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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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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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