DID YOU READ

“Angels Crest,” reviewed

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A version of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

For all the people crying onscreen in “Angels Crest,” I never once felt the urge to cry myself. The problem, I think, is not with what’s in the film but what’s not in the film, and that’s specificity: specificity of character and location. Watching this movie feels like watching some very talented actors put on an acting workshop called “Advanced Grief in Small Town America.” On a technical level, their work is superb. But it doesn’t resonate on any deeper level.

Based on a novel by Leslie Schwartz, the film is an intense dirge about the residents of a town trying to get on with their lives after a terrible tragedy. Ethan (Thomas Dekker) drives his son Nate out to the mountains to play in the snow, but by the time they get there, Nate’s fallen asleep. When a herd of deer passes by, Ethan follows, and leaves Nate locked in their truck for a few minutes. When he returns, Nate’s vanished. Practically the entire town turns up to help search for him, but by the time they find him it’s too late. That’s what happens in the first, gut-wrenching ten minutes. For the rest of the runtime we watch Ethan come to grips with what he’s done, feud with Nate’s distant, alcoholic mother Cindy (Lynn Collins), and deal with the fallout from the local district attorney’s decision to charge him with criminal neglect.

From Dekker and Collins down, the cast is fantastic. It seems like every single person who lives in Angels Crest is a terrific actor. Mira Sorvino owns the local diner. Elizabeth McGovern and Kate Walsh are the lesbian couple who are friends of Ethan’s. And Jeremy Piven is the town prosecutor who has a dead child related trauma in his own past.

In individual moments, they’re all good. And the cinematography by David Johnson offers the beauty and cruelty of nature in equal measure. What’s missing is any sort of fabric that might weave these stories and images together into an emotional whole. “Angels Crest” is sort of stuck between an in-depth character study and a wide-ranging ensemble piece. There are too many digressions to keep the focus squarely on Ethan and his despair, but not enough to fully understand the relationships between all these other characters. And it’s never quite clear exactly how big or small Angels Crest really is. It’s big enough that Sorvino’s character doesn’t seem aware of Piven’s tortured past until he alludes to it, but it’s also small enough that everyone else in the town seems to know each other by name. Almost the entire film takes place in the diner, the woods, and a house, so we don’t get a real sense of the place or the people outside the small circle we see. In her post-screening Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Gaby Dellal said that the novel was much more sprawling. There were more characters, each with a chapter told from their perspective. To fit it all into a movie, she had to whittle down a lot of the details. No wonder “Angels Crest” feels a bit like a CliffsNotes version of a more expansive story.

From its wintry setting to its subject matter to its cast, “Angels Crest” reminded me of David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels,” an equally bleak but much better movie. It had the elements “Angels Crest” lacks: a sharper eye to detail and a real sense of how this tragedy touched the lives of an entire community. And oh how the end of that film made me cry.

“Angels Crest” opens today in New York City. Is also available on demand. If you see it, tell us what you think. Leave us a comment below or write to us 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.
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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.
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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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