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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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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