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Tim Grierson on the Five Good Things That Came Out of Oscar Season

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Oscar season, which starts approximately at the beginning of September, at long last came to an end last night. Even someone like myself who finds much to enjoy about this time of year has to admit that the past five months of constantly tracking which movies and performances have “heat” or “buzz” has been incredibly tiring. Still, optimist that I am, I’d like to think that there’s still some net good that comes out of the seemingly endless buildup to the Oscars. The Academy Awards may still reward the wrong people and overlook the truly worthy, but this year, as always, they also had their positives…

1. They inspired people to see small movies they might not have otherwise.

Films like “Argo” or “Les Miserables” would probably have been hits even without a Best Picture nomination. But nominations for other films helped elevate them to must-see status for people who are choosier in their viewing habits. “Amour” might have seemed too depressing, “Lincoln” could have looked too dry, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” might have seemed too strange, and “Zero Dark Thirty” could have felt too difficult. But hearing that these movies were in the running for the Oscars’ big prize no doubt helped push folks to give these movies a try. Encouraging audiences to seek out challenging fare can never be a bad thing.

2. They raised awareness for worthwhile social and political issues.

The Best Documentary nominees often cover a vast array of important topics, and this year’s crop was no different, whether it was relations between Israel and Palestine (“The Gatekeepers,” “5 Broken Cameras”), sexual assault within the U.S. military (“The Invisible War”), or the history of the AIDS-awareness organization ACT UP (“How to Survive a Plague”). But even the Best Picture field had its share of meaningful films, including “Amour,” which is an unsentimental look at aging and mortality. Perhaps the most important discussion prompted by any Oscar film this year, though, came from “Zero Dark Thirty,” a sobering, absorbing examination of the U.S. government’s 10-year pursuit of Osama bin Laden. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s thriller raised complaints from some, including a few U.S. senators, that the movie celebrated the use of torture — or suggested that it was an effective tool for hunting down terrorists. The debate may have ultimately been more about political posturing, but at least it opened a wider discussion about U.S. policy in the aftermath of 9/11 than any film had been able to do before. (And for the record, anyone who watches “Zero Dark Thirty” will see that the movie is far more nuanced and ambiguous in its commentary than its critics will acknowledge.)

3. They provoked some memorable social-media moments.

Because the Oscar campaigning goes on so long, there are inevitably unexpected side effects. For instance, the creation of memes that are very funny at the moment by may not have a long shelf life. (Angelina Jolie’s Leg was good for some chuckles a year ago. But now?) This year had its share of parodies and homages, their effectiveness very much a question of personal taste. Plenty of friends love the fake Michael Haneke Twitter account where the austere Austrian filmmaker is turned into a cat-loving, spellcheck-deficient goofball. (Me, I think it’s just the same joke repeated over and over again.) And then there was the parody of Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” performance from “Les Miserables.” But my favorite is probably from comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who took to the stage of Largo in Los Angeles in December to perform an utterly sincere rendition of Adele’s “Skyfall” theme. Soon, it hit YouTube, becoming a viral hit. The comedian’s “Skyfall” rendition represented the best of pop cultural referencing, honoring what made the original so fantastic while adding a new, fun dimension to it.

4. They actually had a little suspense.

In the early months of award season, there’s always a little uncertainty about who the frontrunners might be, but eventually the clear-cut favorites assert themselves, and by the time of the actual ceremony, everybody knows who’s going to win Best Picture and most of the major categories. This year, that didn’t happen, as “Les Miserables,” “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Argo” and even “The Master” were discussed as being possible winners at one point or another. This, of course, is great news for Oscar bloggers and other awards handicappers who want to keep us interested, but for those of us who actually like the Academy Awards telecast, it also created a lot of suspense. That doesn’t happen that often. Their value isn’t in telling us what’s the best

5. They’ll never replace your own preferences for the year’s best films.

From your perspective, any collection of individuals voting on the best anything will ultimately fail to get it right unless they completely agree with you. That’s why I’ve never understood getting that annoyed with the Oscars (or the Independent Spirit Awards or the Golden Globes) when they don’t line up with your individual tastes. If nothing else, the Academy Awards are a way to make each of us consider what constitutes the greatest films and the greatest performances. The Oscars can have their definition — we each have our own.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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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.
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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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