DID YOU READ

Olga Kurylenko talks “Oblivion,” “To The Wonder,” and “Erased”

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Oblivion is a state of forgetting, the state of having forgotten, but you won’t be able to forget “Oblivion” star Olga Kurylenko anytime soon — and that’s not just because her latest film is number one at the box office and a worldwide hit, courtesy of Tom Cruise star power. (“It’s insane!” she gushed to IFC.)

Kurylenko, who previously made her mark opposite Daniel Craig in the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace,” can also be seen in next month’s “Erased” with Aaron Eckhart and in art house theaters now with Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” with Ben Affleck, which might make you wonder — how does she always end up as the love interest to some of the most attractive men on screen? Is this a contract condition of hers? “No,” she giggled. “Doesn’t this happen to all the others? Am I the only one? Hey, it’s a tough life I have. It could have been worse, right?”

Kurylenko gives what might be the only affecting performance in “To the Wonder” (since Malick cut so many of the other actors out of the film, and gives Affleck virtually no dialogue). And she also gives what might be one of the few truly compellingly human performances in “Oblivion” (but that’s only because — spoilers ahead — some of her cast mates are playing clones). In both, she exists as if a woman out of a dream, quite literally, in the case of Tom Cruise’s character. Jack, a drone mechanic who thinks he’s one of the last people left on Earth, has been having strange dreams about a woman he can’t quite identify. Is this a memory? He tells us that his memory was wiped five years ago for security clearance, which would explain a fragment, but this dream tells him of a woman and of a planet from 60 years before, back when the Empire State Building still looked over a teeming populace. So imagine his surprise when he discovers that a survivor of a spacecraft crash in suspended animation is the very same woman, and even stranger, she remembers him, too.

To prep for these parts, Kurylenko did her homework, devouring Russian novels such as “Anna Karenina,” “The Brothers Karamazov,” and “The Idiot” to fill in the blanks for the script-less “To the Wonder,” because “I had to combine certain qualities and traits of female characters in all three books,” and for “Oblivion,” watching astronaut training videos, sci-fi such as “Solaris” and classic romances such as “Notorious” and “Casablanca.” “‘Solaris’ deals with a similar subject, going into space, confronting a memory,” she said. “And all the romances, because we all agreed, we wanted the romance in the movie to be like the old days, to be pure, to be touching.”

“Oblivion” has gotten a lot of flak from critics for recycling sci-fi tropes, but Kuryleno said that the film actually raises a lot of interesting, thought-provoking questions. “It’s not just sci-fi,” she said. “It’s full of messages, important questions that we can ask ourselves: Why are we here on this earth? What is it to be human? What is the difference between a human and someone who is not human, either an alien or a clone? Does love ever end? Is it an energy that can survive even when the world collapses?”

In other words, is love — or our capacity for love, as encapsulated by our soul — immortal? Does it matter which body a soul is in, if the memory remains intact? Both Jack and Victoria, played by Cruise and Andrea Riseborough, have been subject to these so-called memory wipes, and believe that they are a couple as well as an “effective team,” with her manning the communication controls between their station and a central command, and him out in the field repairing drones which allegedly protect the remaining humans and their dwindling resources from aliens. But (again, spoilers ahead) what Jack and Victoria have been told is a lie — about central command, about the drones, even about themselves. The question is, if you don’t remember yourself, who are you? And if you share a memory of being someone else, does that make you that person?

“That’s the division in the film that I like very much,” Kurylenko said. “Jack and Victoria are in a way brainwashed, but Victoria doesn’t want to know the truth, no matter what happens. She consciously refuses to find out. She closes her eyes. but Jack is curious and eager to discover the truth, no matter how ugly. And in the end, you see how that works out for both of them.”

Jack and Victoria’s reaction to Kurylenko’s character Julia is telling — Jack wants to help her, and Victoria would rather Julia just go away, because it makes her and Jack less of an “effective team” (a phrase oft-repeated in the film to a final chilling effect). To be an effective team, Jack is supposed to follow orders, to not think about whether the orders make sense. Trying to learn the truth — about what happened to humanity on Earth, about the people who survived — can have fatal consequences. “You know how they say everybody dies, but it’s about dying well?” Kurylenko asked. “That’s the truth. We all die. The question is, what kind of life will we have lived? Will we have been brave, or will we live in oblivion? There are all these questions, so it’s not just some sci-fi movie that makes no sense. Hopefully people will see that and understand that.”

Likewise, Kurylenko’s next film “Erased” has a similar undertone, even if the two films couldn’t be more different in look, genre, scope, location, and execution. While “Oblivion” was shot in Iceland to feature landscapes of glaciers, snow, and dry lava all bumping up next to each other, “Erased” takes place in the cities of Belgium, and is an espionage thriller about the CIA’s unofficial participation in providing weapons to warlords. But the key to both is that at the center is a man who doesn’t realize whom he’s working for or what he’s doing for them until it’s too late, and an employer who will execute him if he asks too many questions. “It’s a similar message,” Kurylenko agreed. “And I’m actually quite astonished that you could see the same line goes through both, because visually, they’re not the same.”

The flip side for her on “Erased,” however, is that this time, she could be one of the bad guys, with emphasis on guys. “The way the director spoke to me about my character, which is what attracted me to the project, is that he said, ‘You’re a woman, but you think you’re a man,'” she said. “And I’ve never explored that side of myself before.”

Will you be checking out Olga Kurylenko’s recent/upcoming films? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and 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.
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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