DID YOU READ

The Mavericks of the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards

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Watch Seth Rogen host the 2012 Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 25 at 10/9c on IFC. And while you’re tuning in, don’t forget to log into IFC.com chat with our movie experts LIVE via IFC Sync, presented by Capital One.


To be a great independent filmmaker, you have to be a maverick. Writing, financing, producing, and directing your personal cinematic vision without the backing of the Hollywood studio system requires a combination of dedication, talent, inspiration, and madness, not to mention one serious pair of cojones, that very few people possess.

They’re just called the Spirit Awards now, but for most of their 25 year history, they were known as the Independent Spirit Awards. And that’s what they’re all about: the filmmakers with the most independent spirit. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise then that so many of the actors nominated for Spirit Awards this year got there by playing mavericks, be they charismatic cult leaders, paranoid prophets of ecological doom, ethically confused wheelmen, or one of the biggest sex symbols in the history of mankind. When an indie filmmaker makes a movie about a character like that, no matter how divorced that character might seem from their own life, they’re really making a movie about themselves. The Mavericks of the Spirit Awards aren’t just the characters; they’re the directors themselves.

Take someone like Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish-born director of crime thrillers like “Pusher” and “Bronson” who made a huge splash on the American art house scene last year with his romantic crime film “Drive.” Everything about Refn’s approach to the film was unorthodox, right down to the film’s unusual ad campaign, which promoted a violent action film about a psychotic criminal with posters that scrawled out the film’s title in bright pink letters. You don’t see pink mixed into the color palette of a lot of action movies — gun metal gray is the more conventional choice — but Refn told me in an interview last fall that he was dead-set on it from the beginning. “I wanted that kind of font because it’s timeless, in a way. It’s like a hand drawn logo, which is also like old fairy tales,” he told me. Though the film is about a stunt driver for movies and his night job working for gangsters, you might say that the title of “Drive” refers ultimately to Refn himself, and his all-consuming need to express his one-of-a-kind cinematic vision.

Refn’s intensity, passion, and iconoclastic tendencies are reflected in “Drive”‘s protagonist, the nameless wheelman played by Ryan Gosling. A maverick in his own field, The Driver commits crimes, but only within certain very specific parameters: his clients hire his services for a very specific amount of time. Anything that happens within that time frame is cool. Anything outside of that time, he’s gone. He doesn’t join in the heists, he doesn’t carry a gun: he just drives. The Driver’s unusual moral code gets him an audience with a merciless mobster (played by Albert Brooks, another 2012 Spirit Awards nominee) who hires him to pilot his new race car. Unfortunately, it also compels him to help the lowlife husband of his new neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) out of a jam, a decision with disastrous consequences for almost everyone involved. On the surface, “Drive” is a beautiful and bloody crime film. But it’s also a cautionary tale about all kinds of mavericks, including artistic ones. The lesson The Driver learns is one every independent filmmaker learns at some point: be careful who you get into business with.

Though we never see the origins of his agrarian cult, it seems like that kind of ambivalence, if not outright suspicion, about big capitalism is what moved John Hawkes’ character in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” to found the communal farm where half of the film is set. Hawkes, a Spirit Award winner last year for his chilling performance in the Ozark-set mystery movie “Winter’s Bone,” plays Patrick, the unquestioned patriarch of the group to which the title character — three names all belonging to the same woman, played by Elizabeth Olsen, at various points in the picture — joins and then escapes. Hawkes’ Patrick is not your run of the mill “evil” religious leader. He doesn’t brutalize his flock. He rarely even raises his voice. He seduces his minions with flattery, serenades, and sinister mind games. He sexually assaults every new female member of the group, then brainwashes his victims into helping him recruit and assault new women.

