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Match Cuts: “Troy”

Match Cuts: “Troy” (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 Brad Pitt’s role in the recently released baseball drama “Moneyball” we’re taking a look at the epic war film “Troy.”

EDITIONS:
Theatrical Cut (2004): 163 minutes
Director’s Cut (2007): 196 minutes

THE STORY:
After years of fighting, the kingdoms of Sparta and Troy reach a peace accord. But the morning after the alliance is formed, Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) leaves Sparta with the Spartan queen, Helen (Diane Kruger). The king of Sparta, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), is none too pleased; he convinces his power-hungry brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox), ruler of all of Greece, to join him in an invasion of Troy. Though the war between Greece and Troy is an epic affair with thousands of combatants, its outcome will ultimately rest on the fate and fighting skills of two men: Paris’ older, wiser brother Hector (Eric Bana) and Achilles (Brad Pitt), the world’s greatest warrior and an extremely reluctant soldier for Agamemnon.


REASON FOR MULTIPLE VERSIONS:

In an 2007 interview with IGN, Wolfgang Petersen blamed the necessity of a “Troy” Director’s Cut on “the pressure of a timed release.” He added, “It’s all about previews and studio notes. Short attention spans. Too sexy; too violent. We need a PG-13… and all of a sudden, you don’t realize that you are working exactly against the spirit of the original material.” That counterproductive spirit apparently produced the two hour and forty-five minute version of “Troy” that was released in theaters (it was rated R, though, not PG-13). The film’s successful run at the box office — almost $500 million worldwide — ensured that Petersen got the opportunity to rectify the mistakes he felt he made in the original cut.

KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MULTIPLE VERSIONS (SPOILERS AHEAD):
The key difference between the two “Troy”‘s can be summed up in one word: “more.” There’s more graphic violence in the battle scenes and more graphic nudity in the sex scenes. There are more scenes in total, and there’s more dialogue in the existing scenes. The Director’s Cut clocks in at a whopping three hours and fifteen minutes: a full half-hour longer than the Theatrical Cut. If I listed every difference between the cuts we’d be here for a week — there are literally hundreds of them (if you’re curious, this site has a pretty thorough accounting, spread across two ginormous pages). So let’s stick to the big’uns

The Director’s Cut is different right from the opening frames. After a few identical expository title cards, it inserts a totally new introduction: a scruffy dog wandering a battlefield littered with dead soldiers. The dog finds what must be its master as crows are picking at its flesh. After the dog scares off the crows and licks the dead man’s face, it turns and sees the armies of Agamemnon approaching, which is where the Theatrical Cut begins. Petersen immediately sets the tone for what the Director’s Cut will offer: more emotional heft and more gory details about the brutality of war.

That’s definitely true of the end of the Director’s Cut, which is also wildly different than the Theatrical Cut. The changes really begin after the Greek forces — SPOILER ALERT FOR ANCIENT HISTORY!!! — sneak inside the Trojan city in a giant wooden horse. The Director’s Cut extends the invasion and radically changes the tone and tenor of the scene. The sacking of Troy in the Theatrical Cut plays as a grand tragedy, with melancholic choral music and elliptical editing. In the Director’s Cut, the sequence is like something out of a horror movie: the music is aggressive and the content is much more disturbing, with plenty of images of rape, hangings, gory sword slashes, and even a couple baby murders. Baby murders! Petersen ain’t messing around.

Some of the new material enriches our understanding of the characters, but other added scenes feel repetitive or even contradictory. The one below is a good example. It comes after Hector and Menelaus have reached their peace agreement, and Paris has shagged Menelaus’ wife Helen. Hector spots Paris returning from an evening spent playing a game of Hide the Trojan Horse.

Stripped of its context in the film, the scene is fine. But within the body of “Troy,” that exchange is followed immediately by Paris coming to Hector the next morning as they’re sailing for Troy and asking if he loves him and would protect him against any enemy. Hector jokes that he hasn’t seen Paris this nervous since he was ten years old and had just stolen their father’s horse. Paris says he has something to show Hector, then brings him below decks and reveals Helen.

In the Theatrical Cut, without the above embedded scene, that series of events works fine. Hector is curious of Paris’ activities but not necessarily sure of what he’s done. And Paris knows what he’s doing is wrong, but he’s young and innocent and flush with love. In the Director’s Cut, that extra scene makes Hector look like a moron (as soon as Paris comes to him, he should know what he’s talking about) and it makes Paris look like an even more selfish asshole than he already did (because his brother specifically warns him not to meddle with the peace accord their father spent years building). Perhaps that was Petersen’s goal; heroes of Greek myth often have tragic flaws. In the Director’s Cut, Hector and Paris have them in spades.

While there are some nice extensions of existing scenes, including an early moment ironic foreshadowing between Hector and Menelaus, a lot of the wholly new material was probably better left on the cutting room floor, like this goofy introduction of Odysseus (Sean Bean), who’ll later take part in the Trojan invasion, with the rape and the baby murder and the Jell-O pudding and the so on:

IF YOU ONLY WATCH ONE VERSION OF “TROY,” WATCH:
The Theatrical Cut. “Troy” got tepid reviews when it opened in theaters in 2004, and much stronger notices in Director’s Cut form in 2007. But watching them back-to-back, I found myself preferring the theatrical experience. The Theatrical Cut is already pretty epic at a shade under three hours; the behemoth Director’s Cut is a wee bit too epic for my taste. In the final accounting, I didn’t feel like the marginally improved character dynamics of the second version were worth the sacrifice of the original cut’s superior pacing. I mean, if you really feel like watching Sean Bean have a lovefest with a dog enhances the picture, then by all means, go for the Director’s Cut. If you want to see Brad Pitt’s ass — and I’m not judging you if you do, it’s a pretty impressive ass — you’ll want the Director’s Cut. If you need to see more decapitations and gore because “that’s the way things really were back then,” again, the Director’s Cut is for you as well. But to me, this is pretty obviously not the way things were back then. Brad Pitt and Eric Bana’s wandering accents and the impossibly convenient way enormous battles of thousands of men stop on a dime to watch two dudes duel pretty much convinced me that this was a movie, not a historical document. And as a movie, I liked it shorter.

The Director’s Cut of “Troy” is available on DVD or Blu-ray; the Theatrical Cut is only available on DVD. Which is your favorite cut of the film? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.