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Midlife crisis indeed: “Transamerica” and “Far Side of the Moon”

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“Desperate Housewives” is a grand camp feat, a show about female archetypes as dreamed up by gay men that has won over a nation that’s still supposedly hypersensitive about sexuality. And “Desperate Housewives” haunts “Transamerica” (for all that the show hadn’t yet taken off when the film was being made) not the least because it’s stars Housewife Felicity Huffman, but also because the film seems like the logical extension of the series — dropping the veil of surreal suburban narrative and skipping straight to a man in the last stages of attempting to reinvent himself as a woman.

Huffman’s getting a lot of Oscar talk for her role as Bree (formerly Stanley), an L.A.-dwelling transsexual on the verge of doing away with the pre- in pre-op when contacted by the teenage son she didn’t know she fathered in a long-ago hetero relationship, and she deserves it — plastering her long face with slightly off-color foundation, draped in catalogue scarves and pink suits, extremely self-conscious in all her movements, she’s spookily convincing. Toby (played by Kevin Zegers, of, disturbingly, the “Air Bud” films) turns out to be a runaway living as a drug-addicted hustler in New York. Through several plot machinations, the two end up on a cross-country road trip — Toby believing that Bree’s a woman and a missionary, Bree being forced to get to know her son after she finds she can’t foist him off on his stepfather. The expected hijinks, bonding, and misunderstandings ensue.

“Transamerica” is saved from typical indie cuteness by an undercurrent of tartness that balances out most of the sappier scenes, and by Huffman’s astonishing ability to add complexity to a character that was written as a pat Sundance cutout. Her Bree is selfish, wounded, and defensive — she’s managed to seal herself off from everyone other than her therapist, putting her life on hold with the idea that after the surgery, it will start anew. Huffman sails above scenes in which she’s forced to visit her eccentric-unbearable family, or ones in which she’s wooed by a deus-ex-romantic interest, both by the numbers bits you’d expect from just knowing what the film is about. It’s all worthwhile for the moment in which she’s finally won Toby over, and he attempts to pay her back the only way he knows how — it’s uncomfortable, heartbreaking and bitingly alive.

On the other end of being forced out of one’s mire of middle-age solitude is Quebecer Robert Lepage’s “The Far Side of the Moon,” a cool-to-the-touch adaptation of Lepage’s one-man show of the same name. A visually inventive exploration of the life of Philippe (Lepage), a lonely dreamer attempting to reconnect with his brother (also played by Lepage) after the death of their mother, the film opens with a rather beautiful montage about the Soviet space program and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of it’s leading scientists, who once predicted that “one day, man would walk and live in weightlessness on the moon, the ideal refuge, he said, for those who find life heavy.” The exploration of space becomes one of the film’s lingering metaphors, and the definitive indicator of its theatrical roots (beyond the abundance of scenes in which a character is plopped in front of a busy background he or she doesn’t interact with, simply for variety) — what flows on stage can seem tedious on screen. Still, the film, which moves at a languid pace, does build momentum, making its way to a melancholy, lovely peak, a paean to urban isolation as well as the inherent aloneness of existence.

“Transamerica” opens in New York and LA December 2. “The Far Side of the Moon” opens in New York.


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.