DID YOU READ

Susan Sarandon on robot rights in “Robot & Frank” and her “Cloud Atlas” role

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In the new film “Robot & Frank,” Susan Sarandon plays a librarian coping with the near-future implications of a world in which print material is quickly going the way of the dinosaur, soon to be replaced with digital data. The only person less at ease with the shift from physical books to virtual information is her library’s last remaining customer, Frank (Frank Langella) — an aging former thief whose creeping Alzheimer’s has made every trip to the library a unique experience.

It’s a heart-warming — and occasionally heart-wrenching — film written by Christopher Ford that has a fair share of surprises for its audience, as it drifts away from the expected tropes under director Jake Schreier, who makes his feature debut with the movie. According to Sarandon, those surprises were a big part of the project’s appeal.

“When I read the script, I didn’t know where it was going,” Sarandon told IFC during the press junket for the film. “I loved the take they had on the future. I met with the director, who was incredibly excited, and I saw his reel, which was very fun and different. I was filming another big movie at the same time, but they worked out the dates and I thought why not give them a shot? Let’s jump in.”

And jump in she did, adding even more star power to a film that’s now generating quite a bit of buzz on the festival circuit. While Langella’s character and his evolving relationship with his robot caretaker (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) are the focal points of the story, characters played by Sarandon, Liv Tyler, and James Marsden also factor prominently in the film.

“You look at the cast, and you look to see who’s in the cast and maybe there’s someone you haven’t worked with before, someone you know, which was the case in this,” explained Sarandon. “I’d worked with Jimmy before and I knew Liv and I knew Frank a little bit, but I’d never worked with him. He’s great.”

“You can tell by the casting the tone of what’s going to happen, and then you just jump,” she laughed. “You throw caution to the wind and hope that some part of what they discuss in their vision ends up happening.”

Sarandon said it was also the “near future” setting of the film that piqued her interest, which presents a softer version of sci-fi in what is essentially a futurist, sci-fi movie set not too far down the road.

“It was described to me as being in the future, but really the future hasn’t turned into the Jetsons the way we thought would happen,” she explained. “But at the same time, look at how we’re giving every piece of information about ourselves to everybody. Nobody thought that would happen unless a police state happened, and instead we just joyfully hand it over.”

“I think sometimes that what you project is going to be the future, some of those shinier things don’t happen, but a lot of it did,” she continued. “I think [‘Robot & Frank‘] is a very realistic idea of what the future would be like. It says it’s not that far in the future, but the way books are disappearing, I could see it.”

And even though the story unfolds around Frank, he’s only half of the title’s duo. One of the other “near-future” notions touched on in the film is the nature of robots’ role in the world, and exactly where their rights begin and end for both society at large and in Frank’s mind.

Never one to shy away from voicing her views on such matters, Sarandon offered some food for thought when IFC asked her where she might align in the “robot rights” debate.

“This robot doesn’t seem to want to be considered human and doesn’t expect certain rights, but we’re programming more and more intelligence into them and they will probably have a union at some point when they get in everybody’s homes,” she said. “I’m definitely very lucky to have a job that pays me the way it does and to be able to pay for my kids’ education and health care, but I don’t need to have billions of dollars to feel okay. And I think it’s a stronger society when we do spread things around.”

“Even in ‘Harry Potter,’ I was definitely down for that house elf,” she laughed. “He was fabulous and I felt very strongly about elves’ rights and stuff like that. It just makes for a happier place if everyone’s feeling good about themselves. No matter if they’re metallic or elves, let everybody feel like they’re being respected.”

Still, not all is well and good in Frank’s life — or the robot’s version of “life,” for that matter. As their relationship blossoms, Frank finds himself itching to get back to old habits, and as his awareness and grip on reality grow, so does his desire to jump into the next heist.

“I think you definitely cheer for him to be involved in his old habit, because when people have something they’re excited about, they tend to stay alive,” said Sarandon of the unique dilemma the film presents. “That’s why pets are so important for people when they get older. For me, the sinister part of it was this idea that he’s losing his mind. That really scares me — the idea of losing touch with everything and ending up having to have somebody make sure you don’t just walk into the woods and disappear. . . . But I didn’t mind him stealing from the bad [people]. That idea is a very Robin Hood approach. . . . It didn’t bother me.”

Of course, “Robot & Frank” isn’t the only film with the futurist bent that Sarandon is involved with these days, and while we had the chance to talk with her, we couldn’t help asking for more information about her role in “Cloud Atlas,” the new film based on David Mitchell’s award-winning 2004 novel. The first trailer for the film debuted recently, and Sarandon can be seen in a brief scene, though she’s simply credited as “actress” in the movie.

“I play five different characters, one of which is a guy,” she explained. “I don’t want to tell you anything more, but they’re small parts everybody plays. It was a boisterous atmosphere, with people putting on noses and chins and mustaches and playing different genders, different colors, different everything.”

“I think that’s what they were trying to say, is that we’re all connected,” she continued. “And all the rest of it is just details, and underneath, whatever kindness or meanness you exhibit somehow determines the future — that it will continue the cycle. If you listen to my voiceover you’ll hear all about it. But my parts are really small. I was just so thrilled ot be asked to be in any part of it.”

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.