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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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.
Die Hard restroom

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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