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“Brokeback” Breaks: Why All the Fuss?

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By Andrea Meyer
IFC News

What is left to say about Brokeback Mountain? The so-called “Gay Cowboy Movie” is a shoe-in for the most hyped movie of the year award, spurring the kind of commotion that makes studio publicity departments salivate.

Besides nabbing the cover of every rag in the country, evidence of the craze includes Oscar buzz surrounding Heath Ledger, Ang Lee, Michelle Williams and the movie itself. Cyber-discussions about “the year’s most daring love story” have apparently reached new levels of anticipatory hysteria, largely based on an epic trailer. And the conservative contingent has chimed in, with angry Wyomingans declaring there’s no such thing as a gay cowboy. But we all know a little controversy never hurts at the box office — or as producer and co-president of Focus Features James Schamus puts it, “It’s a Focus movie if someone out there hates it before we’ve even made the movie.”

With all the bantering, bickering and blogging, the burning question begging to be asked is: What’s the big deal?

As we all know by now, Ang Lee’s epic love story charts the 20-year romance between Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), a couple of Marlboro men hired to wrangle sheep on a desolate hillside in Wyoming. What starts as friendship built swigging whiskey around a campfire shifts when they share a tent on a cold night and find themselves having confusing sex that eventually leads to what neither man would ever refer to as falling in love. The feelings that overwhelm Ennis and Jack materialize in spite of themselves, in spite of their intention to live normal, wife-and-kid kind of lives, in spite of a society that cannot accept their bond.

Their tale is tragic and not that unusual. It is romantic, heartbreaking, complex and sweet. The movie’s not daring. It’s a big, beautiful weepie about lovers — soulmates even — whose passion never fades even as their union is thwarted by forces beyond their control. It’s Romeo and Juliet, for God’s sake, only both star-crossed sweethearts are guys. At a recent junket, Ledger, who calls his character, “a homophobic man in love with another man,” said, “I think daring and brave is what the firefighters are when they’re putting out a fire. We’re just telling a love story.”

Ledger doesn’t believe there’s anything especially risky about “Brokeback Mountain.” “I never thought I had anything at stake,” he says. “I feel pretty safe. I was always okay with the subject. For me it was an opportunity to work with such brilliant material, a brilliant director and such an interesting, complex character, and it was a story that hadn’t been told. It was a story that has never made it to screen.”

Maybe that’s what has sparked all the hubbub. “Brokeback Mountain” is that rarity in Hollywood: a story that has never been told. When co-screenwriter Larry McMurtry, who is also the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Lonesome Dove,” first read Annie Proulx’s gut-wrenching short story on which the film is based, he said he “felt a little frisson of ‘why didn’t I write this’? It’s been there my whole life and Annie wrote it and I didn’t.” Fresh stories are like buried treasure in Hollywood, something we might discover in the wild mind of Charlie Kaufman, but rarely in a genre as firmly entrenched in its conventions as the Western. It’s the kind of precious jewel that deserves Oscar talk, Internet hysterics, and a dose of conservative backlash just to whip up the box office numbers.

“I refuse to see portraying homosexual love as daring,” said Anne Hathaway, the princess of tween flicks who plays Gyllenhaal’s wife, who has her own take on the hype. “It’s daring because it’s very rare to find a Hollywood love story that’s honest. That is daring.”


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.