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DID YOU READ

David Gordon Green on why “The Sitter” is a family movie, and the absurd genius of Sam Rockwell

David Gordon Green on why “The Sitter” is a family movie, and the absurd genius of Sam Rockwell (photo)

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“The Sitter” hits theaters today, featuring Jonah Hill as an inept, aimless slacker who agrees to babysit a neighbor’s kids only to end up having a wild night involving high-speed car chases, an insane drug dealer, and more explosions than a Michael Bay film.

“Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness” director David Gordon Green was the man behind the camera for “The Sitter,” and he recently explained to IFC why the film is yet another ode to ’80s cinema, and why he considers it a “family movie” despite its “R” rating.

IFC: When we were talking about the trailer for “The Sitter,” you mentioned that it was the product of your love for 1980s comedies. What was it about those films that you tried to capture with “The Sitter”?

DAVID GORDON GREEN: I like movies about guys who have poor decision-making skills. Movies like that provide a lot of comic opportunity. “Risky Business” is a great example of a movie that starts with a bad idea. It starts with a bad phone call that Tom Cruise probably shouldn’t have made, and then a series of events that are the result of that. It’s a guy trying to dig his way out of the chaos he’s inspired. I think that’s kind of great.

IFC: Jonah Hill’s character really seems to share a lot with the leads from some of those types of movies, too.

DGG: Well, the other thing I like is despicable characters. In “Uncle Buck,” John Candy shows up as a gambling, smoking relentlessly obnoxious human being, but by the end of the movie, when we’ve gotten to know him as an audience and the kids have gotten to know him, we’ve seen how they affect his life. He goes from a despicable human being to a real sentimental, sensitive, interesting guy that we’re glad to be on the inside of rather than looking at this asshole from the outside.

IFC: When it comes to doing a film like this with child actors, how do you decide what the limits are? Did you feel like there were certain jokes you couldn’t make, or certain lines you couldn’t cross?

DGG: Everybody has their ethical boundaries, and these are impressionable kids who are young and new at movies — if they’ve ever even been on a movie set before — so of course we had limits. But at the same time, kids these days are exposed to a lot of insanity and vulgarity and the movies they watch are pretty crazy, so we wanted to make sure we had sophisticated kids who were mature enough to handle some of the situations. That also means we’re casting their parents and making sure they’re supportive of what we’re doing. But I’ve worked with kids on every movie, and I really pride myself on encouraging supportive, fun, good-natured environments.

IFC: We always hear about actors who start doing more family movies once they get older and become parents. Does that happen behind the camera, too? How doe sthat factor into decisions?

DGG: I’ve worked with a lot of the same crew over the years, from the same cinematographer and production designer to producers and sound mixers that have been on all of my movies. Now a lot of us have kids. I have twin babies now, so I’m looking at the world they’re exposed to and saying, “What the fuck?” It definitely changes your attitude a little bit about what’s out there. But I grew up in a big family and always hung out with really cool kids that brought a lot of insight to my life, so it’s interesting to make movies that reflect that rather than capitalizing on the “Kindergarten Cop”-type jokes in movies — not using the kids as the punchline, but using them as the heart and soul of the film.

IFC: You’ve mentioned the “absurdity” of certain moments in “The Sitter,” and a lot of those moments seemed to revolve around Sam Rockwell’s character. How much of that was Sam doing what he does and having an idea grow around him, and how much of that was in the original script?

DGG: I convinced him to join up because this movie would give him a real playground and a lot to chew on. He always finds fun reference points for his movies. In this movie he referenced Julianne Moore and David Thewlis’ characters in “The Big Lebowski,” and that weird, artsy studio that they had, and Ray Liotta in “Something Wild,” [also] Richard Pryor in “Bustin’ Loose.” He always has these fun, crazy reference points for movies. We talked a lot about that.

A big part of the process with Sam is working with my production designer, Richard Wright, who’s he’s done three movies with now. We did “Snow Angels,” and then Sam and Richard did “Gentlemen Broncos,” Jared Hess’ movie. Richard really knows Sam’s head and brings a lot of ideas that Sam can go off on and really design the environment that his character, Karl, would live in. So a lot of the stuff that wasn’t in the original screenplay — the bodybuilders and the weird, gym-like drug lair that he lives in — I have to honestly credit a lot of that to Sam and Richard and their ideas, which were somewhere between “Stay Hungry” and “A Clockwork Orange.”

IFC: We were talking about working with kids earlier, and you seemed to really stress the appeal of doing “family” movies. Is that a direction you see yourself going in down the road? Will we see you doing traditional family films?

DGG: “The Sitter” is a family film. I consider my last two movies to be movies for kids, aside from the fact that they’re R-rated — but that’s what sneaking into the movies is all about. Maybe we don’t get the receipts from that sort of stuff at the box office, but these are movies I think kids will respond to.

But to answer your question, yeah — I like the idea of making all types of movies, whether they’re documentaries, musicals, porno…

IFC: Wait… Porno?

DGG: Yeah, sure. I look at the careers of people like Lars von Trier and Alan Parker and guys that have had a real eclectic diversity of themes and projects that they’ve worked on — Gus Van Sant, too — and there are so many idols of mine to emulate within this industry.

So the idea of making a kids’ movie really appeals to me — especially if I could do something like “Old Yeller,” or a movie that felt like one of the old Toby Tyler movies where kids were being kids and nature was nature. I don’t know how much kids respond to movies like that these days — movies like “My Side of the Mountain” and things like that — but those were a big part of my youth. I’ve been kind of in the ’80s in my career the last few years, making movies that emulate ’80s action movies or ’80s comedies or ’80s sword-and-sorcery films, but it might be interesting to go back and look at movies like “Savannah Smiles” and movies that really touched me emotionally as a kid.

“The Sitter” arrives in theaters today, December 9. Keep an eye on IFC.com next week for more from our interview David Gordon Green.

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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.