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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.