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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Hanna”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Hanna” (photo)

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We’re just two months away from the end of the year and the start of top ten list season. If you’re a hardcore movie nerd like me, you look forward to December with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Making a top ten list is super fun but it’s also super daunting. There are so many movies to see, and only so many hours in a day.

Seeing every single movie released this calendar year is impossible, so you’ve got to pick your battles. That’s where Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 comes in. The goal of this column is simple: as I catch up with the 2011 movies I missed in order to fill out my own top ten list, I’ll tell you whether or not you need to catch up with them as well before making your top ten list. Each installment will feature my thoughts on the movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

Let’s kick things off by travelling to the Arctic, the site of one of the most critically acclaimed action movies of the year.

Movie: “Hanna”
Director: Joe Wright
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Plot Synopsis: A teenage girl named Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) trained in the wilderness by her father (Eric Bana) to be the perfect killing machine is sent to civilization to assassinate an evil CIA agent (Cate Blanchett).
What the Critics Said: “An entertainingly nutty action thriller,” David Denby, The New Yorker
“The bad-ass girl-power movie ‘Sucker Punch’ wanted to be,” Christy Lemire, Associated Press
“Almost a terrific movie, or a partly terrific one,” Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
Were They Right? O’Hehir was the closest, though I liked the movie a bit more than he did, I think. I was actually surprised to see the film had just a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, because I’ve read and heard some really strong endorsements on the film; “Hanna”‘s apparently more divisive than I first realized.

My own opinion of the film is somewhat divided as well. The premise is intriguing and some of the action is fantastic (what’s better than Eric Bana taking on four dudes at once? Eric Bana taking on four dudes at once in a insanely long unbroken shot). Less fantastic is the film’s obsession with its own artfulness. With her years of training, Hanna makes everything she does look so easy; why, then, does the movie look like it’s trying so hard? It doesn’t take long for “Hanna” to establish itself as a contemporary take on an old fairy tale. Wright’s allusions to Grimms’ old stories are quite subtle at first — a hero who looks like Goldilocks, a villain who whistles like the Pied Piper — but he keeps piling on more, one after another after another. One character actually says “So off to Grandmother’s house we go!” Another screams “Run little piggy!” The final showdown between two characters takes place on a Big Bad Wolf themed roller coaster in an enormous Grimm-inspired amusement park. It’s like Wright can’t stop himself. Eventually, the subtext overwhelms the text.

Still, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Ronan gives an impressive performance; a bit mannered, but appropriately so, since her character has spent her entire life cut off from the rest of society. She’s equally credible playing confused and cunning. Bana is great too in limited screentime (Blanchett, on the other hand, seems oddly stiff as the Wicked Stepmother character). Alwin H. Kuchler’s cinematography shines in obviously showy moments like Bana’s one-take fight scene and Hanna’s lengthy escape from a CIA safehouse, but he also does a nice job of filling the frame with subtler visual cues for each of the movies numerous locals, from the Artic to Morocco to Germany, so that we always know exactly where we are in any given scene. The Chemical Brothers techno score is used sparingly but very effectively. And Wright puts in all these strange little details that give “Hanna” marvelous texture: a close-up of a young girl’s face so tight we can see the peeling skin on her sunburnt nose; a woman cleaning up the crumbs from her kitchen table in the moments before her murder; an obsessive mercilessly scrubbing her gums until they bleed. I just wish he didn’t go so far overboard with the fairy tale imagery. Hanna, who’s lived her whole life in a complete cultural vacuum and doesn’t know Romeo and Juliet from Sawyer and Juliet, could have picked up on these references.

Worthy of Oscar Nominations For: Original Score, Cinematography
Chances of Making My Top Ten: Very slim.
It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: If you liked “Atonement,” but wished there were more scenes where Saoirse Ronan kicked people in the neck; you reeeeeeally get off on fairly tale imagery.

“Hanna” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Tell us what you think about the film 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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