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The in-other-countries round-up.

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"Takeshis'"It’s tempting to poke fun of Joseph Braude‘s piece in the LA Times about Middle Eastern moviewatching, except we’re not quite sure where to go with it. There’s certainly a lot of worthy stuff in the article, but there’s also a gawkish underlying assumption that it’s surprising that the inhabitants of the Arab world watch and care about films that seems about a decade outdated and that reminds us of the Lexus convertible conversation in "Three Kings" (we just got it on DVD, so it’s been on our mind recently, apologies).

Many governments don’t bother to forbid most American motion pictures. Protesters in Libya, Syria and the Palestinian territories may burn the U.S. flag during street demonstrations, but they catch the latest U.S. films in theaters. All of the Persian Gulf states except Saudi Arabia abound in state-of-the-art movie houses, often in luxurious shopping malls. In fact, Kuwait was the second nation in the world after Austria to introduce technology enabling automatic movie ticket purchases by mobile phone.

A friend of ours who grew up in Iran swore that nothing was more popular there than a satellite channel that played only "Baywatch," but sadly, Braude doesn’t confirm this, though he does get into some interesting points about the relationship between Arab viewers and left-leaning Hollywood.

Fiona Ng at the New York Times reports on "Action English," a Chinese television show that uses film clips to attempt to teach American slang.

At the Japan Times, Mark Schilling takes on Takeshi Kitano‘s latest, "Takeshis’," which premiered at Venice to mixed and bemused reviews, and which is a departure from the actor/director’s previous work, a surreal exploration of Kitano’s persona and previous films that sounds a bit like Akira Kurosawa‘s "Dreams." Schilling compares the film to Seijun Suzuki’s 1967 "Branded to Kill," and wonders if, like that film, it will later be regarded as a masterpiece, though at the present, he doesn’t seem to know what to make of it himself. Either way, a possible turning point for Kitano’s career:

Kitano has described it as a kind of "death"
(pronounced in Japanese, the title is "Takeshisu" or "Take[shi] dies"),
in which he shakes off the mortal coil of his first 11 films and
prepares himself for the next stage of his career. (He says he wants to
make a film that challenges Kurosawa and other Golden Age masters —
whatever that means.)

Also at the Japan Times, Giovanni Fazio becomes the first we’ve seen to defend Lou Ye‘s "Purple Butterfly," which stars Zhang Ziyi and which opened here in a minimal release to fairly bad reviews (we loved his debut, "Suzhou River").

Chris Johnston at The Age has an excellent essay on based-on-actual-events Aussie horror film "Wolf Creek" (which gets a Dimension/Weinstein Co. release on Dec. 25), and its relationship to a particularly beloved national icon:

And then comes the moment. "Bit of a
bugger, eh?" says Mick. Just five little words. But with them, and
other similar moments, Wolf Creek subverts a mainstay of Australian
outback mythology – the noble white bushman, the loveable rogue.

It’s no coincidence that Mick is called Mick. He’s Mick Dundee,
Crocodile Dundee, gone evil. He has the same hat, the same flannel
shirt and the same jeans. He has the same knockabout ways, the same
laconic humour. During Melbourne filmmaker Greg McLean‘s low-budget
horror film, which has become a surprise box office winner, he even
reprises the famous Croc Dundee line "Call that a knife? This is a
knife!" as a victim, Kristy, hopelessly brandishes a tiny, red Swiss
Army penknife. It is puny and useless next to Mick’s long, curved
monster, which he keeps in a leather sheath on his belt.

Alongside picks for who’s going to win, the Sydney Morning Herald talks to the organizers of the Australian Film Institute Awards about revitalizing the presentation and getting Russell Crowe to host them for free. Tom Ryan at The Age is a little more cynical about the choice:

Yet surely he can
be relied upon to bring a bit of spice to the night. Imagine his
response if someone tries to tell him to wind it up. Or if they attempt
to stop him reading the poem or singing the song he’s penned just for
us. Or if he doesn’t get the standing ovation he deserves. Or if a
teleprompter doesn’t work.

Well, we think that all awards show would be a little better with the promise of violence, so good on ya, Australia — scatter some cell phones around the green room and let’s see what happens.

+ Reelpolitik (LA Times)
+ Movie English as a Third Language (NY Times)
+ Kitano beats his own drum (Japan Times)
+ Love and death in Manchuria (Japan Times)
+ Beware a wolf (The Age)
+ AFI Awards: We tip the winners (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ A good deal to Crowe about (Sydney Morning Herald)
+ Rusty oils the wheels of our industry (The Age)


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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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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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.