DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on the brilliance of “Shame,” out now on DVD

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Because so few movies receive an NC-17 rating, whenever one does it immediately gets waylaid with media attention and a certain amount of leering curiosity about why, exactly, it got such a restrictive rating. A few years ago, the sharply observed romantic drama “Blue Valentine,” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as an unraveling married couple, initially got slapped with an NC-17. The reason was ridiculous — it concerned one scene involving oral sex that was hardly graphic — but after the film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, appealed, it was dropped to an R. Still, the temporary NC-17 gave the film the stigma of being overtly risqué or salacious. In this country, NC-17 equals sex, a topic a lot of people have difficulty discussing, let alone seeing in a film at the multiplex.

One of last year’s best films was NC-17, which meant that a lot of theaters wouldn’t show it. And while that rating was the result of the movie’s sexual content, it’s not porn and it’s not exploitative. And, when you get right down to it, the movie’s not even really about sex. It’s called “Shame,” and it’s out on DVD this week.

If you haven’t seen it, perhaps you’ve heard a little about it. Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a confident, handsome New York executive who has successfully hid his intense sexual cravings from his coworkers for years. Hiring prostitutes, visiting online sex sites, dabbling in the occasional fling, he can’t seem to quench an insatiable thirst. Then his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) arrives in town, much to his annoyance. Though it’s unclear why, there’s an unspoken tension between them. She’s very needy and flighty; he’s very controlled and self-contained.

Because of the NC-17 rating, “Shame” was viewed through the prism of being a movie “about sex,” an understandable impulse considering the main character’s proclivities. But look closer at the film — written and directed by Steve McQueen, who first worked with Fassbender on “Hunger” — and you’ll notice that “Shame” is about the agony of addiction. Usually, that disease is portrayed in the movies through characters who have drug, alcohol or gambling problems. We see the highs, but then we see the crushing lows. But with “Shame,” there is no high: Brandon is at a point in his addiction where he’s merely trying to keep from imploding, which means a constant search for more and more sex.

“Shame’s” austere, dour tone drew complaints from some that the film was too mannered, offering an unrealistic portrait of sexual addiction in order to make a pretentious art film. I disagree completely. Though a touch heavy-handed at times, “Shame” seems to adopt the joyless, extreme mindset of its outwardly composed main character. Thankfully, Fassbender’s performance is so electrifying — carnal and desperate and nuanced all at once — that the thrill of watching him provides all the joy you’ll need. It’s not a showy performance, but it is a consummately convincing one. And it has layers. The first time I saw the film, I thought Brandon was an unknowable phantom figure. The second time, I had intense sympathy for him — the terror and self-hatred seemed much more apparent. I’m not sure either interpretation is wrong. More likely, they’re both right.

If you’ve been tempted by “Shame’s” good reviews but scared off by the NC-17 rating, you should know that the movie’s sexual content — while explicit in parts — isn’t pervasive or horrifying. Frankly, it may not be anything you haven’t seen before. But as opposed to porn, which is sometimes referred to as an “adult film,” “Shame” is a film for adults. It’s for grownups who can recognize a soul in peril — two, actually, if you count Sissy. Its NC-17 notwithstanding, “Shame” is really a universal story about the perils of family and the emotional scars that just won’t heal — no matter what vices we use to try to make ourselves feel better.

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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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