to change the experience of the movie. At best they are inconsequential and at worst they were wisely cut for pacing by Rodriguez and Miller in the first place. Returning them to the film does it no favors. There’s no reason we need to know that Marv has hidden his beloved pistol Gladys in his mother’s house, and while it’s sort of cute to see this big tough guy tiptoeing around so his mom won’t hear him, the film flows better without it.

The same goes for the following scene from the beginning of Hartigan’s tale. The Theatrical Cut dissolves from Hartigan seemingly dying from his wounds to the beginning of Marv’s story. Then after “The Hard Goodbye” and “The Big Fat Kill” we return to Hartigan waking up in the hospital to the sound of Powers Boothe’s voice, a nice surprise if you’re unfamiliar with the books, and a clever way to approximate for the audience the feeling of time being ripped away from the character. In the REU Cut, where “That Yellow Bastard” stands on its own, those two beats are connected by a montage of visitors to Hartigan while he’s in the hospital, including his wife.

The REU “Big Fat Kill” includes one interesting extension. The story begins in the apartment of a waitress named Shellie (Brittany Murphy), who is being pestered by an ex-boyfriend named Jackie (del Toro) and a couple of his buddies. Jackie goes to the bathroom, and the goons start harassing Shellie, who defends herself with a kitchen knife. In the Theatrical Cut, that’s where the scene ends, on a striking close-up of Murphy, blade drawn, threatening to cut the “little pecker off” anyone who tries to touch her. In the REU Cut, there’s an additional beat, as we cut to a reverse angle on the buddies, who are unimpressed by her threats. One even draws a gun on her to shut her up. The Theatrical Cut makes Shellie a stronger and more imposing character, while the REU version diminishes her power. In a movie that doesn’t exactly present the most flattering or progressive portrait of women to begin with, cutting that scene short and giving Shellie a chance to be something more than a poor, helpless “dame,” was probably the right decision.

The one REU Cut addition I really like is also totally inessential and very brief. It comes during “The Hard Goodbye,” when Marv enters Kadie’s Bar looking for clues in the death of the prostitute.

Again, this beat, where Marv beats up “Weevil” to draw the attention of underworld characters with knowledge of his lover’s death, is totally unnecessary. But Weevil (note the animal nickname), described by Marv as “something small and hairy,” looks an awful lot like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and the beat of Marv handily kicking the crap out of this guy who looks like one of the most famous (and famously tough) movie super-heroes feels a little like one cartoonist pissing on another’s territory in a way I find very charming.

IF YOU ONLY WATCH ONE VERSION OF “SIN CITY,” WATCH:

The Theatrical Cut. The ability to watch each “Sin City” story separately sounds like a nice luxury on paper — not to mention a logical one, since Miller wrote and released each book separately — but the chapters work better together. The second half of “The Customer is Always Right” doesn’t make any sense if you don’t watch it after “The Big Fat Kill,” and “That Yellow Bastard” works really well as the bookend to the other two longer stories.

Calling the verison of “Sin City” on the DVD the Recut, Extended, Unrated Cut is wildly misleading, even if it’s also factually accurate. The movie isn’t so much recut as disentangled, its extensions are needless and minor, and even if the extra scenes had featured a ton of nudity or gore — which they don’t — they wouldn’t have changed much, since the movie was already a super-hard R to begin with.

The Theatrical “Sin City” is still a marvel: it’s bleak and beautiful, violent and poetic, funny and sorrowful. When this movie came out in theaters it didn’t look or sound like anything else; six years later, it still doesn’t (I’m sorry, you say Miller made a similar looking movie about “The Spirit?” I’ve never heard of it. Nope, doesn’t exist as far as I know). “Sin City”‘s not perfect but its imperfections are the stuff of Miller’s personal and occasionally distasteful vision, not studio meddling. The REU Cut is a nice luxury I guess, but a pointless one. It’s so similar to the theatrical version that even calling it an entirely different cut of the film feels like a sin.

Which version of “Sin City” do you prefer? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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