Actually, the lack of an origin for Patrick and his group, or a full explanation of his worldview or theological platform makes his character — and the film as a whole — that much more of a maverick. It makes “Martha Marcy May Marlene” less of a “cult film” (as in a film about a cult, not a movie watched at midnight by weirdos in their underwear) and more of a film about a person grappling with the emotional damage done to her by a cult. Hawkes told Collider that was part of what appealed to him about the part and the screenplay. “I liked the idea that the character is a bit of cipher to the audience,” he said. “I thought that, if he was a bit of a mystery to me, that might be interesting. I think we’re all mysteries to ourselves.”

Michael Shannon’s Curtis, the troubled hero of Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” is certainly a mystery to himself. A happily married man with a wife (Jessica Chastain, also Spirit Award nominated for the film) and daughter, Curtis is suddenly and inexplicably blighted with troubling dreams. In them, Curtis is at home when, without warning, the skies darken and apocalyptic storm clouds appear on the horizon. Curtis shakes off the first couple dreams as bad nightmares, but then they start happening more, and soon they’re a nightly occurrence. For Curtis, it is a mystery with no happy solution. His mother developed paranoid schizophrenia at right around the same age he is now — might it run in the family? Or is he experiencing visions of the future? And if so, what can he do to protect his family and his mental health? Curtis’ home contains a storm shelter; like a mad Noah building his own private ark, he begins to invest what little money his family has to expand it into a emergency bunker.

Nichols’ film, one of the very best of last year, is about the dark side of being a maverick. Sometimes it’s not cool or seductive or badass to be independent; sometimes it means sweating and ranting in a VFW hall about a storm coming that will destroy everything and everyone you know. Ignorance really can be bliss; the knowledge that the end might be coming proves almost as dangerous to Curtis and his family as any impending apocalypse. Nichols told me that he gives all the credit for Curtis’ astounding transformation to Shannon, an actor, he said, who requires very little direction. “We don’t talk much,” Nichols explained of his working relationship with Shannon. “He just shows up with things intact… He just gets it, and I trust that he gets it. You don’t worry about Mike Shannon very much. I don’t worry about him at all.”

Directors also have little to worry about when they hire Michelle Williams for their film. The remarkably talented actress rose to fame as a member of the ensemble of the teen soap opera “Dawson’s Creek.” She could have parlayed “Dawson’s” into a long and comfortable career on television, but Williams exposed her own maverick streak by transitioning to the world of independent film, where she quickly established herself as one of the finest actresses of her generation with stellar work in movies like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Wendy and Lucy,” and “Blue Valentine.” In “My Week With Marilyn,” Williams plays Marilyn Monroe — actress, sex symbol, and authentic maverick — as she is explores Britain during a break in the production of her 1957 film “The Prince and the Showgirl.”

Playing Monroe, one of the most photographed, idolized, and imitated figures of the 20th century, would be a challenge for any actress. How do you live up to Marilyn Monroe, much less play her onscreen, without resorting to cheap “Saturday Night Live”-level caricature? According to Roger Ebert in his wise review of “My Week With Marilyn,” Williams pulled it off with skill and exactitude, writing that “the movie seems to be a fairly accurate re-creation of the making of a film at Pinewood Studios at that time. It hardly matters… what matters is the performance by Michelle Williams. She evokes so many Marilyns, public and private, real and make-believe. We didn’t know Monroe, but we believe she must have been something like his. We’re probably looking at one of this year’s Oscar nominees.”

We were, but we were also looking at one of this year’s Spirit Award nominees. I don’t have a crystal ball; I can’t tell you whether Williams will win either the Oscar or the Spirit. But here’s a radical thought in honor of Williams, Gosling, Shannon, Hawkes, and the rest of the true independents nominated this year: winning doesn’t matter. What’s most important is staying true to the attitude that got you the nomination in the first place, looking massive success in the face and remaining a maverick in spite of it.


Watch Seth Rogen host the 2012 Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 25 at 10/9c on IFC. And while you’re tuning in, don’t forget to log into IFC.com chat with our movie experts LIVE via IFC Sync, presented by Capital One.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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