DID YOU READ

Shelf Life: “Porky’s”

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Today marks the opening day of “Project X,” producer Todd Phillips’ ode to adolescent male wish fulfillment, and it’s interesting thus far how the film has divided critics: some celebrate it boundless, puerile hedonism, while others wonder aloud if their generation was ever quite as stupid or irresponsible as the one depicted on screen. Unsurprisingly, however, the behavior depicted in the 2012 is not without precedent, especially if you’ve seen any of a thousand movies released since the 1970s which more or less literally lay the groundwork for what Phillips and his director, Nima Nourizadeh, capture on camera.

As such, it seemed appropriate this week to go back and revisit one of the more successful examples (commercially speaking) of teen sex comedies to see first whether it’s still worth watching, and then whether those crazy kids were doing anything smarter or more responsibly than they evidently are now. All of which is why “Porky’s” is the subject of this week’s “Shelf Life.”


The Facts

Released March 19, 1982, “Porky’s” was a megahit for 20th Century Fox, the studio that released it: it earned more than $110 million from an initial investment of $4 million in production costs. That said, it was not well-received by critics, including Siskel and Ebert, who reportedly named it one of the worst films of 1982. Currently the film maintains a 32 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, it won the Golden Reel Award from the Canadian Genie Awards, and actor Doug McGrath was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Coach Warren.


What Still Works

The movie is almost nothing but stupid teenage hijinks, which in this case is a good thing: writer-director Bob Clark combined George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” aesthetic with “Animal House”’s sophomoric tomfoolery to create an anachronistic portrait of ‘50s high school boys who were desperate to see and experience the fairer sex. And even though it certainly objectifies the female form, and by extension the female “characters” in the film, “Porky’s” never fully feels exploitative, if only because Clark seems to understand that these sex-crazed males deserve a dose of humiliation to go along with their horndog entitlement. (This was an idea later utilized to exhaustive effect in the “American Pie” movies.) Consequently, at least as often as one of the guys scores, or even gets within jerking distance of any part of a female’s anatomy, they’re embarrassed, injured or otherwise on the receiving end of some prank, and usually one enacted publicly.

That said, there is a metric ton of nudity in this film, and quite frankly, that what viewers are paying to see. Not only will you see a very young Kim Cattrall playing an assistant coach with a particular quirk that comes out during intercourse, but pretty much every actress in the film gets partially to completely naked at some point during the film’s 90-minute running time. And in the best way possible, these women’s bodies are beautiful and natural and un-augmented by enhancements or surgery or other sorts of cartoonish, unnecessary exaggerations.

Probably the most important component of the film’s likeability, however, is the likeability of its characters. The teenage boys are immature, headstrong and stupid, but none of them are irredeemable, and in fact a few of them that are tougher or more bigoted actually learn how to be more tolerant in a way that feels strangely believable. They aren’t the entitled, porn-addled teenagers of today, they’re more optimistic and hopeful, if in fairly nefarious ways, and their scheming has enough of a hint of desperation, and honestly, likelihood of failure, that we never feel like they don’t somehow “pay” for what they’re after.


What Doesn’t Work

Even for a low-budget sex comedy, the movie is just stupid. There are a lot of sequences that rely directly on characters in the scene laughing to communicate how funny something is, and in most of those cases the characters overstate. While it’s perfectly believable for 16- and 17-year olds to be as incompetent as many of these are at getting women, some of the stuff they say just doesn’t make sense, and their efforts to woo range from clumsy to offensive.

Generally speaking, there are too many characters, however. Most of the guys look the same, and there’s at least five core characters, so when one of them has a problem, it’s frequently hard to figure out which one is which, or whether he’s the one who previously was dealing with an abusive father, or whatever. While it’s noble of Clark to attempt social commentary by introducing a Jewish character into the group and have him face prejudice, it feels like a distraction from the rest of the story.

Speaking of which, the Porky’s wraparound feels almost superfluous: while it certainly sets the stage for the teenagers’ desperation (or determination), Porky is gone for most of the movie, and is barely a device, much less a character. Meanwhile, the revenge taken on him and his establishment feels like gratifying wish-fulfillment – retaliation in kind against a bully – but it happens so suddenly it feels like Clark decided, “well, the subplots have all been wrapped up, so we might as well get down to the last sequence.” The boys hatch a plan that’s pretty complicated and while it’s amusing, it fails to deliver a truly satisfying sort of pay off to the characters we’ve watched grumble about him for the entire movie.


The Verdict

“Porky’s” is not a great film. It’s mindless entertainment that works only on the level it’s been conceived – a raunchy sex comedy featuring plenty of nudity and plenty of immature hijinks – but its efforts to interject more serious ideas or get any more complicated than that core story feel either clumsy or ripped off from better films. Instead, I’d recommend another 1982 film, “The Last American Virgin,” which explores many of the same themes but offers a wallop of a surprise ending that gives the whole thing much deeper emotional content. But at best, “Porky’s” is a trifle, worthy of a lazy Sunday afternoon viewing session, but certainly not worth canonization.

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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.
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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