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10 great comedies that premiered at Cannes

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On May 15, the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will begin, kicking off 12 days of premieres of some of the year’s most heavily anticipated movies, including “Only God Forgives” (the new thriller from “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn) and the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Because of its prestige among cineastes, Cannes has a reputation for featuring the crème de la crème of world cinema, playing host to towering, ambitious movies like “The Tree of Life” or “Amour.” As a result, some might assume that the festival turns its nose up at comedies, which isn’t true at all. Here’s a look back at 10 stellar comedies that got their official world premiere at Cannes, leaving off such classics as “M*A*S*H,” “Ed Wood” and “Being There,” which all screened at the festival after their theatrical release. As you’ll notice from this list, the Croisette prefers their laughs with a dark edge.

“Barton Fink” (1991)

Coen brothers movies are a frequent sight at Cannes, and while many of them have had comedic elements, the funniest of the bunch was “Barton Fink,” which was awarded Best Director, Best Actor (for John Turturro) and the Palme d’Or for the best film in the competition. Its central character probably wouldn’t consider it a comedy, though. Fink (Turturro), a celebrated East Coast playwright recently moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, discovers that his dreams of making easy riches in the movie business are obstructed by writer’s block, murder, and a creepily friendly neighbor (Coen regular John Goodman). A cutting satire of ego and ambition, “Barton Fink” was written by the Coens while they were stuck on their script for “Miller’s Crossing.” Rarely has creative exhaustion been this exhilarating.

“About Schmidt” (2002)

The Schmidt in question is Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), a professional paper-pusher who’s approaching his retirement with a lot more dread than excitement. Life only gets worse after his wife dies suddenly, he discovers that she was having an affair, and his distant daughter (Hope Davis) announces she’s marrying a total moron (Dermot Mulroney). What could be a tragedy is instead turned into a deft, sneakily touching comedy in the hands of “Election” and “The Descendants” director Alexander Payne. Containing one of Nicholson’s best late-career performances, “About Schmidt” even makes writing letters to starving kids in Africa hilarious.

“Punch-Drunk Love” (2002)

This Paul Thomas Anderson film will probably be the only time Adam Sandler shows up at Cannes. “Punch-Drunk Love” is a deeply anxious romantic comedy about a Valley man (Sandler) suffering from extreme emotional issues who falls into an unlikely courtship with a woman (Emily Watson) who seems slightly off in her own way. A precursor to last year’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” which also dealt with love among misfits, “Punch-Drunk Love” was misunderstood and underrated at the time, but its jittery score, unpredictable performances and confident idiosyncrasies paved the way for Anderson’s bold follow-up films, “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master.”

“Broken Flowers” (2005)

Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has made several appearances at Cannes. (This year, he brings “Only Lovers Left Alive,” a vampire drama with Tilda Swinton.) His 2005 entry, “Broken Flowers,” is a deadpan comedy that makes you laugh so you don’t cry. It follows what happens when an aging ladies’ man (Bill Murray) gets an anonymous note in the mail stating that he’s the father of her son. This quirky road movie draws lots of smart, subtle laughs out of Murray’s reunion with several former lovers (including Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange), suggesting that sometimes it’s best not to revisit the past.

“The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (2005)

Director Cristi Puiu’s dark comedy helped launch a wave of Romanian films that became the toast of international cinema. (Another entry, 2007’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” from director Christian Mungiu, won the Palme d’Or.) “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” tells the seemingly sad story of retiree Lazarescu (Ioan Fiscuteanu) over the course of one harrowing night as he tries to receive medical care for extreme stomach pains. An indictment of government bureaucracy, the film quickly becomes a nightmare of indifference and incompetence that is incredibly funny, no matter how bleak the points are that Puiu is making.

“Dogtooth” (2009)

You’ll never see “Rocky IV” the same after watching this twisted Greek film about one of cinema’s strangest families. The father (Christos Stergioglou) has decided that he wants to “protect” his three children from the outside world, building a fence around their yard and creating elaborate stories to make them believe that there are dangers beyond the borders of their property. (“Rocky IV” is one of the few films they’ve seen.) The only problem is that the older kids are well into puberty and so … well, let’s just say that a father’s influence can only go so far. Director Yorgos Lanthimos created a film that you’d describe as a jet-black comedy or one freaky psychological horror movie — and you’d be right either way.

“Up” (2009)

“Shrek” made history in 2001 by being the first animated movie in almost 50 years to premiere at Cannes. But with all due respect to the green ogre, “Up” is the better comedy, serving as the festival’s opening film eight years later. Though it’s fair to complain that the movie peaks with its beautifully moving opening sequence, which chronicles the decades-long romance between Carl and Ellie, “Up” is an endless visual wonder that represents Pixar’s customary balance of laughs and soul.

“The Artist” (2011)

“The Artist” defied a few movie truisms, including the belief that Cannes doesn’t have much interest in comedies or that the Academy Awards wouldn’t give their top prize to one. Before this film, director Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin were simply the men responsible for the cult-hit “OSS 117” spy-movie spoofs. That all changed with “The Artist,” a sweet homage to the bygone silent-movie era as Dujardin played a beloved leading man swept aside by the advent of talkies. Perhaps the movie was nothing more than a one-joke premise done with boundless affection, but audiences simply couldn’t resist.

“Midnight in Paris” (2011)

Woody Allen famously refuses to let his films be part of a festival’s competition slate, a principled decision that might have cost his acclaimed 2005 Cannes entry “Match Point” a prize or two. Unperturbed, he screened “Midnight in Paris” as Cannes’ opening night film six years later, an appropriate choice for a festival that takes place in France. Winning Allen his fourth Oscar, for Best Original Screenplay, “Midnight in Paris” became his biggest hit in America by a wide margin, chronicling the exploits of a struggling modern-day writer (Owen Wilson at his best) who finds himself magically transported to Paris in the 1920s, a period the writer has always adored. Allen’s textbook mixture of wistful romance and funny one-liners ensues.

“Moonrise Kingdom” (2012)

Following up his underrated animated gem “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” director Wes Anderson returned to live action with this gentle love story about two tweens — Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) — who decide to ditch their elders and run off together. “Moonrise Kingdom” features big names like Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Edward Norton, but they seem completely superfluous in comparison to the touching, awkward romance that sprouts between Sam and Suzy. Because it’s Anderson, the movie looks like nothing else out there, and its wry comic tone is just right.

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.
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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