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The week’s critic wrangle: 9 Songs about the Last Days of Hustling & Flowing.

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Unsimulated sex, suicide and prostitution — just another week in indie film. And damn right!

Margo Stilley and Kieran O'Brien+ "9 Songs": Michael Winterbottom‘s real sex, fake (we presume) drugs, and real rock and roll finally slinks its 69 controversial minutes onto select screens. And the question here seem to be less "Is it porn or is it art?", as Kristi Mitsuda poses at indieWIRE, and more whether Winterbottom’s reduction of a love story to its purely physical elements provokes an astonishing sense of intimacy or emotional detachment. Matt Zoller Seitz:

It will be fun to watch critics pretend to be loftily bemused, and not the slightest bit aroused, by Michael Winterbottom’s sexual drama "9 Songs," then dismiss it as pretentious, empty and un-erotic.

He claims this is the "standard American response" to films about sex, which seems a little unfair — sometimes they really are boring (we have to admit, after the first half-hour of "Lies," we were sorely tempted to just fast-forward every time someone took their clothes off). Stephanie Zacharek likes the film even more than Zoller Seitz, finding that " The fun and pleasure of sex are relatively easy to put on film. But subtler shades of feeling and doubt…are harder to capture, and that’s what Winterbottom gets here." Stephen Holden finds it a picturesque failure, with the characters remaining "frustratingly elusive," and Michael Atkinson call it "a common human rite fastidiously caught in amber, giving off no heat or joy but crystallized for the future."

Michael Pitt+ "Last Days": "Imagine a Kurt Cobain movie by Oliver Stone — rubber tourniquets biting into a skinny arm, flashbacks to warring parents, fawning crowds, Courtney losing it on- and offstage, the imploring eyes of their neglected baby, the climactic shot ringing out — and you’ll see everything ‘Last Days’ is not," Ella Taylor writes of Gus Van Sant‘s latest ode to death and narrative experimentation. For the most part, everyone else has high praise for the film. Dennis Lim calls the film brilliant, "a biography without a story, a sustained monologue that can barely be heard, an interior portrait that denies access to inner life." Manohla Dargis is similarly impressed by the way the film’s rhythms echo the drifting detachment of Blake’s (Michael Pitt) life: "He is out of time, out of step and in the wilderness." Armond White is, as always, a dissenting voice, dropping in a paragraph at the end of his "Hustle & Flow" review to declare the film nothing but "tedium."

Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Dashon Howard+ "Hustle & Flow": We’re a little shocked that Stephanie Zacharek likes it, but more than that, she loves it:

"Hustle & Flow" suspends you in its spell of mood, of feeling, of climate. It’s a pop picture that finds its richness in peeling down to the essentials of good storytelling. In a world of movies that try far too hard to move, entertain and dazzle us, the artistry of "Hustle & Flow" lies in the way it waits for us to come to it.

Roger Ebert is also fond: "What we see in the ‘Hustle & Flow’ is rarely seen in the movies: the redemptive power of art." Armond White (and we actually discussed at length with Matt our predictions on how he’s feel about this film…sample: "It looks like the Village Voice might like it, so he’ll definitely hate it." "But it looks like a lot of others won’t like it, so maybe he’ll champion it as a misunderstood masterpiece.") declares that "’Hustle and Flow’ isn’t really about a pimp. Its concern is with the emotional turmoil a man faces while dealing with women on top of the social difficulties that beset impoverished black men." He provides an interesting counterpoint to Ebert’s "redemption" angle: "That Djay finally finds an outlet in rap music isn’t so much a sinecure (or salvation) as it is a sign of his desperation and the limited options that our society has left open to men of his social background." Laura Sinagra finds the film less artful:

The tale of a broke-down Memphis pimp turned rapper is being dismissed as shallow wish fulfillment, poverty porn, a hip-hop cash-in, and just plain silly. Of course, Hustle & Flow is all those things, but it telegraphs its intentions quite clearly. With 8 Mile in its rearview, this flick openly guns for the Rockys.

And A. O. Scott manages to articulate most of what we thought of the film, including the fact that Howard is so good he almost overcomes the "complexity – one might less charitably say the incoherence" of main character DJay, as well as the uncomfortable portrayals of women: "A pimp might be forgiven for failing to see his own misogyny – pimping is not a profession usually associated with feminism – but the movie can’t just slide off the hook along with its hero."


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.