DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on the Teen Movie You Really Need to See (that isn’t “Project X”)

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Whether you loved or hated “Project X,” the one thing everyone can agree on is that it’s not like anybody’s actual high school experience. That’s sorta the point, of course: The movie’s party-to-end-all-parties storyline is meant to be a giddy, unhinged exaggeration of every young man’s fantasy of what it would be like to have the hottest girls at his place while his parents are out of town. But the film’s wish-fulfillment plot eventually gets old when you realize there’s not a soul in the movie who’s remotely relatable. Nobody in real life is that cool or that nerdy as is depicted in “Project X,” so while watching the movie I was trying to think of recent films in which teen life are portrayed realistically — or at least realistic to my own experience. As luck would have it, one just came out on DVD and is definitely worth a look.

It’s called “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” and if you haven’t heard of it, fear not: It only made a whopping $41,000 in the theater. (“Project X” probably made more than that on midnight screenings alone.) “Myth” is a small indie that, like “Project X,” doesn’t star anyone you’d recognize and looks at a group of young people dealing with peer pressure and love over a short span of time. But unlike “Project X,” the film gets so much of teen life right that, no matter how old you are, you may recognize yourself in one of its characters. That realization can be a little scary — like looking at awkward childhood pictures — but, hey, we’ve all gone through those growing pains.

“Myth,” which was written and directed by first-timer David Robert Mitchell, came out in July, about a month after another teen period film, “Super 8” opened. What’s interesting about “Myth,” though, is that the time period is never nailed down. In the film, there are no cellphones, and characters use VCRs, but Mitchell said he wanted to keep specifics out of it. “By hinting at different time periods, or blending them, we can get at a different kind of truth,” he explained last year. “I see the film as sort of its own myth. It’s like an impression or a memory that we remember and maybe not even that accurately.”

“Myth” feels like a memory, but one any of us can share in. Set in and around Detroit, the drama follows a group of teens as they enjoy their final weekend of summer freedom before having to go back to school. As with all teen movies, “Myth” has its character types, but they tend to be much more subtly drawn in this film than you normally see. There’s the tough girl with the nose ring (Claire Sloma), and the shy virgin (Marlon Morton), and the college senior (Brett Jacobsen) going through a bad breakup. But having established these characters, Mitchell sends them on unexpected paths, often subverting our expectations of what we’d assume these types of characters would be like. Whereas the dudes in “Project X” don’t really change from the first scene to the last, the young people in “Myth” act like the young people we remember from our own lives, still morphing and trying to figure out who they are and where they’re going.

I don’t want to set up “The Myth of the American Sleepover” as some sort of “antidote” to “Project X,” but as raucous and edgy as “Project X” wants to be, it’s not a movie that seems to understand a thing about how teenagers actually are. Sure, young guys really want to get laid — that was true in “Porky’s” and “American Pie” and dozens of other teen comedies — but it’s not the only thing they want, and it tends not to work out as easily as it seems to in “Project X.” (Also, unlike “Project X,” “Myth” actually seems interested in women beyond their physical features.) By following his characters as they gather for one-last-hurrah parties, Mitchell deemphasizes the titillating for a pretty honest examination of how uncomfortable hormones can be. Working with a largely inexperienced cast, the writer-director lets his characters’ insecurities and naivety rule the day, although you wouldn’t confuse “Myth” with one of those cringe-comedies where you wince more than laugh at the awkwardness on display. If “Project X” sells a fantasy of teen life, “The Myth of the American Sleepover” shows us who we were with an alarming, inspiring clarity. Put it this way: The film’s most potentially salacious scenario — involving a guy and two gorgeous college twins — leads to the story’s most poignant moment. The bros in “Project X” would not approve — but you might.

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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.
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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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