DID YOU READ

“On The Road” cast and director talk road trips, jazz, and the American dream

Film Review-On the Road

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Jack Kerouac’s groundbreaking 1957 novel On The Road defined a generation when it first hit shelves, and 50 years later the story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty’s wild journey across postwar America will finally make it to the big screen.

While some have questioned whether Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical account of his travels with Neal Cassady can possibly resonate with modern audiences, the film’s supporters – including executive producer Francis Ford Coppola, who bought the rights to the story in 1979 – have long argued that the themes of music, drugs, sex, and self-discovery that fuel On The Road are as relevant today as they were when the book was first published. For director Walter Salles, the book’s enduring qualities became clear when he embarked on a cross-country road trip of his own prior to filming.

“I tried to immerse myself in the world that these guys had lived in,” Salles told IFC of the years he spent traveling back and forth across the country before and after filming – a series of trips he chronicled in the documentary “Searching for On The Road.”

“We did that for six years intermittently, criss-crossing America,” he said. “We met the characters of the book that are still alive and talked to the poets of that generation who ended up changing the cultural landscape of America.”

Widely regarded as one of the most important novels of the 20th century, On The Road tells of Kerouac’s introduction to Cassady in the late 1940s and the years of near-continuous traveling across North America that followed their initial meeting. While Kerouac’s original draft of the book identified Neal and himself by name – as well as Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and various other literary figures of the time – the characters were renamed in the first published edition of the book. Kerouac became Sal Paradise, Neal became Dean Moriarty, and so on.

For Salles, practical research for “On The Road” continued long after principal filming was completed, with lead Garrett Hedlund (Dean Moriarty / Neal Cassady) joining the director on yet another cross-country road trip just after shooting wrapped. The pair made their way from one coast to the other in the 1949 Hudson used during filming of the movie – the same make and model that carried Sal and Dean on their wild adventure.

“We must have broken down about nine times, but we met some of the best mechanics in the country,” laughed Hedlund. “We drove through a blizzard where I actually had to drive with my head out of the window from Utica to Erie, Pennsylvania, because we didn’t have window-wipers, a gas gauge, or a speedometer. I think we drove without brakes from Cincinnati to Lexington, Kentucky. We broke down in Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Las Vegas, New Mexico… [Laughs] We drove backroads the whole way, trying to retrace the path of Kerouac.”

British actor Sam Riley, who plays Sal Paradise in the film, found that his connection with Kerouac’s novel had as much to do with the music of the time as the highways.

“On one hand, there was a connection because I didn’t know very much about America – like Jack, it was still new to me,” he explained. “But the music, that was one of the things I really threw myself into.”

Riley told IFC he immersed himself in the early jazz that fascinated Kerouac and his companions and provided a soundtrack for many of their adventures. A musician himself, Riley soon found that his phone’s library of ’40s and ’50s jazz tracks became a valuable resource during filming.

“Before some scenes, I’d play something in the car, and that would very much help us feel a part of the place and the time,” he said. “Walter would have me pick something for us, and I really began to enjoy it. In a way, that was one of my roles throughout everything. I was the one with the phone with all the bebop on it.”

And whether he was speeding down a country road with Hedlund or looking to Riley for musical inspiration, Salles insisted that these were more than just helpful, atmosphere-creating experiments – they were absolutely, positively necessary to understand Kerouac’s story and inhabit the characters of the novel.

“We needed to do that in order to be completely faithful to the free-form, jazz-infused narrative that is at the heart of this book,” he explained. “We also needed to do that to fill it with improvisation and moments that are unexpected.”

“We went from New York to the West Coast, criss-crossing America and taking those backroads trying to find unpolluted Walmart territory in order to capture the last American frontiers these guys were trying to find in their own travels,” he added. “And at some point I realized that the question isn’t whether those frontiers still exist today, but whether they even existed in Kerouac’s time. I think that maybe they were witnessing the beginning of the end of the American dream.”

”On The Road” arrives in theaters December 21 and stars Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, and Kristen Stewart. The film is directed by Walter Salles from a screenplay by Jose Rivera.

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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.