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DID YOU READ

How do you solve a problem like Tribeca?

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"Dirty money belongs to anyone who has it."
That title is to be sung with a backup band of nuns, naturally.

With over 250 films, many mid-level ones arriving without any kind of buzz, airing twelve at a time at press and public screenings scattered throughout the city from 68th Street to Battery Park, the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival is enough to make a grown journalist cry. We’ve seen it.

Or perhaps we’ve done it ourselves. We haven’t had much luck so far with our picks, possibly because we’ve stuck mainly with the narratives when by most accounts the docs have been far stronger (which is becoming a truism of American festivals in general). A quick rundown of some of what we’ve seen so far, with forewarning that these are almost certainly going to be unnecessarily bitchy, we’re short on sleep.

"Shadow of Afghanistan"
Directors: Jim Burroughs, Suzanne Bauman
This documentary about Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion through to present day is as much about the act of covering the unrest and war in the country as it is about the events themselves, and the solid history and rare non-newsreel footage it presents are curiously marred by a tone of self-congratulation. The film is partially centered on Lee Shapiro and James Lindelof, a pair of documentarians who were killed filming in Afghanistan in 1987, and whose footage makes up the earlier part of the film — surviving member of their crew returns to Afghanistan with the "Shadow of Afghanistan" filmmakers to complete Shapiro and Lindelof’s work. Information about the difficulties of shooting in such tense conditions is interesting; a frequent voice-over reminding us of how dangerous what the filmmakers are doing is unnecessary, and some of the tossed-off lines ("Look at those smiles! These are such a resilient people.") are truly wince-worthy.

"The Yacoubian Building"
Director: Marwan Hamed
Based on a popular, controversial novel, "The Yacoubian Building" is being widely touted as "the most expensive Egyptian movie ever made," leaving unstated the fact that. given the frequency with which Egyptian productions grace US cinemas, it may as well be proclaimed "the only Egyptian movie ever made." Deliciously soapy, the film resembles (and is as enjoyable as) a Cairo version of "Tales of the City," a sprawling look at the intrigues of the varied inhabitants of a once-grand apartment building now populated by fading gentry, the newly (and perhaps suspiciously) rich, and the poor (confined to former servants quarters on the roof). "The Yacoubian Building" shocked Egypt with its grim assessment of nationwide corruption and its open depiction of a homosexual character; US audiences may be more startled to see a character’s descent into religious fundamentalism and terrorism being merely the fodder for further melodramatics.

"The Promise"
Director: Chen Kaige
Proving that talent from Korea, Hong Kong, mainland China and Japan can
unite to make a truly terrible flick, the most expensive film in ever made in China is surprisingly lousy looking. A florid fantasy that harkens back to the earlier, cheesier days of wuxia,
"The Promise" follows a princess (Cecilia Cheung), who, as a girl, made a deal with the goddess Manshen (who sports a fairly fabulous CG-assisted hairdo): she’ll grow up to be a celebrated beauty, but in return will lose every man she ever loves. There a puppy-eyed slave (Jang Dong-Kun) who can run very fast; an arrogant general (Hiroyuki Sanada) so manly his weapon is literally a pair of brass balls; and an evil duke (an awesomely campy Nicholas Tse) who is, as far as the film is willing to admit it, way gay. Unintentional silliness abounds — everyone sports some kind of garish costume (many involving feathers); sets float in darkness in a fashion that approaches Expressionist; characters talk about the sentiments of "the people" when, as far as we see, every single person in "The Promise"’s universe is either nobility or a soldier serving nobility.

"Land of the Blind"
Director: Robert Edwards
A political satire with the subtle delicacy of two stoned porn shop
workers trying to beat each other to death with giant dildos, Robert
Edwards’ feature debut delights in broad, equal-opportunity abrasion
without purpose. Ralph Fiennes stars as a prison guard in a grim near future who is drawn to a political prisoner (Donald Sutherland)
and ultimately enlisted in his plan to overthrow the reigning corrupt
dictatorship. Of course, the new regime turns out to be just as
oppressive as the old. Edwards throws in references to the current
North Korean autocracy, "The Manchurian Candidate," the Cultural Revolution, "Brazil," Islamic and Christian fundamentalism, "1984,"
and the Bush administration, but is content to let them hang there
without commentary or any accumulated meaning, making the film nothing more than the "Scary Movie" of dystopian imaginings.

"Journey to the End of the Night"
Director: Eric Eason
Eason gathered one hell of a cast (Brendan Fraser, Scott Glenn, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Mos Def) and landed one hell of a location (São Paulo). The result is, unfortunately, one hell of a howler about a drug deal gone wrong in the gritty streets of a city we barely glimpse. Moreno has little to do but look pensive or cry as the young wife of Glenn’s brothel-owner who’s been making plans to run off with her stepson (Fraser). Fraser snorts coke and hurls phones around gamely, but has been saddled with the bulk of the film’s worst lines; Mos Def, playing a saintly African immigrant, is immensely likable as always.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

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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. 

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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.